American Express have for a long time had an excellent reputation for offering high value rewards programs with their credit and charge cards. We took the opportunity to speak with Donna Cooper - the Vice President of Consumer Products at American Express, to ask a few questions about American Express and their plans for 2011 and beyond.
Interview with Donna Cooper - American Express Vice President of Consumer Products
Q1: American Express has traditionally been known to provide some of the best rewards programs in the credit card market. Many Australian banks have shifted their focus to improving their credit card rewards programs. How has American Express responded, and what can consumers expect from American Express rewards programs in 2011?
Donna: The American Express Membership Rewards program has continued to evolve to recognise our members' loyalty in new and more rewarding ways. We have focused on building partnerships with leading global and local brands to give members more choice in how they use their points. For instance Membership Rewards now has eight airline partners and last year we formed a partnership with Webjet allowing members to use their points for any travel available on the site. This year we will continue to expand our rewards offering in areas that have the greatest appeal to our members.
This year we'll focus on growing our Bonus Partners program which allows members to accrue Membership Rewards points faster at selected retailers. It's our way of rewarding members for shopping with their American Express Card.
Finally, as customer service is at the heart of the American Express business, we continue to invest in our Membership Rewards Customer Service Team which is dedicated solely to customers using our loyalty program - ensuring that the service members receive is second to none.
Q2. American Express 'Potential' has been a campaign that has run for sometime now. What is the primary message behind the campaign?
Donna: The American Express 'Realise the Potential' Brand campaign encourages people to explore the potential in their everyday lives, as well as emphasising that with American Express you get more than just a Card. 'Personalised service' is a key focus of the campaign as we showcase how we are there for our Cardmembers around the clock no matter what they need.
Q3. The American Express Platinum Edge launched in 2010. How does this card differ from other cards in the American Express credit card range?
Donna: The American Express Platinum Edge Card has been created for people who love to travel and access the most out of life. With a fee of $149 p.a. it's a great entry level product designed to complement our Platinum range of Cards.
It comes with a complimentary Virgin Australia domestic return flight every year of membership, which can be used to fly to incredible destinations across the country.
The Card rewards members for their everyday spending, helping them to boost the amount of points they earn to be used towards their next holiday. Cardmembers earn three points per dollar spent at supermarkets, two points per dollar spent at petrol stations and one point per dollar on all other purchases.
The Card also comes with complimentary domestic and international travel insurance when travel is paid for on the Card. The Platinum Edge Card launched in October last year and is already proving extremely popular for people who love to travel.
Q4. Can you use an American Express credit card to make everyday purchases? (e.g. buying groceries at the supermarket)
Donna: Yes, using your American Express Card for everyday purchases like petrol, groceries or even your weekly bus ticket is a clever way to earn American Express Membership Rewards points - as long as you sensibly manage your repayments each month. Many of our members use their Cards for everyday purchases throughout the year and by the end of the year have accumulated enough points go on that well earned holiday or do some serious shopping.
Q5. American Express haven't offered consumers a balance transfer option to switch to an AMEX credit card. Is a balance transfer option likely to be introduced in 2011?
Donna: From time to time we offer preferential interest rates on purchases and at times have introductory interest rates on new cards.
Q6. American Express recently released the American Express Global Travel Card. Do you have any tips for consumers travelling overseas as to whether or not they should choose an American Express credit card or the American Express Global Travel Card for their travel money and purchases overseas?
Donna: We'd always encourage travellers to take a mixed wallet when travelling overseas, comprised of a combination of travel money. Cash in the local currency is wise for when travellers arrive at their destination to pay for the cab ride or food at the airport. Credit cards are good for larger, unexpected purchases. Where prepaid travel cards such as the American Express Global Travel Card come into the fore is for everyday holiday purchases.
The American Express Global Travel Card allows an attractive exchange rate to be locked and loaded so travellers don't need to worry about exchange rate volatility. Unlike other pre-paid currency cards, it has no inactivity fees or expiry period, meaning funds (in US Dollars, Pounds Sterling or Euros) can be left on the card indefinitely and the funds will still be there in full the next time the card holder wants to use them.
The American Express Global Travel Card is also a great budgeting tool, allowing customers to set the amount they desire, monitor their limit and top up as required via BPAY. It can be used at millions of merchants around the world that accept American Express or to withdraw cash at ATMs.
Q7. What are some of the key points of difference between an American Express credit card rewards program and those offered by other banks?
Where American Express Membership Rewards stands out from the competition is in the choice of rewards it offers members, its flexibility and ease. Membership Rewards now has more than 1,500 merchandise reward options to choose from, but as points can be put towards paying down a person's credit card balance, really the options are endless. It's flexible as members can pay for a reward entirely with points or with a combination of points and cash and redeeming rewards can be either done online or over the phone, whatever the customer's preference.
Q8. What is the best tip you can provide for consumers looking to earn more credit card rewards points?
Donna:There are many ways people can earn rewards points faster, but the best tip is for people to check the details of their credit rewards program to ensure that it offers a good points earn rate for everyday purchases or that it offers simple ways to accelerate points earning. It's about shopping around and looking for cards that are built with rewards in mind. It's also important that when it comes time to redeeming points, your program offers the range of rewards that appeal to you.
A bit more about the American Express card range
American Express offers both charge cards and credit cards, which is unique among card providers.
Their charge card range includes the popular Platinum Card, which has a large range of features, including a 120,000 bonus membership rewards points on signup and the ability to transfer points into nine airline loyalty programs.
This card also earns up to 3 points per dollar spent, has complimentary travel insurance and complimentary membership in the Accor Advantage Plus program, which rewards you with complimentary stays at Accor properties in Australia and the Asia-Pacific.
The American Express range of credit cards is also competitive—for proof look no further than the Qantas American Express Discovery Card. This has a $0 annual fee, which means the value of your rewards points value isn’t decreased, and earns up to 1 Qantas Point per dollar spent.
Who is American Express?
American Express began as a postal service which specialised in delivering almost anything from the East coast of America to the frontier in the West.
One thing they had considerable experience delivering was stock certificates notes and currency, so they began to offer these products instruments themselves.
In 1958 they offered their first charge card, and many celebrities including Elvis Presley were cardholders.
From there on they steadily ramped up their products and market coverage until they became one of the leaders in card products, a title they still hold today.