The Milelion’s 2016 Credit Card Strategy

December is a good time to review credit card strategies for the new year. What I’ve come to realise is that although some cards may individually be the best to use in a particular category, when you view your miles earning strategy overall they may not fit in very well.

To elaborate, I’m going to look at every credit card I own now and decide whether I’m going to chuck it or keep it (note- I’m not including those 1 time credit cards I applied for just to get the free gift, eg OCBC Robinson’s, DBS Esso, DBS LiveFresh (didn’t write an article on that but they had a spend $500 get $80 cashback promotion))

DBS Woman’s Card

dbs woman's card

Use for: Online spending, max S$2K per month

Thoughts: Still unrivaled for online spending. I religiously put $2k of onlines pend on this card each month to max out my 8k miles, then forget about it until the following month. There have been questions as to whether the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa can replace this, because it also gives 4 miles per $1 of online spend.

My response to that is no, not really. UOB’s interpretation of online spend is a lot more strict than DBS, so you won’t earn points for things like buying memberships or paying renewal fees, paying for fines, topping up your FEVO/IMAGINE card etc.

So this definitely falls into the keep category. 8k easy miles each month means 96K over a year- enough for a 1 way suites ticket to the USA.

Verdict: Keep

DBS Altitude (Visa and AMEX)

altitude visa

Use for: General spending (local), foreign spending whenever there are bonuses

Thoughts: Although the Altitude cards do not earn as much as the UOB PRVI Miles cards do (1.2 vs 1.4 miles for local spending, 2 vs 2.4 miles for overseas spending), I still think they’re important to keep for several reasons

First, UOB does not award overseas spend bonuses for payments made in foreign currency which are processed through a Singapore-based payment processor. This excludes Paypal transactions, even those in foreign currencies. I make a lot of foreign payments online via Paypal, so this matters to me. If I were using my UOB PRVI I’d only be earning 1.4 miles per S$1 spent.

DBS on the other hand, defines overseas spend as “Overseas spend is identified as card transactions posted in foreign currencies”. Therefore, by using my DBS Altitude, I earn 2 miles per S$1 of spend.

Second, DBS pools all their points into 1 account. Given that I’ve already committed to use the DBS Woman’s card for $2K spend each month, it makes sense that my general spending also flow into the same points balance. I’ve already paid the $42.80 annual conversion fee, so I can readily transfer out my DBS Points in blocks of 5k points (10k miles) as soon as I hit the minimum

Third, I’ve found DBS’s points promotions to be way better than UOB’s. The Visa version of the DBS Altitude has a current promotion where you earn 3 miles per S$1 of overseas spend for Oct, Nov and Dec 2015, capped at S$3K per month. I’m trying to max that out via Paypal payments. So even though I do lose out by using the DBS Altitude cards for local payments (1.2 vs 1.4), I gain much more by hitting the spend targets for their promotions. DBS Altitude now has a great 2x miles promotion for new Altitude card holders which you should definitely check out.

Verdict: Keep, definitely

UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX

cardface_preferred

Use for: Dining, local and overseas

Thoughts: This is still one of my favourite cards because 4 miles per $1 on dining can’t be beat. UOB recently discontinued issuing this card to new applicants, however I called them and was told that the 10X UNIs on dining will still continue “until further notice”. So ominous as that is, I’m going to keep putting my dining spend here until I hear otherwise. (the fallback option is the Citi Clear Platinum Card, which only offers 2 miles per $1 on dining)

This should definitely be a staple card in your wallet.

Verdict: Keep

UOB PRVI Miles

uob_prvi_miles_mastercard

Use for: General spend (local and overseas)

Thoughts: This is still the best general spend card in Singapore at 1.4 miles per S$1 local and 2.4 miles per S$1 overseas. Although UOB’s spending promotions are nowhere as good as DBS’s, my plaan for 2016 is to concentrate most of my spending across the UOB and DBS portfolios.

DBS cards will be used for online spending (Woman’s) and whenever DBS announces any spending promotions for their Altitude line of cards.

