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 $2,500 on eligible purchases within the first 90 days could also receive a bonus 50,000 Qantas or Altitude points.
With high 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: Above-platinum
- 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
- Airline points earned per dollar – AMEX; MasterCard (abroad): 1.2-1.5
- Airline points earned per dollar – MasterCard (local): 0.5-0.625
- Points capping: Uncapped
Fees, charges and interest: 4/5
- Annual fee: $395
- 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
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.
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.
Customers opting for Altitude Qantas also collect an additional Qantas Point per dollar when booking Qantas flights or paying for their Qantas Club membership.
In either case, we really like that the MasterCard earns the same number of points as the AMEX when used internationally – particularly as AMEX acceptance can be patchy in some countries – and with a lower international transaction fee to boot.
Also don't forget Westpac's generous offer of 50,000 bonus Qantas Points or 50,000 bonus Altitude points (equal to 25,000 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.
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 900+ lounges in its network.
Better yet, Priority Pass lounges can be used regardless of the airline you're travelling with, but note that these are only of use to international travellers as the company's network includes no Australian domestic locations.
Westpac Altitude Black credit cards: the verdict
At $395/year, 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 generous 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.
Also read: ANZ Frequent Flyer Black credit card review
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