American Express is offering a $200 statement credit for New Amex Card Members who apply for the Essential Credit Card and spend $1,500 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of approval.

The American Express Essential Card comes with a range of benefits that are appealing to the mainstream consumer – but not necessarily those that are rewards points-focused. I’d say that rewards points are a benefit of the card, rather than a focus.

The card has no annual fee (as a feature of the card, not an offer) and comes with Smartphone Screen Cover.

Who’s the American Express Essential Card for?

This card will likely suit those:

  • who are averse to cards with high annual fees and are looking for a no or low annual fee card that still earns rewards points
  • who may not meet the income threshold for premium credit cards
  • where the higher cost of a premium credit card outweighs the benefit of the card’s additional features, due to your income or spending being too low to either use these features or obtain maximum value from them
  • those who want to start earning points from their credit card spend with little risk

Digging into the details of the American Express Essential card

Card Details

CardAmerican Express Essential
Loyalty ProgramAmerican Express Membership Rewards
Points earned from spend1.25 Membership Rewards points earned per $1 on everyday spend, and
1 Membership Rewards point per $1 on government spend
Included insurancesSmartphone Screen Cover, Buyer's Advantage Cover, Card Purchase and Refund Cover (PDS)
Overseas transaction fee3% of the converted amount
Mobile WalletApple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay
Minimum income$40,000 p.a.
Annual fee$0

Effective Frequent Flyer Program Point Earn Rates

Frequent Flyer ProgramPoints earned from spend
Velocity PointsUp to 0.625 point / $
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer MilesUp to 0.625 Mile / $
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesUp to 0.625 Mile / $

Consider this card the little, hipster brother of the Platinum Edge. The card looks very cool, with a neat pearlescent cream and dark blue design that I haven’t seen on any other American Express card globally before.

Earning points with the American Express Essential card

I’ll start with the points angle first. The Essential Card earns points into American Express Membership Rewards.

The transfer rates is 1 Membership Rewards point to 0.5 airline points in Velocity Frequent Flyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer and some others.

All frequent flyer program partners have a transfer rate out of 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 frequent flyer point, except for Air New Zealand which is 200 Membership Rewards points to 1 Airpoints Dollar.

American Express Membership Rewards PartnersTransfer Rates
Asia Miles
Emirates Skywards
Etihad Guest
Malaysian Airlines Enrich
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
THAI Royal Orchid Plus
2 Membership Rewards point = 1 frequent flyer point
Marriott Bonvoy3 Membership Rewards points = 2 Marriott points
Hilton Honors2 Membership Rewards point = 1 Honors point
Air New Zealand Airpoints200 Membership Rewards points = 1 Airpoints Dollar
American Express Travel Online
David Jones Pay with points
20,000 Membership Rewards points = $100 travel reward

The Amex Essential earns 1.25 points per $1 for utilities, insurance and telecommunications and 1 point per $1 for government spend.

The card is also eligible for Amex Offers, which provide American Express cardholders with rotating promotions and discounts for a variety of products and services, as well as the Local Champion game, where cardholders use the Amex app to earn additional bonus point per $ spent at retailers where they shop the most (Available only to existing members until February 2021, read more here).

American Express Plan It

American Express launched ‘Plan It’ in mid-2020, which allows cardholders to create instalment plans that allow for equal payments to be distributed over a 3, 6 or 12 month payment period. There is a monthly fixed fee to access this feature, with up to 10 Plan It plans with a minimum of $150 balance able to be created.

Other benefits of American Express Essential

Beyond points, this is where American Express is trying to innovate a little with this card – primarily the Smartphone Screen Cover is unique in the market as a credit card insurance offering, and it will cover you for screen repairs up to $500, with a 10% excess on the claim.

For those with slippery fingers or pockets with no other insurance that would cover this (like your home and contents) then this could be worth a few hundred dollars in case of breakage.

Otherwise, there are also insurances like:

  1. Card Purchase Cover – covering breakage or theft of an item up to 90 days after purchase
  2. Buyer’s Advantage Cover – extending the manufacturer’s warranty on items
  3. Card Refund Cover – if you’re refused a refund on an unused item within 90 days of purchase

The PDS of the full set of insurances for the Essential is here.

Half the battle with these insurances is that you have to remember you have access to them as a cardholder when things go wrong, so have a read of the PDS and mentally file them away if you become a card member.

Unparalleled mobile wallet integration

American Express cards support Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, meaning you can use this card on your smartphone for easier payments.

Read the Point Hacks guide to using Apple Pay or for using Google Pay and Samsung Pay, including instructions on how to add your American Express card to those services.

With this feature set up, it means you could still use your NFC-enabled phone to make purchases with your American Express account, even if your physical card is lost or stolen and pending replacement.

Other no annual fee points-earning cards in the market

There are few no annual fee points-earning cards out there (although there are few with low fees, under $100).

As a result, the main alternative product is the American Express Qantas Discovery Card, a no annual fee Qantas point earning card.

The Qantas Discovery Card earns 0.75 Qantas Points per $. This card also have the reduced earn rate of 0.5 points per $ for transactions to Government / Utilities, but neither come with the Smartphone Screen Cover.

Otherwise, most people looking to maximise their Membership Rewards points earn should look at the Platinum Edge, with it’s pumped up earn rate of 3 points per $1 at major supermarkets and petrol stations.

Summing Up

The Essential card will suit both those who are after frequent flyer and travel rewards benefits, as well as those who are not totally hooked on rewards and frequent flyer points but do want to ensure they are getting some kickback for using their credit card for their everyday purchases.

For the travel reward seeker, the Membership Rewards program has a great selection of airline and hotel partners.

With points available to be used for pay for purchases at David Jones or to offset any charge on your statement, and with Amex Offers on the card as well, there’s appeal to many bargain-hunters who aren’t going to go after all the frequent flyer redemptions out there.

American Express also offer Apple Pay integration allowing easy payment for iPhone users, and given the no annual fee, does provide a number of benefits with no ongoing ‘cost’ to hold the card if you’re not carrying a balance on the account.

$200 back and no ongoing annual fee with the American Express Essential Card was last modified: June 9th, 2022 by Daniel Sciberras