If you’re applying to join a super fund for the first time or thinking about making a switch, chances are you’re looking for a fund with low fees.

While the amount and type of fees a superannuation fund charges can impact your super balance over the long term, there are also a number of other factors to consider to find a super fund that’s right for you.

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Learn more about superannuation

What types of fees do super funds charge?

Super funds charge a range of fees for different purposes, usually on a monthly basis or if you take an action (such as switching funds). The most common types of superannuation fees include:

  • Administration fees – General fees to cover the cost of managing and operating your super fund membership.
  • Advice fees – Fees for financial advice given about your super and investments.
  • Investment fees – Fees for investment management, which can differ depending on the fund and investment strategy.
  • Switching and exit fees – Fees for changing your investment mix within the fund, or leaving the fund altogether.
  • Transaction fees – Fees payable when you make a transaction such as contributing to the fund or withdrawing money.
  • Insurance premiums – The cost of insurance coverage such as death cover, income protection cover and/or total and permanent disability cover.

Typically, these fees are deducted from your super balance any time you fulfil the criteria for being charged. In the case of admin fees, you’re usually charged each month that you’re a member of the fund.

Do low-fee super funds equal better returns?

The short answer is that it depends. In some cases, choosing a fund with lower fees may be worthwhile because lower fees means more of your money can be reinvested and grow over time. For example, if your super balance is relatively low, you might choose a low-fee fund so that the fees don’t cut into your modest balance too significantly.

Over the long term, however, lower fees don’t necessarily mean better returns for you. Your returns are based on a number of factors, including how you choose to invest your money, your particular super fund’s performance and the performance of the market. So while high fees can eat into your overall balance and returns, they shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when choosing a super fund.

Other factors to consider when choosing a super fund

Selecting an appropriate super fund isn’t just about choosing the fund with the lowest fees. Here are some of the other key considerations:

  • Performance – This refers to the investment returns a super fund has seen over a specified period, expressed as a percentage. Keep in mind that super is a long-term investment and returns fluctuate regularly – so it’s best to look at a fund’s overall returns over a longer-term period, minus fees and tax. Past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance, but it's worth comparing your fund's investment performance over at least five years.
  • Investment options – Most super funds offer different investment options ranging from stable (such as cash investment) to highly volatile (such as 100 per cent investment in shares and property), with balanced options in between. It's worth noting that funds with higher risk investment options may charge higher fees than more conservative funds, as it can cost more to invest in higher growth assets. Make sure that the fund you choose has a suitable investment option for your needs.
  • Extra benefits – Some employers pay more than the minimum contributions through certain funds. Consider whether you have access to an employer- or industry-specific fund where you can take advantage of these benefits.
  • Insurance – Most funds offer some level of life insurance cover for a fee. Check what coverage is available and the cost.
  • Customer service – Look for a fund that can offer support when you need it, and consider the fees charged for services like financial advice.

How to check your superannuation fees

Super funds are required to report the fees they charge in the fund’s product disclosure statement (PDS) and on your annual statement. You can also access information about your fund, including your fees and your account balance, by logging into your super account online.

While you're at it, be sure to check your fund's performance and compare it alongside the fees you're charged, as both should be taken into consideration.

It’s important to understand what you’re paying for when you pay super fees. If you’re not sure why a certain fee is charged, get in touch with your super fund or a financial adviser for more information.

Where to find the lowest-fee superannuation funds in Australia

You can find out how your current super fund’s fees and costs shape up by doing a super fund comparison. Look at other fund’s fee structures and costs to weigh up whether the fees you’re paying are reasonable.

Remember that low fees aren’t the only yardstick for determining the best fund for your retirement savings. It’s worth also considering long-term performance, investment options, benefits and insurance to get a clearer picture of whether a super fund is right for your individual financial situation.

Frequently asked questions

What fees do superannuation funds charge?

Superannuation funds can charge a range of fees, including:

  • Activity-based fees – for specific, irregular services, such as splitting an account after a divorce
  • Administration fees – to cover the cost of managing your account
  • Advice fees – for personal investment advice
  • Buy/sell spread fees – when you make contributions, switches and withdrawals
  • Exit fees – when you close your account
  • Investment fees – to cover the cost of managing your investments
  • Switching fees – when you choose a new investment option within the same fund

How do I change my superannuation fund?

