How to make the most of bonus perks from your super fund

Key points

  • Super funds do much more than just look after your superannuation. Most also offer insurance, financial advice, online account access, retirement products, home loans, non-super investments, access to direct shares and even shopping discounts.
  • But their main job will still always be delivering long-term investment returns.
  • When choosing your super fund, look for funds with the best investment outcomes then worry about the extras.

The job of your MySuper product or super fund is making money for you and the other members. But super funds can do more for their members than just that so you don't have to wait until you retire before you can start getting something back.

They do this by setting up strategic partnerships and alliances with insurers, banks, financial advisers, travel companies and other product providers. Some super funds have so many features it makes them almost one-stop-financial-shops.

The battle for your loyalty that this race has ignited is so intense that some funds are updating their list of product features and offerings nearly every month.

Latest research

To find out what funds offer which extra features, Rainmaker each year analyses the incidence of over 50 individual features and benefits offerings across more than 500 superannuation and retirement products.

Rainmaker regularly finds that the extra features funds offer range from call centres to online account access, insurance, smart phone and tablet apps, financial products like home loans, shopping rewards, social media presence and even shopping discounts like health insurance, travel deals and gym memberships.

But while features like being online, having a call centre, life insurance, financial planning services or retirement products are offered by almost every super fund, other features like shopping and travel discounts and general insurance are offered by only a few funds.

So the message is clear: not all funds offer everything so if there's something special you want, you have to compare your fund in detail.

This race to have lots of product features is why the average number of features offered by funds has increased year on year and now stands at over 20, with the feature types growing the fastest being technology based communications and those features that reflect increased member engagement in investments and information about your portfolios.

An increasing number of super funds are offering access to cash term deposits within investment choice menus, regular investment reports and online investment switching. This reflects the growing interaction between super funds and their members regarding how the assets are invested and managed, although these features can at times make funds seem unnecessarily complex.

These coupled with the increase in transaction functionality (e.g., EFT/BPAY contributions, online account access, apps for mobile devices) also reflect this increased technology focus notwithstanding it's still surprising how few super funds have their own smartphone apps.

However, not all features and benefits are valued equally by all members so just because a fund has lots of product features doesn't mean it's the best superannuation fund - recall that the most important feature for your fund will always be delivering the best investment returns that it can.

MDI options and life stage investing

Member Direct Investment (MDI) options are like mini investment platforms that give super fund members direct access to the ASX 300, exchange traded funds (ETF), term deposits and listed investment companies (LIC).

Around 30% of workplace funds offer these options with a relatively even split between not-for-profit and retail funds. More than 40% of funds now offer cash term deposits.

Investment switching

If you are a fund member who likes to switch investments, make sure to check for funds that offer unlimited switches, that promise to do it quickly or that at least give you a reasonable number of free switches before they start charging you. Not all funds want you to switch investment choices too often so be careful to check the fine print if this is a feature that's important to you.

Extra benefits and MySuper

If you join a direct low-cost standalone MySuper product it is unlikely it will offer you many extra benefits. If you want access to these extra benefits you should instead join a regular super fund that contains a MySuper option because the extra benefits are available across the fund even if the member uses only the MySuper option.

Extra features available through super funds
Member Services Account Flexibility
Website Retirement Products
Online Account Access EFT / BPAY Contributions
Call Centre Spouse Accounts
Newsletters for Members Transition to Retirement Facility
Education Seminars Contribution Splitting
Newsletters for Employers Binding Death Benefit Nominations
Mobile Website or App Anti-Detriment Payments
Social Media Presence Can Handle Defined Benefit Arrangements
Online Membership Application Linked Account Fee Discounting
Webchat Can Join Without Employer
  Children's Super Accounts
  Home Saver Accounts
Investment Flexibility Ancillary Services
Investment Choice Non-Super Investment Products
Multi-Manager Investment Choice(s) Home Loans
Online Investment Switching Personal Loans
Monthly or Quarterly Investment Reports Credit Cards
Choice of Asset Allocation Savings Account
Ethical / SRI Investment Choice(s) Insurance - Private Health
Term Deposit Investment Choice Business Loans
Choice of Fund Managers Insurance - Travel
Age-Based Investment Choice Shopping Discounts
Automatic Portfolio Rebalancing Insurance - Car
Direct Shares Investment Facility Travel Discounts
Dollar Cost Averaging Investment Plan Insurance - Home (building)
  Insurance - Home (contents)
Insurance Options Financial Advice
Insurance - Death and TPD Financial Advice - Limited
Insurance - Death Only Financial Advice - Full Financial Planning
Insurance - Income Protection Robo or online advice

Source: Rainmaker Information

 A beginner's guide to lifecycle superannuation productsA history of superannuation in Australia 

Further Reading