Commonwealth Bank launches new Ultimate Awards credit card

CBA’s new top-tier credit card packs in bonus points on overseas purchases: plus, no foreign transaction fees.

By Chris Chamberlin, January 20 2020
Commonwealth Bank launches new Ultimate Awards credit card

For the first time in almost a decade, Commonwealth Bank is rolling out a new tier of points-earning credit card, with the Ultimate Awards Mastercard now perched above both Platinum and Diamond in the CBA credit card ranks.

With no international transaction fees, no additional cardholder fee and the ability to earn uncapped points in up to 14 airline frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, CBA Ultimate represents a refreshing change to the credit card line-up of Australia’s largest bank.

The card also ditches the common annual fee in favour of a $35/month charge. That’s still $420 a year on paper, but this monthly fee is waived by CBA in each month where a cardholder spends at least $2,500 and opts-in to online statements, potentially making the card fee-free for regular spenders.

Through the bank's partnerships with Mastercard and LoungeKey, cardholders also have the ability to purchase access to airport lounges via the Mastercard Airport Experiences app, often at a reduced price compared to walk-up rates.

Earning points on the CBA Ultimate Awards Mastercard credit card

The biggest appeal comes to regular international travellers with the ability to earn 3 CBA Awards points per A$1 spent abroad – and online on overseas-based websites – while also avoiding the typical 3% foreign transaction fee.

For a road warrior spending $10,000/month overseas, that translates into a monthly saving of $300 or an annual saving of $3,600, versus paying 3% extra on every purchase: not to mention qualifying for the waived monthly fee as well.

On the points front, 3 CBA points earned per $1 spent is also equal to 1.2 Qantas Points (via an automated monthly 2.5:1 conversion when enrolled in Qantas Frequent Flyer Direct, attracting a $30/year fee), 1.5 Virgin Australia Velocity points (via a 2:1 conversion from CBA Awards), or 1 Cathay Pacific Asia Mile (via a 3:1 conversion), among other options.

Purchases within Australia are less rewarding, instead fetching 2 CBA Awards points per $1 spent (0.8 Qantas Points / 1 Velocity Point / 0.66 Asia Miles) at major supermarkets, department stores and petrol stations, and 1 CBA Awards point per $1 spent (0.4 Qantas Points / 0.5 Velocity Points / 0.33 Asia Miles) on all other purchases.

CBA Ultimate's introductory points bonus

From May 2020, all spend exceeding A$10,000 per month, regardless of category, will earn points at a reduced rate of 0.5 CBA Awards points per $1 spent, however, fetching a mere 0.2 Qantas Points, 0.25 Velocity Points or 0.16 Asia Miles per dollar.

Spend exceeding $10,000 per month prior to May 2020 will earn points at the full rates above as an introductory offer, in the absence of a typical bonus points deal.

For some shoppers, the ability to continue earning points regardless of the amount spent each month may be preferable to the bank’s other points-earning cards, which all impose fixed annual limits on the number of points that can be earned: after which, no points are provided at all.

That said, CBA’s now second-best card, the Diamond Awards Mastercard, serves up a higher 1.25 CBA Awards points per $1 spent on all purchases up to 1,000,000 CBA Awards points per year with no monthly tiering, which may be more rewarding for infrequent travellers – albeit with a $349 annual fee that isn’t waived based on spend.

CBA’s Ultimate Awards Mastercard has no set minimum income requirement and comes with a minimum credit limit of just $6,000: much lower than the $15,000 minimum credit limit as is common of other top-tier rewards credit cards, and which is continues to apply to the bank’s Diamond Awards Mastercard.

Also read: CBA Diamond Awards Mastercard credit card review

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!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 60

Dissapointed by CBA that they exclude loyal customers who hold mortgages with them to exclude this new credit card from their wealth package benefits. Currently only up to Diamond Awards is included as a benefit which used to have the AMEX cc bundle with no intl fees included.

