Point Hacks Credit Card Guide

American Express Explorer offer ends 30 January, with simple, high points earn, large sign-up bonus and $400 travel credit each year

American Express Explorer - 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points

American Express new 'Explorer' card has a $395 annual fee. There's a big points bonus, $400 travel credit each year, and high points earn rates on spend, plus a range of included insurances.

  • 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway point bonus
  • $400 travel credit every year
  • Free access to the Sydney Airport American Express lounge twice a year
  • 2 Membership Rewards points earned per $1 on all purchases except government bodies where you will earn 0.5 points per $1 spent.
  • Included Insurances - smartphone screen insurance and various travel insurances (PDS)
  • $395 p.a. annual fee
  • Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any other Consumer Credit Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer
  • Offer expires: January 30th 2017
  • $1,500 minimum spend in 2 months required to earn bonus points

Find out more or apply →

Point Hacks earn a maximum of $250 per applicant for this card. More about this →

American Express have extended the 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway bonus points on offer with the American Express Explorer card until 30 January. Launched in September last year, the Explorer card has a $395 annual fee which is offset by a yearly $400 travel credit to be used with American Express Travel.

The headline bonus for new American Express customers continues: 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points which convert at 4 points = 3 frequent flyer points in most frequent flyer programs, and for the advanced points redeemer, an excellent 1 point = 0.5 Starpoints.

There’s an easy $1500 minimum spend within two months to trigger the bonus points.

Points earned from ongoing spend are set at a solid 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar, which equates to 1.5 frequent flyer points per dollar, again for most (but not all) frequent flyer partners.

You’ll also receive access to the American Express Lounge in Sydney twice per year without charge, a nice perk for infrequent international travellers in Economy.

Card Details

CardAmerican Express Explorer
Loyalty ProgramAmerican Express Membership Rewards Gateway
Points earned from spend2 Membership Rewards points earned per $ spent
Transfers to most frequent flyer programs at 4 points = 3 frequent flyer points
Minimum Income$65,000 p.a.
Included InsurancesSmartphone Screen Insurance, Medical Emergency Expenses Cover, Purchase Protection, Buyer’s Advantage and Refund Protection
Overseas transaction fee3% of the converted amount
Annual fee$395 p.a.

Effective Frequent Flyer Program Point Earn Rates

Frequent Flyer / Hotel ProgramPoints earned from spend
Velocity Points1.5 points / $
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Miles1.5 Mile / $
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1.5 Mile / $
Starwood Preferred Guest1 Starpoint / $

Earning points with the American Express Explorer

The card belongs to the American Express Membership Rewards Gateway program for points earn and redemption. We’ve covered Membership Rewards in depth, and frequently, on Point Hacks – our full guide is here.

The headline points earn rate on spend is 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar, but as this card belongs to Membership Rewards Gateway, that’s equal to 1.5 frequent flyer points (in Velocity, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and most other frequent flyer programs) per dollar spent.

You’ll also earn the full points on the Explorer card for utilities and bills, unlike some other cards American Express offers. This means you’ll get full points on ‘telecommunications’ and ‘utilities’ , but not on government charges – such as ATO and Australia Post.

The decision to put the Amex Explorer into the Gateway flavour of Membership Rewards is an interesting one – as it adds a little bit of confusion to the value of the points from this card – it’s otherwise a card with simple, effective features. It’s the second mainstream card to link to the Gateway after the recent launch of the no-fee American Express Essential card.

Let’s simplify the points earned on Amex Explorer. Membership Rewards Gateway points transfer out to most frequent flyer programs at a lower rate than other Membership Rewards linked cards, which lowers the value of the signup bonus and the ongoing earn rates.

That doesn’t mean that the points bonus and earn rate on the Amex Explorer is poor – far from it – but does mean it can’t be compared on a like-for-like basis with most of the other cards in the Membership Rewards range.

