Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards American Express, Mastercard

Review: Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards American Express, Mastercard

What's Hot

  • Two yearly visits to the AMEX Sydney Airport lounge

What's Not

  • Most purchases earn very few points
  • You’ll pay up to three annual fees
  • Full travel insurance requires opt-in

X-Factor

  • No international transaction fees on AMEX purchases

Introduction

Commonwealth Bank’s Diamond Awards credit card combo pairs an American Express and a World Mastercard on the one account, but confuses things not just with different frequent flyer earning rates on each card, but also different earning rates depending on where you shop.

Under changes made earlier this year, you’ll actually earn more points on the Mastercard in many cases than on the American Express: and given that the Mastercard doesn’t earn very many points to begin with, there are very few reasons new customers would apply for this card.

Australian Business Traveller puts CBA’s Diamond Awards cards under the microscope – and as the top-of-the-line rewards credit card of Australia’s biggest bank and the country’s largest credit card issuer, it’s fair to say that we have high expectations.

Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards credit cards: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: American Express + World Mastercard
  • Loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer Direct or Commonwealth Awards
  • Qantas Points earned per A$1 spent (AMEX): 1.2 on all overseas spend and at supermarkets, department stores and petrol stations in Australia, but only 0.2/$1 everywhere else
  • Qantas Points earned per A$1 spent (Mastercard): 0.5 on all spend
  • Or, CBA Awards points earned per A$1 spent (AMEX): 3.0 on overseas, supermarket, department store and petrol station transactions, and 0.5 everywhere else
  • CBA Awards points earned per A$1 spent (Mastercard): 1.25 on all purchases
  • Convert points to Velocity (2:1) and that equals: 0.25 Velocity points per $1 spent on most AMEX purchases, 0.625 points per $1 spent via Mastercard and 1.5 Velocity points per dollar spent on AMEX in those selected higher-earning categories
  • Points capping and restrictions: Earn up to 400,000 Qantas Points per year via QFF Direct, or 1,000,000 CBA Awards points, equal to 500,000 Velocity points. No points are earned on ATO payments made using either card.

CBA Diamond: fees, charges and interest

  • Base annual fee: $349
  • Additional annual fee if earning Qantas Points: $30
  • 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: 3.0% Mastercard, 0% AMEX
  • Minimum income requirement: No defined minimum
  • Minimum credit limit: $15,000

Earning points for free flights: 1.5/5

For a Black-level product, CBA’s frequent flyer earning rates can only be described as ‘pathetic’, with most American Express charges fetching only 0.2 Qantas Points or the equivalent of 0.25 Velocity points per dollar spent (no, that’s not a typo!).

Savvy shoppers could instead be earning four to five times as many points via the no-annual-fee Qantas American Express Discovery Card and the American Express Velocity Escape Card, which both provide one frequent flyer point per dollar spent, uncapped, or almost eight times as many points by using the Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card.

Even at Aussie supermarkets and petrol stations where CBA offers 1.2-1.5 frequent flyer points per dollar spent, that’s trumped by the $195/year American Express Platinum Edge Card and its offer of 2-3 frequent flyer points on the same spend, at almost half the annual cost of the CBA Diamond duo.

That brings the Mastercard in focus, but with earn rates of only 0.5-0.625 frequent flyer points per dollar spent, it’s also not the reason you’d apply for this product either, as there are many higher-earning cards in the market for regular ‘non-AMEX’ spend, including the Qantas Premier Mastercard and the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black and ANZ Rewards Black Visa cards.

The only true upside here is the ability to earn frequent flyer points at reasonable rates on overseas spend where American Express is accepted without having to pay international transaction fees: but of course, when you need to pull out your Mastercard abroad, those fees apply – so you’ll pay more to earn fewer points.

Airport lounge access: 2/5

Present your CBA Diamond American Express card at the AMEX Sydney Airport Lounge for complimentary access twice per year: or once per year if you bring a guest in with you (as that guests uses your second yearly ‘visit’).

Further visits can be purchased at the door for $55 per person.

International travel insurance: 3/5

We’d expect no less than full international travel insurance from CBA’s top travel-themed credit card, and it’s there for you to take advantage of, provided you remember to manually activate it before each and every trip.

Unlike most other cards, coverage isn’t automatic when using your card to purchase your airfare or to pre-pay for hotel accommodation: if you don’t tell the bank where you’re travelling and when, you’ll only get overseas medical and personal liability insurance: not cover for travel delays, lost luggage or travel provider insolvency:

‘Activating’ cover after your journey begins comes with a three-day waiting period before the added perks kick in – but as there’s no requirement to use your card to pay for your trip, this opt-in system could be handy for business travellers on client- or company-funded tickets, or when travelling abroad on bookings made using frequent flyer points.

Commonwealth Diamond Awards credit cards: the verdict

Following all the bank’s recent changes and cutbacks, this card now has very niche appeal: primarily suited for people who regularly travel overseas and want to earn points without paying international transaction fees, while taking advantage of AMEX lounge access and the opt-in travel insurance.

Of course, with a $349 base annual charge to pay before taking advantage of that international transaction fee waiver, you’d realistically need to be spending at least A$11,633 overseas each year to come out ahead, compared to using a card that may already be in your wallet and paying a typical 3% charge on that spend, without the added annual fee.

But for everybody else, an ‘everyday’ earning rate of only 0.2 Qantas Points or 0.25 Velocity points per dollar spent isn’t reason enough to apply for this product – and if it’s already in your wallet, your best move could well be to cancel it and replace it with something better!

