Westpac is the latest bank to remove Amex companion cards from its credit card line-up. Amex companion cards will no longer be offered to new customers from 1 February 2018. And existing Westpac customers will lose their Amex cards from 4 April 2018.
Despite Westpac removing Amex companion cards, the bank has announced a brand new partnership with Amex. Under the new arrangement, Westpac will launch a brand new range of Amex cards in the coming months. These cards will be issued directly by American Express but are likely to feature Westpac’s logo.
Expect a standard AMEX card from the existing fleet, except with a WBC logo on it. WBC will split the annual fee revenue with AMEX for the referral. AMEX will carry the credit limit and that will be that.
The RBA’s new interchange fee regulations, which came into effect in July last year, are likely a major reason for the changes. Under the new rules, Westpac and other Australian banks cannot collect high merchant fees on Amex companion cards. These higher fees were used to reward customers for using Amex with more points. As a result, ANZ has already ditched Amex and Commonwealth Bank slashed Amex earn rates on its own companion cards. Commonwealth Bank will soon be the only major Australian bank to offer Amex companion cards.
Credit cards issued directly by American Express are not subject to the RBA interchange fee regulations. Westpac’s new cards will be issued by Amex, so they are likely to come with more points and better perks than Westpac’s own credit cards. That’s largely good news for Westpac customers.
I really can’t see how this is not positive in respect to the current environment for reward point earnings through credit cards. They could have just got rid of an AMEX card altogether, yet they decided to try and come up with another alternative unlike the other majors.
Westpac will make several other changes to its existing Altitude Black credit cards when Amex companion cards are removed on 4 April. The annual fee for Westpac’s Altitude Black card will be reduced from $395 to $250. Cardholders electing to earn Qantas points will also see the MasterCard earn rate increase slightly to 0.75 Qantas points per dollar. But this is still down from the Amex earn rate of 1.25 points per dollar. Westpac will also add a new annual $50 fee for customers opting to earn Qantas points rather than Westpac Altitude points.
I’m keeping my Altitude Black until Westpac unveil their Amex direct offering before I decide on my next move. This card is otherwise not getting any spend from me until then.
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