Westpac slashes credit card frequent flyer points on ATO payments

By Chris Chamberlin, September 8 2014
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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.

Westpac is slashing the number of frequent flyer points that can be earned on payments to the Australian Taxation Office across its range of Altitude and Qantas Earth rewards credit cards.

From November 9, ATO payments made on most Westpac American Express cards see points accruing at half the usual rates, while ATO transactions on most Westpac Visas and MasterCards will earn no points at all.

Collecting frequent flyer points on personal income tax obligations and HECS debt repayments has been a favourite trick of savvy travellers, with many also using points-earning business credit cards to cover their quarterly BAS payments to the ATO.

Although the Tax Office imposes a surcharge on Visa, MasterCard and American Express transactions, earning the full raft of frequent flyer points could often swing the deal firmly in your favour – until now.

What you’ll earn from November 9

Westpac’s Altitude Black, Platinum, Platinum Plus and base-level ‘Altitude’ cards are all on the hit list, as are the Qantas-earning variants of the same cards.

The bank’s top-tier Earth Black cards are also targeted, along with the now-superseded Earth, Earth Platinum and Earth Platinum Plus lines.

All of the accounts above come with both an American Express card and a companion Visa or MasterCard for use where AMEX isn’t accepted.

As of November 9, that companion Visa or MasterCard won’t earn any points on ATO payments – even when paying the ATO-imposed 0.42% surcharge.

For Westpac American Express transactions, here’s how the changes shake out across the board for every dollar paid to the ATO.

  • Altitude and Altitude Platinum: American Express drops from two Altitude points to one Altitude point.
  • Altitude Platinum Plus and Altitude Black: AMEX halves from three Altitude points to 1.5 Altitude points.
  • Altitude Qantas, Altitude Qantas Platinum, Earth and Earth Platinum: Earning decreases from one Qantas Point to half a Qantas Point.
  • Altitude Qantas Platinum Plus, Earth Platinum Plus and Earth Black: 1.5 Qantas Points per dollar drops to 0.75 Qantas Points on the same spend.

The fine print

American Express payments come with the ATO’s 1.45% surcharge, which appears as a separate credit card transaction to the main payment itself.

Both the primary payment and the surcharge transaction are hit with the new earning rates, so although you’ll still earn points on the surcharge, it likely won’t be enough to make it worth your trouble.

Also, while the non-Qantas Altitude earning rates are more generous in number, that bounty is normally halved when converting Altitude points into airline currency – so you won’t earn more frequent flyer points by switching across to an ‘Altitude’ product from the Earth or ‘Altitude Qantas’ cards.

Unaffected by the changes are the bank’s Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Platinum cards, the Altitude Business Gold cards and the BusinessChoice Rewards Qantas Aquire cards.

Westpac’s Altitude Business Platinum lines already sees reduced earning rates on government transactions (including ATO payments), but bring in 0.5 Altitude points per dollar on both the Visa and the American Express.

The bank’s range of frequent flyer credit cards join the ranks of those issued directly by American Express, where cards such as the Qantas Ultimate and the Platinum Edge already award only half a point per dollar spent with the ATO.

Westpac has not responded to Australian Business Traveller's telephone and email requests for comment.

Also read: ANZ to axe unlimited Qantas Points on credit cards

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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!

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 140

Bummer. I've certainly used this trick to rack up a huge number of miles. Where to next Chris. Should we switch to Amex's own cards? What's the best card for SQ points? Is it the Westpac Krisflyer card or is there a better one?

Hi bmc,

You'll find my thoughts on the best KrisFlyer-earning card in the linked Westpac Singapore Airlines Platinum review above.

As to the best credit cards for ATO payments, I'll leave that for other users to comment. :)

-Chris

17 Feb 2012

Total posts 121

Definately AMEX.  I get 1.5 points per dollar.  They do charge a s/c for using it - but well worth the ponts.

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 140

Which amex card is best. Which one do you have?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 2

Not all Amex cards give points while paying the ATO, they all do attract the 1.45% s/c.  I can't see any advantage using my card to pay the ATO.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Depending on your airline of choice, as I fly both regularly and I am talking our domestic duo.

So Virgin and Qantas:

I choose my card usage based on where I need my points which I guess is what everyone likely does although I find it easier to redeem award J and F flights with Qantas.

With Citibank Signature and Macquarie Platinum I earn 1 Q point for every dollar spent, no restictions.

My Virgin High flyer card earns me 1.25 V points for ever dollar.

As the fee to use VISA is 0.42% versus 1.45% for AMEX, its pretty clear which is the winner here. 


12 Sep 2014

Total posts 6

I think what people are asking is which card is best for ATO payments. Citibank etc. dont give you points for ATO payments as of last year

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 140

Spot on Eden. If I have to pay heaps of tax it may as we'll be worthwhile :)

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Eden,

I only recently got the Citibank card and was unaware they didnt accept ATO payments, thanks for the advice!

