Westpac Altitude Platinum American Express, Visa credit cards

Review: Westpac Altitude Platinum American Express, Visa credit cards

What's Hot

  • Free overseas travel insurance

What's Not

  • Lower points earning rates

X-Factor

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points

Introduction

Westpac's Altitude Platinum credit cards give you the flexibility to earn frequent flyer points with Qantas, Virgin Australia and four other major airlines, with points automatically sent to Qantas Frequent Flyer or manually converted to the other partners, as you see fit.

Also thrown in is free international travel insurance and a nice welcome bonus of 60,000 Qantas or Altitude Rewards points for new customers.

Rounding out the deal, Qantas earners pick up an extra Qantas Point per dollar spent directly with Qantas, while Altitude Rewards members can earn bonus Altitude points when shopping at a range of partner businesses.

However, we should flag that all Westpac-issued American Express cards will close on April 4 2018, rendering this a Visa-only product from that date.

Before then, cardholders can continue using their Westpac-issued AMEX card as normal to earn a higher number of points, and will have the opportunity to transfer to a new Westpac-branded AMEX card direct-issued by American Express, for use throughout 2018 and beyond, on which a higher number of points can continue to be earned.

Westpac Altitude Platinum cards: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Platinum
  • Card type: American Express + Visa
  • Loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer direct or Altitude Rewards
  • Qantas Points earned per dollar (Qantas Frequent Flyer option):
         American Express transactions (except ATO payments): 1 (until April 4 2018)
         Visa transactions (excludes ATO): 0.5
  • Or, Altitude Rewards points earned per dollar (Altitude Rewards option):
         American Express transactions (except ATO payments): 2 (until April 4 2018)
         Visa transactions (excludes ATO): 1

  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • 2 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent on AMEX) = 1 Virgin Australia Velocity point, 1 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile, 0.8 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.8 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.011 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • 1 Altitude Rewards point ($1 spent on Visa) = 0.5 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 0.5 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile, 0.4 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.4 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.0055 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • Points capping: Earn up to 3,750 Qantas Points per month or up to 7,500 Altitude Rewards points a month (equal to 3,750 Velocity points). From April 4 2018, no points cap will apply with either rewards option.

Fees, charges and interest: 3/5

  • Annual fee: $150
  • Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points in Altitude Qantas from April 4 2018)
  • 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% (Visa)
  • 'Recommended' income requirement: $30,000 p.a.
  • Minimum credit limit: $6,000

Earning points for free flights: 3/5

New customers who apply by January 31 2018 can net 60,000 bonus points for a solid boost to their rewards balance: just spend at least $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval using one or both cards.

But choose your rewards option wisely – those points come as either as 60,000 Qantas Points via Qantas direct, or as 60,000 Altitude Rewards points for all other spenders, which are worth between 24,000 and 30,000 frequent flyer points, depending on which airline you choose to convert them to.

Choose Qantas and those points are enough to book a one-way business class flight from Australia's east coast to Singapore or Hong Kong, while choosing Altitude Rewards and converting them to Velocity won't even get you a one-way economy flight to Singapore – but could land you a business class upgrade from a paid economy ticket between the east coast and Perth, including on flights with The Business.

However, a restrictive monthly points cap of just 3,750 Qantas Points or 7,500 Altitude Rewards points (equal to 3,750 Velocity points or 3,000 KrisFlyer/Asia Miles) will find you earning no points at all after spending just $3,750 on the Altitude Platinum American Express or $7,500 on the attached Platinum Visa every month.

Pleasingly, from April 4 2018, that points cap will be removed for both rewards programs.

Inclusive travel insurance: 4/5

You may qualify for free international travel insurance on trips of three months or less when holding a return ticket before leaving Australia and using either Westpac Platinum credit card to pre-pay at least A$500 of your costs for that trip.

That can include booking your flights, pre-paying overseas accommodation expenses or charging 'overseas itinerary items' to your card such as tours, but if you use only frequent flyer points to book your trip, you're not necessarily covered.

Fortunately, the $500 count also recognises amounts paid in airport and departure taxes as part of frequent flyer reward bookings, so be sure to use your Westpac card to cover any co-pay amount with your reward flights, or to book a night or two of accommodation with the card for peace of mind.

The card also provides transit accident insurance along with purchase security protection and extended warranty cover, but other benefits like interstate flight inconvenience insurance and rental car excess cover are absent.

Airport lounge access: 0/5

Free airport lounge access isn't a perk offered by this card.

Westpac Altitude Platinum cards: the verdict

Priced at $150 per year (or $200/year from April 4 2018 when earning Qantas Points), the Westpac Altitude Platinum cards pair travel insurance with frequent flyer points and provide a choice of airlines with which to convert those points.

Yet, restrictive monthly points capping reduces the appeal of these cards to relatively low spenders rather than high flyers, and even if you add an additional cardholder to your account, that cap remains in place for the entire account – not per card or per cardholder.

From April 4 2018, there won't be a points cap to get in your way – but until then, it's something to keep in mind.

It's for this reason you might instead prefer Westpac's Altitude Black cards, delivering uncapped frequent flyer points right now amid extras like airport lounge access, against an annual fee of $395 (currently reduced to $250 in the first year).

Or, to earn a higher number of points per dollar on relatively small spends in places where American Express isn't accepted, take a look at the ANZ Rewards Platinum Visa which delivers the equivalent of up to 0.75 Velocity Points per dollar spent, a further 50,000 bonus points to eligible new cardholders (25,000 Velocity points) and no annual fee in the first year.

Chris Chamberlin
Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

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19 Dec, 2017 07:30 am

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