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Learn more about superannuation

What is an industry super fund?

If you’ve been comparing and researching superannuation funds, you’ve probably come across industry superannuation funds.

First established in the 1980s, industry super funds were intended to protect Australian workers in certain industries from high fees and commission products most commonly found in retail superannuation funds.

Back in the day, industry super funds were usually only open to members who worked in particular industries. These days, the larger industry super funds are open to anyone. However, there are some smaller industry super funds that are still restricted to employees in specific industries.

Unlike retail super funds, industry super funds don’t pay commissions or incentives to financial planners or financial advisers. Industry funds are not-for-profit organisations and are run to benefit members. As profits go back into the fund, industry super funds tend to have lower management fees than other types of retail (or for-profit) super funds. When it comes to governance, industry super funds are usually governed by trustee boards made up of both employers and employees.

Most industry super funds tend to be accumulation funds. Accumulation-style super works similarly to a regular bank account where the balance of your industry super account is built up by the deposits you make into it.

Funds are accumulated into industry super funds by way of:

  • compulsory employer contributions;
  • any additional contributions you make;
  • spouse contributions, or;
  • government co-contributions.

Your super contributions are then invested by your industry super fund into an investment option, either chosen by you, or chosen by your industry super fund as a default investment.

What is superannuation?

Superannuation (or ‘super’) is money paid into a specialised fund to go towards your retirement. By regularly investing money in a superannuation fund over the course of your career, you can build up a superannuation balance to enjoy when you retire.

To deal with an increasingly ageing population and reduce reliance on the government pension, superannuation became compulsory in Australia in 1992. Prior to this, retirees were relying on a mixture of their savings and the government pension to maintain a quality of life in retirement.

The current superannuation rate, known as the superannuation guarantee, is 9.5 per cent, which the government is set to gradually increase up to 12 per cent by 2025.

If you’re an employee, your employer must pay compulsory contributions of at least the superannuation guarantee rate. These contributions come from your pre-tax salary, and are deposited into your nominated super fund, whether it’s an industry super fund or another type. Regardless of whether you’re a full-time, part-time or casual employee, if you fit the criteria, your employer must make compulsory superannuation contributions on your behalf.

In addition to mandatory employer contributions, you also have the option of making voluntary contributions to your super account balance. There are limits to the amount of pre-tax income you can contribute into your super, so check with a financial adviser before you make any additional super contributions.

While superannuation is currently compulsory for employees in Australia, if you’re self-employed, you can still choose to open an industry super fund, but the responsibility is on you to make voluntary contributions to your account.

Pros and cons of industry super funds

When comparing the benefits and drawbacks of industry super funds, and how they stack up against other types of super funds, like retail or SMSF options, here’s what you need to know:


  • May suit time-poor workers: Industry super funds may suit Australian workers who don’t have the time or resources to manage their own super.
  • Often have fewer fees: As industry super funds are non-profit, with profits deposited back into the fund to benefit the members, they tend to have fewer fees than retail funds.
  • Simple, no-frills options available: Some industry super funds offer MySuper accounts, which are no-frills options offering lower fees and simple, easy-to-understand features.


  • May have fewer investment options: Industry super funds may have fewer types of investment options than funds offered by other financial institutions. While this may not be an issue for some people, those wanting more flexibility and diversification in their investment strategy might want to also compare either a retail super fund or a SMSF.
  • May have hands-off advice and assistance: When it comes to advice, financial services and other ongoing assistance, industry super funds tend to be less hands-on than retail funds. That’s not to say you’ll get no support, though if you’re looking for a super fund that offers more advice and interaction, you may want to also investigate other, more hands-on options.

How to compare industry super funds?

