Whether it’s your yearly income tax or quarterly business statements, you might be wondering ‘how do I earn the most points with payments to the Australian Tax Office?’
There isn’t a set answer – cards and offers keep changing. Many banks now offer zero points on Australian Tax Office (ATO) transactions, and this is a trend that’s becoming increasingly common.
In this guide, we reveal the current list of cards that earn points with the ATO, as well as some points-earning alternative payment options.
1. Paying the ATO with a credit card directly
The primary way to make a payment 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.
ATO credit card payment fees
When paying the ATO directly using a credit card, you’ll incur a surcharge on the transaction. There is no way to avoid this without sacrificing the ability to earn rewards points.
|Payment method||Surcharge (as of Jan 2022)|
|Visa/Mastercard international payments||1.99%|
The surcharge amount is often a tax-deductible expense for a business, but double-check with your accountant or tax advisor for your own circumstances.
Your personal choices might dictate that payment via bank transfer or BPAY makes more sense than incurring a surcharge, so bear that in mind.
Which rewards cards earn points at the Australian Tax Office (ATO)?
Unfortunately, not many cards in Australia award points for direct payments to the ATO anymore. These are the ones that do:
|Credit Card||Points earned per $ spent||Points cap||Notes|
|Most American Express-issued Membership Rewards cards, including: |
|1 Membership Rewards points||Varies by card. Some none; some capped||Check the individual guides for each card in our cards table|
|Most American Express direct-earn cards, including: |
|0.5 Qantas or Velocity points||Varies by card. Some none; some capped||Check the individual guides for each card in our cards table|
| CommBank Business Platinum Awards||1 CommBank Awards point||300,000 CommBank Awards points per year||CommBank Awards terms explicitly permit points earned at the ATO and for Business Transactions up to the points cap. See Section 1.1 of the PDS →|
| NAB Qantas Business Signature Visa||0.66 Qantas Points||33,000 Qantas points per month||NAB states that payments you make to the Australian Taxation Office will earn you Qantas Points at the same rate as regular everyday business purchases. See the NAB website →|
Cards and banks that do not allow points earn for ATO transactions include (but are not limited to):
- ANZ Rewards & Frequent Flyer, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, Citi (and Citi-managed cards, including Virgin Money, CUA and Diners), CommBank (personal cards), HSBC, Jetstar Mastercard, Macquarie Platinum/Hilton, NAB (personal cards), Qudos Bank, St.George and Woolworths Money and most others.
Caveats and disclaimers
- Do your own research by reading the credit card and rewards program PDS documents, asking the relevant bank and comparing your research with other online sources.
- We have tried to make this list as complete and as accurate as possible. If we do miss a card, have an error in our calculations or made a mistake in the research, please let us know in the comments. There is no ranking or endorsement of a specific credit card implied in the above table.
- 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.
- We recommend considering a specific business credit card that explicitly permits points earn at the ATO if you have a high volume of business-related transactions.
- 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 – check the date at the top of this guide to see when it was last updated.
2. Using payment processors like Pay.com.au to earn points with the ATO
The list of banks offering points by directly paying the ATO is quite small now. But luckily, there is a way to earn full points on just about any card when paying the ATO and other businesses. The secret is third-party processors such as Pay.com.au, RewardPay, B2BPay, YakPay and Sniip.
Rather than making a credit card payment directly to the ATO, you can earn the full rate of credit card points by paying a surcharge to those services and having them make the payment to the ATO on your behalf. You might also earn bonus reward points from the processor on top of the transaction points.
Fees for payment processors
Payment fees vary for each provider, depending on a range of factors including transaction size. Expect to pay 1-2% in processing fees, on average. Sniip has the lowest rate for American Express payments to the ATO, at 1.5% including GST. You’ll earn full points on your Amex for those transactions.
But note that Sniip’s app-only experience can only be used for personal BPAY expenses, whereas Pay.com.au, RewardPay, B2BPay and YakPay are designed for general business expenses. If you’re paying invoices to different suppliers, then those processors should be your go-to.
Pay.com.au fees go as low as 0.80% for Mastercard credit cards, depending on your membership package. Given the ATO charges 0.77% but isn’t eligible for points from most banks, it certainly makes sense to pay a bit more through a payment processor and earn full points on all reward credit cards.