Until recently, Membership Rewards points, such as those earned from the American Express Platinum Edge or Platinum Charge, have mostly been earned by cards linked with the Membership Rewards ‘Ascent’ flavour of Membership Rewards.

The simple thing about Membership Rewards Ascent is that 1 Membership Rewards point transfers to 1 frequent flyer point – that’s true for Velocity, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and most others too.

Membership Rewards Gateway however links to most frequent flyer programs at 4 Membership Rewards points equal to 3 frequent flyer points – so the signup bonus and points earn rates are as shown below.

American Express Gateway Rewards PartnersTransfer Rates
Asia Miles
Emirates Skywards
Etihad Guest
Malaysian Airlines Enrich
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
THAI Royal Orchid Plus
Velocity Frequent Flyer
1 Membership Rewards points = 0.75 frequent flyer point
Starwood Preferred Guest1000 Membership Rewards points = 500 Starpoints
Hilton HHonors1000 Membership Rewards points = 1000 HHonors points
Air New Zealand Airpoints100 Membership Rewards points = 0.75 Airpoint Dollar
Helloworld
American Express Travel Online
David Jones Pay with points
Ticketmaster
American Express Foreign Exchange
eGift Cards and Gift Cards
Select+Pay with points
Points for Credit Card
13,500 Membership Rewards points = $100 travel reward

In summary, 1 Membership Rewards point on this card is not 1 frequent flyer point – that’s a shame.

Membership Rewards Gateway also links to Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton HHonors for hotel points redemptions, but Starwood also has great international frequent flyer programs too – and the card has a high effective earn rate for Starpoints at 1 SPG point per $ spent.

$400 Annual Travel Credit with Amex Travel

We’ve written about Amex Travel previously – it’s the travel booking service that Amex offers to most of its cardholders for either preferential rates or bonus points.

As a cardholder, the $400 credit appears in your account on the Amex Travel website and can be redeemed for flights, hotels, car hire and any other experiences available through Amex Travel.

The great thing about the travel credit, by comparison to a free flight or hotel benefit, is that you can use it for anything bookable through Amex Travel – it’s just way more flexible. Prefer to pay for Business or First Class? You can use the credit to offset these costs. Same for any flight, on any route, that Amex Travel sell online.

One thing about the credit you should be aware of – it’s not generally refundable if you decide to cancel your booking, which is not ideal, but make sure you factor that into your decision as to when and where to use it.

The credit is renewed yearly after your annual fee is charged – i.e. around the time you pay your annual fee in future years, the new $400 credit will show in your Amex Travel account once again.

If you make even just one trip a year where you can use the credit, the $400 travel credit is nearly as good as cash and massively helps to offset the $395 annual fee of the card – just remember the restrictions around having to book through Amex Travel, and that it’s non-refundable.

Amex Explorer Card Design

Anyone familiar with points-earning credit cards may have heard of the American Express Centurion card. This is the invite-only, several thousand dollar per year Charge Card offered to high-net-worth and high-spending individuals, and reportedly comes with a range of exclusive benefits.

The Centurion card is made out of a hunk of metal, and is shown on the left below:

Amex Centurion vs Explorer

Amex has decided to up the ante with the aspirational value of the Explorer card (on the right above) by placing the Centurion motif front and centre, just as they’ve done with the Amex Essential and Platinum Charge cards.

I would guess the similarity in the design of these latest round of cards is not a coincidence, but it does leave some of the Amex’s existing card designs (such as for the Platinum Edge) out of sync with their current thinking.

Included Travel Insurances

As usual with the included insurances with credit cards it’s not really possible to make a solid recommendation – each insurance is usually good for different reasons and different people.

The Explorer comes with the following headline insurance policies:

  • Smartphone Screen Insurance – up to $500 of screen repairs if you accidentally break your smartphone screen, with a 10% claim excess
  • Medical Emergency Expenses Cover – up to $2,500,000 towards medical treatment
  • Travel Cancellation Cover – up to $30,000 in the event that your travel is cancelled for specific reasons
  • Baggage, Money and Documentation Cover – up to $10,000 to cover loss or damage to baggage, money or documents
  • Travel Inconvenience Insurance – up to $500 if your flight departure is delayed for four hours or more

One example of the coverage included – the travel insurance has similar car rental ‘loss damage waiver’ cover as its big brother, the $1,200 p.a. Platinum Charge card – just with a slightly lower total vehicle value cover of $100,000.

