One of the questions often considered by anyone who has to pay tax bills to the ATO is ‘how do I earn the most points on this transaction?’
The answer is a moveable feast – cards keep changing, so we’ve attempted to bring our list of cards that allow points to be earned when paying your tax bill.
Many banks explicitly prohibit earning points on these types of transactions, with a common theme of more banks explicitly removing ATO payments as being eligible for points earn.
There are a few cards on the market that do still offer the ability to earn points for ATO transactions, and in this guide we’ll cover off the current list of cards, their notable terms and restrictions, and a small number of points-earning alternative payment options.
Key changes as of May 2017
We have now factored in the following recent changes announced by banks into this guide:
- The Commonwealth Bank Business Platinum card has had earn rates on American Express cards cut and moved to bonus points on specific categories, in which the ATO is excluded – as a result the MasterCard now offers better value (but lower numbers of points returned) for spend at the ATO
- Westpac Altitude Black removed from the included options as points for any ATO spend being removed on July 1st
- The American Express Qantas Discovery and Velocity Escape cards have had their earn rates for ATO spend halved
Navigating this guide
This a complex topic that requires explanation. There’s no single best answer for everyone – it will depend on the cards you may already hold and the rate at which you are prepared to fund a surcharge in order to use your credit card.
As a result this guide is split into several sections:
- Caveats and disclaimers ↓
- Cards that earn points at the ATO ↓
- Considerations when using points-earning credit cards to make tax office payments ↓
- How to make a payment to the ATO using a credit card ↓
- Using RewardPay to make a payment to the ATO using American Express instead of paying the ATO directly ↓
- A detailed look at the PDS/Terms & Conditions for the cards referenced ↓
- Other options for paying the ATO and earning points ↓
If you’re planning on making a payment to the ATO using a credit card, you should absolutely read this guide in its entirety – there’s a lot of important and useful info in here! Set aside some time to read and understand it in full.
Please note – caveats and disclaimers!
This list comes with some caveats. Please read and understand these before making any decision around which credit cards to use for ATO Payments.
- Do your own research by reading the Credit Card and Rewards Program PDS documents, asking the relevant bank, and your own research from other online sources.
- We have tried to make this list as complete and as accurate as possible, but it’s possible we could have missed a card, have an error in our calculations, or didn’t complete quite enough research. Please let us know in the comments of this article if you find anything wrong.
- There are legitimate reasons for having to pay the ATO as either a personal entity, or as a business entity. Many banks prohibit unreasonable amounts of business transactions on personal cards. We have tried to note the relevant terms and conditions of different bank rewards programs below. Our recommendation: if using a card extensively for business purposes, consider a specific business credit card that explicitly permits points earn at the ATO.
- Any advice in this guide is general advice only and does not consider any of your personal circumstances and existing banking relationships / products.
- Things can change. This list was last published / updated on the date shown at the top of this guide. We will try and keep it updated, but it may not be absolutely current.
Frequent Flyer / Rewards Credit Cards that earn points at the Australian Tax Office (ATO)
|Credit Card||Effective cost per frequent flyer point earned when paying ATO surcharge||Points earned @ ATO||Comments / Notes||Points Caps|
|Commonwealth Bank Business Awards Platinum|
|1.08c per Velocity Point or|
1.35c per Qantas Point
(0.54c per Commonwealth Awards point)
|1 Awards points per $ spent on MasterCard |
0.5 Velocity Points per $
0.4 Qantas Points per $
|CBA Awards Terms explicitly permit points earned at the ATO and for Business Transactions up to the points cap - see notes below|
Points calculations made assuming transactions on the MasterCard, which for changes effective July 1 offers better value/return for ATO spend than the American Express
|300,000 CBA Awards points per year =
150,000 Velocity Points per year
120,000 Qantas Points per year
|Bankwest Qantas World MasterCard|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|0.81c per Qantas Point||0.66 Qantas Points per $||Bankwest Qantas Rewards terms exclude points earn on, amongst other things, "government charges" and "business related expenses"- see notes below|
Bankwest Qantas World is invite only so Platinum included as additional reference point.
