Following the RBA's changes to credit card 'interchange fees' last year, most Australian banks have revamped their credit card line-ups, and Westpac is no exception: now offering its customers a Black-level American Express card directly issued by AMEX.
The American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card (issued and serviced by American Express) is paired with the Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard (issued and serviced by Westpac), giving Westpac customers the ability to earn more points in places where AMEX is accepted, while still earning some points everywhere else.
There's also a deal of up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points or 120,000 Altitude points (worth 60,000 Virgin Australia Velocity points via Velocity Auto-Redemption) for new customers, and a $0 Annual Card fee in the first year on the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card when you apply by 27 November 2018 ($199 thereafter).
Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo: fast facts
- Grade/tier: Black
- Card type: World Mastercard + American Express
- Loyalty program: Qantas direct ('Altitude Qantas') or Altitude Rewards
- Points capping: Earn uncapped points without tiering via either rewards option.
- Qantas Points earned per $1 spent (Altitude Qantas, split as Mastercard / AMEX):
Spend within Australia, excluding ATO payments: 0.75 / 1.25
International transactions: 0.75 / 2.0
Charges directly with Qantas: 1.75 / 2.25
Payments to the ATO: No points / 0.5
- Or, Altitude points earned per $1 spent (Altitude Rewards, split as Mastercard / AMEX):
Spend within Australia, excluding ATO payments: 1.25 / 3.0
International transactions: 1.25 / 5.0
Payments to the ATO: No points / 1.0
Until November 8 2018:
- Altitude Rewards airline conversion partners: Virgin Australia (2:1), Air New Zealand (180:$1), Cathay Pacific (2.5:1), Malaysia Airlines (2:1) and Singapore Airlines (2.5:1)
- 1.25 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on Mastercard) = 0.625 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 0.625 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 0.5 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.5 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.00694 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
- 3 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on AMEX in Australia) = 1.5 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 1.5 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 1.2 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 1.2 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.0166 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
From November 9 2018:
- Altitude Rewards airline conversion partners: Virgin Australia (3:1, except Velocity Auto-Redemption which remains at 2:1), Air New Zealand (180:$1), Cathay Pacific (3:1), Malaysia Airlines (3:1) and Singapore Airlines (3:1)
- 1.25 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on Mastercard) = 0.416 Virgin Australia Velocity points (0.625 if using Velocity Auto-Redemption), 0.416 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 0.416 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.416 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.00694 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
- 3 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on AMEX in Australia) = 1 Virgin Australia Velocity point (1.5 if using Velocity Auto-Redemption), 1 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile, 1 Cathay Pacific Asia Mile, 1 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer mile, $0.0166 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
Fees, charges and interest: 3.5/5
- Mastercard annual fee: $250
- Separate AMEX annual fee: $0 in the first year, $199 thereafter
- Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Qantas)
- 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: 3.0%
- 'Recommended' income requirement to apply: $75,000 p.a.
Earning points for free flights: 4/5
Choose Altitude Qantas as your rewards option and from everyday spend in Australia, you'd earn enough points to book a one-way flight from Sydney to Melbourne (plus taxes and fees) after charging $6,400 on the AMEX or $10,667 on the Mastercard.
Or, select Altitude Rewards instead and opt-in for Velocity Auto-Redemption and you'd be able to book a Virgin Australia flight on that same route after a lower spend of $5,200 within Australia on the AMEX, but a slightly higher spend of $12,480 on the Mastercard, due to the lower Velocity earn rate on Mastercard compared to Qantas, even with Velocity Auto-Redemption enabled.
Right now, you can also take home up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points or up to 120,000 bonus Altitude Points (equal to 60,000 Velocity points via Velocity Auto-Redemption), served up in two chunks: some from the Westpac-issued Mastercard, and some from the AMEX-issued AMEX.
You'll start with a bonus 80,000 points when applying by November 27 2018 and spending $3,000 on eligible purchases using the Altitude Black Mastercard within 90 days of card approval - plus, a further 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases using the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card within the same time frames.
Just note: the Altitude Black Mastercard doesn't provide points on payments to the ATO, however, the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card does offer points on ATO payments (and all other government charges) at a reduced rate.
Inclusive travel insurance: 4.5/5
You may be covered by complimentary travel insurance on journeys of six months or less after charging at least $500 of eligible travel costs to your Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard or your American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card before departing Australia.
This could give you the flexibility to book your flights using airline frequent flyer points while still being covered: instead using your credit to pre-pay other costs relating to your trip, such as accommodation charges - but as always, refer to the policy documents for full details on the coverage and any exclusions.
Included as well: transit accident insurance; interstate flight inconvenience insurance; purchase security, extended appliance warranty; 'price guarantee' cover; and even rental car excess cover of up to $5,500 when hiring in Australia.
Airport lounge access: 2/5
Altitude Black combo card holders are treated to four airport lounge visits each year, being two visits to American Express' own-brand airport lounges in Sydney or Melbourne, and two further visits to other lounges, which vary based on how you're earning your points.
If you've opted-in for Altitude Qantas, you're eligible for two Qantas Club lounge visits each year, while if you've chosen Altitude Rewards instead, you can take out a complimentary Priority Pass membership with two lounge visits included in the plan, which can be redeemed at over 1,000 lounges around the world, including several locations in Australia.
Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo: the verdict
With a total overall annual fee of $449, or $499 if earning Qantas Points, the Westpac Altitude Black card duo certainly isn't cheap, but nor is having a standalone American Express card in your wallet plus a premium Visa or Mastercard from a separate bank, when both cards carry annual fees. Keep in mind that the annual fee of $199 for the American Express card is waived for the first year, bringing the first year's annual fee down to $250 or $300 if earning Qantas Points, making it a better value proposition.
For example, having a Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card instead would set you back $450, giving you 1.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on everyday purchases, and if you paired an ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum Visa alongside to earn the same 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent as the Westpac Mastercard (at least, on the first $3,000 of monthly charges), you'd be up for a further $295, or $745 all up.
That said, different cards have different features - that Ultimate Card includes a $450 Qantas Travel Credit every year to help offset the annual fee, for instance, but with no option of a linked backup card, which is where the Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard + AMEX combo has an advantage, even with both cards technically issued by separate banks.
You can apply for the Westpac Altitude Black credit card combo here.