Commonwealth Bank retains AMEX cards, slashes credit card points

By Chris Chamberlin, May 1 2017
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The Commonwealth Bank will continue to issue American Express credit cards in light of the RBA’s reforms of credit card ‘interchange fees’, but will significantly cut the number of frequent flyer points that can be earned per dollar spent from July.

Notably, cardholders will soon earn more points per dollar spent on the Commonwealth Awards MasterCard or Visa card than they will on their American Express card, except at supermarkets, department stores, petrol stations or on overseas spend, which the bank will categorise as ‘Higher Points Merchants’.

Taking effect from the start date of each cardholder’s July credit card statement, here’s how the changes play out across the bank’s range of rewards credit cards.

Commonwealth Bank credit card points cuts: personal cards

CBA Diamond Awards: Spend on the AMEX will earn 3 CBA Awards points per dollar at Higher Points Merchants (equal to 1.5 Velocity points or 1.2 Qantas Points) and 0.5 Awards points per dollar everywhere else (=0.25 Velocity points or 0.2 Qantas Points).

That’s not a typo: even on the bank’s top frequent flyer American Express credit card, you’ll need to spend $4 to earn just one Velocity point or $5 to accrue one Qantas Point – although spend on the companion Visa/MasterCard continues to earn 1.25 Awards points per $1 (0.625 Velocity points or 0.5 Qantas Points).

CBA Platinum Awards: Whip out your AMEX at a Higher Points Merchant to earn 2.5 CBA Awards points per $1 (1.25 Velocity points or 1.0 Qantas Point), but just 0.5 Awards points (0.25 Velocity points or 0.2 Qantas Points) everywhere else.

Again, using the attached CBA Platinum Awards Visa or MasterCard on most purchases in Australia will offer a greater number of points per dollar spend, being one CBA Awards point per dollar (0.5 Velocity points or 0.4 Qantas Points).

CBA Gold Awards: Using your AMEX pulls in 2 CBA Awards points per $1 at Higher Points Merchants (that’s 0.8 Qantas Points or 0.8 Velocity points, as Gold cardholders receive a less-generous Velocity conversion rate) and 0.5 Awards points everywhere else (0.2 Qantas/Velocity points).

Spending on the companion Visa or MasterCard instead delivers one Awards point per dollar spent, being 0.4 Qantas/Velocity points).

CBA Awards: Cardholders with the bank’s entry-level frequent flyer cards can pick up 1.5 CBA Awards points (0.6 Qantas/Velocity points) at Higher Points Merchants – again, that’s at supermarkets, department stores, petrol stations and on overseas spend – and 0.5 Awards points per $1 spent elsewhere (0.2 Qantas/Velocity points).

As with the Gold Awards Visa/MasterCard, the basic Awards Visa/MasterCard also delivers one Awards point per dollar spent, equal to 0.4 Qantas/Velocity points – so unless you’re overseas or making those other essential purchases, you’ll earn twice as many points by leaving the AMEX card in your wallet.

Commonwealth Bank credit card points cuts: business cards

Business credit cards follow the same rewards structure as the bank’s personal cards, with bonus points awarded at those same Higher Points Merchants, fewer points everywhere else and the same frequent flyer conversion rates.

Platinum Business Awards: AMEX spend will return 3 CBA Awards points per dollar at Higher Points Merchants (1.5 Velocity points or 1.2 Qantas Points), but only 0.5 Awards points (0.25 Velocity points or 0.2 Qantas Points) everywhere else.

MasterCard spend continues to earn one CBA Awards point (0.5 Velocity points or 0.4 Qantas Points).

Gold Business Awards: Cardholders can earn 2 CBA Awards point per dollar with Higher Points Merchants (0.8 Qantas/Velocity points – again, as Gold cards and below have less-favourable conversion rates), and 0.5 Awards points (0.2 Qantas/Velocity points) on all other spend.

Use the MasterCard instead and you’ll receive one CBA Awards point per dollar, worth 0.4 Qantas/Velocity points.

Business Awards: Finally, CBA’s standard business credit card will deliver 1.5 CBA Awards points per dollar at Higher Points Merchants (0.6 Qantas/Velocity points), yet only 0.5 Awards points per dollar everywhere else (0.2 Qantas/Velocity points).

Mirroring the Gold Business Awards account, the companion MasterCard provides one CBA Awards point per dollar spent, equal to 0.4 Qantas/Velocity points.

Commonwealth Awards fees, conversion rates

Credit card annual fees will remain the same across all personal and business Awards credit cards, although CommBank’s 3.5% international transaction fee will be waived for personal Platinum Awards and Diamond Awards cardholders spending abroad on their American Express card.

However, a 3% international transaction fee will continue to apply to overseas spend using any CBA Visa or MasterCard (including for personal Platinum and Diamond cardholders), with a 3.5% forex fee levied when using a Gold or basic Awards AMEX abroad, and for all business AMEX customers.

Conversion rates from the Commonwealth Awards program to Qantas Frequent Flyer (via automatic monthly transfer) and to Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer (manual transfer) remain unchanged, with 2.5 CBA Awards points fetching one Qantas or Velocity point.

The only exception is for Platinum and Diamond members where 2 CBA Awards points returns one Velocity point, although conversions to Qantas follow the same 2.5:1 rate as all other cards.

Commonwealth Bank competitor ANZ ceased issuing new American Express cards as of March 1 2017, while NAB will also retain AMEX but award fewer points per dollar spent, with Westpac taking the same approach.

Disclaimer

Executive Traveller may receive a commission when you apply for these credit cards via our links.

You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive 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!

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

It is plain rubbish from CBA and I am glad that I rid off their card a while ago. 0.2 QFF point "everywhere else" is plainly ridiculous and it is better to get Amex Qantas Discovery card - one point everywhere plus extra point on Qantas products.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Jul 2016

Total posts 4

Sounds like CBA signed a bad contract with AMEX that didn't let them wiggle out :P

03 Nov 2014

Total posts 91

The full points will be paid on supermarket & fuel purchases - strange as you'd think these guys were getting the best rates merchant rates from Amex. The no FX fees is a good change - CBA website says it's also on online purchases...will be interesting to see what sort of rate is used.

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