With so many different super funds on the market, comparing industry super funds and working out which one may suit your needs can be confusing. When comparing industry super funds, here’s what you need to know:

  • Investment options: Historically, industry super funds have offered fewer options than other types of super funds, but this has changed in recent years. Some people prefer to pick their own investments, so if you want this flexibility, search for an industry super fund that suits your preference.
  • Performance: While past performance is never a reliable indicator of future performance, it can help give you a rough idea of the type of investment returns you might be able to expect from your industry super fund. Compare the past five years of investment performance for different funds to get an idea of where you could potentially stand.
  • Fees and charges: Ongoing costs and maintenance fees can add up over the long term. As industry super funds invest profits back into the fund, this generally means that low-cost industry super funds have low fees and/or charge fewer fees than other retail or for-profit funds. With any superannuation fund, compare the fees and charges to the features and benefits, and consider whether the cost of fees will make an impact on your super balance, so you can be confident you’re getting what you pay for.
  • Insurance: These days, it’s common for super funds to offer insurance as an option within the fund. When you’re comparing industry super funds, check what insurances are on offer and whether the level of cover stacks up to policies held outside an industry super fund. An advantage of holding insurance within an industry super fund is that policies like life insurance, total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance, and income protection insurance are usually discounted. Also, premiums on insurances offered through an industry super fund are usually deducted from your super account, which can be tax effective in some cases.

Superannuation is a long-term investment designed to support you well into your retirement. Some people can compare super funds and still feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable deciding which fund works best for them and their financial situation. In that instance, a financial adviser or financial planner may be able to help you narrow down your options and provide financial advice. Before making any decisions, it always pays to do your research, read the product disclosure statement (PDS) and compare your options.

Frequently asked questions

What is a superannuation fund?

A superannuation fund is an institution that is legally allowed to hold and invest your superannuation. There are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia. They come in five different types:

  • Retail funds
  • Industry funds
  • Public sector funds
  • Corporate funds
  • Self-managed super funds

Retail funds are usually run by banks or investment companies.

Industry funds were originally designed for workers from a particular industry, but are now open to anyone.

Public sector funds were originally designed for people working for federal or state government departments. Most are still reserved for government employees.

Corporate funds are arranged by employers for their employees.

Self-managed super funds are private superannuation funds that allow people to directly invest their money.

What happens to my insurance cover if I change superannuation funds?

Some superannuation funds will allow you to transfer your insurance cover, without interruption, if you switch. However, others won’t. So it’s important you check before changing funds.

What are reportable superannuation contributions?

For employees, there are two types of reportable superannuation contributions:

  • Reportable employer super contributions your employer makes for you
  • Personal deductible contributions you make for yourself

How do I choose the right superannuation fund?

Different superannuation funds charge different fees, offer different insurances, offer different investment options and have different performance histories.

So you need to ask yourself these four questions when comparing superannuation funds:

  • How many fees would I have to pay and what would they cost?
  • What insurances are available and how much would they cost?
  • What investment options does it offer? How would they match my risk profile and financial needs?
  • How have these investment options performed historically?

How do I combine several superannuation accounts into one account?

The process used to consolidate several superannuation accounts into one is the same process used to change superannuation funds. This can be done through your MyGov account or by filling out a rollover form and sending it to your chosen fund.

How do you open a superannuation account?

Opening a superannuation account is simple. When you start a job, your employer will give you what’s called a ‘superannuation standard choice form’. Here’s what you need to complete the form:

  • The name of your preferred superannuation fund
  • The fund’s address
  • The fund’s Australian business number (ABN)
  • The fund’s superannuation product identification number (SPIN)
  • The fund’s phone number
  • A letter from the fund trustee confirming that the fund is a complying fund; or written evidence from the fund stating it will accept contributions from your new employer; or details about how your employer can make contributions to the fund

You might want to provide your tax file number as well – while it’s not a legal obligation, it will ensure your contributions will be taxed at the (lower) superannuation rate.

What is salary sacrificing?

A salary sacrifice is where your employer takes part of your pre-tax salary and pays it directly into your superannuation account. Salary sacrifices come out of your pre-tax income, whereas personal contributions come out of your after-tax income.

How does superannuation work?

Superannuation is paid by employers to employees, at least once every three months. The ‘superannuation guarantee’ is currently 9.5 per cent – which means that your employer must pay you superannuation equivalent to 9.5 per cent of your salary. The guarantee is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

Superannuation is generally taxed at 15 per cent. However, if you earn less than $37,000, you will be automatically reimbursed up to $500 of the tax you paid. Also, if your income plus concessional superannuation contributions exceed $250,000, you will also be charged Division 293 tax. This is an extra 15 per cent tax on your concessional contributions or the amount above $250,000 – whichever is lesser.

