The Commonwealth Bank may be Australia’s largest credit card issuer, but its range of frequent flyer credit cards are far from the best: in fact, under recent changes made by the bank, CBA’s cards are now among the worst in the country for earning frequent flyer points on your everyday spends.
Take CBA’s top-of-the-line Diamond Awards American Express card, which the bank spruiks as earning “up to 3 Awards points for every dollar you spend” – but in reality, most purchases made on the card accrue just one sixth as many points, being 0.5 Awards points per dollar spent.
That’s not even how many frequent flyer points you’re earning, either: you need to further cut that number in half if you collect Virgin Australia Velocity points, or divide by 2.5 if converting points to Qantas (while also being slugged an extra $30/year in fees for the privilege).
Crunching those figures, the 0.5 CBA Awards points you started with – earned in return for $1 spent on the AMEX – become a miserable 0.25 Velocity points or a downright pathetic 0.2 Qantas Points per dollar, given only after paying a hefty annual fee of $349, or $379 when earning Qantas Points.
That’s literally a quarter as many Velocity points as can be earned per dollar spent via the American Express Velocity Escape Card, or one fifth as many points as on the Qantas American Express Discovery Card: both of which have no annual fees, no points capping and an earn rate of one frequent flyer point per dollar spent on all but government transactions where the earning rate is halved.
So where does CBA provide more points?
CommBank reserves its headline ‘three points per dollar’ earn rate for Diamond American Express transactions made at supermarkets, petrol stations and major department stores in Australia (such as Myer and David Jones), and on overseas spend: which is equal to 1.2 Qantas Points or 1.5 Velocity points per dollar spent.
However, the competing American Express Platinum Edge Card delivers a much higher 3 frequent flyer points per dollar spent at supermarkets with a range of loyalty programs including Virgin Australia Velocity, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and more, and 2 frequent flyer points per dollar spent at petrol stations.
The Platinum Edge’s annual fee is also nearly half that of CBA Diamond at $195, and includes a $200 annual travel credit as part of the parcel: so for those who normally spend at least $200/year on flights or hotels, the card is essentially ‘free’.
Regular department store shoppers could also consider the $295/year David Jones American Express Platinum Card: providing 3 Qantas Points or the equivalent of 2 Velocity points per dollar spent at David Jones, along with 2.25 Qantas Points or 1.5 Velocity points per dollar at supermarkets and petrol stations.
CBA’s only saving grace is a newly-introduced waiver on international transaction fees when using its Platinum and Diamond American Express cards overseas, but of course, that’s only true where AMEX is accepted.
If you do need to whip out the companion Platinum or Diamond Mastercard, you’ll earn one third as many points while also being stung with a 3% transaction fee – yet could be earning more points without forex fees on products like the ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures Visa, Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard and even the Coles Rewards Mastercard.
So, if you still have a Commonwealth Bank Awards credit card in your wallet and aren’t pushing through enough ‘free’ foreign transactions to offset its annual charge, it’s time to get the scissors out and ditch that old plastic, replacing it with a card that’s actually rewarding, not to mention competitive.