The American Express Essential Card has many benefits that appeal to the mainstream consumer. But, not necessarily those that are reward points-focused. I’d say that reward points are a benefit of the card rather than a focus.

The card has $0 Annual Fee 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. (eg your income or spending is too low to obtain maximum value from premium cards)
  • 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
Annual fee$0

Effective Frequent Flyer Program Point Earn Rates

Frequent Flyer ProgramPoints earned from spend
Velocity PointsUp to 0.625 point / $
Cathay Pacific Asia MilesUp to 0.625 Mile / $
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer milesUp to 0.416 Mile / $

Consider this card the little hipster brother of the Platinum Edge Card.

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.

Most frequent flyer program partners have a transfer rate from 2 Membership Rewards points to 1 frequent flyer point. This includes airline programs like Velocity Frequent Flyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest, Qatar Avios Privilege Club and more. Others like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Emirates Skywards transfer at a rate of 3 Membership Rewards to 1 mile.

American Express Membership Rewards PartnersTransfer Rates
Velocity Frequent Flyer
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Etihad Guest
Malaysian Airlines Enrich
Qatar Avios Privilege Club
THAI Royal Orchid Plus
HawaiianMiles
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
2 Membership Rewards points = 1 frequent flyer point
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Emirates Skywards
3 Membership Rewards points = 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
Helloworld
American Express Travel Online
David Jones Pay with Points
Myer Pay With Points
20,000 Membership Rewards points = $100 travel reward

The Essential Card earns 1.25 points per $1 for utilities, insurance and telecommunications. It earns 1 point per $1 for government spending.

The card is also eligible for Amex Offers. These offers provide American Express Card Members with rotating promotions and discounts for a variety of products and services.

American Express Plan It

American Express launched ‘Plan It’ in mid-2020, allowing Card Members to create instalment plans that allow equal payments to be distributed over a 3, 6 or 12-month payment period. There is a monthly fixed fee to access this feature. 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. The Card offers Smartphone Screen Cover, which is quite unique in the market as a credit card insurance offering. The cover will insure you for screen repairs up to $500, with a 10% excess on the claim.

You can also pay for purchases at David Jones, or use points to offset charges on your credit card statement.

There are also insurance benefits, including:

  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 remembering you have access to them. If you are a Card Member, make sure to read the PDS and mentally file away the details.

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 $0 Annual Fee points-earning cards in the market

There are few $0 Annual Fee points-earning cards out there (although there are few with low fees, under $100).

These include the American Express Qantas Discovery Card and the American Express Velocity Escape Card. Both are $0 Annual Fee Qantas and Velocity Points earning cards respectively.

Both these Cards offer 0.75 Points per dollar spent in their respective points currencies. They also offer 0.5 Points per dollar spent on Government and Utility transactions. Neither Card comes with Smartphone Screen Cover.

If you are looking for a lower-cost Membership Rewards Points earning card, the American Express Platinum Edge Card is also an option.

Summing Up

The American Express Essential Card will suit those who are after frequent flyer and travel rewards benefits. You may not be totally hooked on rewards and frequent flyer points but want to ensure you are getting some return 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. The Card appeals to those looking to pay for purchases at David Jones. Or to use points to offset charges on their Card statement.

In summary, this Card allows those who may not qualify or wish to pay for a more premium Card the ability to earn frequent flyer points on their everyday spending.

$0 annual fee with The American Express Essential Credit Card was last modified: February 22nd, 2024 by Daniel Sciberras