Westpac Altitude Black American Express, MasterCard credit cards

Credit Card Review: Westpac Altitude Black American Express, MasterCard credit cards

What's Hot

  • Choice to earn points in six frequent flyer programs
  • Fast track to SPG Gold status
  • Four free airport lounge visits each year

What's Not

  • Reduced earn rates on MasterCard spend within Australia

X-Factor

  • 80,000 bonus points

Introduction

If you want the flexibility to earn points on your credit card spend but to choose where they wind up at a later date, Westpac's Altitude Black American Express + World MasterCard credit card combo could be just what you're looking for.

You'll have the freedom to first earn points in the Altitude Rewards program before transferring them to the likes of Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer or three other airlines, or if you're entwined with the Red Roo, simply opt for 'Altitude Qantas' instead.

New cardholders who apply, are approved and spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval could also receive a bonus 80,000 Qantas or Altitude points

With reasonable earning rates on everyday American Express transactions and elevated income and credit limit requirements, we'd peg these cards as a good fit for working professionals with heavy spending and travel habits: less so for those on lower incomes.

Westpac Altitude Black cards: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: American Express + World MasterCard
  • Loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer direct or Altitude Rewards
  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • Qantas Points earned per dollar (Qantas Frequent Flyer option):
         American Express transactions (except ATO payments): 1.5 (1.25 from July 1 2017)
         MasterCard transactions (excludes ATO): 0.625 (international payments earn 1.5/$1 until June 30 2017)
         ATO payments until June 30 2017 (American Express only): 0.75
  • Or, Altitude Rewards points earned per dollar (Altitude Rewards option):
         American Express transactions (except ATO payments): 3 (2.5 from July 1 2017)
         MasterCard transactions (excludes ATO): 1.25 (international payments earn 3/$1 until June 30 2017)
         ATO payments until June 30 2017 (American Express only): 1.5

  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • 3 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on AMEX) = 1.5 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 1.5 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile, 1.2 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 1.2 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.016 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • 1.25 Altitude Rewards point ($1 spent on MasterCard) = 0.625 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 0.625 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile, 0.5 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.5 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.00694 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • Points capping: Earn uncapped points via either rewards option

Fees, charges and interest: 4/5

  • Annual fee: $395 ($195 in the first year for new customers)
  • Additional cardholder fee: $0
  • Interest rate on purchases: 20.24% p.a.
  • Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 45
  • Interest rate on cash advances: 20.74% p.a.
  • International transaction fee: 3.5% (AMEX), 3.0% (MasterCard)
  • 'Recommended' income requirement: $75,000 p.a.
  • Minimum credit limit: $15,000

Earning points for free flights: 4.5/5

Whether you choose Qantas Frequent Flyer or Altitude Rewards as your loyalty program, there's no limit to the number of points you can earn from your Altitude Black cards.

Choose 'Altitude Qantas' and a near-free Sydney-Melbourne hop in Qantas economy is yours after spending $5,334 on the AMEX – or on the MasterCard, when abroad – or $12,800 on MasterCard purchases within Australia based on the current earn rates.

Similarly, choose the regular Altitude Rewards option and convert your points to Virgin Australia Velocity for a similar Sydney-Melbourne flight after a spend of $5,200 on the AMEX (and MasterCard when overseas), or $12,480 on the MasterCard at home, also relying on the current earn rates.

Customers opting for Altitude Qantas also collect an additional Qantas Point per dollar when booking Qantas flights or paying for their Qantas Club membership.

Also don't forget Westpac's generous offer of 80,000 bonus Qantas Points or 80,000 bonus Altitude points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points) for eligible new cardholders which can get you flying even faster. 

Inclusive travel insurance: 4.5/5

International journeys of six months or less are covered by Westpac's complimentary insurance offering – underwritten by QBE – provided you hold a return ticket and charge at least A$500 of eligible travel costs to your Altitude Black cards before departing Australia.

That amount can be your flights, any airport and departure taxes, pre-paid accommodation and any 'overseas itinerary items' such as an arranged tour, so you could even book your flights using points and simply pre-pay a night or two of accommodation to still be covered.

Joining this is a generous array of other cover including transit accident insurance; interstate flight inconvenience insurance; purchase security, extended warranty and 'price guarantee' covers and even rental car excess cover of up to $5,500 when hiring in Australia.

Airport lounge access: 4/5

Altitude Black cardholders are treated to four airport lounge visits each year, which is on the generous side as most cards which offer this perk provide just half as many.

Two of those visits can take place at the American Express Sydney Airport lounge prior to any international flights, utilised either on separate trips or at the same time if travelling with a companion – just present your Altitude Black AMEX card for access.

Relax in the American Express Sydney Airport Lounge, even when flying economy...

Your other two passes vary based on your frequent flyer preferences.

