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4.07%

$60

Colonial First State

$650

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MyChoice Gold
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$0

TAL

$1.5k

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MyChoice Other
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$78

Spaceship

$573

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MyChoice Other
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4.90%

$78

Commonwealth Bank Group Super

$438

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MySuper Platinum7 Year Platinum Performance
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Learn more about superannuation

Retail superannuation funds are just one of the many Australian superannuation funds on offer to Australian workers. They are run for profit and offer a wide range of investments.

Anyone can join a retail super fund, and just like all other super funds there are pros and cons. Retail super funds are the largest sector in the Australian superannuation market.

What is a retail super fund?

Retail superannuation funds are run by banks and other financial institutions. These superannuation funds, which are run by the likes of the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, Suncorp, ING and other Australian banks, are run to generate a profit for their shareholders.

There are a lot of investment options in a retail super fund with most funds offering hundreds of choices. The investments range from Australian shares, property, cash, international shares or could even be made up of a mixture of all these.

Originally retail super funds were developed by banks, investment institutions and insurance companies to cater for savvy people keen to save for their retirement.

Who offers retail super funds?

There are many Australia banks, big investment firms and insurance companies who operate retail super funds. The big four banks (Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac) all have retail superannuation funds on offer.

Other Australian banks offering retail super funds include ING, Bendigo Bank, Suncorp and AMP. Some prominent financial companies offer retail super funds as well. Investment companies like Virgin Money, MLC and Perpetual have their own retail super funds as well.

Can anyone join a retail super fund?

Yes, retail super funds are open to anyone, but they are not always suitable for everyone. Always do your research before committing to a super fund.

Traditionally, retail funds were set up for white-collar workers who often worked for the institutions their superannuation was invested in, but today anyone is welcome to join retail super funds.

How does a retail superannuation fund work?

Just like other superannuation funds, members of a retail superannuation fund will have their money invested into different shares, stocks and investments. This is done by professional investment managers.

The money in your retail super fund comes from contributions made by your employer as well as any extras you put into it. This money is kept away and is accessed when you retire. 

Retail super funds are usually accumulation funds, which aim to grow funds that are held in the accounts over time. Due to the investments it is important to note that with an accumulation fund you run the risk that when you retire, your super payout can be lower if financial markets have recently fallen or continue to fall during your retirement.

What are the pros and cons of retail super funds?

Just like all Australian superannuation funds, there are pros and cons. If you are considering signing up to a retail super fund you should consider all angles and what super fund is best for you.

Pros

  • Anyone can join a retail superannuation fund.
  • They usually offer a large number of investment options and choices.
  • Wide range of costs for different funds means they are accessible for different levels of income and super contributions. 
  • Retail super funds are usually accumulation funds.
  • They can offer members a range of insurances on their superannuation funds.

Cons

  • Retail super funds are run to generate corporate profits, which are passed on as dividends to the company’s shareholders, not as profits to super fund members.
  • Accumulation funds can be impacted by global financial market turbulence.

You should always consider your personal retirement and lifestyle choices before committing to any specific superannuation fund.

What other types of super fund are out there?

A retail superannuation fund is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Australian super funds on offer. There are other types of funds, all with different pros and cons associated with them, each aimed at fitting different lifestyles and financial situations.

Self-managed super funds put you in the driving seat of your own superannuation. A self-managed super fund makes you the manager of your super finances instead of a professional investor or fund manager, giving you more control over your superannuation investments. Unlike other superannuation funds, a self-managed fund requires a lot of time and commitment, and there are risks involved in managing your own superannuation.

Industry superannuation funds are the main competition for retail superannuation funds. They are sometimes restricted to workers of a particular industry and tend to be run not-for-profit, meaning they give their profits back to their members. Industry super funds tend not to be operated by the Australian big four banks (Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ Bank and Westpac) because they are run not-for-profit.

Public sector superannuation funds are almost exclusive to employees of the federal and state government. They were created to cater to employees of many different government departments, who are often paid more than the normal contribution rate. Public sector super funds tend to have low fees and offer a medium range of investment options.

What should you look for when choosing a fund?

The number one thing you need to consider when choosing a retail super fund, or any other fund out on the market, is your own personal goals, lifestyle and financial situation.

It is always important to consider all super funds on the market so you can get the best possible deal and the most possible growth in your superannuation fund.

We all want to be able to retire comfortably, so setting up the right Australian super fund for you is important.

