American Express is offering 90,000 Membership Rewards Points + $300 back for new Card Members of the Explorer who apply online by 3 May 2021 and spend $3,000 or more on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of approval. Minimum spend, eligibility and T&Cs apply.
The American Express Explorer will also allow you to participate in Amex’ Shop Small deals. The current deal is for an extra 3 bonus points per dollar spent at participating small businesses on top of the regular earn rate until 31 March 2022, up to 40,000 extra points. Read more about Shop Small in our dedicated guide here.
The card has a $395 annual fee, which is offset by a yearly $400 travel credit to be used with American Express Travel.
The card earns points into the American Express Membership Rewards. This means they transfers at a ratio of 2:1 Membership Rewards points to frequent flyer points/miles into most frequent flyer programs as well as Hilton Honors, and 3:2 to Marriott Bonvoy.
The current bonus offer is equivalent to 45,000 points when transferred to most frequent flyer programs such as Velocity, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and Etihad Guest. We cover the transfer rates to different programs in more detail further down in the guide.
How you could use the bonus points from this card
All redemption figures above exclude any accompanying taxes, fees and charges. Points redemption price data is provided by a third-party. For an exact total redemption cost, please consult with the airline directly.
Disclaimer: These are example redemptions only and due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, some of these routes may not be currently available.
Digging into the benefits of the American Express Explorer
The American Express Explorer earns a solid 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on ongoing spend and there is no cap on the points you can earn.
|Card||American Express Explorer|
|Loyalty Program||American Express Membership Rewards|
|Points earned from spend||2 Membership Rewards points earned per $1 on all purchases except government bodies where you will earn 1 point per $1 spent|
|Minimum Income||$65,000 p.a.|
|Included Insurances||Smartphone Screen Insurance, Medical Emergency Expenses Cover, Purchase Protection, Buyer’s Advantage and Refund Protection|
|Overseas transaction fee||3% of the converted amount|
|Minimum income requirement||$65,000 p.a.|
|Annual fee||$395 p.a.|
There is also a business version of the American Express Explorer card.
Earning points with the American Express Explorer
The card belongs to the American Express Membership Rewards program for points earn and redemption. We’ve covered Membership Rewards in depth, and frequently, on Point Hacks.
It’s worth noting that there used to be three main varieties of Amex points: Gateway (this card), Ascent and Ascent Premium points. Their transfer rates have recently been consolidated and all of them now transfer to most partner programs at a rate of 2:1.
The headline points earn rate on spend is 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar. That’s equal to 1 frequent flyer point (in Velocity, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and most other frequent flyer programs) per dollar spent.
Effective Frequent Flyer Program Point Earn Rates
|Frequent Flyer / Hotel Program||Points earned from spend|
|Velocity Frequent Flyer||Up to 1 point / $|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||Up to 1 mile / $|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Up to 1 mile / $|
These are the key programs for those who want to learn how to get the most value from their frequent flyer points. There is great value to be had for different reasons from each of these programs, Velocity (for Business Class travel on Virgin Australia), KrisFlyer (premium cabin travel on Singapore Airlines) and Asia Miles (great for long-haul premium cabin redemptions on oneworld airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Qantas).
|American Express Membership Rewards Partners||Transfer Rates|
Malaysian Airlines Enrich
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
THAI Royal Orchid Plus
|2 Membership Rewards points = 1 frequent flyer point|
|Marriott Bonvoy||3 Membership Rewards points = 2 Marriott points|
|Hilton Honors||2 Membership Rewards points = 1 Honors point|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||200 Membership Rewards points = 1 Airpoints|
American Express Travel Online
David Jones Pay with points
|20,000 Membership Rewards points = $100 travel reward|
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 the ATO and Australia Post.
$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 Card Members for either preferential rates or bonus points.
As a Card Member, the $400 credit appears in your account on the Amex Travel website and can be redeemed for flights (excluding low-cost carriers), hotels, some car rentals and ‘Experiences’ available through Amex Travel.
The great thing about the travel credit, by comparison to a free flight or hotel benefit that some other cards offer, is that it is flexible. Prefer to pay for Business or First Class? You can use the credit to offset these costs.
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.
Get a room upgrade and US$100 hotel credit at high-end hotels
Explorer Card Members can now enjoy special benefits at properties part of The Hotel Collection. Every time you book two consecutive nights stay or more at one of these properties with your American Express Explorer Credit Card, you will receive:
- Up to US$100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities
- Complimentary room upgrade at check-in, when available
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 $1,450 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.
This guide references some of the benefits of insurance policies provided with this card. You should read the PDS and obtain independent professional advice before obtaining this product.
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.
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.
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.
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 Card Members
American Express are quite specific about whether existing Card Members will be eligible for bonus points if they apply for a card, are approved, and meet the minimum spend criteria.
Card Members who currently hold or who have previously held any Card product issued by American Express Australia Limited in the preceding 18 month period are ineligible for this offer.
American Express don’t allow existing Card Members, even for different types of American Express cards (e.g. Charge, Credit or Business) to be eligible for bonus points offers for cards in a different family.
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 is not focused on the bonus categories found with other Amex-issued cards, such as supermarkets and fuel with the Platinum Edge, or David Jones cards.
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.
All up, this is a card tailored to those looking for simplicity: high points earn from your spending, a wide range of points transfer partners, a large travel credit, insurance coverage, and Amex lounge visits at Sydney and Melbourne Airports.