Worth noting – the smartphone screen insurance coverage is activated when you are paying for your smartphone contract, or paid for your phone outright, on your Explorer Card.

Similar conditions, just like most other credit card insurances, apply to the travel insurances – you’ll need to have paid for the travel expenses on your card, with Amex Travel Credit, or with your Membership Rewards points to be covered.

You can read the PDS for the insurance benefits of the Explorer Card here.

This guide references some of the benefits of insurance policies provided with this credit card.

You should read the PDS and obtain independent professional advice before obtaining this product.

Considering this card for Business-related transactions?

American Express offer a range of both business and consumer charge and credit cards. They do permit business transactions to be made on personal cards, unlike some other banks, but you might find some of the other business-focused benefits of the business cards to be appealing or more appropriate.

So – if you’re a sole trader or a business looking to earn points with your business spend – this card would still work for that purpose.

There’s a full list of business and personal consumer American Express cards which might be suitable for earning points from business-related transactions here.

Eligibility criteria for bonus points for existing American Express cardholders

American Express are quite specific about whether existing cardholders will be eligible for bonus points if they apply for a card, are approved, and meet the minimum spend criteria.

Firstly, if you hold a bank-issued American Express – e.g. from Westpac or from ANZ – that alone won’t affect whether you’re eligible for bonus points with an American Express branded card offer. There’s more in our guide to this here.

If you do already hold an American Express-issued card, then the type you hold impacts whether you’re eligible for a new cardholder bonus. American Express offer consumer (or personal) credit cards, consumer Charge cards, and business credit cards. If you hold a card in one of these categories and apply for a card in the same category, then you won’t be eligible for a bonus.

However if you hold a card in one category and apply for a new card in a different category, then you are eligible for the signup bonus. We’ve explained this in more detail here.

How the Explorer compares with ‘black’ bank cards

If you have been using a black bank card like ANZ Black or Westpac Altitude Black then the effective frequent flyer points earn rates for spend with the American Express Explorer are comparable or even better, and with a broader range of transfer partners.

Offers on other banks’ black cards have been very aggressive over the last 12-18 months, backed by no annual fee deals with chunks of bonus points.

However, the wider range of points transfer partners and the $400 travel credit are likely to make the Amex Explorer a more appealing proposition to have in your wallet for ongoing use.

If weighing up against a ‘black’ bank American Express and Visa/MasterCard companion account, then the American Express cards with those accounts generally have comparable points earn rates, and of course you don’t get a linked Visa or MasterCard with this account.

However, most bank companion Visa/MasterCards offer quite low points earn rates anyway, so you may be better off looking at a standalone Visa or MasterCard if you are looking to maximise your points earn. It does add some complexity though.

Our take on the American Express Explorer

This is a very compelling card proposition from Amex.

Each year the $395 annual fee is more than rebated by the $400 travel credit, with the main consideration being that you’ll need to use it by booking through Amex Travel.

When it comes to earning points, this card could work well for people whose spend are not focused on the bonus categories found with other Amex-issued cards, such as supermarkets and fuel with the Platinum Edge, or dining, travel and overseas spend with the Platinum Charge or Velocity Platinum.

The lack of bonus categories, but with a high effective frequent flyer point earn rate, means that it’s simple to consider just how many points you might be earning and whether the card will work for you.

The fact that the card is on the Membership Rewards Gateway program adds some confusion, which hopefully we cleared up in the section on points earn above. You just need to remember not to compare the points earn and bonuses with other Membership Rewards Ascent cards, and keep in mind the effective earn rates to frequent flyer programs when comparing to other bank cards.

