Commonwealth Bank Platinum Awards American Express + Mastercard

Review: Commonwealth Bank Platinum Awards American Express + Mastercard

What's Hot

  • May suit frequent international travellers who spend heavily

What's Not

  • Very low earning rates on most purchases
  • Pay up to three annual fees
  • Travel insurance requires opt-in for every trip, else you're barely covered

X-Factor

  • No overseas transaction fees on AMEX purchases

Introduction

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 points with Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia Velocity, but how many points you'll earn can vary wildly depending on where you spend, which card you use, and indeed, which airline program you prefer.

Following CBA's extensive credit card revamp in 2017, 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 to consider this card over the many more competitive cards from other banks.

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 CBA 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 Awards: 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.

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!

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and 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!
 

5 comments

  • Nicho Kiu

    Nichokiu

    13 Apr, 2018 01:24 pm

    Many thanks for this article! I, like many others, get the platinum Comm Bank awards card free with my home loan. I only use it for foreign currency spend, which is quite convenient.

    I also use the activated insurance regularly. I do however, hope for an evaluation on how the activated insurance policy compare with other credit card insurances. Is the activated policy 3/5? Does it cover the same as other credit card policies like AMEX or other banks?

    Many thanks!
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    13 Apr, 2018 01:29 pm

    Nichokiu: We don't (and can't) offer readers personal financial advice, or give comparisons of products 'on demand'. You are, however, welcome to do your own research on this, to determine the best cover for your needs.

    No member give thanks

  • Jazzop

    Jazzop

    13 Apr, 2018 02:47 pm

    Yeah, I have it for free as part of my home loan. Barely use it for the reasons stated above. But as for activating the insurance, it's easily done via the CBA app.
    No member give thanks

  • Adam T

    AT

    13 Apr, 2018 07:09 pm

    And I too have it as part of my mortgage but it sits in the draw, except the Amex with no 3% int conversion fee is decent, but as for the rest, quite possibly the worst card going. You'd have to have rocks in your head to pay a fee on this card.
    No member give thanks

  • Geoff Pell

    GSP

    14 Apr, 2018 02:53 pm

    I have the card(s) also like other included as part of my Wealth package although mine is the Black which offers higher points for both the Amex and MC. I actually don't convert to Qantas or Virgin points and just collect the award points.

    As a result of the changes recently, I only use the Amex O/S for the fee waiver or in Supermarkets and the like where you earn 3pts per dollar. As an aside, Amex isn't accepted everywhere O/S so I have a Bankwest Visa card which is fee free and no international conversion fee used only for that purpose.
    No member give thanks

Guest

12 Dec, 2018 08:26 am

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