No changes to Bankwest cards announced yet in 2017.
|Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|1.08c per Qantas Point||0.5 Qantas Points per $||200,000 Qantas Points per year|
|St. George Amplify Signature Visa|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|1.44c per Qantas or Velocity Point|
1.8c per KrisFlyer Mile or Asia Mile
(0.72c per Amplify Rewards point)
|1.5 Amplify Rewards points per $ |
0.75 Qantas or Velocity Points per $
0.75 KrisFlyer or Asia Miles per $
|Amplify Terms don't specify / disallow points earn for government/ATO but generally only allow points earn on personal transactions - see notes below|
Birthday bonus adds 10% extra points each year you hold the card ongoing
|Coles Rewards MasterCard (flybuys)|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|0.62c per Velocity Point |
0.675c per Etihad Guest mile
(0.27c per flybuys point)
|2 flybuys points per $|
0.87 Velocity Points per $ or
0.8 Etihad Guest miles per $
|flybuys MasterCard terms & conditions prohibit points earning for business transactions - see notes below||Uncapped|
|Westpac Altitude Business Platinum|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|2.16c per Qantas or Velocity Point|
2.7c per KrisFlyer Mile or Asia Mile
(1.08c per Altitude Rewards point)
|0.5 Altitude Rewards points per $ on Visa|
0.25 Qantas / Velocity Points per $
0.2 KrisFlyer / Asia Miles per $
|Same points earn with American Express and Visa - cost per point calculated with Visa surcharge. |
Altitude Rewards terms explicitly specify points earn rates and that ATO transactions will earn points at those rates. Business transactions are included as this is a business card - see notes below
|Most other American Express-issued Cards|
e.g. Platinum Edge, Platinum Charge, Business Accelerator
|2.9c per point (various rewards programs)||0.5 points per $ spent||Check the individual guides for each card in our cards table|
|Paying the ATO via RewardPay|
|American Express Business Accelerator|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|1.2c per Velocity Point, & per KrisFlyer / Asia Mile|
(1.2c per Membership Rewards Ascent point up to points cap)
|Full earn rate with RewardPay payment|
2.4% surcharge + GST applies with RewardPay
|RewardPay can only be used for payments between entities with an ABN, in this case the payee and the ATO. RewardPay only accepts American Express cards.|
American Express-issued cards (e.g. Business Accelerator and Explorer examples given) don't explicitly forbid business related transactions on the card.
|100,000 points at 2 Membership Rewards points per $ per year
1 point per $ after
|American Express Explorer|
Notes ↓ | Guide →
|1.6c per Velocity Point, & per KrisFlyer / Asia Mile|
(1.2c per Membership Rewards Gateway point)
|Non Credit Card Options|
|2.16c per Qantas Point||0.25 Qantas Points per $||Business and government transactions not mentioned as disallowed in terms - see notes below|
Ability to pay ATO and earn points is anecdotally possible. Untested by Point Hacks however.
|Effective maximum of $100,000 loaded per 12 month period = 50,000 points earned
See notes on load and balance caps
|Velocity Global Wallet|
|1.08c per Velocity Point||0.5 Velocity Points per $||See notes on balance caps, and the possibility that this option maybe withdrawn in future|
About this table
- There is no ranking or endorsement of a specific credit card implied in the above table.
- We have included the highest points earner in each bank’s card range, regardless of annual fee, to keep things as simple as possible.
The following cards/banks do not earn points for ATO transactions: ANZ Rewards & Frequent Flyer, CBA (personal cards), Citi (and managed cards, including Virgin Money, CUA and Diners), NAB, HSBC, Qudos Bank, Macquarie Platinum / Hilton, Jetstar MasterCard, Woolworths Money, and as of July 1st, Westpac Altitude Black – and most others.
Considerations when using a points-earning credit card to make a tax office payment
There are a handful of different ways to make a payment to the ATO, and this guide is focused on the ability to make a payment that earns rewards points.
