ANZ ditch AMEX companion cards: the beginning of the end?

Major bank ANZ announced today that it would no longer be offering customers American Express companion cards with its range of Rewards and Frequent Flyer credit cards.

As rewards aficionados know, American Express companion cards earned spenders more rewards points per dollar than their Visa counterparts. But with ANZ no longer issuing the cards and existing customers allowed to use their American Express card only until 5 August 2017, it may signal the end of an era for rewards lovers.

“I’ve been predicting that the end was near for American Express companion cards since June last year. This is only the first in a series of changes to come,” said Mozo Data Services Director Andrew Duncanson.

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According to Duncanson, the benefit of AMEX companion cards originally was that they weren’t subject to the Reserve Bank regulations on interchange fees between the merchant's bank and the card issuer. Because companion cards didn't have limits on interchange fees, they could offer more points per dollar than a Visa or MasterCard.

So what changed to make ANZ pull the plug on companion cards?

“Last year, the Reserve Bank issued new regulations that brought Amex companion cards under the same interchange fee rules. Those new rules kick in on 1 July 2017. So from that date, banks won't be able to afford the higher points anymore which means Amex companion cards will become extinct,” Duncanson said.

At the moment though, Aussies can still get their hands on an AMEX card through the three other major banks, CommBank, NAB and Westpac, as well as directly through American Express

An American Express spokesperson said, "While we have had a very successful partnership with ANZ, we understand the decision in the context, and as a consequence of, the current regulatory environment. People can continue to enjoy American Express service and rewards programs through taking up a credit card with us directly or with one of our other bank partners."

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But that’s not the only change for ANZ rewards customers. The points earn rates of the now standalone Visa rewards cards have been bumped up, although not to the same level as the American Express companion cards offered and with a catch. While the majority of ANZ rewards cards previously offered uncapped points earning, they will now all work on a tiered points scheme. In most cases, this means that rewards value will halve once a certain monthly spend limit is reached.

Here are the changes for some popular ANZ rewards cards:

Previous points per $1 on ANZ AmexPrevious points per $1 on ANZ VisaNew ANZ points earning scheme (effective 1 March 2017)
Rewards1.50.751 point per $1 on the first $1,000 each month, then 0.5 points per $1.
Rewards Platinum211.5 point per $1 on the first $2,000 each month, then 0.5 points per $1.
Rewards Travel Adventures Card211.5 point per $1 on the first $2,000 each month, then 0.5 points per $1.
Frequent Flyer10.50.5 point per $1 on the first $500 each month, then 0.25 points per $1.

When Mozo crunched the numbers, we found that with a monthly spend of $1,500, assuming 75% was previously spent on a companion American Express card, shoppers might earn between 14% and 62% less rewards points each year with the new changes, depending on which card they use.

For updated information on ANZ rewards cards, check them out on our product pages. Or, if you’re in the market for new rewards plastic with great points earning value, take our Rewards Revealer tool for a spin to compare over 100 rewards cards from across the market.