Pairing an American Express card and a World MasterCard on the one account, Commonwealth Bank's Diamond Awards credit cards tempt at first glance, awarding up to 1.5 Qantas or Virgin Australia frequent flyer points per dollar spent.
But as you begin to look closer, the points earned are decreasing while the fees to earn them have increased, and when it comes to travel insurance, forget to inform the bank of each and every overseas trip and you could find yourself quickly out of pocket many thousands of dollars, if not more.
Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards: fast facts
- Grade/tier: Above-platinum
- Card type: American Express + World MasterCard
- Loyalty program: Qantas opt-in or Commonwealth Awards
- Qantas Points earned per A$1 spent (AMEX/MC) with opt-in: 1.5/0.625 (lowered to 1.2/0.5 from May), or
- CBA Awards points earned per A$1 spent: 3.0/1.25
- 3 CBA Awards points = 1.5 Virgin Australia Velocity Points (no changes)
- 1.25 CBA Awards points = 0.625 Velocity Points (no changes)
- Points capping/tiering: Earn up to 1,000,000 CBA Awards points per year (500,000 Velocity points), or 500,000 Qantas Points (changes to 400,000 Qantas Points from May)
CBA Diamond: fees, charges and interest
- Annual fee: $349
- Additional annual fee to earn Qantas Points: $30 (recently trebled from $10)
- Additional/supplementary cardholder fee: $10/year
- Interest rate on purchases: 20.24% p.a.
- Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 55
- Interest rate on cash advances: 21.24% p.a.
- International transaction fee: 3.5% AMEX, 3.0% MasterCard
- Minimum income requirement: No defined minimum
- Minimum credit limit: $15,000
- Balance transfer promotion: 5.99% p.a. for five months, reverting to the cash advance rate thereafter
Earning points for free flights: 2.5/5
Without a hefty sign-up deal to entice spenders across from the other banks, CBA's main Diamond drawcard should be the points you can earn when spending – but those are being cut back from May, leaving little to get excited about.
That's when customers will earn just 1.2 Qantas Points per dollar spent on the AMEX and a paltry 0.5 Qantas Points per dollar on the MasterCard, while every other Big Four Bank awards 1.5 Qantas Points on their top-of-the-line AMEX cards and up to 0.75 Qantas Points on the respective companion card.
You'll find a slightly better deal when earning Virgin Australia Velocity points via the CBA Awards scheme with a dollar spent on the AMEX netting the equivalent of 1.5 Velocity Points, and the same on the MasterCard returning 0.625 Velocity Points.
CBA also charges an extra $30/year to cardholders who opt for Qantas Points, but this fee doesn't apply when earning CBA Awards points and later converting them into Velocity Points.
(Psst: Since publication, we've uncovered a special offer for new customers which promises 80,000 CBA Awards points (equal to 32,000 Qantas Points after the changeover or 40,000 Velocity Points), but only when applying via this page on the CBA website.)
Airport lounge access: 2/5
Unwind in the American Express Sydney Airport lounge before your next international flight with two free visits thrown in each calendar year: just present your CBA Diamond AMEX for entry.
You could use those visits on two separate trips or use both at once to have your partner, colleague or a friend join you in the lounge – after which you can pay $55 per person, per visit until the next year begins.
As can any American Express cardholder, you can also stop by the American Express Centurion Lounges in the USA for a fee of US$50 per entry in New York (LaGuardia), Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Miami and San Francisco.
The attached World MasterCard in turn unlocks a great Starwood Preferred Guest fast-track status deal, which can boost your SPG membership tier to Gold after spending just one night in a Starwood hotel.
Free insurance coverage: 3.5/5
As expected, free international travel insurance is offered to Diamond cardholders, but for coverage beyond only hospital fees and personal liability you must remember to activate it before each and every trip – sharing your travel dates and destinations – otherwise you're out of pocket for any travel delays, lost luggage, loss of income and more:
Activation is possible after your journey begins but is subject to a three-day waiting period before the 'activated policy' perks kick-in: less than ideal when most other credit cards provide full automatic coverage from the moment you book your trip.
There's one advantage, though: you can register for cover even on trips taken for business or booked using frequent flyer points, which avoids the need to pre-pay other expenses as sometimes required by other banks.
Also thrown in: up to a year of extended warranty cover on appliances, and purchase security insurance, should eligible items bought with the card be lost, stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchase.
CBA Diamond: how it compares
CBA was the first bank in Australia to cut frequent flyer points on Visa/MasterCard spend down to just 0.4/$1 in 2013, and in May will become the only Big Four Bank to award less than 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar spent on a top-tier American Express credit card.
For example, ANZ Frequent Flyer Black cardholders can pay no annual fee in the first year, earn 1.5 Qantas Points per $1 on the AMEX, 0.75/$1 on the Visa and can also collect up to 75,000 bonus points if they're a new customer and meet ANZ's spending criteria.
Similarly, the NAB Qantas Rewards Premium duo also dishes up 1.5 Qantas Points on the AMEX and 0.5/$1 on the Visa against a $250 annual fee and up to 60,000 bonus Qantas Points for new customers.
Westpac isn't far behind with its Altitude Black cards, again delivering 1.5/$1 on the AMEX and 0.625/$1 on the MasterCard – boosted to 1.5/$1 when overseas – with a $395 annual fee, albeit without a sign-on deal.
When earning Qantas Points with an additional cardholder on the account costs you $389/year via CBA, it's hard to see why anybody would choose to pay a high annual charge to earn fewer points, when so many other great options are at your disposal.
Also read: ANZ Frequent Flyer Black credit card review
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