There’s also the option of using RewardPay with your American Express card to make a payment to the ATO using their payment service. More on this below.
When paying the ATO directly using a credit card, you’ll incur a surcharge on the payment.
Current credit card surcharges for payments to the ATO
|Payment Method||Surcharge Imposed by ATO|
|Visa / MasterCard||0.54%|
|Others (Bank Transfer, BPAY)||None|
The surcharge amount is often a tax deductable expense for a business – but double check with your accountant or tax advisor for your own circumstances if planning to claim this expense as a tax deduction, or if this is important to you.
Your personal circumstances might dictate that a payment via Bank Transfer or BPAY makes more sense than incurring a surcharge, so bear that in mind. Any advice on this guide is general only and does not take into account your personal circumstances.
How to work out whether the ATO credit card surcharge is worth paying
This is a key part of figuring out whether to use a points-earning credit card for ATO payments.
The first thing to consider is the value you place on your points. You can check out my list of rewards points values here, which might help you.
Once you have a handle on how much you value a point, you can then place a value on the total number of points earned by paying the ATO with a credit card surcharge.
Here’s a simplified example.
Say you have a 1 point per dollar earn on a MasterCard or Visa, and you value the points earned at 1.5c per point. If the tax bill you have to pay is $2,000, then you’ll earn 2,000 points, which have a value to you of $30.00.
With the ATO’s surcharge of 0.54% on MasterCard/Visa payments, you are paying $10.80 to earn the 2,000 points, or 0.54c per point. The $10.80 paid is less than the $30.00 you value the points earned, so in this case you may consider paying using this credit card.
As an alternative example, let’s consider an example with an American Express, with a 0.5 point per $ earn rate. The surcharge of 1.45% means that you are paying 2.9c per point, which is higher than the 1.5c per point value you place on the points earned, so in this case you most likely wouldn’t consider paying using this credit card.
So three things you need to consider before you decide whether a surcharge is worth paying:
- The value you place on points you earn with your credit card
- How many points the credit card you are planning to use earns per $ spent at the ATO
- The surcharge incurred for using your chosen payment method (either by the ATO, or as an alternative, with RewardPay – more on that below).
Important! This analysis does not take into account:
- Any tax-deductability of the ATO payment fee
- The cost of ownership of the credit card, such as it’s annual fee
- The cost of any interest incurred for balances you are carrying on the card – the assumption in this guide is that no interest will be paid for your ATO payment. If you are planning on carrying the ATO balance on a card and incurring interest on this balance, then the interest incurred will likely be far higher in cost than the value of the points earned.
How to make a payment by credit card directly to the Australian Tax Office
The primary way to make a payment to the ATO by credit card is to head to the ATO EasyPay Portal and input the reference number given to you by your accountant or the ATO for your payment.
Alternative option: using RewardPay to pay the ATO using American Express and earn frequent flyer points
Disclaimer: We originally wrote about RewardPay in 2016, and this content reflects our personal opinion of the service as a long-time user. RewardPay is now a Point Hacks commercial partner as of April 2017.
In short, RewardPay is a business to business payment service that only allows it’s members to use American Express cards, with a 2.4% + GST surcharge.
It’s reasonable to assume that using RewardPay with a personal American Express that doesn’t permit business transactions (read the section on terms and conditions for each card below) might cause issues with your account.
That said, assuming you have a card that is OK for business-related transactions, paying the surcharge to make a bank transfer using your American Express card may make sense if your card earns at least 1.5 frequent flyer points per $ spent – read the RewardPay guide to understand how that’s calculated.
One option here is then the American Express Business Accelerator card which earns 2 Membership Rewards points (equivalent to 2 frequent flyer points in most partner programs) per $ spent, up to 100,000 points per year.
There’s also the American Express Explorer card which has no points cap, and earns 2 Membership Rewards Gateway points which are equivalent to 1.5 frequent flyer points in most partner frequent flyer programs.
