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!