Firstly, though, it’s important to note that there is a difference between American Express Membership Rewards:
- Ascent points, which transfer to most partners at a higher ratio of 1:1 but are only available through cards with generally higher annual fees like the Platinum Charge; and
- Gateway points, which transfer at a lower rate of 1:0.75 but are accessible through cards with lower annual fees, like the Explorer
Note that American Express is adjusting both earn rates and points transfer rates for most cards effective 15 April 2019. Here is our take on the changes and further information from American Express.
The annual fee for both variants of the Explorer card is $395, this is offset by a $400 travel credit to use through Amex Travel for the Explorer and a 50,000 points Business Loyalty Bonus each year for the Business Explorer.
These featured redemptions all transfer 100,000 Amex Gateway points to 75,000 points in the respective frequent flyer programs.
So, onto how you can use your Amex points to travel in style…
1. Fly to the US in Virgin Australia Premium Economy for 71,700 Velocity Points one-way
Rather than being stuck with over 250 other people in Economy, you can enjoy a step up in the 24-person Premium Economy mini cabin on Virgin Australia’s retrofitted Boeing 777s flying direct from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles.
You’ll get an extra third of legroom to stretch out (41 inches instead of 32), plus if you’re in a window seat you’ll only have one person to climb over instead of two.
Upon boarding, the cabin crew will serve you a champagne cocktail and canapés, as well as your à-la-carte dining menu for the flight.
With this flight retailing for over $1,500 in cash, using 71,700 Velocity Points + ~$130 in taxes represents good value.
2. Take you and your partner on Air New Zealand Business Class anywhere in the South Pacific for 70,000 KrisFlyer miles return
You can fly anywhere in the ‘South West Pacific region’ (encompassing Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu) in Business Class on Air New Zealand for only 35,000 return per person.
This could take you as far afield as Tahiti, which is a minimum nine-hour flight from the East Coast with a stop in Auckland, so that redemption represents good value.
Plus, you won’t be charged fuel surcharges on Air New Zealand flights.
Be aware that award space on Air NZ flights can be a little difficult to come by, so plan well ahead if possible.
Read more: The best uses of KrisFlyer miles
3. Ten one-way domestic Economy flights on Virgin Australia
Did you know you can use Etihad Guest miles for Virgin Australia flights?
For example, you could fly yourself and four other people on a return trip to the following destinations:
- Sydney to Cairns
- Melbourne to Hamilton Island
- Brisbane to Hobart
- Perth to Broome
- Adelaide to Gold Coast
4. Fly to Southeast Asia in Qantas Business Class for 50,000-60,000 Emirates Skywards miles one-way
Travellers in Perth can fly direct to Singapore for only 50,000 miles one-way, although you’ll be flying on the dated Boeing 737 with angled seats.
Those on the East Coast are a bit luckier, with many flights to Southeast Asia operated by Airbus A330s with modern Business Suites, offering lie-flat beds and direct aisle access.
For 60,000 miles one-way, you can fly direct from Melbourne or Brisbane to Hong Kong, or Sydney to Manila, for example.
5. Fly to Doha in Qatar Airways Business Class for 70,000 Asia Miles one-way
Qatar Airways has fully-flat beds stretching to 203cm in length, direct aisle access for all passengers and a 17-inch personal entertainment screen in its Business Class cabin on the Airbus A380 flying from Melbourne and the newer A350 from Adelaide.
Flights from Perth are on the older Boeing 777 but they’re due for a retrofit with new Business Suites.
From Melbourne and Sydney, you’ll also have access to a full-service onboard bar but, unfortunately, flying from Sydney costs an extra 20,000 miles and availability is not as good as from the three other cities.
Flexible points currencies like American Express Membership Rewards give you a lot more options than putting all your eggs in one basket with one frequent flyer program, meaning that you can access any of the flights and airlines above, plus many more.
With the huge sign-up bonus on these Explorer cards, you’ll be well on your way to ticking off the next trip on your bucket list!
Supplementary images courtesy of American Express and respective airlines/frequent flyer programs
Looking for more inspiration for how to spend your hard-earned frequent flyer points?
Here is a comprehensive list of all of our Best Uses of Points guides. There may be some overlap but each guide has its own twist.
Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Best uses of Qantas Points
- ‘Ultimate’ uses of Qantas Points
- Best uses of 60,000 Qantas Points
- Best uses of 80,000 Qantas Points
- Best uses of 100,000 Qantas Points
- When it makes sense to use your Qantas Points for domestic travel in Economy (and when it doesn’t)
- Best uses of Qantas Points from the East Coast
- Best uses of Qantas Points from Perth
- Reader responses: what is the best use of Qantas Points?
- Seven of the cheapest Qantas Points redemptions for luxurious Emirates flights
- The cheapest ways to fly Cathay Pacific First Class with Qantas Points
Velocity Frequent Flyer
- Best uses of Velocity Points
- Best uses of 80,000 Velocity Points
- Best uses of 100,000 Velocity Points
- Five flight redemptions that maximise your Velocity points balance
- Best uses of Etihad Guest miles
- Etihad Guest vs Velocity for Virgin Australia flights comparison guide
American Express Membership Rewards
- Best uses of 100,000 American Express Ascent Membership Rewards points
- Best uses of 100,000 American Express Gateway Membership Rewards points