UOB cards will be used for dining (Preferred Platinum AMEX), overseas spend (Visa Signature) and general spending (PRVI) for local and overseas.

There was a period where DBS Altitude was my go-to card for all spending (the 6 months after I got it where I was earning 1.8/3/4.5 miles for local/overseas/online hotel and flight spending respectively), but now that that promotion is over, it looks like I’m back to UOB. I managed to hit the $50,000 annual spend figure a few days ago so I’ll get a 20,000 mile bonus for that (one of the blessings of having a job that lets you put stuff on your personal card).

Verdict: Keep

UOB Visa Signature

uobvisasignature

Use for: Overseas or online spend, min S$1K max S$2K per month

Thoughts: I’m relatively new to this card, but I’ve been trying to discipline myself to use it for my overseas trips. I hate Visa/MC when I’m travelling overseas because using it leaves you vulnerable to DCC (scam, scam, scam), so it requires that I be extra vigilant when signing any charge slip.

The other thing with this card is that it’s an all or nothing approach. You need to spend a minimum of S$1K overseas each STATEMENT PERIOD (not calendar month!) in order to get 4 miles per S$1. That requires a little extra effort on my part, tracking via ibanking how much I’ve already spent and conscious not to exceed S$2K (after which S$1 gets you a lovely 0.4 miles)

Verdict: Keeping this as long as they don’t charge me an annual fee

Citibank Rewards

citi rewards

Use for: Department store spending, bags, clothes, shoes, online shopping

Thoughts: Although this card is great if you frequently shop at brick and mortar department stores, bags shops, shoe shops, clothes shops, I just don’t do that frequently enough to justify holding on to it. Furthermore, if I’m going to buy stuff online, I’d use either my DBS Woman’s Card or my UOB Visa Signature card to earn the 4 miles per $1 bonus.

It makes more sense for me to do that because I’m heavily investing in my DBS Altitude/UOB PRVI Miles cards, so my points pool together and can be cashed out at one go.

I don’t nearly spend enough on my Citibank Premiermiles AMEX to justify holding other ancillary Citibank cards. As an end result, what I have now is ~10,000 miles in my Citibank Rewards card which I cannot justify paying the conversion fee to cash out yet.

Verdict: Cancel

Citibank PremierMiles AMEX

citibankcropped

Use for: OTA bookings

Thoughts: The only reason I’m still hanging on to this is because Citibank has good tie-ups with OTAs like Agoda, (until recently, 8 miles per $1) and Kaligo (10 miles per $1, still ongoing)

I earned 30,000 miles on this card in January by putting a long stay in Casablanca booked through Kaligo on this card. I cashed that out some time back and since then my miles balance has languished at around the 6,000 mark.

Verdict: Cancel

ANZ Travel Card

anz

Use for: General spending (local)

Thoughts: Ah, the ANZ Travel card. I used to view this as the backup option back in the days when the PRVI and Altitude cards only came in AMEX versions. But now that they’re offering Visa/MC versions there’s really no need for the ANZ Travel Card.

The problem with this card is that unlike UOB and DBS which have other great points earning cards in their portfolio, ANZ’s Travel Card is like an island to itself. Therefore it takes much longer to build up a reasonable balance in your ANZ Travel$ to justify paying the conversion fee to cash out. I’ve had this card for almost a year and have slightly over 10,000 miles in it.

Also, there is no reason to use this card overseas (except Australia and NZ where there is a 2.8 mile per $1 earn rate) because overseas transactions earn the same miles as local

Verdict: Will probably cancel this card now that the annual fee has come due

Krisflyer ASCEND Amex Card

ascend card

Use for: Getting the free gifts

Thoughts: I am proud to announce that I have spent a grand total of $3 on this card throughout the year, just to get my 5,000 miles first spend bonus. Since then, this card has been faithfully sitting in my drawer, having given me so much (4 lounge vouchers, 1 free night stay in a Millennium Hotel property, M&C Gold status) for so little (1st year fee waiver).