All up, this is a card tailored to those looking for simplicity: high points earn from your spending, a large travel credit, insurance coverage, and two Amex lounge visits at Sydney Airport.

Jump back up to offer ↑

Point Hacks Credit Card Information

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We have not taken into consideration your circumstances or financial situation when providing the information on this website. It is important you read the relevant PDS from the product issuer and seek the independent advice of an appropriately qualified professional before making a decision on a product.

Comments Expand Comments

  1. If I already have the Platinum card, will the points accumulated on Explorer card go into the same pool, and I’ll be able to use the Ascent Platinum rate to transfer points? Thanks.

    • Keith Author

      AFAIK there’s no possibility of pooling points between Membership Rewards Gateway and Ascent – at least not yet. But given this card is new it’s all a bit untested. As I find out more I’ll report back.

      • Thanks for the reply. It’s just that I have both Platinum and Platinum Edge, and they seem to be able to pool points together. Although they are both from the Ascent tier. Looking forward to your confirmation on this.

        • The Platinum Charge and the Platinum Edge are on different programs though; the former allows transfers to QFF whereas the latter does not. Hoping this suggests that Amex pools your points in the more favourable program!

          • Yes it does. On my Edge account homepage, it says “Please view the point under your Platinum account”, and I can correctly see all the Edge points under my Platinum card’s Ascent Platinum point pool.

        • Keith Author

          I also have my Edge and Charge set up to pool points, but this is a ‘non-standard’ arrangement. If you have it working too, good on you.
          The reason I have it working was because Charge online services were not working for me as a cardholder of both. It seems like this can happen if you are a cardholder of Edge first and then take the Charge; the fact that the Edge is your primary and oldest card seems to mess your online account up.
          It then seems like the only way to solve this is to find someone on the phone in Amex Card Services who really knows what they are doing, and have them pool the points accounts. And then you get the nice outcome of earning points on Edge into Ascent Premium, not just Ascent, and having points pooled too.

          Back to Explorer. Due to Ascent vs Gateway, I don’t see points pooling working at all with two cards in different programs. Very happy to be proven wrong, of course.

  2. Haggis

    Excellent review of the card Keith. I think this card is now better than the Westpac black altitude with redemption rates changing for SQ/CX points.

  3. Dan

    But still not available to holders of other Amex products – the qualifying period before one can benefit from Amex offers such as this has now extended from 12 months to 18 months of not having another Amex card. I just don’t find Amex’ stand on this point logical and in my mind, is not commercially sound. I wanted to take up the Platinum Charge Card offer with the sign up bonus of 100,000 points but could not because I had another Amex product. When I called Amex and asked them if the intent behind such offers is to leave them and give business to another bank for the period of qualifying period, they said yes! I have been a very satisfied Amex member since 1994 and this response was just beyond my comprehension, so I cancelled my Amex card to start the waiting period of 12 months, which has now increased to 18 months. In replacement, I got ANZ black card with the 75,000 points sign up bonus and Citi Prestige Card with the 70,000 points sign up bonus, both great products accompanied by attractive sign up deals. I am now actually thinking that, given that both ANZ and Citi cards serve me well, maybe on completing the 18 months waiting period with Amex, there is no need for an ongoing relationship with Amex. Still, I wonder, was stinging on 100,000 sign up bonus worth loosing a long standing and satisfied customer over?

  4. KB

    Thanks Keith. Great new card and looks like this is now the best option for a ‘second’ card after Amex Platinum reaches the 300,000 cap for 2 points per $1.

    Now that Westpac is downgrading its points transfer to Singapore/Virgin to be only 1.2points per $ this card is now the winner (after Amex plat cap) at 1.5 points per $ and no cap. No sign up bonus is a shame and agree with Dan on this.

  5. Steve

    Bit of a generic question here but can one transfer their points to a FF program that is in a different name? I’m not eligible because I have an edge but if my partner signed up for this card could we both transfer points to the same FF program?

