Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that this Monday (April 15) marks a sad day in the calendar of many points enthusiasts around Australia. Unless your Amex Membership Rewards points are protected, now is a good time to make the final transfer to a frequent flyer program of your choice… or stand to lose 50% value.
Many will be re-evaluating their deck of cards, myself included. Going forward it's actually going to streamline the cards I use.
I thought it might be of interest to some to see the reasoning for my current card selection (note that what works for me might not work for you). I'm not going to list every card that I currently have open but will share the ones I actively use.
Here's what I will be keeping in my wallet after April 15:
Amex Platinum Card (Charge) – Main card
The Amex Platinum will be the highest earning Membership Rewards card (apart from the invite-only Centurion) going forward. I'm sad to see the removal of dining and travel bonus categories but at least the 300,000 points cap is removed and the earn rate on everyday spend has been increased. Effectively this card earns 1.125 frequent flyer points per dollar (well, at least for the programs I care about: Kris Flyer, Asia Miles, Velocity, Qantas etc).
Holding an Amex Platinum card also allows you to apply for the fee-free Amex Platinum Reserve. While there's no real use for the Reserve, it does come with a yearly $400 travel credit which helps justify the cost of the Platinum charge card in the first place.
I understand most people will suffer a mild stroke when they see the annual fee of this card ($1450) but for me, the benefits stack up and justify the cost.
Here's a quick breakdown:
- $450 travel credit
- $400 travel credit from Platinum reserve
- Accor Plus – I value this at $355 and used to pay for the program prior to holding Amex Platinum.
- Priority Pass – while I don't use it a lot, it's worth about $300 to me and probably more to others; great benefit since you can give a second priority pass to a friend or family member and both are for unlimited use + you can take 1 guest.
- Platinum Insurance – Amex Platinum insurance is pretty comprehensive (at least for me) and it saves me a lot of $$ in excess car insurance and travel insurance. Supplementary card holders and direct family are also covered so I value this at $300 although in reality you might be able to get even more value out of this.
- Phone screen insurance – I've use this benefit a few times over the years and with the easy claims process and 10% excess I value it at $100.
- Hotel elite status – not much value to me since I'm Hilton Diamond and Bonvoy Platinum but the Shangri-la Jade status is pretty handy (free breakfast, upgrades etc).
- Virgin Australia Lounge access – Again, I don't value this since I'm now Velocity Platinum but It's useful for supplementary card holders so I will put a low $50 value on it. If you don't have status with Virgin Australia, this is worth at least $300.
- Amex Platinum Travel – this benefit is often overlooked but as a Platinum Card holder, the travel services are great! I don't fly on paid business a lot but have bought a few tickets this year and if you fly with main carriers departing Australia you can get rates that are a few hundred dollars cheaper than anything else out there. There's also no surcharge so I value it around $100 (that's a low value, if you fly on paid tickets a lot this is worth a lot).
- Amex FHR – Fine Hotels & Resorts is an amazing program, if you're into luxury hotels this can really make a difference in the final price. I've booked FHR hotels a number of times over the past year and personally value this at least $200. Yes, Virtuoso is free and offers similar deals but I find that FHR usually has a guaranteed 4 PM checkout. FHR can be used in conjunction with any hotel status you might have so I often use this at Hilton or Marriott properties.
There are many more benefits to the Amex Platinum card but the above are the key decision makers for me.
Total value (to me personally): $2255 and that's without factoring in the points earning potential.
Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard – Main Non-Amex Card
I've had this card for a while and Bankwest keep waiving the annual fee for me which is normally $270. If at some stage they decide to charge me for holding the card I will cancel and move over to the ANZ Adventures Card which has similar benefits.
The key thing about this card is the 0% foreign transaction fees. While most cards charge 3% overseas the Bankwest World and ANZ Adventures cards waive this fee. On top of that, you also earn points which is important.
The Bankwest World MasterCard will soon change to 1 point per dollar up to $5,000 per month which works fine for me.
Amex Platinum Edge – Supermarket & Petrol spending
It's unfortunate that the Platinum Edge will lose the ability to earn 3 points per dollar at the supermarket but at least there's still an opportunity to earn 1.5 points on each dollar.
That's the only thing I will use this card for and although the annual fee is $195; that's completely offset by the $200 travel credit it comes with each year.
That's it! This will be my main card set-up for everyday use, of course I continue to take advantage of sign-up promotions and swap these with my Bankwest world card when required.
Where to transfer to if your points aren't protected?
Right now and until April 14, Qantas is offering a bonus of up to 40% on points transfers. However, I think this deal is irrelevant for most, simply because only Platinum Charge cardholders can transfer their points to Qantas and since your points are most likely protected, there is no rush.
The deal is works in tiers: Until 11:59 pm (Sydney time) on April 14, converting up to 500,000 points to Qantas comes with a bonus of 15% more Qantas Points. Converting 500,001 to 1,999,999 points to Qantas attracts a 25% bonus.
Convert 2,000,000 points (or more) to Qantas and you will receive a 40% bonus.
For those with other Membership Rewards earning cards, my go-to programs are always KrisFlyer or Asia Miles. They cover Star Alliance and One World, offering tremendous value when compared to Qantas or Virgin Australia. Just keep in mind that both Kris Flyer and Asia Miles have a rolling expiry so you would need to use your points within 3 years.
If that's not your cup of tea, Emirates Skywards and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Both these programs offer unique partner redemptions which are useful to Australian based travellers; while Emirates partners with Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic offer outstanding value on flying with ANA to Japan (you only need 90k miles for a return trip!)
There are plenty of opportunities out there but don't forget that the cut off date is April 14 around midnight.