You can withdraw your superannuation when you meet the ‘conditions of release’. The conditions of release say you can claim your super when you reach:

  • Age 65
  • Your ‘preservation age’ and retire
  • Your preservation age and begin a ‘transition to retirement’ while still working


What is lost superannuation?

Lost superannuation refers to savings in an account that you’ve forgotten about. This can happen if you’ve opened several different accounts over the years while moving from job to job.

What are the age pension's age rules?

Australians must be aged at least 65 years and 6 months to access the age pension. This eligibility age is scheduled to increase according to the following schedule:

Date Eligibility age
1 July 2019 66 years
1 July 2021 66 years and 6 months
1 July 2023 67 years

Is superannuation paid on unused annual leave?

If your employment is terminated, superannuation will not be paid on unused annual leave.

What is MySuper?

MySuper accounts are basic, low-fee accounts. If you don’t nominate a superannuation fund, your employer must choose one for you that offers a MySuper account.

MySuper accounts offer two investment options:

  1. Single diversified investment strategy

Your fund assigns you a risk strategy and investment profile, which remain unchanged throughout your working life.

  1. Lifecycle investment strategy

Your fund assigns you an investment strategy based on your age, and then changes it as you get older. Younger workers are given strategies that emphasise growth assets

What contributions can SMSFs accept?

SMSFs can accept mandated employer contributions from an employer at any time (Funds need an electronic service address to receive the contributions).

However, SMSFs can’t accept contributions from members who don’t have tax file numbers.

Also, they generally can’t accept assets as contributions from members and they generally can’t accept non-mandated contributions for members who are 75 or older.

What happens to my superannuation when I change jobs?

You can keep your superannuation fund for as long as you like, so nothing happens when you change jobs. Please note that some superannuation funds have special features for people who work with certain employers, so these features may no longer be available if you change jobs.

When did superannuation start in Australia?

Australia’s modern superannuation system – in which employers make compulsory contributions to their employees – started in 1992. However, before that, there were various restricted superannuation schemes applying to certain employees in certain industries. The very first superannuation scheme was introduced in the 19th century.

How do you find superannuation?

Lost superannuation refers to savings in an account that you’ve forgotten about. This can happen if you’ve opened several different accounts over the years while moving from job to job.

You can use your MyGov account to see details of all your superannuation accounts, including any you might have forgotten. Alternatively, you can fill in a ‘Searching for lost super’ form and send it to the Australian Taxation Office, which will then search on your behalf.

What age can I withdraw my superannuation?

You can withdraw your superannuation (or at least some of it) when you reach ‘preservation age’. The preservation age is based on date of birth. Here are the six different categories:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

When you reach preservation age, you can withdraw all your superannuation if you’re retired. If you’re still working, you can begin a ‘transition to retirement’, which allows you to withdraw 10 per cent of their superannuation each financial year.

You can also withdraw all your superannuation once you reach 65 years.

What compliance obligations does an SMSF have?

SMSFs must maintain comprehensive records and submit to annual audits.

How do you set up superannuation?

Before you set up a superannuation account, you’ll need to check if you’re allowed to choose your own fund. Most Australians can, but this option doesn’t apply to some workers who are covered by industrial agreements or who are members of defined benefits funds.

Assuming you are able to choose your own fund, the next step should be research, because there are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia.

Once you’ve decided on your preferred superannuation fund, head to that provider’s website, where you should be able to fill in an online application or download the appropriate forms. You’ll need your tax file number (assuming you don’t want to be charged a higher tax rate), your contact details and your employer’s details (if you’re employed).

How do you claim superannuation?

There are three different ways you can claim your superannuation:

  • Lump sum
  • Account-based pension
  • Part lump sum and part account-based pension

Two rules apply if you choose to receive an account-based pension, or income stream:

  • You must receive payments at least once per year
  • You must withdraw a minimum amount per year
    • Age 55-64 = 4%
    • Age 65-74 = 5%
    • Age 75-79 = 6%
    • Age 80-84 = 7%
    • Age 85-89 = 9%
    • Age 90-94 = 11%
    • Age 95+ = 14%

If you want to work out how long your account-based pension might last, click here to access ASIC’s account-based pension calculator.