Is an American Express credit card worth it?

AMEX credit cards offer the best deals for earning Airpoints. But are they accepted at enough places to make it worthwhile? We found found out.

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Updated: 3 July 2024

The breakdown

  • The AMEX Airpoints Platinum has the best Airpoints earn rate in NZ.
  • I found AMEX was widely accepted, but less so at small, independent stores and cafes.
  • I managed to move about 90% of my spending to my AMEX card.
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    Author: Kevin McHugh, Head of Publishing at Banked.

    American Express benefits from fee cap

    In November 2022, a cap on the fees banks could charge merchants for processing Visa and Mastercard payments was introduced. The move was a boost for merchants, especially small shops and cafes, but it did have a downside for fans of credit card reward schemes.

    To balance out this loss, all credit card issuers from ANZ to Westpac started cutting the benefits they offered through their credit card reward schemes, whether those were reward points or cashback.

    For me, this meant the amount of money I had to spend on my ANZ Airpoints Visa Platinum to earn 1 Airpoints Dollar increased from $89 to $110. 

    Like a lot of people, I wanted to maximize the Airpoints Dollars I can earn on my day-to-day spend. I decided to try out the American Express Airpoints Platinum credit card which has a much stronger earn rate of 1 Airpoints Dollar per $59 spent — almost halving the amount I would have to spend to earn the same number of Airpoints as my ANZ card.

    But there’s always been one issue with AMEX cards: they’re not accepted as widely as Visa and Mastercard in New Zealand.

    I wanted to find out how much of a problem this was, and whether I could earn more Airpoints with an American Express credit card.

    American Express cards that earn Airpoints

    American Express has two cards that offer Airpoints on spend: the American Express Airpoints Platinum card and the American Express Airpoints card.

    The American Express Airpoints Platinum card

    American Express Airpoints Platinum

    The American Express Airpoints Platinum has the highest Airpoints earning potential of any credit card in New Zealand by far, with a $59 dollar spend needed to earn 1 Airpoint Dollar (1 Airpoint Dollar per $70 spent from 3 October 2024). Check our guide to Airpoints credit cards to see how this compares with other options.

    The card also comes with 300 bonus Airpoints which is paid out if you spend at least $1,500 on the card within the first three months.

    The card also has an annual fee of $195 (which is one of the highest for an Airpoints credit card) and an interest rate of 19.95%.

    Other benefits

    • Free NZ and international travel insurance: You just need to use your AMEX to pay for your trip
    • Free smartphone screen cover: If you pay for your phone or monthly smartphone contract or SIM-only plan with your AMEX.
    • Earn 1 Status Point per $250 spend: Status points can be used for Air New Zealand lounge access, seat upgrades and extra baggage.

    Eligibility criteria

    To be eligible for the American Express Airpoints Platinum card you must:

    • have an annual income of at least $60,000
    • be at least 18 years old
    • have the right to work in New Zealand
    • have no history of bad debt or payment default.

    The American Express Airpoints card

    The American Express Airpoints card has an Airpoints has an earn rate of 1 Airpoints Dollar per $100. It also comes with 50 bonus Airpoints on sign-up.

    This earn rate is only bettered by the AMEX Airpoints Platinum and Westpac’s Airpoints World Mastercard (which also comes with a hefty $310 annual fee).

    Perhaps the best thing about the American Express Airpoints card is that it has no annual fee. However, it doesn’t come with some of the Airpoints Platinum’s benefits, such as travel insurance or smartphone screen cover.

    Eligibility criteria

    To be eligible for the American Express card you must:

    • be at least 18 years old
    • have the right to work in New Zealand
    • have no history of bad debt or payment default.

    Using an AMEX card — where is it accepted?

    Having a credit card with the best Airpoints earn rate is great, but it’s meaningless if you can’t use it where you need to.

    To find out how widely accepted an American Express credit card is, I used my new AMEX Airpoints Platinum card for all my outgoings over the course of a month. This included everywhere from major online retailers to small, independent shops and cafes.

    I also decided to switch all bills such as utilities, memberships and subscription services over to maximise my Airpoints earnings.

    Here I look at how I got on, breaking my purchases down into the following categories:

    • Groceries
    • Cafes, bars, and restaurants
    • Utilities, insurance, and subscription services
    • Travel and petrol
    • Shopping (including online).

