10 questions with… Austin Huntsdale
With just three months until Christmas, American Express has launched the American Express ExplorerTM Credit Card designed to help get Australians to their next holiday destination, faster.
Alongside benefits such as an annual $400 travel credit, travel and car rental insurance and airport lounge access, the American Express Explorer Credit Card comes with an introductory offer of 100,000 Membership Reward points. These points alone could take you to Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Queenstown this festive season. The card also has an earn rate of two membership reward points for every dollar spent, so by using the card in everyday locations like for groceries or fuel, you can be earning points very quickly to be able to redeem for travel.
LATTE chats with Austin Huntsdale, Vice President Consumer Products for American Express Australia & New Zealand, at the launch, about the benefits of the new American Express Explorer Credit Card, Membership Rewards tips and Australia’s passion for travel.
- Whereabouts would you go with your 100,000 reward points and why?
I haven’t been to China before. With the Explorer card and the Membership Rewards programme you can redeem for eight airline frequent flyer programmes so I’d probably transfer those points to Singapore Airlines and go to either Beijing or Shanghai. China is an amazing country in terms of culture, history, food – it’s just something completely different to all of the other destinations that I’ve been to previously.
- Who is the desired market of the card?
It’s for Australians who are looking for exceptional value from a rewards credit card and who love to travel. Anyone looking to get on their next holiday destination sooner should take advantage of the great travel benefits available through this product.
- What would you say makes the American Express Explorer Credit Card different to other cards in the market?
The 100,000 out-front bonus point offer, one of the richest acquisition bonuses available in the credit card market, the $400 travel credit each year which isn’t being offered by any other competitor, and obviously the extremely compelling earn rate, in terms of the two reward points for every dollar spent. You’ve also got travel insurance that’s built into the card as well as a range of retail insurances and a smart phone screen insurance benefit as well. If you crack your Smartphone screen and you’re using your Explorer Credit Card to pay for your telecommunication bill, you’ll be covered for that the repair. One of the other key differences is our Membership Rewards programme that offers an enormous amount of flexibility in terms of how to use your reward points, and you can, as I mentioned before, turn those points into airline frequent flyer points.
- How does the card compare to other American Express offerings?
Overall, American Express cards offer choice and flexibility depending on what the customer is looking for. That means that if someone wants to use their points for a range of different purposes, such as travel, entertainment, retail or gift cards, then we have cards that are linked to the Membership Rewards programme. If people want to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points then we have products for them, as well as the same for Velocity Frequent Flyer, which is the programme for Virgin Australia. We also have a range of different types of products at different fee variances. So we have entry level cards with no annual fee as well as cards with annual fees which will offer a richer set of features and benefits. The American Express Explorer Credit Card is a premium rewards card for people who love to travel.
- Why do you think Australians are so passionate about travel?
We’re a long way away from the rest of the world, so there’s a real aspiration that when you do book a holiday, you want to go as far away as possible. I mean, we do have amazing destinations on our doorstep as well, but I think that I saw some statistics that over 10 million Australians headed overseas in the last 12 months. Travel is clearly a passion that’s on the rise in Australia. Australians are adventurous, they want to see what else the world has to offer. No matter where you are in the world you will always find Australians that are there enjoying the experience as well.
- What sort of travel experiences do you personally seek out?
I love sun, so I love a good resort holiday with beautiful beaches and white sand. I love scuba diving, just reading a book with a nice cocktail and some relaxing time. But at the same time I love the snow, snowboarding in places like Japan. My children are young, so at the moment my wife and I have to make sure we have a good mix of activities for them and for us! Our most recent holiday was in July this year, where we went to the US and went to Disneyland for the kids, and then the Napa Valley, where we did some wine tasting, and exploring the Yosemite National Park for us.
- What’s your number one bucket list destination?
I’d like to go to Russia. Obviously the country is enormous, it’s probably not the easiest destination to visit, but people who have been to places like Saint Petersburg say that the architecture there is wonderful, it’s a very different travel experience than what you would get travelling to Europe or North America.
- What are your top tips for frequent flyers?
Use your American Express credit card to optimise your point earning power. I think that people don’t realise that what they spend every day could be effectively paying for their holidays. Before I talked about getting two points for every dollar on the Explorer Credit Card and therefore by using the card to pay for everyday items and expenses such as gym memberships, phone bills, groceries, petrol and insurance, the points can really add up. All of the sudden you’re able to redeem those points for flights, hotels, car rental and travel experiences that you would have otherwise have had to pay for. So I think if people love travel, and they are not currently using a card like the American Express Explorer Credit Card that offers very generous rewards, then they are missing out!
- What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury is in the eye of the beholder. For me, it’s those premium experiences that I can’t justify doing regularly. I usually save luxury for a special occasion, like a honeymoon, a milestone birthday or an anniversary.
- LATTE signature question: what is the best coffee experience you have ever had?
I don’t actually drink coffee so this is a tough question! Do espresso martinis count? If so, last summer I was at Opera Bar at Circular Quay with some good friends that had just arrived from overseas. Given they were jet lagged we ended up with espresso martinis and it was great to catch up with them while enjoying one of the best views in Sydney.