Which credit cards earn points for tax payments at the ATO?

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?’

Many banks explicitly prohibit earning points on these types of transactions, with a common theme this year of 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.


Navigating this guide

This is a bit of a beast, as it’s a complex topic that requires explanation. As a result this guide is split into several sections:

  1. Caveats and disclaimers ↓
  2. Cards that earn points at the ATO ↓
  3. Considerations when using points-earning credit cards to make tax office payments ↓
  4. How to make a payment to the ATO using a credit card ↓
  5. Using RewardPay to make a payment to the ATO using American Express instead of paying the ATO directly ↓
  6. A detailed look at the PDS/Terms & Conditions for the cards referenced ↓
  7. Other options for paying the ATO and earning points ↓

If you’re planning on making a payment to the ATO using a credit card, we strongly recommend you 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 CardCost per point earned when paying ATO surchargePoints earned @ ATOComments / NotesPoints Caps
Commonwealth Bank Business Awards Platinum

Notes ↓
0.48c per Awards point

equates to
0.96c per Velocity Point or
1.2c per Qantas Point
3 Awards points per $ spent on American Express
=
1.5 Velocity Points per $
1.2 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 can also be earned on the linked MasterCard at lower ATO surcharge but at reduced earn rate of 1 Awards point per $. Cost per point is slightly higher when using MasterCard.
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 Point0.66 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
Uncapped
Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard

Notes ↓ | Guide →
1.08c per Qantas Point0.5 Qantas Points per $200,000 Qantas Points per year
American Express Velocity Escape

Notes ↓ | Guide →
1.45c per Velocity Point1 Velocity Point per $No explicit exclusion of business transactions or government/ATO points earn in terms - see notes belowUncapped
American Express Qantas Discovery

Notes ↓ | Guide →
2.90c per Qantas Point1 Qantas Point per $Uncapped
St. George Amplify Signature Visa

Notes ↓ | Guide →
0.72c per Amplify Rewards point

equates to
1.44c per Qantas or Velocity Point
1.8c per KrisFlyer Mile or Asia Mile
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
Uncapped
Westpac Altitude Black

Notes ↓ | Guide →
0.97c per Altitude Rewards point

equates to
1.94c per Qantas Point or Velocity Point
2.42c per KrisFlyer Mile or Asia Mile
1.5 Altitude Rewards points per $ on American Express
=
0.75 Qantas or Velocity Points per $
0.6 KrisFlyer or Asia Miles per $
Altitude Rewards terms explicitly specify points earn rates and that ATO transactions will earn points at those rates, but also generally exclude business related transactions from earning points - see notes belowUncapped
Westpac Altitude Business Platinum

Notes ↓ | Guide →
1.08c per Altitude Rewards point

equates to
2.16c per Qantas or Velocity point
2.7c per KrisFlyer Mile or Asia Mile
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
Uncapped
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 $ spentCheck the individual guides for each card in our cards table
Paying the ATO via RewardPay
American Express Business Accelerator

Notes ↓ | Guide →
1.2c per Membership Rewards Ascent point

equates to
1.2c per Velocity Point, & per KrisFlyer / Asia Mile
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 →
1.2c per Membership Rewards Gateway point

equates to
1.6c per Velocity Point, & per KrisFlyer / Asia Mile
Uncapped
Non Credit Card Options
Qantas Cash

Notes ↓
1.08c per Qantas Point0.5 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

Notes ↓
1.08c per Velocity Point0.5 Velocity Points per $See notes on balance caps

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. For example, the Westpac Altitude Black is listed, but Westpac Altitude Platinum also earns for ATO transactions but at a lower rate, and with a monthly points cap.

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 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.

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 MethodSurcharge Imposed by ATO
American Express1.45%
Visa / MasterCard0.54%
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:

  1. The value you place on points you earn with your credit card
  2. How many points the credit card you are planning to use earns per $ spent at the ATO
  3. 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:

  1. Any tax-deductability of the ATO payment fee
  2. The cost of ownership of the credit card, such as it’s annual fee
  3. 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

We’ve written in depth about RewardPay here.

RewardPay Homepage

In short, RewardPay is a business to business payment service that only accepts 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 aside, 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.

Paying the ATO via RewardPay is just like paying another supplier – you use the ATO’s ABN and address details.

I had this confirmed as a viable way to pay the ATO by RewardPay directly and they recently promoted this option in an email to their customers.

For the most current ABN and address details for ATO RewardPay, please viti 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.

This states:

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

Section 18
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.

This states:

  • 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.

Back up to table ↑

Bankwest Qantas World and Platinum MasterCards

The Bankwest Qantas PDS can be found here.

This states:

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.

Back up to table ↑

American Express Velocity Escape and Qantas Discovery Cards

The relevant PDS for the Velocity Escape card is here, and the Qantas Discovery card is here.

Neither PDS explicitly prohibits business transactions, and while the Velocity Escape still earns 1 point per dollar on all spend including government transactions, utilities and insurances, earn rates for government transactions on the Qantas Discovery card had recently been reduced to 0.5 point per dollar (which is the case for most other American Express-issued cards).

Back up to table ↑

St. George Amplify Visa

The St. George Amplify Visa PDS for Amplify Rewards is here.

This states:

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.

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Westpac Altitude Black

The PDS for Westpac Altitude Rewards personal cards is here.

This states:

How do you earn points on your Altitude Black card account?
The number of points you earn on your Altitude Black account is uncapped. You earn Altitude Points on the following basis…

  • 1.5 Altitude Points for each $1.00 paid to the ATO using your Altitude Black American Express Card.

And:

When we will not award points or fulfil reward claim
You are not entitled to points (and we may correct your points record by deleting points invalidly awarded) if…
… a transaction relates to the conduct of a business, the card 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

So ATO earn rates are explicitly published and permitted, but you aren’t permitted to use the card for business-related transactions.

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Westpac Altitude Business Platinum

The PDS for Westpac Altitude Rewards Business cards is here.

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:

Section 3
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

Back up to table ↑

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.

Qantas Cash

The PDS for Qantas Cash is here.

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

The PDS for Velocity Global Wallet is here.

This states:

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.

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.

Summing Up

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.

Everyone also values their rewards points differently, so the propensity to accept a surcharge to earn more points varies from person to person.

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. 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.