What is your definition of ‘Ultimate’? American Express have their own definition, it seems, which they have applied to the American Express Qantas Ultimate Credit Card. But does it coincide with your idea of the perfect card?
The fact that it comes with a huge number of first-purchase bonus points is an excellent start. Qantas Frequent Flyer points are much more valuable, if used for flights and upgrades, than the same number of points in a card issuer’s proprietary rewards program.
Other benefits include a high ongoing QFF points earning rate, an annual travel credit (which neatly offsets the annual fee), a suite of insurance covers (with some omissions compared with other cards) and access to airport lounges.
But you’ll still have to live with having some merchants adding a higher surcharge to Amex transactions, or even declining the card altogether. Amex says it is working on improving the acceptance of its cards, but they’re not quite there yet. So it’s important to be fully aware of the details so that you can weigh the sweeteners against a few drawbacks.
Outstanding bonus points boost
Although Amex has other cards offering sign-up bonus points in its own Membership Rewards Scheme, the points that come with this card are the much more valuable Qantas Frequent Flyer points. The American Express Qantas Ultimate Credit card offers more QFF bonus points than any other personal card in the Amex stable. Kickstart your QFF points account, or give it a significant one-off boost, just by using your card for all your purchases in order to meet the spending target.
Simply use the card to reach an easily achievable target during the first three months, and you’ll receive your bonus QFF points – more than enough points for a return economy flight to Europe or New York.
Outstanding ongoing points earning potential
The card’s regular earning rate of 1.25 QFF points per dollar, (uncapped) is close to the top of the league for cards earning QFF points.
This rate applies to all eligible purchases except transactions with government bodies (ATO, Australia Post, federal, state and local government), where the earning rate drops to 0.5 points per dollar.
On the upside, Qantas products and services earn an additional 1.0 points per dollar, lifting the rate for Qantas purchases to 2.25 points per dollar.
There’s a further points boost accompanying the complimentary Qantas Wine Premium Membership (for which there’s usually a charge). Buy wine or gourmet food through Qantas epiQure and earn a total of 4.25 points per dollar spent on these purchases (3.0 points from epiQure + 1.25 points for card spending), plus qualify for free delivery.
Qantas Travel Credit every year
This one effectively wipes out the otherwise steep annual fee. Each year, once you have paid the annual fee and at least the minimum account payment by the due date, you’ll receive a travel credit with American Express Travel, for an amount which happens to be equivalent to the card’s annual fee.
It’s actually a Qantas Travel Credit, meaning that you can only use it to book a Qantas flight or flights. Use it within 365 days of your anniversary date, otherwise it expires, and note that if your booking amounts to less than the travel credit amount, you’ll forfeit the remaining balance. Preferably use it for a booking in excess of the credit amount, because you’ll earn 2.25 QFF points for every dollar spent beyond it.
Airport lounge access
In each year that you purchase a Qantas flight or pay a Qantas Club membership fee using your card (by booking directly with Qantas or through its travel agency partners) you’ll receive two single-visit Qantas Club lounge passes.
Cardholders will also receive two complimentary single visit passes each calendar year, to use at American Express airport lounges in Australia.
Complimentary insurance cover
A suite of free insurance policies is fairly normal for a card of this type and annual fee level. Here’s what you’ll get:
- Free travel insurance. Both domestic and overseas travel insurance are provided for you and your immediate family travelling with you. It covers things like medical expenses, lost luggage, cancellation and delays, but there is no mention of rental vehicle excess. Also missing is any cover under this policy for supplementary cardholders (unless they are also a spouse accompanying the primary cardholder), which is a rather unusual exclusion.
- Transport accident cover. Provides cash compensation for loss of life, limb or eyesight while travelling as a passenger on a plane, ferry, train or bus, both in Australia and overseas. Most cards provide this type of cover only for journeys taken overseas.
- Purchase protection cover. 90 days cover against loss, theft or damage for items purchased with the card.
- Refund protection cover. Refunds the purchase price of an unused item (90 day limit) if the retailer won’t take it back.
Missing from this list, in addition to rental vehicle excess and supplementary cardholder travel insurance, are extended warranty insurance and price protection insurance, cover types which many premium cardholders have come to expect. There’s also no concierge service offered.
The activation requirements for the travel insurance and transport accident cover are payment of 100% of the trip fare with the card, or QFF points, or the Qantas Travel Credit.
Interest-free days are 44, not 55
This isn’t a big deal, but it needs to be considered as part of the bigger picture. With only 44 interest-free days a month instead of 55, you’ll end up paying earlier by 12 x 11 = 132 days per year, 132 days in which your cash is not working for you in an interest-bearing deposit account or a mortgage offset account.
Don’t forget that if you have any unpaid balance on your account you’ll forfeit the interest-free days on purchases altogether. The high standard interest rate on purchases will be charged from the day the item hits your account.
Standard interest rate
The high interest rate on any purchases which do not qualify for interest-free days is perfectly normal for a card of this type. There’s nothing ‘ultimate’ about it, but Amex are smart enough to know the customers they are pursuing can afford to pay the card balance in full every month and therefore attach little importance to interest rates.
However, if ever you do find yourself carrying a balance beyond the payment due date, you can opt to repay via Plan It Instalments, with 0% interest and a fixed monthly fee.
There’s no cash advance interest rate quoted, because cash advances are not available with Amex cards.
Turn your phone into a digital wallet
Leave your card at home and pay on the go with your smartphone. This card is eligible for use with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay when you download the appropriate app.
Amex also has regularly changing retail discount offers for cardholders, easily accessed using your phone or other internet-connected device.
Which cards compete?
The Westpac Altitude Platinum Credit Card (Qantas), NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card and Bendigo Bank Qantas Platinum Credit Card all have lower annual fees but also a lower points earning rate than this Amex card.
You can check out many credit cards which earn QFF points on our Qantas Frequent Flyer credit cards comparison.
Who will get the most benefit?
The American Express Qantas Ultimate Credit Card is for avid QFF points collectors who fly regularly. They’ll be able to earn QFF points at one of the higher rates available, scoring plenty of Qantas award flights plus the worthwhile travel credit every year, relax free of charge in the Qantas and Amex lounges (a total of four visits per year), and rest easy knowing that they and their family are protected by insurance (with some exceptions).
And don’t forget that the annual travel credit effectively wipes out the annual fee.