Changing superannuation funds is a common and straightforward process. You can do it through your MyGov account or by filling out a rollover form and sending it to your new fund. You’ll also have to provide proof of identity.

Can I take money out of my superannuation fund?

Superannuation is designed to provide Australians with money in their retirement. The government has strict rules around when people can take that money out of their fund because it wants to prevent people eroding their savings before they reach retirement.

As a general rule, you can only take money out of your superannuation fund when you reach:

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

That said, you can take money out of your superannuation fund early based on one of these seven special conditions:

  • Compassionate grounds
  • Severe financial hardship
  • Temporary incapacity
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Superannuation inheritance
  • Superannuation balance under $200
  • Temporary resident departing Australia

What superannuation details do I give to my employer?

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 should also provide your tax file number – while it’s not a legal obligation, it will ensure your contributions will be taxed at the (lower) superannuation rate.

How do you create a superannuation account?

Before you create 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).

What happens if my employer falls behind on my superannuation payments?

The Australian Taxation Office will investigate if your employer falls behind on your superannuation payments or doesn’t pay at all. You can report your employer with this online tool.

How is superannuation calculated?

Superannuation is calculated at the rate of 9.5 per cent of your gross salary and wages. So if you had a salary of $50,000, your superannuation would be 9.5 per cent of that, or $4,750. This would be paid on top of your salary.

The ‘superannuation guarantee’, as it is known, has been at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It 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.

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

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm a contractor?

As a contractor, you’re entitled to superannuation if:

  • The contract is mainly for your labour
  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

Please note that you’re entitled to superannuation even if you have an Australian business number (ABN).

How much money do you get on the age pension?

Pension payments can be reduced due to the income test and asset test (see ‘What is the age pension’s income test?’ and ‘What is the age pension’s assets test?’).

Here are the maximum fortnightly payments:



Couple each

Couple combined

Couple apart due to ill health

Maximum basic rate





Maximum pension supplement





Energy supplement










How do I set up an SMSF?

Setting up an SMSF takes more work than registering with an ordinary superannuation fund. 

An SMSF is a type of trust, so if you want to create an SMSF, you first have to create a trust.

To create a trust, you will need trustees, who must sign a trustee declaration. You will also need identifiable beneficiaries and assets for the fund – although these can be as little as a few dollars.

You will also need to create a trust deed, which is a document that lays out the rules of your SMSF. The trust deed must be prepared by a qualified professional and signed by all trustees.

To qualify as an Australian superannuation fund, the SMSF must meet these three criteria:

  • The fund must be established in Australia – or at least one of its assets must be located in Australia
  • The central management and control of the fund must ordinarily be in Australia
  • The fund must have active members who are Australian residents and who hold at least 50 per cent of the fund’s assets – or it must have no active members

Once your SMSF is established and all trustees have signed a trustee declaration, you have 60 days to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN).

When completing the ABN application, you should ask for a tax file number for your fund. You should also ask for the fund to be regulated by the Australian Taxation Office – otherwise it won’t receive tax concessions.

Your next step is to open a bank account in your fund’s name. This account must be kept separated from the accounts held by the trustees and any related employers.

Your SMSF will also need an electronic service address, so it can receive contributions.

Finally, you will need to create an investment strategy, which explains how your fund will invest its money, and an exit strategy, which explains how and why it would ever close.

Please note that you can pay an adviser to set up your SMSF. You might also want to take the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund Trustee Education Program, which is a free program that has been created by CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand.

How does superannuation affect the age pension?

Most Australians who are of retirement age can qualify for the age pension. However, depending on the size of your assets and post-retirement income, you might be entitled to only a reduced pension. In some instances, you might not be entitled to any pension payments.

What are the risks and challenges of an SMSF?

  • SMSFs have high set-up and running costs
  • They come with complicated compliance obligations
  • It takes a lot of time to research investment options
  • It can be difficult to make such big financial decisions

How many superannuation funds are there?

There are more than 200 different superannuation funds.

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?

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.

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 compliance obligations does an SMSF have?

SMSFs must maintain comprehensive records and submit to annual audits.

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm not an Australian citizen?

Yes, permanent and temporary residents are entitled to superannuation.

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