One of the most popular cards to come out of the American Express stable is The American Express Explorer Credit Card.
This card earns uncapped 2 Membership Rewards points per $ on all spends, except on payments to Government bodies, where it earns 1 point per $. This isn’t a lot, but is better than several Visa & Mastercard issued cards which don’t earn any points on Government spend.
Prominent Features & Fees
- Annual Fee – $395
- Foreign currency transaction fee – 3%
- Welcome bonus – Up to 150,000 Membership Rewards points
- Travel Credit – $400 per year
- Lounge Access – 2 entries per year to the American Express Lounge at Sydney International and/or Melbourne International Airport
- The Hotel Collection Program
- Rewards Program – Membership Rewards Gateway
- Airline Partners : 9
- Hotel Partners : 2
- Travel agency partner, Retailer and Gift Cards
- Insurance – Free Travel Insurance, Smartphone screen insurance up to $500 per year, Rental Car Damage Waiver, Buyer’s Advantage, Refund Purchase Protection and more.
First things first, this card has a $395 annual fee which becomes payable when your inaugural monthly statement is generated and each year thereafter. You can add up to 4 supplementary cards at no extra cost.
If you want a high points earning card that comes with plenty of bells and whistles, there is no getting away from paying the fees and sadly, no points are awarded on it. But you shouldn’t be afraid of paying it, as you will see later. It also has a 3% foreign currency transaction fee, which is applied to the converted A$ amount.
Welcome bonus on this card has ranged anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 Membership Rewards points in the past. For a limited time though, the card is offering an unprecedented up-to 150,000 points in welcome bonus.
These will be awarded in 2 stages in the following manner:
- You will earn 120,000 points when you apply online by 27th January 2021, are approved and spend a minimum of $3,000 on your card within first 3 months.
- You will earn an additional 30,000 points at the start of your 2nd year of card membership upon fee renewal.
If you value Membership Rewards Points at a conservative 1c per point, the welcome bonus is worth at-least $1,500, although there are ways to get a much higher value out of them by transferring them to one of the airline partners. I have discussed this a little later in this post.
You also have the option to redeem your points directly for travel at 0.005 cent (half cent) per point on American Express Travel Online, in which case these are worth $750 in travel. But like I said, you maximise your points when you transfer them to one of the airline programs and redeem them to fly business or first class.
Redeem Membership Rewards points to fly Cathay Pacific First Class
Please note that if you currently hold a card directly issued by American Express, or have held one in the preceding 18 months, you are NOT eligible for the bonus. However, if the card in question is issued by a bank, you are eligible to receive the bonus upon meeting the minimum spend.
Disclosure : If you apply for this card using the link above and are approved, pointsHq or it’s related entity may receive some referral points.
The Explorer credit card comes with a $400 travel credit which can be used to pay for flights, hotels, experiences and car-hire. This fully offsets the annual fee (in-fact puts an extra $5 in your pocket). Note that the travel credit is NOT a one-off, but is awarded at the start of each ‘card year’ after the annual fee is paid.
As the travel credit can only be applied to a single transaction, it is best utilised for transactions of $400 or more. Any unused credit is forfeited. You can use this credit to book travel for anyone.
Here is a short video from American Express explaining how to use the Travel Credit.
Video credit : americanexpress.com.au
American Express operates 2 airport lounges in Australia. One at Sydney International and the other at Melbourne International Airport. The Explorer card allows 2 entries per ‘card year’ to either of these lounges. Solo travellers can use it twice on the outbound travel, if you are a couple, you can bring in your partner with you and use both entries at once. Minor kids get in for free when accompanied with at-least 1 adult.
Please note that you get 2 entries per card year to be used at either of the lounges and NOT 2 entries at ‘each’ lounge.
Use your Explorer card to access American Express Lounge at Sydney Airport
The Hotel Collection $100 Hotel Credit
The Hotel Collection is a benefit under which card-members who book a hotel for at-least 2 consecutive nights and pay with their Explorer card will receive US $100 in credit. The credit can be applied towards dining, spa and various hotel/resort activities, but not the cost of the room or taxes. If you book multiple rooms, the credit can be applied for up to 3 rooms.
You can book JW Marriott Khao Lak under The Hotel Collection program
Note that the bookings must be made through American Express Travel Online and as such only covers hotels included in the program. This is a new addition to the Explorer card, as previously, this benefit was restricted to the much more expensive American Express Platinum card only.
American Express offers several cards in the Australian market that come with their own Membership Rewards program. Whilst all these programs share some common traits and benefits, there are some differences too. The Explorer card participates in the MR Gateway program. Under this program, you earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $ spent on most purchases, except where the payment is made to Government bodies such as the Tax Office, Local Councils, Service NSW centres etc, where you earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $.
