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 Mastercard credit card 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, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and two other carriers. Or, there's the option of Altitude Velocity to automatically earn Velocity Points, or Altitude Qantas for direct earning with Qantas.
New cardholders who apply by October 15 2019, are approved and spend at least $4,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval could also receive a bonus 80,000 Qantas Points (via Altitude Qantas) or 80,000 Altitude points (via Altitude Rewards), equal to 26,666 Velocity Points.
Otherwise, selecting Altitude Velocity provides a tempting offer of 80,000 bonus Velocity Points when you apply by October 15 2019 and spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval – plus, if you spend an additional $6,000 on that card in the first year ($10,000 in total), you'll also get 50 Virgin Australia status credits.
All things considered, with reasonable earning rates and elevated income and credit limit requirements, we'd peg this card as a reasonable fit for working professionals with heavy spending and travel habits: less so for those on lower incomes.
Westpac Altitude Black: fast facts
- Grade/tier: Black
- Card type: Mastercard
- Loyalty program: Choose between Altitude Qantas, Altitude Velocity or Altitude Rewards
- Points capping: Earn uncapped points without tiering via your chosen rewards option.
- Qantas Points earned per dollar (Altitude Qantas option):
Everyday spend, excluding ATO payments: 0.75
Spend directly with Qantas: 1.75
- Or, Velocity Points earned per dollar (Altitude Velocity option):
All spend, except for ATO payments: 0.5
- Or, Altitude Rewards points earned per dollar (Altitude Rewards option):
All spend, except for ATO payments: 1.25
- Altitude Rewards airline conversion partners: Virgin Australia (3:1), 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) = 0.416 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 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
Fees, charges and interest: 4/5
- Annual fee: $250
- Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Qantas)
- Velocity Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Velocity)
- Additional cardholder fee: $0
- Interest rate on purchases: 20.49% p.a.
- Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 45
- Interest rate on cash advances: 21.49% p.a.
- International transaction fee: 3.0%
- 'Recommended' income to apply: $75,000 p.a.
- Minimum credit limit: $15,000
Earning points for free flights: 4.5/5
Whether you choose Qantas Frequent Flyer (Altitude Qantas), direct-earning with Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer (Altitude Velocity) or Altitude Rewards as your loyalty program, there's no limit to the number of points you can earn from your Altitude Black card.
Choose 'Altitude Qantas' and a near-free Sydney-Melbourne hop in Qantas economy is yours after spending $10,667 on purchases, or, choose the regular Altitude Rewards option and convert your points to Virgin Australia for a Sydney-Melbourne flight after a spend of $18,720.
While the direct-earning Altitude Velocity option attracts an extra $50/year Velocity Rewards fee, taking this path provides more Velocity frequent flyer points per dollar spent (compared to converting through Altitude Rewards), giving you enough points for that same Sydney-Melbourne flight after a spend of $15,600.
It also provides two complimentary Virgin Australia Economy X seat upgrade vouchers each year to use on selected domestic flights, which become available when you spend with Virgin Australia using your Mastercard, the value of which should offset that extra $50/year charge.
Customers opting for Altitude Qantas can instead collect an additional Qantas Point per dollar spent on Qantas flight bookings and Qantas Club membership purchases, also for an extra fee of $50/year as applies for this opt-in. Note that unlike Velocity, Qantas Points can't be manually converted from Altitude Rewards, so that opt-in path is the only way to earn Qantas Points from this account.
Also don't forget Westpac's offer of 80,000 bonus Qantas Points or 80,000 bonus Altitude points, or 80,000 bonus Velocity Points, for eligible new cardholders who apply by October 15 2019 and spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval, which can get you flying even faster.
Inclusive travel insurance: 4.5/5
International journeys of six months or less may be 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 card 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: 2/5
Altitude Black cardholders are treated to two airport lounge visits each year, depending on their frequent flyer earning preferences.
Cardholders collecting Qantas Points 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.
Otherwise, choosing the Altitude Velocity option unlocks two Virgin Australia lounge passes each anniversary year, which can be used for entry into Virgin Australia domestic lounges when flying Virgin Australia.
Westpac Altitude Black credit card: the verdict
With a $250 annual fee, the Westpac Altitude Black card appeals to higher spenders and frequent travellers, and may quickly pay for itself if you're poised to take full advantage of the benefits.
Included on that roster: complimentary airport lounge visits, uncapped frequent flyer points and the long list of insurance covers, which can help you wind up ahead.
Note that while an extra $50/year charge applies when earning Qantas Points, or with the opt-in Altitude Velocity package – taking the total yearly cost to $300 – that's still lower than the card's previous all-inclusive annual fee of $395, with even higher savings enjoyed by those choosing to earn Altitude Rewards points instead.