Your guide to Westpac's Altitude Rewards credit card program

Your guide to Westpac's Altitude Rewards credit card program

Covering a range of points-earning Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards, the Westpac Altitude Rewards program allows credit card users to earn points in five airline frequent flyer programs from their everyday purchases.

Those partners include Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Malaysia Airlines Enrich and Air New Zealand Airpoints, where you can convert your Altitude Rewards points at leisure.

Westpac also provides an 'Altitude Qantas' option where your points are automatically transferred to Qantas Frequent Flyer every month, but that's a separate arrangement to the main Altitude Rewards scheme, so we won't go into that here.

If Westpac's five other frequent flyer partners take your fancy, here's what you need to know about Altitude Rewards.

Westpac Altitude Rewards 101

Westpac Altitude cardholders can amass points on their everyday spends by using their credit cards to pay for everything from their weekly groceries through to their next trip abroad.

Traditionally, Altitude points could only be earned on cards issued directly by Westpac – which previously included Westpac-issued American Express cards – but under recent developments, American Express is now issuing and servicing Westpac-branded Altitude cards instead, on which Altitude points can be earned.

For example, although the Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa is available as a standalone credit card, it can also be bundled with the American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Card, allowing you to earn points at a higher rate where AMEX is accepted, while still earning points on your Visa everywhere else.

Similarly, the Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard is available on its own, or bundled with the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card for a more substantial boost to your points earning potential from both cards.

When you've selected Altitude Rewards as your loyalty option, the points you earn on both cards – that is, from your American Express Westpac credit card and also your Westpac-issued Visa or Mastercard – will all be credited to your Altitude Rewards account, ready to use when it suits you.

Westpac Altitude Rewards: earning credit card points

The number of Altitude Rewards points you can earn varies between each card, and in some cases, also changes depending on where you're transacting.

Here are those all-important earning rates, as applicable when earning points through the Altitude Rewards program.

Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard

  • 1.25 Altitude points per A$1 spent on all eligible purchases
  • No points on payments to the ATO

American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card

  • 5 Altitude points per A$1 spent on eligible purchases in a foreign currency
  • 3 Altitude points per $1 spent on eligible purchases in Australia
  • 1 Altitude point per $1 spent at government bodies in Australia (including ATO payments)

Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa

  • 1 Altitude point per A$1 spent on all eligible purchases
  • No points earned on ATO payments

American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Card

  • 3 Altitude points per A$1 spent on eligible purchases in a foreign currency
  • 2 Altitude points per $1 spent on eligible purchases in Australia
  • 1 Altitude point per $1 spent with Australian government bodies (includes ATO payments)

Unlike some banks, Westpac does not impose any monthly or yearly points capping or tiering on its cards, nor does this occur on Westpac-branded cards issued and serviced by American Express, so regardless of how much you spend on your Altitude plastic, you'll continue earning points at full rates, year-round.

Westpac Altitude Rewards: converting to airline frequent flyer points

While it's always good to know how many "points" you can earn on your everyday purchases, spenders interested in actual airline frequent flyer points should also consider the conversion rate to their program of choice, which ultimately determines how many frequent flyer points can be pocketed per dollar spent.

Westpac Altitude Rewards members can convert their points to five frequent flyer programs at the following rates:

  • 3 Altitude points = 1 Virgin Australia Velocity point (manual conversions)
  • 2 Altitude points = 1 Virgin Australia Velocity point (via Velocity Auto-Redemption)
  • 3 Altitude points = 1 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer mile
  • 3 Altitude points = 1 Cathay Pacific Asia Mile
  • 3 Altitude points = 1 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile
  • 180 Altitude points = 1 Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollar ($1)

(For Westpac Altitude Business cardholders only, there's also the option of manually converting points to Qantas Frequent flyer, but we'll keep the focus here on personal cards.)

Let's say you're spending on the highest-earning Altitude credit card, the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card, on which you receive 5 Altitude points per A$1 spent in foreign currencies.

Using the conversion rates above, we can see that those 5 Altitude points are equal to:

  • 1.66 Virgin Australia Velocity points, via manual conversion
  • 2.5 Virgin Australia Velocity points, via Velocity Auto-Redemption
  • 1.66 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles
  • 1.66 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • 1.66 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles
  • $0.027 in Air New Zealand Airpoints value

So, for every A$1 spent in foreign currencies, you could earn up to 2.5 actual frequent flyer points per dollar spent if you sign-up for Velocity Auto-Redemption (more detail below), or 1.66 frequent flyer points per $1 spent when manually converting your Altitude points into miles with most airlines.

When you’re ready to switch those Altitude points for frequent flyer points, you can do so via the Altitude Rewards website, taking note of the following minimum transfer increments and requirements:

  • Velocity: Minimum manual transfer of 3,000 Altitude points (1,000 Velocity points), then in increments of 600 Altitude points (200 Velocity points)
  • KrisFlyer: Transfer a minimum of 3,000 Altitude points (1,000 KrisFlyer miles), then in chunks of 600 Altitude points (200 KrisFlyer miles)
  • Asia Miles: Minimum conversion of 3,000 Altitude points (1,000 Asia Miles), with higher-value transfers in increments of 600 Altitude points (200 Asia Miles)
  • Enrich: Similarly, transfers start at 3,000 Altitude points (1,000 Enrich miles), and in multiples of 600 Altitude points (200 Enrich miles) above that
  • Airpoints: Convert a minimum of 2,700 Altitude points (15 Airpoints Dollars), with higher redemptions possible in increments of 540 Altitude points (3 Airpoints Dollars)

As mentioned above, Virgin Australia Velocity members also have the option of automatically converting their Altitude Rewards points into Velocity points every month.

