American Express are offering 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points for new cardholders of the American Express Explorer until 7 January 2019.
The card has a $395 annual fee, which is offset by a yearly $400 travel credit to be used with American Express Travel.
Membership Rewards Gateway points transfers at a ratio of 4:3 Membership Rewards points to frequent flyer points/miles in most frequent flyer programs, and at 1:1 with Hilton Honors and 3:2 to Marriott Rewards-Starwood Preferred Guest.
Do 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.
Changes specific to the Explorer card are shown below.
|Until 14 April 2019||From 15 April 2019||Change|
|Earn rate||All spend except Government||2 points per $||2 points per $||No change|
|Government||0.5 points per $||1 point per $||+100%|
|Effective earn rate||All spend except Government||1.5 points per $||1 point per $||-34%|
|Government||0.375 points per $||0.5 points per $||+34%|
|Partner||Current transfer rate||Future transfer rate||Change|
|Most airline programs||4:3||2:1||-34%|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||400:3||200:1||-34%|
|Marriott Rewards-SPG||3:2||3:2||No change|
Marriott points can reduce the cost of staying at luxurious properties, like The St. Regis Singapore
The current 100,000 bonus Membership Gateway points offer is equivalent to 75,000 points when transferred to most frequent flyer programs such as Velocity Frequent Flyer, KrisFlyer, Asia Miles and Etihad Guest. We cover the transfer rates to different programs in more detail further down in the guide.
The bonus points can also earn you 100,000 Hilton Honors points or 66,666 Marriott points.
How you could use the bonus points from this card
All redemption figures shown are examples only and exclude accompanying taxes and fees. Points redemption price data is provided by a third-party, so inaccuracies may be present. Please check with the airline directly for a complete and accurate total redemption cost.
Here’s how Point Hacks Team Member Matt used the American Express Explorer sign-up bonus to gift his parents their first Business Class experience.
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. There is no cap on the points you can earn.
There is also a business version of the American Express Explorer card.
|Card||American Express Explorer|
|Loyalty Program||American Express Membership Rewards Gateway|
|Points earned from spend||2 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 Insurances||Smartphone Screen Insurance, Medical Emergency Expenses Cover, Purchase Protection, Buyer’s Advantage and Refund Protection|
|Overseas transaction fee||3% of the converted amount|
|Annual fee||$395 p.a.|
Effective Frequent Flyer Program Point Earn Rates
|Frequent Flyer / Hotel Program||Points earned from spend|
|Velocity Points||1.5 points / $|
|Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Miles||1.5 mile / $|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1.5 mile / $|
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.
It’s worth noting that there are three main varieties of Amex points: Gateway (this card), Ascent and Ascent Premium points.
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.
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 Velocity (domestic Australian redemptions with low surcharges), 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 Gateway Rewards Partners||Transfer Rates|
Malaysian Airlines Enrich
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
THAI Royal Orchid Plus
Velocity Frequent Flyer
|1 Membership Rewards point = 0.75 frequent flyer point|
|Marriott Rewards-Starwood Preferred Guest||3 Membership Rewards points = 2 Marriott points|
|Hilton Honors||1 Membership Rewards point = 1 Honors point|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||100 Membership Rewards points = 0.75 Airpoints|
American Express Travel Online
David Jones Pay with points
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|
You could transfer your points to KrisFlyer to book cheap travel in Singapore Airlines’ modern A350 and Boeing 777-300ER Business Class
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 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 (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.
You can use your travel credit to book any of the cabins–Economy, Premium Economy, Business or First–on this British Airways Airbus A380
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$75 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$75 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities
- Complimentary room upgrade at check-in, when available
Your US$75 credit can be used to eat at restaurants within the hotel
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.
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 Apple Pay & Android Pay support
American Express cards support both Apple Pay & Android Pay, meaning you can use this card on your smartphone for easier payments. Find out more in our guides for each of the compatible services.
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.
If you hold a bank-issued American Express – such as from Westpac, Commonwealth Bank or NAB – that 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.
However American Express don’t allow existing cardholders, 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.
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 is 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 in 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 directly with other Membership Rewards 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 wide range of points transfer partners, a large travel credit, insurance coverage, and Amex lounge visits at Sydney and Melbourne Airports.
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