04 May 2015

Total posts 247

There's no card fee, annual fee, whatever you want to call it, if you spend over $2500 a month. Are there other credit card benefits of the wealth package besides waived annual fees? $2500 a month isn't a big ask spend wise for a "wealthy" customer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2018

Total posts 12

I rarely use my diamond rewards card. The Amex second card was a winner with no foreign transaction fees until it was removed.

Pretty insulting by CBA for loyal customers as why would you use it for FF points when so many others give you 1:1 points and sign up bonuses not to mention free flights.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 223

The fact this has no sign up bonus is automatically disappointing, regardless of no fees per month when spending.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 60

Shouldn't need to hold multiple credit cards with the same bank regardless of how much one spends a month to get these ultimate benefits. Fact is they decreased the benefits when they removed the AMEX and subsequently 0% intl transaction fees, only to not reinstate them with their new CC.

09 Feb 2012

Total posts 23

I was really hoping to read this was going to be a metal card :(

Alas, still I will request a swap. Even though my mortgage package won't cover the fee, our spend should make it a fee free card anyway. (Which really just tells me I spend too much and should cut back....)

03 Nov 2014

Total posts 91

I can't understand why they have different points for different spend categories - over complicated, have a flat earn rate except for maybe overseas spend...it's frustrating to have to think which of my cards will give me the most points every time I go to spend.

09 Feb 2012

Total posts 23

Ultimately, it's a reflection of the merchant rates the banks are collecting from those kinds of transactions.

03 Nov 2014

Total posts 91

Understand the logic - but there's no way large supermarkets are paying higher rates than the local cafe...spend at everything else should have the highest points awarded as they're likely paying the most fees

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 5

I don't see how they can incentivise anyone to have a credit card with CBA - no sign-up bonus and extremely LOW earnings rates for Qantas or when transferring to any other airline/hotel chain.

I feel sorry for people tricked into the fee-free Diamond Rewards card, let alone having a loan with them in the first place.

Personally...the poor Qantas Direct earning rates are an instant no go for me, across CommBank's credit card range. There is nothing "Ultimate" about this card.

With AMEX being accepted in more places, I've found I use my Centurion card over 90% of the time, and resorting to my Qantas Premier Platinum card everywhere else.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 May 2019

Total posts 17

Spot on. This offer has made that logic crystal clear for me. I might get this product as a back-up for an Amex that gives me a decent Qantas yield but the new points restrictions mean they're no longer going to be my primary card. I just need a MasterCard with 10-15K of capacity somewhere in the wallet in case a restaurant or hotel doesn't accept Amex

03 May 2017

Total posts 21

I like that at least CBA have innovated, they are providing a degree of difference that no other bank has done before and they still offer the full Travel insurance with no qualifying. This will be a great product for some customers, but not for others, but thats why they offer a choice!. For me, I am going to apply for the Platinum and get 100k points, then convert to Ultimate later and give that a run for a while, until the next good offer comes up. But I do expect to see more of these kinds of products that benefit customers that stick with one bank, rather then being loyal like a cat.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 5

Have you had a chance to look at the competition out there, by any chance? (for example, Macquarie Bank's product and app have been named the #1 App by many magazines including Money, Canstar, Financial Review for 2019).

Also, just make sure you're not buying into the marketing of CBA. Again, 100k Award points will only get you 40k Qantas Points, for example. They have the lowest conversion of any card on the market. The majority of other cards on the market would get you more points and a more innovative experience.

If you don't believe me, check out Executive Traveller's review haha!

https://www.executivetraveller.com/commonwealth-bank-platinum-awards-mastercard-credit-card-review

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 May 2019

Total posts 17

The 100K awards points equaling 40K QF points is a good point. You get the sense that the increasingly confusing earning tables might actually be designed to trick consumers re the actual value that they're getting out of the product.

03 May 2017

Total posts 21

i would have thought that the very first sentence at least was a pretty big clue that I have had a chance to look at the competition.

20 Jan 2020

Total posts 1

This card isn't perfect, but it is a very good offering from CBA, especially since the American Express compainion card was removed from offer.

I currently hold a Diamond Awards card with CBA, however despite the points decreasing on every other purchase, I will still be switching.