  6. Kris

    I just applied for the card using the link, thanks for the info.

    Does anyone know if the points bonus is limited to one person per household?

    I added my partner as a supplementary card holder, but in retrospect she should probably apply for the card and get the bonus too. After a year we might supplement the cards and get cumulative points that way.

    Anyone more experienced with this kind of thing see any issues with this?

  7. Amanda

    Hi Keith,
    I apologise if my question has already been asked. I am just wondering, can the 100,000 points be transferred instantly to the frequent-flier program?
    Thank you, Amanda

    • Keith Author

      Hey Amanda! Yes, generally the transfers happen quite quickly – in around 24 hours or so. Some programs can take a little longer, 48-72 hours, and it can depend on whether the transfer was made on a business day or not. But in short, transfers are usually fairly fast, but there is always a small risk that if you’ve found points seats in a frequent flyer program, then make a points transfer and wait, the seats could be gone by the time you come to book.

  8. KB

    Hi Keith
    You might be interested to know that my new Explorer card is pooling points into my Ascent Premium rewards account. I have AMEX Plat charge with the Plat Reserve Credit …and now the new Explorer. Was expecting Explorer to link to a some sort of new Gateway rewards account but its not. After the Explorer first use the points were pooled into the general points account for my Plat charge card.

    This effectively means the Explorer is earning 2 points per $ with no cap and can be transferred at 1:1 into SQ, Virgin, Qantas etc…

  9. Robert

    Whilst the $400 travel credit does offset the $395 annual fee, do note that there is a lag between when the annual fee gets charged and when the $400 travel credit gets credited.
    The annual fee gets charged on day 1 whilst the travel credit only gets credited on the 1st anniversary (i.e. 1 year later).

    • Keith Author

      This is incorrect – the travel credit is available on your card as soon as the account is used for the first time. As a supplementary cardholder, I have checked and can see the travel credit as being active on our Amex account and ready to use.

  10. Anyone have any idea if Refer a Friend should become available to the Amex Explorer?

    I haven’t yet received my first statement -might it become available after this or will it become available at all?

    I’m hoping to refer my partner before the deal expires at the end of November.

  11. Hi Keith
    I have an altitude black amex card issued through Westpac so will I have to wait the 18 month qualifying period or is it for amex cards issued through amex Australia directly.
    I will get 1 of these if I can get the sign on bonus

    • Keith Author

      No, it doesn’t – needs to be met by making on purchases. My usual suggestion is to bring forward spending you’d be making otherwise – buy supermarket or fuel gift cards, early renew home or car insurance… that kind of thing.

  12. raw

    Hi Keith,
    My wife currently has a supplementary card for my Platinum Edge card. Does 18 month restriction apply to her in this case?

    • Keith Author

      Supplementary cardholders aren’t considered as account holders when it comes to making new applications, so holding a supplementary card wouldn’t be a reason to exclude someone from picking up the bonus points.

  13. Thanks Keith for the great info on the site , i have done applied for this card using the referral link on Points , Amex said will send card within 7 days , not sure how long before they send 100,000 bonus points after $2500 spent condition meet . Thinking ok burning it on SPG Hotel Free Nights not sure if it is the best value

  14. Tom

    Hi Keith,

    I am comparing the Explorer and the Amex Velocity Platinum. In terms of the points earned, is there a black and white answer to which is the better earner or does it depend on personal spending habits…the Platinum got a little confusing with the 3 different levels of points to be earned at restaurants, travel etc.

    Thanks,

  15. Blair Hallion

    Is there any possible way to transfer these points to Qantas FF points? I understand that they are not a Gateway rewards partner, however is there any way round this?

    • Keith Author

      Unfortunately not Blair. The only option would be via Hilton HHonors but you’ll lose so much value on the way through it’s not worth considering.

  16. Matt

    Does anyone know if one would be allowed to get a refund on the credit card fee if the 100k points has been earned and transferred out?
    My mate called during business hours and spoke to an Aussie and they said it was perfectly fine, however I’ve just called up and its been transferred to the Phillipines and they were adamant that I would not be refunded the credit card fee due to AMEX terms.

