Compare American Express credit cards that earn points with the Membership Rewards program.
Membership Rewards is a credit card loyalty program operated by American Express for the benefit of its cardholders. AmEx has the largest range of credit cards and charge cards on the Australian market, and every one of them earns loyalty points. While there are several cards which earn either Qantas or Velocity Frequent Flyer points exclusively, the vast majority earn Membership Rewards points only, or offer a choice between Membership Rewards and Qantas Frequent Flyer points.
Points never expire
Unlike many of its competitors, AmEx does not set a date by which points must be used before they expire, e.g. 36 months from the end of the year in which they were earned. You can keep your Membership Rewards points intact until you are ready to spend them, or until you have acquired enough of them for your chosen redemption.
No points cap or threshold
This is yet another point of difference with AmEx’s competitors.
Many cards have a set earning limit each month. Once that limit is reached (e.g. $3,000 spending in a single billing cycle) no further points can be earned until the beginning of the next monthly billing period.
Other cards may not have an absolute points cap, but set a monthly spending threshold, after which the points earning rate declines sharply (e.g. a drop from 2.0 points to 0.5 points per dollar once a monthly threshold of $2,000 spending is reached).
But AmEx cards have neither a points cap nor a points threshold. The advertised points earning rate remains the same throughout the month, no matter how much you spend. AmEx cardholders can make major purchases, such as technology, household appliances and travel, secure in the knowledge that every dollar they spend will earn points at the initial rate.
Earn points for government purchases
Once again, there are many rewards cards which do not award loyalty points for government spending (e.g. ATO payments, local government rates, Australia Post). But AmEx does give you points for government purchases, albeit at a rate lower than that granted for other purchases – usually 0.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar.
Some AmEx cards have tiered earning rates for specific spending types
The Membership Rewards points earning rate varies from card to card, with cards having a higher annual fee usually earning points at a faster rate. Most cards then apply this individual rate to all eligible purchases (with the exception of government purchases described above).
However, some AmEx cards have a tiered earning rate, depending on where you do your spending. E.g. 3.0 points per dollar for supermarket spending, 2.0 points at petrol stations, 0.5 points for government and telco spending, 1.0 points for everything else.
From time to time AmEx will offer large numbers of bonus Membership Rewards points to new customers applying for specific cards. There will usually be a target spending level to be reached in the first three months in order to qualify for the bonus points, e.g. 80,000 bonus points for spending $1,500 in the first three months.
All American Express cards in Australia earn some kind of loyalty points. The vast majority earn Membership Rewards points, but there are a few which earn Qantas or Velocity frequent flyer points instead, or offer a choice between Qantas or Membership Rewards points.
By using your card to make eligible purchases. You will earn points (e.g. 2.0 points per dollar) for all your spending.
The points earning rate per dollar varies, depending on which card you have. The cards with a higher annual fee tend to have a higher earning rate. For some cards the rate is global (i.e. the same rate for all purchases, regardless of where you do your spending, although spending with government departments almost always qualifies for a lower rate). For other cards there will be a tiered rate, depending on where you use the card (e.g. 3.0 points per dollar at supermarkets, 2.0 points at fuel outlets, etc.).
No, only “eligible purchases” earn points. In practice this covers most purchases made with the card. Transactions which do not earn points include balance transfers, card fees and interest charges, cash equivalents (cash advances, traveller’s cheque and foreign currency purchases) and any merchant fees.
No. There is a wide variety of annual fees, currently ranging from $0 to $1,500. As expected, the higher the fee, the greater the attached benefits.
Membership at the entry level, Gateway, is free. The higher levels of membership (Ascent, Ascent Premium) are free with specific premium cards, or can be purchased in return for an additional annual fee. Some levels (Ascent Spirit, Choices) are only available to business or corporate cardholders.
No. You can hang on to them as long as you like. This is a particularly attractive feature of Membership Rewards points.
No. Unlike some of competing cards, American Express cards have no cap on the number of points you can earn in a month or year.
No. There is no monthly threshold which sees the points earning rate decline if it is exceeded. This is in contrast to many competing cards issued by major banks.
There is a wide range of options, including online purchases from David Jones, retail gift cards, card account cashback, travel, car hire and entertainment, and conversion to airline frequent flyer points or hotel frequent guest points.
This is the entry level for Membership Rewards. It comes free of charge with personal AmEx cards in the lower range of annual fees. It delivers a wide range of redemption options. The only real differences are that there is no option to convert points to Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer points (which comes with Ascent and higher membership levels) or Qantas frequent flyer points (only permitted at the very highest membership levels). The points conversion rates for the eight remaining airline frequent flyer options are also slightly less attractive.
Ascent is the second level of Membership Rewards, granted to some premium cards with higher fees. Other cardholders can access this membership level by paying an additional annual fee. It has all the redemption options offered with Gateway, plus the additional benefits of a more favourable conversion rate for airline frequent flyer points and the ability to convert points to frequent flyer points with Virgin Atlantic.
This is the highest Membership Rewards tier available to personal (rather than corporate) cardholders. It is built into the higher level platinum cards, and allows members the extra option of converting Membership Rewards points to Qantas Frequent Flyer points, as well as a better conversion rate to Emirates points than that offered by Membership Rewards Ascent.
For top-tier corporate cards members only, this level offers all the previously-mentioned redemptions, plus conversion to Qantas points at a rate of 1:1.
Choices membership level comes with some AmEx business cards. It is similar to Ascent, but does not allow any conversion of points to frequent flyer or hotel points.
AmEx cards co-branded with David Jones offer a choice between earning direct Qantas points and David Jones Membership Rewards points, a separate type of Membership Rewards points which cannot be merged with standard Membership Rewards points. Redemption options are similar to the Ascent level, but frequent flyer points conversion rates may vary.
It largely depends on your lifestyle. If you are a frequent traveller, conversion to frequent flyer points may deliver the best return. Otherwise, retail gift cards or account cashback offer the greatest flexibility (but possibly a lower return per dollar spent).
You can choose to pay the balance in cash, using Points + Pay.
Yes, both primary and supplementary cards earn points for eligible purchases, but the supplementary card points will be credited to the account of the primary cardholder.
Only the primary cardholder can operate the points account and select redemptions.
Depending on your card level and annual fee, you may also receive complimentary benefits such as travel and shopper’s insurance, airport lounge access, free or discounted flights, special privileges from retailers and hotel operators, travel credit vouchers and smartphone screen insurance.