There are some questions you should ask yourself when choosing your Australian superannuation fund:

  • What are my long-term and short-term life goals?
  • Do I own property?
  • How much will I need when I retire?
  • What do I want to do in my retirement?
  • At what age do I want to retire?

These are some but not all of the things you need to consider when looking for the right super fund.

Always chat to your employer about your options, because depending on your employment situation you may or may not be able to choose your own individual superannuation fund.

How can I access my super?

When you retire, you’ll need to assess a few things about your superannuation. You need to decide if you want your super as a regular pension, a big lump sum or a combination of both of these options.

You access your super after you’ve retired. Each super fund offers different levels of access to your superannuation so it is best to always understand the ins and outs of each fund depending on your own retirement goals.

How much superannuation will I get?

Your final superannuation payout will depend on a few things:

  • How much your employer contributed across your life.
  • How much you personally contributed into your personal super fund.
  • The investment returns in your super fund.
  • The amount of fees and charges you paid on your account.
  • The amount of tax you paid across your lifetime.

There are always variables to all of these depending on your choice of superannuation fund.

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.

How many superannuation funds are there?

There are more than 200 different superannuation funds.

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.

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).

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 long after divorce can you claim superannuation?

You or your partner could be forced to surrender part of your superannuation if you divorce, just like with other assets.

You can file a claim for division of property – including superannuation – as soon as you divorce. However, the claim has to be filed within one year of the divorce.

Your superannuation could be affected even if you’re in a de facto relationship – that is, living together as a couple without being officially married.

In that case, the claim has to be filed within two years of the date of separation.

Either way, the first thing to consider is whether you’re a member of a standard, APRA-regulated superannuation fund or if you’re a member of a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), because different rules apply.

Standard superannuation funds

If your relationship breaks down, your superannuation savings might be divided by court order or by agreement.

The rules of the superannuation fund will dictate whether this transfer happens immediately, or in the future when the person who has to make the transfer is allowed to access the rest of their superannuation (i.e. at or near retirement).

Click here for more information.

SMSFs

If your relationship breaks down, you must continue to observe the trust deed of your SMSF.

So if you and your partner are both members of the same SMSF, neither party is allowed to use the fund to inflict ‘punishment’ – such as by excluding the other party from the decision-making process or refusing their request to roll their money into another superannuation fund.

This no-punishment rule applies even if the two parties are involved in legal proceedings.

Click here for more information.

Financial consequences

Superannuation funds often charge a fee for splitting accounts after a relationship breakdown.

Splitting superannuation can also impact the size of your total super balance and how your super is taxed.

Click here for more information.

What is an SMSF?

An SMSF is a self-managed superannuation fund. SMSFs have to follow the same rules and restrictions as ordinary superannuation funds.

SMSFs allow Australians to directly invest their superannuation, rather than let ordinary funds manage their money for them.

SMSFs are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They can have up to four members. All members must be trustees (or directors if there is a corporate trustee).

Unlike with ordinary funds, SMSF members are responsible for meeting compliance obligations.

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 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.

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 is superannuation?

Superannuation is money set aside for your retirement. This money is automatically paid into your superannuation fund by your employer.

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?

Can I choose a superannuation fund or does my employer choose one for me?

Most people can choose their own superannuation fund. However, you might not have this option if you are a member of certain defined benefit funds or covered by certain industrial agreements. If you don’t choose a superannuation fund, your employer will choose one for you.

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

How is superannuation regulated?

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulates ordinary superannuation accounts. Self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office.

What are ethical investment superannuation funds?

Ethical investment funds limit themselves to making ‘ethical’ investments (which each fund defines according to its own principles). For example, ethical funds might avoid investing in companies or industries that are linked to human suffering or environmental damage.

What is the difference between accumulation and defined benefit funds?

A majority of Australians are in accumulation funds. These funds grow according to the amount of money invested and the return on that money.

A minority of Australians are in defined benefit funds – many of which are now closed to new members. These funds give payouts according to specific rules, such as how long the worker has been with their employer and their final salary before they retired.

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 access superannuation?

Accessing your superannuation is a simple administrative procedure – you just ask your fund to pay it. You can access your superannuation in three different ways:

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

However, please note that your superannuation fund will only be able to make a payout if 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

The preservation age has 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

There are also seven special circumstances under which you can claim your superannuation:

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

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.