Best American Express credit cards

American Express credit cards are about more than just Airpoints. We assess all available cards and help you decide if an AMEX card is right for you.

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Updated: 3 July 2024

The breakdown

  • The AMEX Airpoints Platinum has the best Airpoints earn rate of any credit card and comes with 300 bonus points on sign up.
  • Its little brother, the basic Airpoints card, has no annual fee and the third-best Airpoints earn rate.
  • The AMEX Charge card has a tonne of benefits and rewards, but has a huge annual fee of $1,250.
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    Author: Kevin McHugh, Head of Publishing at Banked.

    In New Zealand, American Express (AMEX) credit cards have been synonymous with Airpoints. AMEX cards have generally offered the best earn rates plus they are the only cards that offer bonus Airpoints on sign-up (up to 300 in the case of the Airpoints Platinum card).

    But since late 2022, when other credit card companies started weakening their rewards schemes due to the introduction of interchange fee caps for Visa and Mastercard payments, AMEX credit cards have become even more appealing.

    In this guide, we look at all American Express credit cards available in NZ, break down their pros and cons, and help you decide if one of them is the right choice for you.

    You might also be interested in our guide on choosing the best credit card for Airpoints or our guide to all of the best credit cards in NZ.

    Best for earning Airpoints: The American Express Airpoints Platinum card

    American Express Airpoints Platinum

    The AMEX Airpoints Platinum card has a lot going for it, but there is one feature that really makes it stand out: it has the best Airpoints earn rate in New Zealand — and it’s not even close.

    Every $59 spent on the Amex Airpoints Platinum card will earn you 1 Airpoints Dollar.  From 3 October 2024, $70 spend = 1 Airpoints Dollar. The closest competition is the Westpac Airpoints World Mastercard, which requires a significantly higher $95 spend to earn one Airpoints Dollar. The Westpac card also has a much higher annual fee.

    On top of that, the Airpoints Platinum card comes with 300 bonus Airpoints on sign-up (but only if you spend at least $1,500 on the card in the first three months).

    Our Head of Publishing switched from an ANZ Airpoints Visa Platinum to the AMEX Airpoints Platinum and found he earned more Airpoints on his spend with the AMEX card.

    Read our full review of the American Express Airpoints Platinum card.

    Other pros of the AMEX Airpoints Platinum

    • Travel insurance (domestic and international): As long as you pay the full fare for your trip on either your credit card or with Airpoints, your travel will be insured — both aboard and within New Zealand. This is a plus because some credit card travel insurance schemes (such as that offered on the ANZ Airpoints Visa Platinum) only cover international travel).
    • Free Priority Pass airport lounge access: Get free access to two VIP airport lounges per year. Access is available to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world, including the Strata Lounge at Auckland Airport.
    • Smartphone screen cover: Repairs to fix your phone’s screen will be covered automatically. As long as you bought the phone outright with your card, or you use it to pay for your phone plan, you’ll be covered up to $500.
    • Earn Status Points: For every $250 spent on the card, you’ll earn 1 Status Point. Status points can be used for travel benefits including lounge access, priority service, seat upgrades, and more.

    Cons of the AMEX Airpoints Platinum

    • High annual fee: At $195, the card has one of the higher annual fees out there. Therefore it’s not a suitable choice for people who won’t take advantage of its benefits or won’t use it regularly.

    Key card details

    • Annual fee: $195
    • Purchase interest rate: 22.95%
    • Interest-free period: 55 days

    Best for no annual fee: The American Express Airpoints card

    American Express Airpoints Card

    For many people, the AMEX Airpoints card will be the sweet spot for a rewards card: it has the third-best Airpoints earn rate of any credit combined with no annual fee.

    Cardholders can spend $100 to earn one Airpoints Dollar, which is only bettered by its big brother the AMEX Airpoints Platinum ($59 spend required) and the Westpac Airpoints World Mastercard ($95 spend required).

    Plus don’t forget that the AMEX Airpoints card also comes with a bonus 50 Airpoints on sign-up (when you spend a minimum of $750 in the first three months of having it).

    So, as the only rewards credit card in New Zealand with no annual fee, along with one of the best for earning Airpoints, the AMEX Airpoints card will be an easy choice for some.

    Read our full review of the AMEX Airpoints credit card.