I have researched and cant see that Macquarie excluded it but it looks like the Virgin High Flyer card may be excluded as well?

So this would mean the Macquarie VISA would be the pick for ATO payments at 1 for 1 points plus the 0.42% fee?

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 140

Hi & thanks

I'm mostly interested in SQ Krisflyer points. Any idea which card (any provider) is best for Krisflyer

17 Feb 2012

Total posts 121

American Express again - you can transfer your pionts to virtually any FF account and early 1.5 points per dollar for Plat + Black.

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 140

Even with ATO payments Whippet?

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 6

So far I have been burnt with CBA & Virgin Velocity (they are citibank issued)

With AMEX (non bank issued) the points are very poor for ATO payments. Ok with regular purchases (on par with WBC) So, not worth it. Amex decreased their point system for ATO payments early this year by 2/3 -

             (...  other purchases excluding utilities, insurance (except those issued by American Express) and government bodies in Australia where you earn 0.5 Membership Rewards points4 per dollar spent)

No points with ANZ, which leaves only NAB - in their Terms, they specify no points for Gov. Taxes . All 4 banks do this but Westpac was still giving points despite this in the past. 

Any thoughts on NAB????

I looked at Macquarie but it looks like they are only linked to Qantas FF - their (QFF) taxes are so ridiculous ($1050 to paris) that it isnt worthwhile.

So either Macquarie, NAB or HBSC but I dont know anyone who has tried this with any of them.

 

Hi Eden,

Are you not earning ATO points with CBA, or were you just exceeding the points caps?

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Eden,

If you can confirm Macquarie then that would be the go. Yes Qantas taxes are high however being able to redeem flights is way more valuable. I redeemed first return trips to London with 3 weeks notice on full award booking. $1,700 taxes, 384,000 points. The flight to book would have been around $16,000 so well worth the taxes to pay. I am Platinum with Virgin and could only get one leg Abu Dabi Sydney in Business the rest economy.

 

bmc
bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 140

My reading of HSBC T&C don't expressly forbid ATO. They do forbid business expenses. Pity they don't have an AMEX option. 

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 6

Chris - With CBA, they stopped giving out points for ATO payments ( I have a diamond card with unlimited points anyway)

 

Darkav - agreed, the more expensive the class, the more worthwhile. In Economy, obviously not worth it. For business it would cost about $4k including qantas taxes and ATO fees but cant guarantee seating. For first, always worth it.

I just booked 4 business class return to PAris with Velocity - 1mil points inc taxes (payed taxes with points). (2 adult, 2 chil). Could not get 1 seat with qantas and would have cost me the same points and $4500 in extra taxes.

With Macquarie it looks like only linked to qantas but it is a gamble if nobody has tried it.

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 6

(sorry about spelling)

We need to know if NAB are still allowing points with ATO payments

As of my September statement  NAB Velocity Platinum still earns 1.5 points per $1 with the ATO.

18 Dec 2012

Total posts 9

So does anyone know difinitivuly which cards still earn points when charging to ATO?

From the older comments it seems only Macqaurire. Anyone ese? 

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Okay I checked with Macquarie over the phone and initially the girl said she thought no but double checked with her team. She then got back to me and said: ATO transactions will definitely earn qantas points.

So I'll be making a payment tomorrow and will double check next week to see if it has gone through. If it hasnt, I'll update the thread.

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 6

Hey there- did you get the points?

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Pretty sure, I'll double check tomorrow and get back to you.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Yes confirmed, macquarie card has earned me points on ATO transaction at 1 QF point per dollar. 

18 Sep 2014

Total posts 1

That's good news Darkavid99. Eden, I'm applying tonight for a macquarie credit card.

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 6

Hi

spoke to macquarie -they said definately wont get points for ATO payments

The girl I spoke to didnt know what I was talking about and asked her manager. 

 

I then sent them an email and they just gave me a number to ring which is the same number

Maybe small payments might slip to the keeper but it may be risky. I dont want to pay $1000's in fees and not get the points, so Krisflyer for me (got WBC to send me confirmation first)

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

Incredible aren't they. I have another payment of around $15,000 to make in about a week. I'll let you know.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Oct 2014

Total posts 1

Has anyone found a possible way to pay the ATO by Paypal? Having the AMEX linked would then solve the problem of points provided the banks dont add them to the list of non acruable or reduced points. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 340

Someone has reported that the KF platinum card is no longer available to new applicants.

There goes our last hope.....

17 Feb 2012

Total posts 121

I have said it once and I will say it again - I get $1:1  AMEX points on my centurion card. 

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 90

My other ATO payment of $15,000 went through and QF points were confirmed for Macquarie so it appears they certainly allow it.

17 Feb 2015

Total posts 3

How about Land Tax Payments? Is that also clamped down as well with WEstpac?

 


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