Credit Card Review: American Express Explorer credit card
Lounge Invitations + 60,000 bonus Qantas Points - Qantas Money Ad
- Earn up to 1.5 FF points per $1
- Choice of 8 frequent flyer schemes
- 100,000 bonus MRG points for new AMEX customers
Pairing 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards Gateway points with cool extras like a $400 travel voucher each year and access to American Express airport lounges, the American Express Explorer credit card certainly packs a punch.
You can also collect up to 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent in your choice of eight airline loyalty schemes including Virgin Australia Velocity and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and there's even insurance cover if you accidentally manage to shatter your smartphone screen.
- Grade/tier: Black
- Card type: American Express
- Loyalty program: Membership Rewards Gateway (MRG)
- MRG points earned per dollar (government providers): 0.5
- Annual fee: $395
- Supplementary cardholder fee: $0
- Interest rate on purchases: 20.74% p.a.
- Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 55
- Interest rate on cash advances: N/A
- International transaction fee: 3.0%
- Minimum income requirement: $65,000 p.a.
- Minimum credit limit: $3,000
Regardless of how much you spend, cardholders receive a $400 travel credit each year which you can use towards flights, hotels or other travel-related bookings when those travel arrangements are made by American Express.
That practically makes the card 'free' for anybody who normally spends on travel, because although you're paying a $395 annual fee to hold the card, you're immediately getting that value back – and more – in your travel credit.
Further, new cardholders who apply by October 2 2017, are approved and spend at least $1,500 on the card within the first three months will pocket 100,000 Membership Rewards Gateway points, equal to 75,000 frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and the others.
You'll also earn the equivalent of 1.5 airline frequent flyer points per dollar spent on the card at most merchants (uncapped), although payments to government bodies like the Australian Taxation Office and Australia Post earn a lower 0.375 airline frequent flyer points per dollar.
You're invited to visit the American Express Lounge at Sydney Airport twice each year with further visits available for purchase at $55.
When visiting the United States, you can use your AMEX Explorer card to pay for access to the American Express Centurion Lounges in Dallas/Fort Worth, New York (LaGuardia), Las Vegas, Houston, Miami and San Francisco at a cost us US$50 per visit.
Cardholders are given a range of travel insurance options spanning medical, trip cancellation, baggage issues, flight delays and more, activated when purchasing a return trip on your card or using Membership Rewards points to directly book the same.
However, you may not be covered when booking trips using actual airline frequent flyer points, so read the PDS and make sure the cover suits your needs before relying on its protection.
Also thrown in is 'smartphone screen insurance' should you accidentally break the same and have paid for the phone or your monthly contract on your AMEX Explorer card.
For good measure, purchase and refund protection covers are also included.
All things considered, this is a very solid credit card for travellers and higher spenders, but even if you don't get away too often, the card still pays for itself through its $400 travel credit after you've paid a $395 annual fee.
In other words, what you're paying in annual fees, you're getting back in flights and hotel stays, and then some.
We're also happy to see a frequent flyer sign-on bonus and airport lounge options, but for such a travel-centric card, we'd hoped to find a lower international transaction fee than AMEX's standard 3% rate.
There's also no way to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points on the American Express Explorer card, but with great partners like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, you're certainly not short of options.
Scotiabank American Express Gold rewards card – My one month experience
A few months ago, I received a pre-approved American express gold reward card from Scotiabank with more than 45 000 bonus rewards points ($450 value) and no annual fee for first year, worth $99. At the same time, I received another credit card offer, Aeroplane via infinite, from TD bank with some bonus points.
After a short comparison analyst, I accepted the offer from Scotia Amex gold and received the card on May 10, 2014. So, today (June 11, 2014), after one month of use, is a good time to see whether I should keep the card or not.
I earned 48 100 points / $481 worth of travel credit with Amex
As of June 10, 2014, I earned 2600 ($26) points and I was given 15 500 bonus points (worth $155) for travel related purchases. Also, I will be getting another 30 000 ($300) rewards points when I make a minimum of $100 in travel-related purchase using the Amex card.
All together, I will have around 48 100 ($481) points that can be used to purchase any travel-related service any where I want.
Also, Scotia Gold American express card came packed with the following travel insurances: there are some terms and conditions to use them, but I didn’t read all the documents.
- Travel emergency medical insurance
- Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance
- Flight delay insurance
- Lost luggage and delayed luggage insurance
- Hotel/motel burglary insurance
- Rental car collision/loss damage insurance
- Common carrier travel accident insurance
Please note I haven’t yet used any of the above insurances, I will update the information if I use them.
The pre-approval letter states “4 rewards points for every $1 spend at gas, grocery, dining and entertainment”, and I received 4x points for gas, dining/fast food and entertainment, but not for groceries.
I do most of my grocery shopping at Warlmart, Costco or No Frills/ Lablaws stores, but for Scotia Amex card Walmart and Costco stores are not considered as grocery, thus I earned only 1x point for the money I spent there. And, Lablaws chains don’t accept American express.
I won't go for other expensive stores to collect 4x points.
Here is the list of stores accept American express card:
- Tim Hortons (4x points)
- Domino’s pizza (4x points)
- McDonalds (4x points)
- Shell gas station (4x points)
- ESSO gas station (4x points)
- Pizza Pizza (4x points)
- Metro/ food basics (4x points)
- Wal-mart supercentre (1x point)
- Costco (1x point)
- Napolis Restaurant, Ottawa (4x points)
- The bay stores (1x point)
- Canadian tire store (1x point)
- Bath & bath works (1x point)
- Winners (1x point)
- Sears (1x point)
Hers is the list of stores didn’t accept the card when I tried to use it:
- Giant tiger
- Lablaws / No frills
- Some MacDonald in rural areas
I haven’t yet used the card in many other stores in Canada. I will try it and update these two lists accordingly.
I will use this card for a year or two, and if I can't get enough points to cover at least the annual fees of $99 per year, then I will cancel it; however, I have estimated that I can earn more than 30 000 points per year with my regular purchases like gas, groceries and other necessary stuffs.
What to do with 48 100 travel points? May be I will use them to go for a short vacation