There is now less than a month to go until major changes to American Express – the biggest shake-up to Australian credit card rewards since the RBA regulation changes of 2017 – take effect. On Monday 15 April 2019, a significant devaluation will hit Amex credit cards and the Amex Membership Rewards program in Australia.
If you have Amex Membership Rewards Ascent or Gateway points, even your existing points will lose their value after 15 April. Be sure to act now to avoid this happening!
What’s changing on 15 April 2019?
Almost all Australian Amex credit cards will see changes to the rate at which points are earned. The bonus points offered for expenditure in certain categories are also changing. In general, you’ll soon earn the same or fewer Amex points at restaurants, supermarkets and overseas. But you’ll earn the same or more points when paying the ATO, utilities or insurance providers.
At the same time, the value of an Amex Membership Rewards Ascent, Ascent Premium or Gateway point is being reduced. This affects cardholders that earn Amex points, rather than Qantas or Velocity points directly. Transferring points to airline frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs will soon become more expensive, and prices for things like gift cards and cashback redemptions will also increase. That’s a double-whammy for existing cardholders who’ll not only earn less overall going forward, but whose existing Amex points will lose their value as well.
If you happen to have an Amex Platinum charge card, the good news is that you may have been spared from this retrospective devaluation. Amex has promised selected Platinum cardholders that they will double their points balances on 15 April as compensation for the halving in the value of one point. However, this compensation is being offered on an invitation-only basis and will only apply to you if you’ve been specifically advised by Amex about this. Your points may still lose their value if you haven’t been contacted by Amex.
Most co-branded Amex Qantas and Amex Velocity credit cards will have their earn rates reduced by 0.25 points per dollar from 15 April. But these cards won’t be impacted by the changes to transfer rates for Amex Membership Rewards points, nor will Qantas or Velocity points that have already been earned be affected.
How to stop your existing Amex points losing their value
Your existing points will lose their value if you have Amex Membership Rewards Ascent or Gateway points. These programs are used by the Amex Platinum Edge, Amex Platinum Reserve, Amex Explorer and Amex Essential cards.
In this case, the only way to ensure your points don’t lose their value is to redeem them before Monday, 15 April 2019. Transfers can take a few days to process, so don’t wait until the last minute!
Amex points can be transferred to 9 airline frequent flyer programs and 2 hotel loyalty programs, so there are plenty of choices. The best program/s to transfer your Amex points to will depend on your personal needs. It’s worth taking some time to think about how you want to spend the points and which program/s will offer you the best opportunity to do that.
As a general guide, we recommend considering the Virgin Australia Velocity, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles programs. The Thai Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Etihad frequent flyer programs can also be good options for certain, specific uses of points. For example, the Etihad Guest program provides good value on short-haul Virgin Australia redemptions.
Of the frequent flyer programs that partner with Amex, the only ones where points don’t expire (provided your account is kept active!) are Virgin Australia Velocity and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. If you happen to have an Amex Ascent Premium account, you could also consider Qantas Frequent Flyer where points don’t expire if you have account activity at least once every 18 months. With all other airline programs, the points will expire after a fixed amount of time – generally 2-3 years.
With less than a month to go now until the Amex Membership Rewards changes, AFF members are considering their options. Many members are looking to transfer or redeem their points before the changes hit. Others are looking to maximise the amount of points earned over the next few weeks while the higher earn rates still apply. Many members are also looking to the future and re-evaluating which are the best credit cards to keep in their wallets.
If you’re looking to spend your Amex points now on an upcoming trip, don’t forget that Award Flight Assist may be able to help. The Award Flight Assist team can help you to find and book award flights using your Amex points, provided you’re planning to travel within the next year.
Due to popular demand, Frequent Flyer Solutions is also now offering for purchase the recording of its January webinar covering the Amex changes in detail. The webinar explains exactly what’s changing, how to prepare for the changes (including where to transfer your points to) and post-devaluation earning strategies. If you are a Frequent Flyer Solutions member (you’ll need to be logged in), you can purchase the recording of this webinar for a limited time.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Only 1 month to go (to D-Day)!