Could an Award-winning account based pension help set you up for retirement?

If you are seeking a degree of financial stability in retirement, then you may be considering an account based pension. Not all are the same though, so read on to find out which account based pensions offer outstanding value in 2021.

An account based pension allows you to draw down your superannuation gradually while investing the balance. They can provide a regular, tax-effective income to supplement, or even replace, the age pension for retirees.

But how do you know which account based pensions could offer you the most bang for your buck?

Canstar assessed 54 account based pensions from 51 providers to determine which ones offer outstanding value to consumers.

This year, six providers received an Outstanding Value Award for their account based pensions.

Here’s how they did it.

How were account based pensions assessed and rated?

Canstar assesses account based pensions using a methodology that takes both performance and features into consideration.

Canstar Research assigns Star Ratings to products based on five investment profiles reflecting different proportions of growth assets (e.g. property and shares):

  • Cash – 0% growth assets
  • Conservative – comprised of between 20% and 39.99% growth assets
  • Moderate – comprised of between 40% and 59.99% growth assets
  • Balanced – comprised of between 60% and 79.99% growth assets
  • Growth – comprised of between 80% and 100% growth assets

Each investment option was assigned a performance score and a feature score, weighted at 70% and 30% of its final score respectively.

This year the performance scores were based on an investment option’s net annual investment return over seven years, which was calculated by deducting fees and tax from the initial returns.

Feature scores were calculated based on four categories:

  • Opening – How easy is it to open an account based pension with a provider?
  • Investment flexibility – What investment options are offered by the provider? How easy is it to switch between them? How is your pension paid to you?
  • Support – Does the provider have educational tools available to customers? Does it offer support online, by phone or both?
  • Closing – How easy is it to close an account with the provider?

Providers that offered more options within these categories received a higher feature score.

Canstar Research then gave an Award to the account based pension providers with the highest total scores for their best-performing investment option across the various investment profiles considered.

You can read the methodology to find out more about how the Awards and ratings were calculated.

What does 5-Star performance look like?

The table below shows the difference in returns between 5-Star Rated investment options and the Canstar database average for each investment option assessed using an average 5-year net annual return for the period ending 30 June, 2021.

Account Based Pensions – 5-Star Rated Options vs Market

← mobile/tablet users, scroll sideways to view full table →

Profile Growth asset allocation Market average 5-Star Rated average Difference
Cash 0% 1.48% 1.77% 0.29%
Conservative 20 – 39.99% 5.21% 6.32% 1.11%
Moderate 40 – 59.99% 7.22% 8.83% 1.61%
Balanced 60 – 79.99% 9.32% 11.19% 1.87%
Growth 80 – 100% 11.25% 12.77% 1.52%

Source: Prepared on 25/08/2021. Based on products rated in Canstar’s 2021 Account Based Pensions Star Ratings (September 2021) that have been available for a minimum of 7 years. Average returns are net of investment and performances fees and taxes.

2021 Outstanding Value – Account Based Pension Award winners

This year, six account based pension providers received an Outstanding Value Award – five of them are returning winners from 2020, and one is new.


AustralianSuper 5 star

It’s the fourth consecutive year that AustralianSuper has been recognised for its account based pension offering. Its product,  Choice Income, was the top performer in many of the investment profiles, Canstar Research found.

AustralianSuper was especially strong across the Conservative and Moderate investment profiles. It also improved in its support to customers in 2021.

According to AustralianSuper, its Choice Income account based pension offers flexible payment options and support via email, phone and face-to-face meetings.


Cbus 5 star

Cbus retained the Award it won last year for its account based pensions. Its Cbus Super Income Stream product was especially strong across the Moderate, Balanced and Growth investment profiles.

According to Cbus, its account based pension offers retirees the option to decide how much and how often they want to receive as a regular payment.


Hesta 5 star

HESTA received this Award for its account based pension for a third year in a row, off the back of a strong performance in the Conservative, Moderate and Balanced investment profiles.

Prime Super

PrimeSuper 5 star
Prime Super won a fourth consecutive Award for its account based pension. It did well across the Moderate and Balanced investment profiles.

Prime Super says its account based pension offers flexibility when it comes to receiving your payments and a number of different investment options.


SunSuper 5 star
Sunsuper received an Award  for the fourth year in a row, off the back of a strong performance across the board, and an especially strong performance in the Moderate investment profile.

Sunsuper says its account based pension offers a range of investment options, the choice of when you receive your income payments and how much you receive.


UniSuper 5 star

UniSuper received the Outstanding Value Award in 2021 after it opened to the public in July this year, thus making it eligible for review as part of Canstar’s methodology that a product should not be restricted to members of a particular group or organisation. Previously UniSuper was only open to those in the higher education and research sector.

UniSuper’s Flexi Pension option offers retirees the choice of how much and how often they are paid, with the flexibility to withdraw extra money if needed.

For more information on how our Account Based Pensions Star Ratings and Outstanding Value Award were calculated, you can read the methodology and view the full results.

Cover image source: BR Photo Addicted/

Thanks for visiting Canstar, Australia’s biggest financial comparison site*

This content was reviewed by Finance and Lifestyle Editor Shay Waraker and Sub Editor Jacqueline Belesky as part of our fact-checking process.

Michael is a senior finance journalist at Canstar, specialising in superannuation, savings, wealth and life insurance. He is an award-winning journalist with more than three decades of experience. His work has featured on the BBC, the ABC, The Sunday Mail, The Courier-Mail and The Conversation.

Share this article