Combining an American Express card and a Mastercard on the one account, Commonwealth Bank's Platinum Awards credit cards give you the option of earning frequent flyer points with Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia Velocity, but at vastly different earn rates depending on where you spend, which card you use and indeed, which airline program you prefer.
Following CBA's credit card revamp earlier this year, using the Mastercard actually earns you more points on many purchases than whipping out the AMEX: and as the Mastercard isn't a particularly high-earning card to begin with, there aren't many reasons you'd apply for this card in place of a more competitive credit card from a different bank.
Australian Business Traveller puts CommBank’s Platinum Awards credit cards to the test.
Commonwealth Bank Platinum Awards credit cards: fast facts
- Grade/tier: Platinum
- Card type: American Express + Mastercard
- Loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer Direct or Commonwealth Awards
- Qantas Points earned per A$1 spent (AMEX): 1.0 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): 0.4 on all spend
- Or, CBA Awards points earned per A$1 spent (AMEX): 2.5 on overseas, supermarket, department store and petrol station transactions, and 0.5 everywhere else
- CBA Awards points earned per A$1 spent (Mastercard): 1.0 on all purchases
- Converting points to Velocity (2:1), that's: 0.25 Velocity points per $1 spent on most AMEX purchases, 0.5 points per $1 spent via Mastercard and 1.25 Velocity points per dollar spent on AMEX in those selected higher-earning categories
- Points capping and restrictions: Earn up to 120,000 Qantas Points per year via QFF Direct, or 150,000 CBA Awards points, equal to 75,000 Velocity points. No points are earned on ATO payments made using either card.
CBA Platinum: fees, charges and interest
- Base annual fee: $249
- 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: $6,000
Earning points for free flights: 0.5/5
We'll be frank: for a Platinum-grade credit card to provide just 0.2 Qantas Points or 0.25 Velocity points per dollar spent on most everyday charges is nothing short of pathetic, which finds CBA's credit cards some of the least competitive in Australia for earning points, and with some of the highest fees.
To compare, you'd need to pay CommBank $289/year to earn Qantas Points with an additional cardholder on the account: yet for no annual fee at all (and no additional cardholder fee), you could actually be earning five times as many points via the Qantas American Express Discovery Card, or eight times as many points via AMEX's higher-level Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card – which attracts a $450 annual fee but is offset by a yearly $450 travel voucher.
For Velocity points, the competing American Express Velocity Escape Card dishes up one Velocity point per dollar spent at no annual charge, or for $375/year (including a free return flight, Virgin Australia lounge access and AMEX lounge access), the American Express Velocity Platinum Card offers 1.5 Velocity points per dollar spent, uncapped.
On specific shopping categories such as supermarkets and petrol stations – where CBA provides 1.0-1.25 frequent flyer points per dollar spent – the $195/year American Express Platinum Edge Card instead churns out 2-3 frequent flyer points on the same spend, at a significantly lower cost than the CBA Platinum duo.
For everything else, there's the Mastercard: but with an earn rate of only 0.4 Qantas Points or 0.5 Velocity points per dollar spent, it's not an incentive to apply for CBA's combo either, as there are many higher-earning cards in the market for regular ‘non-AMEX’ spend, including the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa, ANZ Rewards Black Visa and HSBC Platinum Qantas Visa cards: each delivering up to one frequent flyer point per dollar spent.
There's only one aspect for which CBA's product stands out, and that's the absence of an international transaction fee when using its AMEX abroad, paired with a more reasonable earning rate of 1.0-1.25 frequent flyer points per dollar spent on those purchases: but when you need to pull out your Mastercard overseas, a 3% fee applies: so you'll be paying more to earn fewer points.
Airport lounge access: 0/5
Airport lounge access is not available via this card, and as of October 2017, paid access to American Express Centurion Lounges overseas is no longer possible.
International travel insurance: 3/5
CBA's Platinum Awards cards offer full international travel insurance, but with one critical catch: most of the protections are only unlocked if you remember to manually activate the insurance prior to each and every trip.
Unlike most other Australian Platinum-grade cards, this cover isn’t automatically activated when purchasing your airfares or pre-paying hotel accommodation using your card: if you don’t tell the bank where you’re travelling and when, you’ll only get overseas medical and personal liability insurance, rather than the full suite of insurance for things like travel delays, lost luggage or travel provider insolvency:
If you only remember to activate that cover after your journey begins, a three-day waiting period applies before the added perks kick in – during which time you're barely covered.
However, this opt-in style of travel insurance could be useful for business travellers jetting off on client- or company-funded tickets, or when travelling abroad on bookings made using frequent flyer points: provided the activation process is completed before each trip, of course.
Commonwealth Bank Platinum Awards credit cards: the verdict
As far as CBA Platinum goes, we can only see two reasons that new customers would apply: to earn points on overseas American Express payments without paying international transaction fees, and to save money on international travel insurance – but with an annual cost of $249-289, you'd need to be jetting off rather frequently to 'break even' on those numbers, let alone come out ahead.
Assuming you're paying the full $289 in yearly fees and charges, you'd need to be spending at least A$9,633 on international American Express transactions to begin 'saving' any money, compared to using a points-earning card that may already be in your wallet and paying a typical 3% international transaction fee.
But for most Aussie spenders, a standard earning rate of only 0.2 Qantas Points or 0.25 Velocity points per dollar spent isn’t reason enough to jump ship to CBA – and if this card is already part of your points-earning strategy, your best move may well be to cancel it and replace it with something better!