In the Spotlight... Austin Huntsdale from American Express Credit Cards

With AMEX taking out 7 awards in this year’s Mozo Experts Choice Credit Card Awards, we caught up with its Vice President for Consumer Products, Austin Huntsdale, to talk about product innovation, the ever evolving rewards landscape, and how consumers can get more value from their plastic.

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By Mozo· Wednesday 21 December 2016

1. Congrats on your award wins. Can you give us a bit of a rundown on what you think sets AMEX cards apart from other credit cards in the market?

At American Express we’re focused on the needs of our customers, and we know that value, rewards and service are top of mind. We want to ensure that everything we do makes life easier and more rewarding for our Card Members.  

Our Membership Rewards program offers unrivalled flexibility and value. When it comes to redeeming for flights, Membership Rewards points can take you further than the competition and the majority of our Card Members can transfer points to up to nine airlines. Points can also be used to pay off a Card Member’s account balance, or be used online for travel, gift cards or purchases at David Jones.  

For our airline co-brand cards, we offer a range of travel-focused products from entry level to fully featured options that include a complimentary domestic return flight each year. Customers can choose between the Qantas Frequent Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer programs; our Qantas Discovery Card and Velocity Escape Card are the only airline co-brand cards in the market with no annual card fee.  

We’re also the only card issuer in Australia to offer all three mobile wallets: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay, so our Card Members have choice in how they wish to pay. We offer online fraud protection on all our Cards to provide Card Members with the security and protection they’re seeking when purchasing online. We also have a program available to all our Card Members called ‘Amex Offers’ which rewards Card Members with discounts at leading retailers.

2. This year hasn’t been the best for rewards seekers, with our research showing the net value of rewards credit cards dropping an average of 20%. What advice would you give to a cardholder looking to get better value out of their rewards card?

The rewards landscape is changing and it’s important that consumers are aware of what those changes will mean for them and be prepared to shop around. For context, rewards are funded by a number of sources, but in the traditional banking environment, rewards are primarily funded by fees paid between the customer’s bank and the bank of the business where the customer’s purchase is made, referred to as interchange fees.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has introduced reforms that will significantly lower these fees, making most rewards programs less rewarding. Customers with a wide range of credit cards are likely to earn fewer points when they spend, and receive less value when they redeem their points. It’s important to note that the reforms to interchange fees do not apply to American Express cards that are issued directly by American Express.

3. What is AMEX’s outlook on the rewards card landscape over the next 12 months and what is your view on the speculation rewards card programs will eventually fizzle out?

I think we will continue to see rewards programs evolving but I disagree that they will go altogether. We know that Australians love to be rewarded for spending and consumer demand will ensure that card issuers provide a rewards option for their credit card holders. The programs may just look different to today.

4. The Essential Credit Card is fairly new to the market launched in November last year. What does the Essential card offer that your already established cards didn’t?

We identified a gap in the market for a flexible rewards credit card with no annual fee that would appeal to the millennial audience. So we designed the American Express Essential Credit Card specifically for this customer group - those who are looking for their first rewards credit card and want the convenience of a mobile wallet too. This was the first card in the market to offer smartphone screen protection insurance and was launched in conjunction with Apple Pay.

5. Over 2016 you’ve also launched the AMEX Explorer card, Pay Your Way and Apple Pay for AMEX cardholders. Does AMEX have any other innovative technologies or card launches coming up in the pipeline?

It certainly has been a big year for us. Apart from those you’ve mentioned, we also launched Samsung Pay and Android Pay and made enhancements to our Amex App so that more of our card members can benefit from it. While I can’t share any pipeline plans, I can tell you that we’ll be continuing this momentum.

Austin Huntsdale joined American Express in 2007 and has held roles in distribution partnerships, card acquisition, insurance and lending. Today, as the Vice President, Consumer Products for American Express Australia & New Zealand, he leads a team of 30 employees to deliver innovative product and portfolio management solutions.