    Other pros of the AMEX Airpoints card

    • 6 months interest-free purchases: Take out the card and your purchases will be interest free for six months from the date the account is opened. If you have an outstanding balance on your account after that time, the regular interest rate will apply.

    Cons of the AMEX Airpoints card

    • Lower Airpoints earning potential: We’re quibbling a little as 1 Airpoints Dollar per $100 spent is still the third-best earn rate for a credit card and there is no annual fee. However, the earn rate is still significantly lower than that of the Airpoints Platinum card (which requires just $59 spend to earn 1 Airpoints Dollar).

    Key card details

    • Annual fee: $0
    • Purchase interest rate: 22.95%
    • Interest-free period: 55 days

    Best for Membership Rewards: The American Express Gold Rewards card

    American Express Gold Rewards Card

    In New Zealand, many people associate American Express credit cards with Airpoints, but the card provider has its very own rewards scheme: Membership Rewards. And with 2 Membership Rewards points earned per dollar spent, the Gold Rewards card has the best earn rate available.

    Membership Rewards points can be used for a range of purposes, from travel (points can be transferred to other loyalty schemes such as Airpoints Dollars, Qantas Points, and Skywards Miles) to gift cards, and cinema tickets.

    In terms of value, 150 Membership Rewards points can be transferred for 1 Airpoints Dollar. That means that if you theoretically always chose to transfer earned Membership Rewards Points for Airpoints Dollars, the Gold Card would have an equivalent Airpoints earn rate of 1 Airpoints dollar per $75 spent.

    Read our full review of the American Express Gold Rewards card.

    Other pros of the AMEX Gold Rewards Card

    • $200 back: If you spend at least $1,500 dollars on the first three months, you’ll get $200 back to your account.
    • $200 dining credit: For each year you have the card, you’ll get 2x $100 dining credits that can be used at a number of restaurants across the country. Note that most eligible restaurants are in Auckland and a number of regions don’t have any. See the full list of eligible restaurants.
    • Free travel insurance (domestic and international): Just like the AMEX Airpoints Platinum, the Gold Rewards card also comes with travel insurance that covers travel both aboard and here in New Zealand.
    • Metal card: The card is literally made of metal, with the choice of either gold or rose gold colour. This serves no practical purpose, but a metal card is undeniably pretty cool.

    Cons of the Gold Rewards card

    • Higher than average annual fee: The Gold Rewards card does come with a lot of benefits, but they are not without a cost and the annual fee of $200 is higher than that of most available credit cards.
    • Dining credit is limited: If you live in Auckland, you will have no shortage of options where you can use the annual $200 dining credit. But the choice is much more limited outside of New Zealand’s largest city.

    Key card details

    • Annual fee: $200
    • Purchase interest rate: 22.95%
    • Interest-free period: 55 days

    Best for prestige: The American Express Platinum Charge card

    American Express Platinum Charge Card

    For the card with the most rewards and added bells and whistles, look no further than the AMEX Platinum Charge card.

    As the name suggests, it’s not actually a credit card. A charge card lets you make purchases without incurring interest, as long as the balance is paid in full each month, plus there is no spending limit.

    There are a whole bunch of benefits to having the Platinum Charge card, most of which we’ll cover in the following ‘Pros’ section, but let’s talk about Membership Rewards points. If you sign up for the card and spend at least $1,500 in the first three months, you’ll get 100,000 points.

    To give you a better sense of value, if you were to transfer those Membership Rewards points to Airpoints Dollars (which you can choose to do), you would get 667 Airpoints Dollars. That number of points also has a value of $750 when used at American Express Travel.

    Plus, the Platinum Charge card also has the highest Membership Rewards points earn rate of any AMEX card (along with the Gold Rewards card) — every dollar spent will earn you 2 points.