Main reason that I will be switching card type, is the lower card limit. $12,000 on the diamond card is too high, and too impractical. Even though $6,000 is high, it still provides a lot more flexibility, which I like. Not a big fan of having a high card limit as I will be looking to apply for a home loan shortly.

Points increase on purchases for petrol, supermarkets and department stores. 75% of the purchases I make are at the aforementioned stores, so this is actually in my favor compared to the diamond.

Card has 2 Qantas lounge access per year, similar to previously offered amex.

Still offers same level on international travel insurance offered by the diamond.

No international transaction fees.

The only benefit I can see to keeping the diamond, is if you travel infrequently and make the most of your purchases at smaller merchants. The only thing I feel I'm getting stiffed on with this card is paying insurances and utilities, but I guess it's better than nothing.

Hi GKaye, just to clarify, there's no access to Qantas lounges with this card. The lounge access component is instead access to LoungeKey, but which the member is billed for on a per-visit basis. No Qantas lounges participate in LoungeKey, although some others in Australia like Plaza Premium do.

03 May 2017

Total posts 21

I already checked the Rewards terms and conditions, and there isnt any mention of insurances and utiilities being excluded (unless I am mistaken). Why do you feel you are getting stiffed on his Ultimate card?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 May 2019

Total posts 17

This is such a cynical play from CBA. It's really a slight of hand to give them a strategic foothold against further changes to the RBA's interchange fee cap, which would lessen their capacity to recover $$ for FF points. I hold a Diamond Awards account with them with a $50K limit and this move will provide an impetus for me to finally cancel and move to an Amex Platinum Card.

When I signed up to the Diamond Awards card it had a much higher points yield, with a high total earn threshold and I could access free international transactions via my Amex. It was free because of my home loan. The card also looked sharp - unlike the current Dollarmites effort, which is *easily* the ugliest, non-premium looking piece of plastic issued by any of the big 4 for their range-topping card. In other words, it was this supposedly new “Ultimate” product but with a good points yield, which was not subject to an insultingly low cap.

When the previous RBA interchange fee decision was made CBA immediately slashed my points yield, then killed my Amex with its access to free international transactions. Guess what didn't change: the card fee, for customers without a home loan. Yes - they unilaterally varied the credit contract to provide significantly less service, for the same price.

Now they're betting that status-driven Diamond Awards holders will abandon their awful looking Dollarmite cards in favour of something that is on par with the other big 4 and looks more like an Apple Card and in doing so relinquish their earn on big expenditure (which will hurt CBA in the case of further interchange fee changes). For those who pay annual card fees, that's obviously another carrot to lull them onto the card that buys off the interchange fee risk for CBA. Watch - they'll probably rationalise the Premium cards in 12-18 months and bump people off Diamond onto this anaemic product.

When I saw this article, I started doing the sums on whether my reduced exposure to international card fees (probably 2-4K a year, which I incur because I'm lazy) would offset my loss of points yield on expenditure over 10K a month (I earn between 10-45K in QF points a month, which on the deliberately confusing conversion tables exceeds 10K in expenditure), before realising that I should just get a card that gives me both. If cards issued outside the big 4 can give me decent value, why can't CBA? How much of their consistently huge profit does the consumer credit division contribute? Please can we have some international competition in the Australian Credit Card market so we can stop getting dudded on deals like this!!??

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 2

CBA's rewards program is probably the crappiest when it comes to redemption. You can earn all you want but the value of those points is next to thing. This card brings them at par with other banks but I wouldn't say that it's anything extra-ordinary.

09 Feb 2012

Total posts 23

CBA are now running a 100,000 points bonus.

"100,000 Bonus Awards Points when you apply for a new CommBank Ultimate Awards credit card by 30 May 2020 and spend $5,000 on eligible purchases using your new card within 90 days from activation.^"

Has the usual criteria for these things, including not having held an Awards card for the past 12 months.

I received mine yesterday as a switch from the Diamond card. It's a very nice looking card and has been commented on by everyone who has seen it.


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