    What is the actual rule?

  17. Reg

    Hi,
    on the amex pages it says only new customers? If i have a NAB Velocity AMEX card im not going to be able to get these points, am i correct?

  18. Mark

    Hi,
    Is it possible to apply for the Explore card and recieve the bonus points even though I currently hold a Amex Velocity Card? I’m hearing that some people are still getting the bonuses.

  19. The T&C’s refer to not holding an Amex “consumer card” for the last 18 months. What exactly does that mean?

    Is the Amex Velocity for example a “consumer” card?

  20. AC

    I had a few very funny things happen about this card, good and bad. So i used my points and transferred to Emirates skyward, at the time of transfer was 4:3 as per usual. However in the process of setting up, i’ve logged in and out of the system a few times, and when i re-logged in, the transfer rate changed to 1:1 for a few of other airlines rewards (eg asia miles and velocity) and not the 4:3 conversion rate.

    I logged in today and its reverted back but yeh that was one of the quirks.

    I have been travelling for the past 3-4 weeks, and have travelled to China and Thailand. I found that certain merchants in those countries netted me 2points per dollar whilst some didn’t. Which was really weird. Hey I’m not complaining but was wondering if anyone else had similar discrepancies.

    Regards

  21. Flower

    I recently received my Amex explorer card. Disappointing that points can’t be transferred to Qantas frequent flyer point.

  22. Peter

    Dang, just did my head in again reading the Insurance documentation for the Amex Explorer ( https://web.aexp-static.com/au/content/pdf/explorer-insurance-tncs.pdf ).

    It appears the Vehicle cover for the explorer card is virtually identical aside from the 125K->100K value of the vehicle. Great!.

    I read Todd’s awesome guide here: http://www.ridehacks.com.au/ultimate-guide-to-rental-car-insurance/#credit-cards that is referenced across the PointHacks website.

    The section here has confused me though when he states:

    To this effect, Avis and Hertz may be well-matched rental providers for Amex Platinum cardholders because the ‘un excessed-ed’ items are not considered a breach of agreement.

    I don’t understand why the Amex Explorer card would be a better fit for Avis and Hertz and not say Thrifty …what am i missing here?

    We will pay any amounts You are responsible for under the Rental
    Agreement, including the Deductible if loss is incurred during a
    Covered Rental Trip, as a result of accidental damage, fire, vandalism,
    theft or loss of use of the Rental Vehicle.

    • Hi Peter, I’m glad you liked my guide!

      I’ll clarify my point about the ‘breach of agreement’. The forewarning is that this is a technicality within the insurance PDS which may or may not be used by Ace (the Amex insurance provider) against you. Alas, it’s worth considering anyway.

      All rental excess policies have a specific clause along the lines of: ‘If you break the rental agreement, our excess protection policy is void’. Now this is obvious if you are drink driving, using it as an Uber X car, or some other obvious ‘breach of agreement’.

      The lesser known ‘breach’ that I found in the Europcar T’s and C’s (note: haven’t checked to see if they have changed…they often do) is that when you suffer certain damage where there is no coverage by Europcar, e.g. tyres and windscreen, where you have to pay for the full amount to fix the damage. However the wording is that this is a ‘severe breach of the rental agreement’.

      This kind of sucks because it would imply that Amex (and all other ‘rental excess insurers’) should technically leave you out in the cold. If it was a ding in the door, they will cover you because you didn’t breach the agreement. But if it’s underbody damage, they could worm out of it. Be careful.

      I’m not sure with thrifty, I haven’t checked their policy but considering they now have a Tesla I probably should add it into the article.

      Let me know how else I can help!

  23. Tom

    Keith, are you sure that if you hold an existing AMEX PLATINUM CHARGE CARD(S), that you can apply for this explorer card and receive the 100,000MR bonus points?

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