    Other pros of the Platinum Charge card

    (Takes a deep breath…)

    • Annual $300 dining credit: Spend $150 or more in one transaction on your card at a participating Dining Collection restaurant and you’ll get a $150 credit. You can do this up to twice a year for a total of $300 that can be earned.
    • Annual $200 travel credit: Make a travel booking of at least $200 through American Express Travel and you’ll get $200 credited back to your card.
    • Free international and domestic travel insurance: As long as you pay for your travel fare on your card, you’ll be covered both in New Zealand and abroad. See our guide to NZ credit cards with travel insurance to see how the Platinum Charge compares with the competition.
    • Concierge service: You’ll have a personal concierge available that can help you buy gifts, find meeting venues, and so on.
    • Smartphone screen cover: If you pay for your phone and/or your monthly bill on your card, you’ll benefit from screen insurance up to a value of $500.
    • Fine hotel and resort programme benefits: Get a range of benefits such as daily breakfast, room upgrades, noon check-in, late check-out, and so on at more than 1,300 properties around the globe.
    • VIP lounge access: Complimentary access for you and a guest to 1,400 airport lounges around the world.
    • Accor Plus membership: As an Accor Plus member you’ll get a range of benefits, including a complimentary night’s stay at an Accor hotel each year.
    • A metal card: Just like the Gold Rewards card the Platinum Charge is fully metal for that ultra-prestige look.

    Cons of the Platinum Charge card

    • A whopping annual fee: All of the card’s many benefits come at a cost — a pretty huge annual fee of $1,250. No New Zealand credit card even comes close in terms of annual fee size.

    Key card details

    • Annual fee: $1,250
    • Purchase interest rate: N/A
    • Cash flow period (the period during which you must pay the outstanding amount in full): 44 days

    Best for people who don’t pay their balance in full each month: The AMEX Low Rate card

    American Express Low Rate card

    On the other end of the spectrum to the Platinum Charge card is the Low Rate card.

    But while the Low Rate card doesn’t have a lot of rewards and additional benefits, it does have a low-interest rate of 12.69%. This makes it a better option for those who don’t expect to pay off the full balance of their credit card in full each month, meaning that they would be charged interest on that outstanding balance.

    However, bear in mind that the AMEX Low Rate card does come with an annual fee of $59. While this fee isn’t huge, there are other low-rate credit cards (such as the ANZ Low Rate Visa) that have a similarly low-interest rate but don’t charge an annual fee.

    Combine this with the fact that American Express credit cards are not accepted as widely in New Zealand as Visa or Mastercard, and there aren’t many compelling reasons to choose the AMEX Low Rate card over the competition.

    Other pros of the AMEX Low Rate card

    • 2.99% interest for the first 6 months: For 6 months from when the account is opened, you be charged a lower rate of 2.99%. Once the six months is up, the outstanding balance will revert to the standard interest rate.

    Cons of the AMEX Low Rate card

    • Annual fee: Having an annual fee for a credit card is not uncommon, but when there are other low-rate cards out there without one, it’s hard to recommend one that has one.

    Key card details

    • Annual fee: $59
    • Purchase interest rate: 12.69%
    • Interest-free period: 55 days

    Are American Express credit cards widely accepted?

    Yes, American Express credit cards are widely accepted. However, they are still not accepted in as many places as a Visa or a Mastercard.

    American Express has made great strides in terms of where it is accepted in New Zealand and boasts that 46,000 new places have signed up to accept the card since 2019 alone.

    In a recent article, our Head of Publishing used an AMEX Platinum card for over a month to find out how widely accepted it was and whether it was still worth it for earning Airpoints. The article also includes a great list of stores and other outlets that accept the card, as well as those that currently don’t. 

    He found that the card was widely accepted at larger stores, subscription services, utility companies, and similar. But when it came to smaller, independent stores and cafes, it was important to have a back-up card handy as acceptance was less certain.

    What is the eligibility criteria for an American Express card?

    America Express plays its cards (geddit?) close to its chest in terms of eligibility criteria.

    Not long ago the card provider used to list more specific information, such as income requirements. For example, it used to state that $60,000 was the minimum annual income for the Airpoints Platinum card while it doesn’t any more (note that we contacted AMEX directly and can confirm that that is still the case).

    However, now it lists the same criteria for each card, which are as follows:

    • You must be aged 18 or over
    • You must have no history of bad debt or payment default
    • You must have the right to work in New Zealand
    • If you’re self-employed, you must have been trading for at least 18 months (or 12 months if you already hold an existing AMEX card).

    You will also need to have:

    • An NZ Driver’s Licence number (or an alternative suitable form of ID)
    • Details of your income (and possibly expenses and debts)
    • Proof of income (e.g. payslips)

    But meeting these criteria does not automatically mean you will be approved. For example, you can expect that the card provider will want applicants of the Platinum Charge card (which has a hefty $1,250 annual fee) to have more disposable income than someone interested in the basic Airpoints card.

    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.