Although it is not ideal to have a lower earning rate on these payments, it’s worth remembering that there has been a crack-down on payments to Government bodies over the year, to the extent that on majority of non-American Express cards, you earn no points.
The Membership Rewards Gateway program has 9 airline partners. This includes Virgin Australia but not Qantas. The partners are :
- Virgin Australia – Velocity Frequent Flyer
- Singapore Airlines- Krisflyer
- Cathay Pacific – Asia Miles
- Emirates Skywards
- Etihad Guest
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Air New Zealand Airpoints
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
In all cases except Air New Zealand, Membership Rewards points transfer to the respective airline program at 2:1, giving you an effective earning rate of 1 airline points/miles per $.
The transfer ratio for Air New Zealand is 200:1 Airpoints dollar. Unfortunately, the transfer are not instant and it takes anywhere between 1 (Virgin Australia) to 7 (Etihad) days for the points to reflect in your frequent flyer account.
Redeem Membership Rewards points to fly Singapore Airlines business class
The 2 hotel partner programs associated with Membership Rewards program is Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy. Membership Rewards points transfer to Hilton at 2:1 and to Marriott at 3:2. In both cases, the transfer rates are below par and unless you have more points than you can count, they are best utilised towards premium cabin redemptions on partner airlines.
You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy for a stay at Le Meridian Angkor Wat
Travel Agency partner, Retailer & Gift cards
The American Express MR points can also be redeemed for booking travel through ‘Hello World’, online shopping at ‘David Jones’ or on one of the many gift cards ranging from Coles and Woolworths to Rebel Sports and Priceline Pharmacy.
As is the case with hotel partners, redemption with these partners too, offer less than optimum value and must be carefully considered before proceeding through with it.
Use 13,500 Membership Rewards points to redeem a $100 Rebel Gift Card
The American Express Explorer Credit Card comes with a whole host of insurances. Some of the most commonly used are listed below. You can find the full terms and conditions here
The Explorer Credit Card provides you, your spouse and any dependent children with complimentary travel insurance when you charge the full return airfare to it. You are also covered if you transfer Member Rewards points to a partner airline program and use them to book flights or when you directly pay with Membership Rewards points for your flights, or when you pay for the flights with the included travel credit.
Note that the insurance is activated only upon payment of return fare. If you buy a one way ticket, you are NOT covered. The trip must commence and end in Australia.
Smartphone Screen Cover
This is a particularly attractive feature and not very widely available through cards in Australia. When you pay for your smartphone outright, or through a monthly payment plan with the Explorer credit card, it covers you for any accidental damage to the screen of up to $500 per year. A 10% excess applies to each claim with a maximum of 2 claims per year permitted.
Rental Car Damage Waiver
Any loss or damage (up to $100,000) to the rental vehicle is covered when you pay for the full cost of the rental car with your Explorer credit card, Member Reward points or the included travel credit.
This is a handy cover that comes with the card. The easiest way to explain this is, that it provides extended warranty on products purchased and paid for by the Explorer credit card, over and above the warranty provided by the retailer. Upon successful claim, American Express will, at its discretion, repair, rebuild, or replace the defective or broken-down product, or pay you an amount to do so.
For warranty periods of less than 1 year, it adds a warranty period of the same length to the purchase. For example, if the product purchased has a warranty period of 6 months, at its expiry, American Express will extend it for a further 6 months.
For warranty periods of between 1 and 5 years, you get extended warranty, or ‘The Buyer’s Advantage period’ as American Express calls it, of another year. There is no cover for products that come with original warranty of more than 5 years.
This is another useful cover to have for situations where you have simply had a change of mind after the purchase, and for whatever reason, the retailer will not take it back. Under these circumstances, items paid for by the Explorer credit card can be returned to American Express who will reimburse you with an amount specified under the terms of the cover.
The insurance provided with the Explorer credit card is extensive and it is impractical to list them all in detail. Insurance providers change the terms and benefits covered regularly, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself by reading the PDS here
Who can apply?
This brings us to the last but perhaps the most important question of all, who can apply for this card?
You are eligible to apply for this card if you meet the following conditions:
- You are at-least 18 years old.
- You are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or on a long term visa. (1 year or over).
- You have a before tax income of $65,000 or more.
- You have a good credit history and no payment defaults.
The American Express Explorer Credit Card is one of the best cards in its category. It offers well rounded benefits, great perks, liberal qualification criteria and a perfectly reasonable annual fee.
The features should appeal to occasional and regular explorers both. So whether you are just getting started or have years of experience in this area, this card deserves to be in your consideration.
What do you think of this card? Do you currently own one? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
The views expressed in this post is author’s personal opinion, it does not constitute advice of any kind and must not be relied on. You must assess your own personal circumstances and needs before applying for this product.
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