The American Express entry level ‘Essential’ card


The American Express Essential card is an entry level credit card. Boasting a $0 annual fee, the card comes with a variety of benefits, in addition to participating in the Membership Rewards ‘Gateway’ program.

It is probably worth noting that the card appears to be designed  for the mainstream consumer. While the card is a useful free card for point collectors, other American Express cards may be better for the hard core collector.

Membership Rewards Gateway

This is, after all, a blog about collecting points for travel, so this is the angle I will first look at with this new card. The Membership Rewards program that this card participates in is known as the ‘Gateway’ program, which has 8 airline partners you can transfer points to including Velocity and KrisFlyer

In regard to travel programs, the standard transfer rate to participating programs is 2 Membership Rewards Points to 1 partner points. There is one exception, being Air New Zealand, where the transfer rate is 200 Membership Rewards Points to 1 Airpoints Dollar.

The full range of eligible partners are:

  • Virgin Australia – Velocity Frequent Flyer
  • Cathay Pacific – Asia Miles
  • Singapore Airlines – KrisFlyer
  • Etihad Airways – Etihad Guest
  • Emirates – Emirates Skywards
  • Thai Airways – Thai Royal Orchid Plus
  • Malaysia Airlines – Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Air New Zealand – Airpoints

On the earnings side, the standard earn is 1.25 point per dollar. The earn rate is lowered to 1 point per dollar for government spend.

The effective earn rate for airline points, then is 0.625 points per dollar for everyday spend. This drops to 0.5 points per dollar for spend at government bodies.

Other Features

The Essential card comes with a few other benefits, although these are more day to day benefits, than benefits that might apply travel.

First up, is an offer that, as far as I am aware, is unique in the market – and that is Smartphone Screen Insurance. This has a limit of $500 and does come with a 10% excess, but it is an interesting innovation in the market. Coverage under the insurance is available when you:

  • Pay for your Smartphone outright in a single transaction using your American Express Essential Credit Card; or
  • Pay for your monthly Smartphone mobile phone contract using your American Express Essential Credit Card.

The other insurances included with the card include:

  1. Purchase Protection – covering breakage or theft of an item up to 90 days after purchase
  2. Buyer’s Advantage – extending the manufacturer’s warranty on items
  3. Refund Protection – for when you are refused a refund on an unused item within 90 days of purchase



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