This is both a handy option if you're only interested in earning Velocity points, as you're not subjected to the usual minimum transfer and incremental requirements, but also makes those transfers more generous – giving you more frequent flyer points per dollar spent on your card – as Altitude applies a more favourable conversion rate for Velocity Auto-Redemption.

There's just one catch: when you opt-in for this service, your entire existing balance of existing Altitude Rewards points will be converted across to Velocity, not just the points you earn after the opt-in date.

Accordingly, if you were planning to send some of your points to a different frequent flyer program first, such as to KrisFlyer or Asia Miles, you'd need to process those transfers before opting-in for Velocity Auto-Redemption, while you still have the option – although if you change your mind later and want to switch off Auto-Redemption, just contact Westpac.

As a reminder, personal Altitude Rewards credit card holders can't convert their Altitude points into Qantas Points. That option is only available to Altitude Business customers, so if Qantas Points are your goal, be sure to select 'Altitude Qantas' as your loyalty open when applying for your card, or contact Westpac to change your earning preference if you're an existing customer.

Also keep in mind that if you do choose Qantas Points, Westpac levies a $50/year Qantas Rewards fee over and above the usual annual fee(s) payable on your Altitude Rewards card(s).

Westpac Altitude Rewards: pros and cons

Credit card loyalty programs like Altitude Rewards are advantageous in that you can earn points now, while choosing how to actually spend them later, without being locked into one specific frequent flyer program – unless you choose Altitude Qantas or Velocity Auto-Redemption and that works for you, of course.

As Altitude points never expire as long as your Altitude Rewards account remains open, it also allows you to collect points over time, without the risk of having them disappear before you plan to use them, as can happen in some airline frequent flyer programs.

Being able to earn points from both American Express and Visa/Mastercard spend also keeps your points together in the one account: generally making things like minimum transfer quantities a non-issue, and ensuring you can send all your points to your preferred airline, rather than mixing and matching cards from different banks which may not always have the same points transfer partners.

However, as is true of all bank-operated loyalty programs, the conversion rates between Altitude Rewards and its airline frequent flyer partners can change from time to time, which can affect how many frequent flyer points you'd get in return for your Altitude Rewards bounty.

Westpac has always traditionally provided cardholders with notice of such changes before they're implemented – most recently, this year, before transfer rates were amended – allowing members to convert their points across before the rates changed, and we'd expect this to remain true should anything change in the future.

Note also that different conversion rates apply for transfers to Velocity, with automatic transfers (via Velocity Auto-Redemption) proving much more rewarding than manual transfers, so if you already have Altitude points in your account and want to move them over to Velocity, opting-in for Auto-Redemption gets that job done at a more favourable conversion rate than transferring them manually.

New to Westpac Altitude Rewards?

If you're not already a Westpac Altitude Rewards customer, here are four deals you should know about to get your Altitude points balance off to a flying start:

American Express Westpac Altitude Black bundle (AMEX + Mastercard)

Apply by April 2 2019 and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval using the Altitude Black Mastercard to earn 80,000 bonus Altitude points.

Plus, earn 40,000 bonus Altitude points when you spend a separate $3,000 on eligible purchases within the same 90-day period using the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card, giving you up to 120,000 bonus Altitude Rewards points overall.

Annual fees apply: $250 for the Mastercard and $199 for the American Express card.

Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard

Don't need an American Express card? You can still earn 80,000 bonus Altitude points on a standalone Westpac Altitude Black Mastercard when you apply by April 2 2019, pay a $250 annual fee and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval.

American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum bundle (AMEX + Visa)

You could earn up to 75,000 bonus Altitude points when you apply by April 2 2019 and meet the spending criteria on each card.

Again, that's broken into two chunks, starting with 60,000 bonus Altitude points after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases using the Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa within 90 days of card approval.

That's joined by 15,000 bonus Altitude points after spending a separate $3,000 on eligible purchases using the American Express Westpac Altitude Platinum Card within the same time frames.

As an added bonus for Altitude Platinum cardholders, the annual fee is currently waived on the Visa card in the first year as part of this sign-up deal, a saving of $150, although a $49 applies from the first year on the American Express card.

Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa

Going for the Visa-only version of Altitude Platinum offers 60,000 bonus Altitude points when you apply for the Westpac Altitude Platinum Visa by November 27 2018 and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval.

Westpac's normal annual fee of $150 is also waived on this card in the first year, when applying by that date.

A separate $50/year Qantas Rewards fee will apply if you choose to collect Qantas Points instead of Altitude Rewards points with all of the card accounts above: this fee isn't waived in the first year, although doesn't apply when earning Altitude Rewards points (as opposed to Qantas Points).

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and 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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13 Dec, 2018 05:53 pm

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