American Express is hoping to grab a bigger share of the New Zealand credit card market with the launch of a new card offering the highest Airpoint dollar earn rate for purchases in New Zealand.

The American Express Airpoints Platinum Card will offer holders 1 airpoint dollar for every $59 spent - undercutting rivals ANZ, Kiwibank and Westpac who offer Mastercards with an earn rate of 1 Airpoint dollar for every $75 spent in New Zealand.

According to Air New Zealand's website the only card to offer a better rate is Westpac's world mastercard where customers who make purchases overseas can earn 1 Airpoint dollar for every $50 spent but that card also comes with a hefty annual fee of $390 unless the holder is a big spender.

As well as increasing the rewards potential AmEx has also slashed its annual fee on the card from $395 to $195 although the fee remains higher than similar cards which cost around $145 to $150 per year.

Rob Bourne, head of American Express NZ. Photo / Supplied
Rob Bourne, head of American Express NZ. Photo / Supplied

Rob Bourne, head of card services New Zealand for American Express, said the move sent a big signal that the company was prepared to invest in the New Zealand market and was here to stay.

Bourne, who would not say what the company's current market share was, said the card launch was also a reflection of its appetitite to grow its customer base in New Zealand.

"We are keen to look to grow and have a strong prescence in the market."

Kiwis put $3.29 billion on their plastic in September according to the Reserve Bank and use of credit cards is growing.

Research by Payments NZ found the average number of credit card transactions per New Zealander grew from 58 per year to 86 between 2010 and 2015.

American Express said based on an average New Zealand household spending $800 per week on items such as groceries, petrol, eating out and clothes a new card member could earn enough Airpoints for a return trip to Hawaii over just one year.

That figure includes a $400 Airpoint bonus which is on offer for new customers who spend more than $1500 in their first three months of holding the card.

American Express, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has been in New Zealand for over 30 years but Bourne admitted it had probably "flown under the radar" in recent years.


"We have been in New Zealand for a very long time. We have a large loyal customer base."

Bourne said New Zealand was an attractive market for growth because of its strong economy.

But it faces strong competition from rivals Mastercard and Visa who both use the main trading banks for distributing their cards.

The AmEx move is also the latest shake-up in the airpoints market.

Last month Air New Zealand Airpoints and Fly Buys parted company citing plans to focus on building their own loyalty programmes.

In April last year Airpoints also replaced the BNZ with Westpac as its official partner.