Paying credit card annual fees simply to earn frequent flyer points is slowly becoming a thing of the past with the launch of the American Express Essential credit card.
With no annual charge, cardholders earn one point per dollar spent under the Membership Rewards Gateway program and 0.5 points per dollar with utilities, insurance providers, government bodies (including Australia Post and the ATO) and telcos like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
Unlike the standard Membership Rewards Ascent program, Membership Rewards Gateway points can be converted on a 4:3 basis to Virgin Australia Velocity, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Guest, Malaysia Airlines Enrich, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus.
That means you’d effectively pocket 0.75 frequent flyer points or miles per dollar spent on everyday transactions or 0.375 points with utilities and the like. Additionally, four hundred MR Gateway points can also be converted into three Airpoints Dollars with Air New Zealand.
AMEX Essential credit card: benefits and costs
Beyond merely being a way to hoover up airline frequent flyer points, the card also boasts free ‘smartphone screen insurance’ of up to $500 when the phone is bought with the Essential card or the card is used to pay your monthly phone contract.
Joining that, a $50 statement credit when applying by February 2 2016 and spending at least $500 within the first two months, a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for the first 12 months and a low everyday interest rate on purchases of 14.99% p.a..
If you’re the type to repay your card in full each and every month, you’ll enjoy up to 55 interest-free days to do so, with the card having a minimum income requirement of just $40,000 and a minimum credit limit of $2,000.
Travel insurance is understandably absent, although 90-day ‘purchase protection’, 12-month extended warranty cover on selected appliances and ‘refund protection’ are all offered, as is 48-hour emergency card replacement virtually anywhere in the world.
As with most AMEX cards there’s also access to the AMEX Offers program where partial statement credits are provided for shopping with particular merchants, ‘American Express Invites’ for early access to concert and theatre tickets and Apple Pay once launched in Australia.