Be sure to run the sums to ensure the points you’re earning are worth more than the surcharge.
3. Working out if the surcharge is worth paying
The credit card surcharge is the key part of figuring out whether to use a points-earning credit card for ATO payments. In short, you want the value of the points earned to be worth more than the surcharge.
The first thing to consider is the value you place on your points. You can check out our list of rewards points values, which might help you. But points might be ‘worth’ more to you if you’re saving up for a big redemption, for example.
Once you have an idea of 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 is a simplified example.
Example 1: It makes sense to pay the ATO surcharge
Say your NAB Qantas Business Visa card earns 1 point per A$1.50 spent, and you value Qantas Points at 1.9 cents each. If your tax bill is $6,000, then you’ll earn 4,000 points, which have a value to you of $114.
With the ATO’s surcharge of 0.72% on Visa credit card payments, you are paying $43.20 to earn the 4,000 Qantas Points. In this case, you might consider paying using this credit card.
Example 2: It doesn’t make sense to pay the ATO surcharge
As an alternative example, let’s consider an American Express card that earns a capped 0.5 points per dollar. You’d earn 3,000 Qantas Points on the ATO bill, valued at $57 to you.
The surcharge of 1.45% means that you are paying $87 to earn the 1,000 points – more than what you valued it at. In this case, you might not consider paying using American Express. But fear not, because there are alternatives to earning full points with American Express, which we cover in Example 4.
Example 3: It makes sense to use Pay.com.au with Mastercard
This time, you want to use your Qantas Premier Platinum card which earns 1 point per A$1 spent. The Qantas Premier Platinum card usually earns no points with the ATO. But if you go via Pay.com.au, for example, you would incur a payment fee of $48 to $60, depending on your plan.
If your tax bill is $6,000, then you’ll earn up to 6,060 points, which have a value to you of $115. The points earned would outweigh the payment charge, especially if you can claim the processing fee on your tax (see a professional for further advice).
Example 4: It makes sense to use Sniip with American Express
As an alternative example, let’s consider the American Express Qantas Ultimate that earns a healthy 1.25 points per dollar for general purchases. If you paid the ATO directly, you’d only get 0.5 points per dollar instead. But by going through a payment processor like Sniip, your rewards will multiply.
On a $6,000 bill, the surcharge of 1.50% means that you are paying $90 to earn 7,612 Qantas Points worth $144 to you. That’s not a bad deal, particularly if you put those points towards Business Class and get even more ‘value’.
What to consider when paying a surcharge
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 will earn per dollar spent at the ATO
- The surcharge incurred for using your chosen payment method by the ATO
However, this analysis does not take into account:
- Any tax-deductibility of the ATO payment fee
- The cost of ownership of the credit card, such as its 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.
While we can’t recommend specific cards for your circumstances, this guide will help you by outlining your main options. Paying the ATO directly isn’t the best way to earn points anymore, due to the limited range of banks and cards that offer points on ATO payments.
Instead, consider using a third-party payment processor like Pay.com.au or Sniip to make the most of your rewards card. You’ll most likely pay a slightly higher fee, but you’ll earn full credit card points.
Given most of us will probably have to pay significant amounts to the ATO anyway, maximising a rewards-earning credit card is a great way to get rewarded sooner. Just be sure to always check the fees and crunch the numbers first.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are numerous ways to pay an ATO bill. BPAY is recommended for those who don’t want to pay any extra transaction fees, but reward points are not normally earned in this case.
Credit cards will incur a set fee depending on the card type. You could also process payments through a third party mentioned in this article, which would help earn rewards points.
No, not usually. Most banks and rewards credit cards do not consider BPAY transactions as eligible to earn rewards points.
According to the ATO website, card payment fees are not subject to goods and services tax (GST). However, it may be a deductible expense depending on your circumstances.
Yes, you can use an American Express card to pay the ATO. However, this normally incurs a higher payment fee compared to using an Australian-issued Visa or Mastercard.
Originally published by Matt Moffitt. Note that Point Hacks is affiliated with Pay.com.au.