    In each section I’ve included a list of places that accept AMEX and those that don’t, built from my personal experiences, information on the AMEX website, and by contacting a range of companies and stores.

    The author's hand holding an American Express Airpoints Platinum credit card.
    Ready to use my new American Express Airpoints Platinum credit card (card details blurred out, obviously).


    One of my biggest expenditures, being able to use my AMEX for grocery shopping is important for building up those Airpoints.

    I do most of my shopping at the major supermarkets, but I also pop into smaller stores like fruit and veg shop, butchers, and bottle shops, from time to time.

    I was able to use my card at all the major supermarkets like Countdown, New World and Pak’nSave. I also had no problem relying on my AMEX at chain pharmacies like Chemist Warehouse and Unichem.

    But when it came to small, independent places, it wasn’t quite so easy. Generally speaking, the smallest shops I tried couldn’t accept my card, only taking Visa or Mastercard. There were exceptions, however, and I found it was always worth trying.

    As I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at larger stores, I was able to put the large bulk of my grocery shopping on my card, but it might be different for those who mainly shop at small stores.

    Stores that accept American Express include:

    • New World
    • Countdown
    • Pak’nSave
    • Farro
    • Supie
    • Four Square
    • The Market
    • The Bottle’O
    • Liquor King
    • Chemist Warehouse
    • Unichem
    • Life Pharmacy

    Stores that don’t:

    • Many small, independent shops

    Cafes, bars, and restaurants

    Whether it was grabbing a coffee from a local cafe or paying for a meal with friends, it seemed like there was about a 60% chance that my AMEX would be accepted.

    I never had any issues at larger restaurants or at fast food chains like McDonald’s. I also found I could use my Airpoints Platinum card at the large majority of places in Auckland’s CBD. But when it came to smaller, independent cafes and bars outside of the city centre, I wasn’t surprised when my card wasn’t accepted.

    I generally found that the smaller the cafe, bar, or restaurant, the more likely I was going to rely only on my debit card to cover the bill. For example, I knew there was slim chance of success with my AMEX at a pop-up coffee stall I visited that was operated by just one person.

    Cafes, bars, and restaurants that accept American Express include:

    • Larger restaurants and bars, and chain cafes
    • McDonald’s
    • KFC
    • Mad Mex
    • Carl’s Jr
    • Pizza Hut
    • St Pierres Sushi
    • Uber Eats
    • HelloFresh

    Those that don’t:

    • Many small, independent eateries — especially those in less urban areas.
    • Burger Fuel (accepted in-store, but not online)

    Utilities, insurance, and subscription services

    Another big outlay for most people are those regular outgoings that many of us set up to come out of our accounts automatically: utility bills, insurance payments, and subscription services.

    Pulse Energy is my energy provider and I found I was unable to switch regular payments to my AMEX as they only accept Visa and Mastercard. However, I did appear to be a little unlucky as we contacted a number of energy providers and found that Pulse Energy was in the minority.

    I was also a little frustrated to find I was unable to switch payments with my broadband provider, Skinny — especially because the American Express website indicates that Skinny did. Again, it appears I was unlucky as we only found one other broadband provider that didn’t accept AMEX, Flip Broadband.

    I had better luck elsewhere and I was able to transfer payments for all of my media and music subscription services over to my AMEX without any problems.

    I also had no issues paying my mobile phone bill or my insurance with my AMEX, so following some initial disappointments I managed to get most of my regular outgoings moved.

    Utilities that accept American Express include:

    • Genesis Energy
    • Contact Energy
    • Meridian Energy
    • Powershop
    • Trustpower
    • Nova Energy
    • Flick Energy
    • Frank Energy

    Those that don’t:

    • Pulse Energy
    • Mercury Energy
    • Electric Kiwi
    • Black Box Power

    Insurance companies that accept American Express include:

    • AMI Insurance
    • AA Insurance
    • State
    • Tower Insurance
    • NZI
    • Vero
    • Southern Cross
    • Asteron Life

    Those that don’t:

    • Protecta Insurance
    • Cove
    • AIA
    • Accuro

    Phone and broadband companies that accept American Express include:

    • One NZ (Vodafone)
    • 2 Degrees
    • Spark
    • Slingshot
    • Trustpower
    • Orcon
    • MyRepublic
    • Sky Broadband
    • Warehouse Mobile

    Those that don’t:

    • Skinny
    • Flip Broadband
    • NOW

    Media and music subscription services that accept American Express include:

    • Netflix
    • YouTube
    • Sky TV
    • Amazon Prime Video
    • Google Play
    • Disney+
    • NZME Herald
    • Apple Music
    • Spotify

    Those that don’t:

    • NEON

    Travel and petrol

    I filled my tank a couple of times at different petrol stations around Auckland without any issues with my new card. However, if I thought I needed to fill up while out somewhere more rural, I would definitely want to have my debit card handy as a backup.

    I also had no issues using my AMEX as my primary card for my Uber and DiDi rideshare accounts.

    As you would probably expect, major hotels, car rental companies and travel agencies all accept AMEX.

    Public transport

    I live in Auckland and the AT Hop card can be topped up using an American Express card. This means all public bus, train and ferry travel is covered.

    But the same doesn’t seem to apply elsewhere. If you live in the Greater Wellington region and have a Snapper travel card, for example, you can only top up your card with the mobile app or at a Snapper kiosk with either a Visa or a Mastercard.

    However, there are a number of Metro Agents around the city at which you can top up a Snapper card so it’s likely AMEX is accepted by at least some of them.

    We’ve also been informed that only Visa and Mastercard can be used for online top-ups for the Bee card — the travel card that can be used in a number of regions across New Zealand.

    Travel and petrol companies that accept American Express include:

    • Z Energy
    • BP
    • Mobil
    • Gull
    • Avis
    • AT Hop
    • Omega rental cars
    • Skybus
    • Avis
    • Budget
    • Hertz
    • Hilton
    • Marriott
    • Grand Millenium
    • Rydges
    • Expedia
    • Uber
    • DiDi

    Those that don’t:

    • Snapper travel card (online top up).
    • Bee travel card (online top up).

    Shopping (including online)

    My experiences shopping with my AMEX were the same as those visiting cafes and small grocery stores — the smaller the shop, the less likely they were to accept it.

    I do a lot of my shopping online and found I was able to use my Airpoints Platinum card wherever I needed. I suspect there are smaller online stores that don’t accept it, but I haven’t come across any yet.

    I did try and use my card at a couple of local dairies but had no luck.

    Shops that accept American Express include

    • Noel Leeming
    • Harvey Norman
    • PB Tech
    • Microsoft
    • Apple
    • Godfreys
    • Spark
    • Country Road
    • Cue
    • David Jones
    • Hallenstein
    • Just Jeans
    • Kathmandu
    • Lacoste
    • Macpac
    • Max
    • Michael Hill
    • Michael Kors
    • Rebel Sport
    • RM Williams
    • Rodd & Gunn
    • Westfield
    • Zara
    • Briscoes
    • Bunnings
    • Mitre 10
    • Resene
    • Supercheap Auto
    • The Warehouse
    • Animates

    Those that don’t:

    • Smaller, independent stores


    So, was it worth switching to an American Express credit card for the sake of earning Airpoints?

    Yes — with a but.

    During my time with the AMEX Airpoints Platinum card I found that I could use my the card in about 70-75% of situations. But importantly, I was able to put most of my biggest expenditures (groceries, petrol, subscription services, online purchases) on the card which meant that around 90% of my spending was earning Airpoints. And at a much better Airpoints earn rate than I was getting previously, the transition made it worthwhile for me.

    But there’s no doubt that an American Express credit card is less convenient than a Visa or Mastercard.

    When I had a Visa credit card I knew I could use it pretty much everywhere. With an American Express, I know I need to have an alternative such as my bank debit card on hand for those times when the cashier gives me that apologetic look and a shake of the head.

    In summary, AMEX’s Airpoints credit cards are great for those that want to maximise their Airpoints earnings, but it’s probably not the right choice for those who aren’t interested in Air New Zealand’s popular rewards scheme

    Picture of Kevin McHugh

    Kevin McHugh

    Kevin is the founder and Head of Publishing at Banked. With years of experience working in personal finance, insurance, and related areas, Kevin created Banked to help Kiwis make better financial decisions.