Cardholders earning Qantas Points via their card get two free Qantas Club visits each year, while those opting for Altitude Rewards points get a free Priority Pass membership, complete with two visits every year to any of the 1,000+ lounges in its network.

Westpac Altitude Black credit cards: the verdict

With a $395 annual fee after year one, the Westpac Altitude Black card certainly appears pricey on the surface – but for the higher spenders and frequent travellers this card targets, it can quickly pay for itself.

It's also helped by a generous promotion within the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel loyalty program, granting Gold-level status to World MasterCard holders (including Westpac Altitude Black) after making just one stay within Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

In turn, that provides you with 50% more Starpoints whenever staying at hotels like Westin, Sheraton and St. Regis along with welcome amenities, free room upgrades, a 4pm late check-out and more: all tangible benefits as you travel.

Add that to your complimentary airport lounge visits, uncapped frequent flyer points earned at reasonable rates and the long list of insurance covers and you'll almost certainly wind up ahead.

You can apply for the Westpac Altitude Black credit cards here.

 

12 Comments

  • twiningb

    twiningb

    11 Jul, 2016 12:56 pm

    The sample size is small, but I think it's worth noting that in my experience:

    For transactions processed the same day, despite the higher FTF rate, USD purchases came out slightly cheaper in AUD on the AmEx; conversely, GBP purchases came out slightly cheaper in AUD on the MasterCard. This is worth keeping in mind since the overseas points earn is identical. Conveniently, AmEx acceptance is near-ubiquitous in the US but much lower in the UK.

    In general, I'm very happy with this package.

    No member give thanks

  • Mitch Wilson

    MitchW

    16 Jul, 2016 09:41 am

    Would like to know the conversion rate for Kris Flyer on the Altitude Amex Card.

    Currently I have the old, no longer available, Westpac Kris Flyer Platinum Card which the Amex earns 1.25 KF miles per $

    I saw a post from 2014 by Chris that stated Altitude Amex earned 1.5 KF miles per $ but I think currently it may be half that rate?

    No member give thanks

  • twiningb

    twiningb

    16 Jul, 2016 09:46 am

    It earns 3.0 Altitude points per AUD (except ATO 1.5), which at the 2:1 rate becomes 1.5 KrisFlyer miles. I did this conversion as recently as a week ago. It happens same-day (initiated transfer early morning, available evening).

    No member give thanks

  • twiningb

    twiningb

    16 Jul, 2016 11:56 am

    And just for avoidance of doubt, that's the earn level on the Altitude Black AmEx. Platinum or another Altitude level is lower, as is the earn on the Black MasterCard domestically.

    No member give thanks

  • Mitch Wilson

    MitchW

    16 Jul, 2016 12:07 pm

    Thanks twiningb. Thats good to know as 1.5 KF miles per $ is the best you will get. At this stage I will keep my Westpac KF Amex Card as it still pays 1.25 miles per $ with ATO as well which is the best you will get with ATO.

    No member give thanks

  • zzap

    zzap

    30 Jul, 2016 11:57 am

    Can we get some more clarity around points capping in this article? The article states "Points capping: Uncapped" but if you look at the Black Rewards card website is clearly states: "For each statement cycle a points cap of 5,000 Altitude Points or 2,500 Qantas Points applies when using either or both cards."

    This is a big dealbreaker, as I would assume many readers would have spends that would be capped at these 5/2.5k monthly limits.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    30 Jul, 2016 01:56 pm

    Hi zzap, that information relates to the basic Altitude card (not Black), although appears to be showing in the fine print on Westpac's Black page in error. A read of the T&Cs applicable to the Altitude program highlights that "The number of points you earn on your Altitude Black account is uncapped" (page 9), as we've published here and have confirmed.

    Member who gave thanks

    Mueller

  • twiningb

    twiningb

    30 Jul, 2016 02:09 pm

    I can confirm I've earned five-digit quantities of points in some months.

    No member give thanks

  • zzap

    zzap

    30 Jul, 2016 02:13 pm

    OK good to know! Strange that the fine print on the website is showing incorrect information.

    No member give thanks

  • twiningb

    twiningb

    12 Aug, 2016 10:52 am

    Just a heads-up that they are devaluing the transfer rate to KrisFlyer and Asia Miles in a few weeks. They're going to 5:2 rather than the current 2:1. 

    Transfers to Velocity are unchanged.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    12 Aug, 2016 11:13 am

    Indeed: reported this morning as part of a broader credit card piece. New rates from September 28 are 2.5:1 for Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific and 180:$1 for Air NZ.

    No change to Virgin Australia or Malaysia Airlines conversions or to Qantas direct-earn cards.

    No member give thanks

  • camtraveller

    camtraveller

    25 Feb, 2017 02:46 pm

    Also important factor for me choosing this card was its one of the few that earn points on ATO payments (0.6 on AMEX only though).  
    No member give thanks

Guest

27 Jun, 2017 06:52 am

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