American Express terms and conditions for most of their personal cards do not specify that business-related transactions would be excluded from earning points – indeed, using personal cards for business purposes is definitely permitted by American Express.
If you have an American Express that you can use with RewardPay, paying the ATO is just like paying another supplier using the RewardPay platform – you use the ATO’s ABN and address details.
RewardPay promote this payment option for making payments to tac office in their marketing materials to their existing and potential customers. For more questions about this, you’d be best to contact RewardPay directly.
For the most current ABN and address details for ATO RewardPay, please visit the ATO website.
A detailed look at the PDS/Terms & Conditions for the cards referenced in the table
Let’s get stuck into some details of some of the cards in the table and their related terms and conditions.
Some unrelated terms between section headings and conditions have been removed for readability – these are marked with a ‘…’.
Commonwealth Bank Business Awards Platinum American Express & MasterCard
There’s a $300 annual fee with this card, and business transactions along with points earn at the ATO are expressly permitted. The PDS for the CBA Business Platinum account is here.
Platinum Business Awards and Platinum Business Awards with Qantas Frequent Flyer Direct
Platinum Business Awards Members may earn a maximum of 300,000 Awards points per year…
- Earn 3 Awards point per $1 spent using linked American Express Card
- Earn 1 Awards point per $1 spent using MasterCard
The following transactions are excluded from earning points: BPAY transactions, payments to the Australian Taxation Office (effective 2/11/2015) unless made using a Business Awards card…
- …transactions deemed by the Bank to be for business purposes (excluding transactions on Business Awards, Business Gold Awards and Business Platinum Awards cards)
To then calculate how many CBA Awards points are needed to transfer to frequent flyer programs, reference the Awards Program terms here.
- 1 Qantas Frequent Flyer point = 2.5 Awards for Platinum
- 1 Velocity Frequent Flyer point = 2 CommBank Awards points for Platinum
And thus we get to the earn costs and rates shown in the table at the start of this guide.
Bankwest Qantas World and Platinum MasterCards
Qantas Points are earned on all purchases made using the Card Account except:
- … Government charges (other than GST payable in connection with the purchase of goods or services on which you earn Qantas Points)
- Business Related Expenses; and
- any other transactions which from time to time may be excluded by us.
There is no definition of ‘Government charges’ in the document so it’s unclear if Bankwest do consider a personal transaction to the ATO as a Government charge. It is clear the card shouldn’t be used for business related expenses, and that the bank can also decide that any transaction they feel like can be excluded from point earning.
St. George Amplify Visa
The St. George Amplify Visa PDS for Amplify Rewards is here.
You are not entitled to Amplify Points (and we may correct the Amplify Rewards Account points record by deleting Amplify Points invalidly awarded) if:
- … a transaction relates to the conduct of a business, the Card or the Card Account is used to make purchases that are business-related (including any expenditure of a personal business nature) or the Card is used to purchase goods or services that are not used wholly or predominantly for personal, domestic or household purposes
Points earn on transactions at the ATO is not expressly defined.
So while the card can offer points at the ATO, it is not designed to do so for business purposes.
Westpac Altitude Business Platinum
Compared to the Altitude Rewards personal card terms, the condition specifying use of the card for business-related transactions is not present (as you’d expect given the business nature of the card).
The terms state explicitly that points earn at the ATO is permitted:
Altitude Business Platinum accounts:
0.5 (Altitude Rewards) points per $1.00 spent on government payments using your Altitude Business Platinum Visa or Altitude Business Platinum American Express Card
Coles Rewards MasterCard
Coles do not specify that the Coles Rewards MasterCard forbids points being earned for government or ATO charges. The PDS for this card is here.
However, transactions for business purposes are defined as an ineligible transaction for earning points:
Excluded Transactions means:
(7) transactions Wesfarmers Finance decides are wholly or partly for business purposes
In addition, Wesfarmers, the owner of Coles and Coles Finance products, sold the Coles credit card business to Citi in February 2017. This could mean that at some point the cards are moved over to being issued and managed by Citi, who don’t permit earning points at the ATO for any of their cards, including those from Virgin Money who they also issue credit cards for.