Chris Chamberlin
Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

8 Comments

  • Greg84

    Greg84

    20 Sep, 2017 11:02 am

    The recent changes have certainly made this card less attractive...I only have it as I get it with my home loan package & I suspect there is a large portion of others also holding for this reason...I guess that's why CBA can make it such a poor offer & still have customers.
    There is also no lists of what is & isn't a department store, supermarket etc - so is Bunnings giving full points (a store with a whole bunch of departments in it) or is it classified as hardware or similar...just a nightmare. It also must be the worst looking card in the premium space...pull your socks up CBA.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    20 Sep, 2017 11:08 am

    Hi Greg, in case this is useful for you, we have the following (non-exhaustive) list of example businesses from CBA which the bank classifies as 'higher points merchants':

    Supermarkets: Woolworths, Coles, IGA, Supa IGA, IGA X-Press, Ritchies Supa IGA, Harris Farm, Supabarn, Foodland, Farmer Jack’s, FoodWorks, Thomas Dux, Wray Organic

    Petrol stations: Coles Express, Woolworths Petrol, BP, 7-Eleven, Caltex, Shell, United, Gull, Ampol, Mobil, Apco, Speedway, Better Choice, Lowes Petroleum, Budget Petrol, South West Fuel, Liberty, Pentaco, Tasco, Vibe, Metro, Puma

    Department stores: Myer, David Jones, Kmart, Target, Big W, Harvey Norman, Domayne, Joyce Mayne, GraysOnline, Dimmeys

    As an example, the following businesses are not classified as a 'supermarket', 'department store' or 'service (petrol) station':

    • JB Hi-Fi is classified  under ‘Electronic stores’ or ‘Music stores’
    • Liquorland is classified  under ‘Bottleshops’
    • Bunnings is classified  under ‘Hardware ’
    • Rebel Sport is classified  under ‘Sporting good stores’
    • Witchery is classified  under ‘Women’s ready-to-wear’
    • Freedom Furniture is classified under ‘Home furnishings, furniture & appliances’
    • Bing Lee and The Good Guys are classified  under ‘Electronic stores’
    No member give thanks

  • Greg84

    Greg84

    20 Sep, 2017 11:29 am

    Certainly does - thanks Chris.
    No member give thanks

  • Michael Kao

    Michael Kao

    20 Sep, 2017 11:09 am

    I've recently experienced using CBA Amex card in Japan. Oddly, it's not accepted in half of the merchants I used (even though all of them accepts Amex). The transaction was showing pending on my statement but just didn't go through. I tried multiple times and it's the same result. I had to use my Citiprestige card and it went through OK. 

    So the value of the no foreign exchange fee Amex card is not as good as it seems. Something odd with the terminal and IC chip that CBA use. 

    Not recommended. If you already have annual fee waived as a loan package like me, keep it for the sake of free travel insurance and 50% useable Amex overseas (and be ready for lots of embarrassing moments), otherwise, don't bother to apply. 
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    20 Sep, 2017 11:12 am

    CBA doesn't program the card PIN into the chip as happens with AMEX-issued AMEX cards, so some overseas card terminals recognise the card as a 'chip and signature' card, and whether merchants in 'chip and PIN' markets ultimately accept 'chip and signature' cards can vary between merchants and EFTPOS providers. (In theory, it should work, but as your examples show, sometimes it doesn't!)
    No member give thanks

  • Michael Kao

    Michael Kao

    20 Sep, 2017 11:48 am

    Oh ok! That explains it. Those that worked still required me to sign. 

    Thanks Chris. 
    No member give thanks

  • Adam T

    AT

    20 Sep, 2017 05:47 pm

    Chris thanks. Yep I've got it as part of my home loan too and can I say it's gone from hero to zero in one full swoop. I used to sink all my spend on these two cards and I've moved it off. To be fair I used the AX card o/s recently and was nice not to pay 3% fee, but all up not enough to compensate the convoluted points scheme, and why should I (aka the customer) do a mathematics exam and a white pages store search each time I use the card. Move to another card....CAN.
    No member give thanks

  • Jo

    jmdorrington

    22 Sep, 2017 03:23 pm

    if your main priority is to get maximum bonus qantas points with a low annual fee and you've already got the ANZ card, any suggestions ???
    No member give thanks

  • 346

    346

    22 Sep, 2017 03:35 pm

    Well and truly moved on from this/these card/s.
    The travel insurance on it was the only thing keeping me going for a while, they also waived the fee for me for one year.
    NAB QF signature card has been its replacement for non Amex transactions.
    No member give thanks

  • ALDO vAN hEESWIJCK

    boris45

    22 Sep, 2017 05:16 pm

    Totally disappointed with the CBA changes. I still use the CBA Amex for travel insurance but now use an AMEX Velocity platinum for most other expenses. Accruing Virgin points at a rapid rate.
    No member give thanks

  • MOA

    MOA

    23 Sep, 2017 02:19 am

    I obtained a CBA credit card a while ago with one of their special offers. A few months after qualifying for the card I had not received my FF points or fee refund. It took some months, and a number of phone calls before I received my entitlements. They firstly told me I would receive them shortly, then said I didn't qualify. After finally receiving my entitlements I decided to cancel the card as I had lost trust in the CBA. This had to be done at a CBA branch. It was about the time of the Cominsure scandal. They offered me another 20,000 points but I refused on told them I no longer trusted the Commonwealth Bank.
    No member give thanks

  • uhp7

    uhp7

    10 Nov, 2017 01:40 pm

    Does anyone know if this gets you into the Centurion Lounge in Houston International? I assume with a entry fee but not 100% sure about eligibility.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    11 Nov, 2017 03:03 pm

    Nope, no access.
    No member give thanks

  • uhp7

    uhp7

    13 Nov, 2017 03:27 pm

    Bugger. Thanks Chris.
    No member give thanks

Guest

18 Jan, 2018 04:47 pm

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