With airline partners ranging from Virgin Australia right through to Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Air New Zealand, Westpac’s credit card-linked Altitude Rewards program gives travellers the freedom to choose how and where they earn and spend frequent flyer points.
Just swipe your Westpac Altitude credit card to pile up ‘Altitude points’ – which can later be converted into actual frequent flyer points with the airlines above – or opt for ‘Altitude Qantas’ and have your frequent flyer points appear automatically in your Qantas account each month.
Whether you’re an existing Westpac customer or are considering a switch, here’s what you need to know about Altitude Rewards.
Westpac Altitude Rewards 101
Westpac Altitude, Altitude Platinum and Altitude Black cardholders amass points on their everyday spend by using their credit cards to pay for everything from their weekly groceries through to their next trip abroad.
Each Altitude account currently comes with both an American Express card – earning the highest number of points in places where AMEX is accepted – plus Visa or Mastercard, which pulls in fewer points per dollar spent but lets you shop with a wider range of businesses.
In early 2018, Westpac will launch a new range of American Express credit cards directly-issued by American Express Australia as opposed to Westpac itself, but the bank has confirmed that these cardholders will continue to have the option of earning Altitude points.
Exactly what those new cards will earn remains to be seen, but at present, Altitude Classic and Altitude Platinum customers can collect two Altitude points per dollar spent on their Altitude American Express card and one Altitude point per dollar on the matching Visa.
That’s capped at 5,000 points per month for standard cardholders and 7,500 points per month for Platinum users, although from April 4 2018, Westpac is removing that cap for Altitude Platinum cardholders, allowing them to earn an unlimited number of points from their everyday purchases.
At the top end of the range, Altitude Black offers the bank’s highest earn rates with 2.5 Altitude points per dollar spent via the current Altitude Black AMEX and 1.25 Altitude points per dollar served up when using the Mastercard, with no monthly or yearly cap.
In short: Altitude Black cardholders making payments with their current American Express card can earn 2.5 times as many points as those whipping out a basic Altitude Visa, so if you typically shop where American Express is accepted, Altitude Black is your best choice for points.
Westpac Altitude: earning airline frequent flyer points
While Altitude points can be converted into frequent flyer points, those transfers don’t occur at a 1:1 rate.
Instead, Westpac applies the following ratios when converting Altitude Rewards points into airline frequent flyer points:
- 2 Altitude points = 1 Virgin Australia Velocity point
- 2.5 Altitude points = 1 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer mile
- 2.5 Altitude points = 1 Cathay Pacific Asia Mile
- 2 Altitude points = 1 Malaysia Airlines Enrich mile
- 180 Altitude points = 1 Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollar ($1)
Assuming you gravitate towards Westpac’s highest-earning Altitude Black card duo, here’s how that translates into actual frequent flyer points earned per dollar spent (split as AMEX / Mastercard earn), taking into account the cards’ current earning and conversion rates:
- 1.25 Velocity points / 0.625 Velocity points
- 1.0 KrisFlyer mile / 0.5 KrisFlyer miles
- 1.0 Asia Mile / 0.5 Asia Miles
- 1.25 Enrich miles / 0.625 Enrich miles
- $0.0138 Airpoints Dollars / $0.00694 Airpoints Dollars
When you’re ready to switch your Altitude points for frequent flyer points, you can do so via the Altitude Rewards website: converting a minimum of 3,000 Altitude points at a time to the airline of your choice:
Virgin Australia Velocity members can also have their Altitude points automatically converted into Velocity points every month, bypassing the usual 3,000-point minimum conversion but taking away the option of transferring points over to other airlines.
Known as ‘Velocity Auto-Redemption’, points are still converted at a 2:1 rate – but if you do set this up, note that your entire Altitude points balance will be converted to Velocity in addition to any Altitude points earned every month, so only do this if you're sure you prefer Velocity points.
Again, you can’t convert Altitude points into Qantas Points (unless you have an Altitude Business credit card, not covered here) – so if Qantas Points are your goal, be sure to choose the ‘Altitude Qantas’ reward option when signing-up, or contact Westpac to change your earning preference.
Westpac Altitude Rewards: pros and cons
Like any bank-operated loyalty program, the main advantage for Altitude Black, Altitude Platinum and standard Altitude cardholders is the ability to earn points now and to choose which airline they’re transferred to later.
(Obviously, this doesn’t apply to Altitude Qantas or to Velocity Auto-Redemption, as you’ll have chosen to earn points only with one airline.)
It’s also great for skirting airlines’ normal frequent flyer point expiry rules – just keep your points in Altitude Rewards and ship them across only when you’re ready to redeem them for that next free flight or upgrade to business class.
However, as is true of all banks, the conversion rates between Altitude Rewards and airline frequent flyer programs can change from time to time, with different rates also applying to different airlines.
That makes it wise to plan ahead and consider all of your options – particularly as some frequent flyer programs allow you to book flights for fewer points than others (such as KrisFlyer and Asia Miles), but may have a less-generous conversion rate from Altitude Rewards, which could end up costing you more points overall.