Points-earning non-Credit Card Options for ATO Payments
There are a small number of payment options outside using the EasyPay portal or RewardPay with a credit card for paying the ATO – primarily Visa or MasterCard debit cards, which is the case for Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet.
As a general note, the primary difference between using a prepaid card option vs a credit card is that you’ll need to fund the account before making a payment. You’ll need to bear that in mind from a cashflow perspective.
This states, that for earning points:
Eligible purchases include all purchases of goods and services made using Qantas Cash, but excludes money orders, traveller’s cheques, gambling chips or purchasing foreign currencies in cash.
Given this is not a credit card, there are other restrictions and considerations in how it can be used. These are the key things to be aware of for this use case. The PDS states:
- Maximum individual amount you can load on Qantas Cash in any 24-hour period: AUD $20,000
- Maximum value of point of sale (POS) transactions performed in any 24-hour period: AUD $15,000 or equivalent
- Maximum balance allowed at any one time across all Currencies: AUD 100,000 or equivalent
- Maximum amount you can load across all Currencies during a 12-month period: AUD 100,000 or equivalent
If you can’t load money onto the card, you can’t use it to pay for anything, so there is a rolling 12 month points cap of 50,000 Qantas Points that can be earned on Qantas Cash across all transactions.
Velocity Global Wallet
Velocity Frequent Flyer Points are not earned on other kinds of debit transactions such as cash withdrawals, gambling transactions, quasi cash transactions (such as money orders, travellers’ cheques and foreign currencies in cash), debits for fees and charges, transfers between Wallets or adjustment transactions.
However, Matt commented below that in a conversation about earning payments from ATO spend with Velocity Global Wallet that this option would be withdrawn. The PDS, at this point, does not disclose this.
When it comes to limits of the account:
8.1 The limits shown in the following table apply to Funds Credits and the maximum Available Balance that can be loaded:
- …$25,000 AUD maximum load amount
- $25,000 maximum balance
It doesn’t appear that there is a 12 month cap like Qantas Cash, but if using the card for larger payments you will need to bear that load limit in mind.
Another option could be BPAY from a credit card – but I haven’t researched or included those in the list.
Other options for paying the ATO and earning points
Another option for making payments to the ATO is to jump on prepaid debit MasterCard or Visa deals that can initially be purchased using a points-earning credit card.
Usually the cost of acquisition of these cards is too high, but there can be short-term offers for which you need to keep an eye out for, and then apply the same maths as above to figure out cost of payment method vs points earned.
There are also other hazards in using prepaid cards to pay the ATO – depending on the amount of money that can be loaded onto the card at point of purchase, you could be running many cards through the ATO payment portal, and each payment and its surcharge would need to be accounted for independently if it’s being made on behalf of a business.
There’s no ‘best option’ amongst this list, as the permitted transactions, points earned with each card, and associated cost (and return in points) of payment to the ATO varies greatly from card to card.
We also can’t recommend specific cards to use for your circumstances – so dig through the table and the list of considerations above and try and find an option that works for your own valuation of points and whether it is worth paying the ATO surcharge to earn them.
RewardPay is probably the most stable option for now, in that their service works with any American Express card, and their fees are well defined and haven’t changed since they launched.
Their fees could change, of course, but I would consider that unlikely. American Express-issued cards such as the Business Accelerator or American Express Explorer would be cards to target to earn the most points when using their service.
Earning points from transactions to the ATO – once you have a card that offers this option – can be a very simple way to build your points balances from payments you had to make anyway.
It could also be a costly mistake if you over-value the points earned or pay using a card that you thought earned points with ATO transactions, but didn’t.
There’s no doubt this is a complex and ever-changing landscape. You can keep up to date on changes being made by banks this year in our RBA changes round up.
To sum up: there are still a number of points-earning credit cards for spend with the ATO, and our general advice is to try to read and understand the terms of each card as much as possible and try and find the right fit for your own circumstances and preferences.