I’m now told that AMEX no longer does the first year fee waiver for this card, which is sad. In any case, there is absolutely no reason to use this card for any kind of spending (even SQ flight tickets, for which you could get 3 miles per $1 with DBS Altitude)

Verdict: Cancel

 

cover photo by amrufm

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35 thoughts on “The Milelion’s 2016 Credit Card Strategy”

    1. well there hasn’t been any new launch recently that has excited me (AMEX launched a “classic” green card which has the “classic” shitty AMEX earning rates so that doesn’t count). If there is something new and exciting coming up (i hear OCBC may launch a proper miles card soon) i’ll definitely feature it

  1. I will still keep ANZ Travel Card especially for unlimited free veloce lounges and also 1.4 miles local spending (even though i prefer using my fevo/imagine card to gain more miles for local spending).

    For Amex Krisflyer Ascend, you can use for 1st time booking on Kaligo to get 3000 miles bonus (the minimum hotel price is 100 SGD, so still better than Kaligo 10 miles promotion for Citi PM) and transfer directly to your Krisflyer account

    1. i can understand keeping anz travel card for lounge access but for local spending wont you be better off using your prvi/altitude? because then you can pool miles from dbs woman’s/uob preferred platinum amex and redeem in a big chunk. it is quite hard to build up critical mass in anz travel because (assuming you dont go to australia/nz) of the 1.4 miles per $1 rate. you’d reach critical mass much faster with uob/dbs because they have 4 miles/$1 earning opportunities.

      didn’t understand the kaligo bit, can you explain that again?

      1. Aaron,

        agree with pooling miles with DBS/UOB, thats what i do for local spending by top up prepaid card using my DBS W and use prepaid card for local spending ( so actually i get 4 miles for my local spending) but in the future if bank stop this like UOB clause i will use ANZ for my local spend (or i will apply UOB PRVI to gain 1.4 miles for local spending)

        For Kaligo,

        Have you see this promo ?
        https://www.kaligo.com/krisflyeramex-3000

        you can get 3000 miles bonus by booking hotel in Kaligo using your Amex KF Ascend/PPS Card until 31 Jan. The minimum price for the hotel i search is around 100 SGD (so technically can get 30 miles/$ )

  2. WRT to the women’s card, how do you ensure that you do not spend not more than $2000 a month? My understanding is that the DBS online banking platform only allows you to view the previous month’s statement, and not your current expenditure.

    On a separate note, instead of cancelling the ANZ travel card, do you think that it would be worth keeping it just to get the “free” annual miles? I think its currently 12,000 miles whenever you pay the annual fee.

    Thanks!

    1. what anonymous said.

      re: anz card, annual fee is $200 and miles given are 10,000, or a cost of 2 cents per mile. I would do this if i had a definite first/business class redemption in mind (because you get 4-8 cents of value per mile if you redeem for this). I guess it’s an option (keep in mind that other cards with renewal fee for miles offers also effectively sell you the miles for 2 cents each) but again the problem with ANZ is that the base earn rate is so low it’s difficult to liberate any great volume of miles in one tranfer.

  3. Just one question. If you’re already using the DBSWWMC + Imagine/FEVO to get 4 miles per dollar for local spend, then that would already be better than the 1.4 miles that UOB PRVI gives you isn’t it?

  4. By the way, I never received any vouchers or the Gold membership with my KrisFlyer Ascend card (they said you only get this if you pay the year’s fee)…

  5. have a issue…
    tried to find a good dining credit card to apply for but there are none!
    The UOB platinum Amex is not available
    The citi Clear Platinum is also not available…
    What is left??

    1. If you are an existing UOB card member perhaps you can try this to apply for the UOB Preferred Platinum cards.

      I applied using SMS on 10 Oct which was after they removed the application links from their website but still got the card sent to me about 1.5 months later.

      SMS spacespace to 77862
      For example: SMS Yespp 7890 S1234567H to 77862.

    2. citi clear platinum is gone? i was wondering why the link was down. unfortunately that’s all for now…you’re only left with general spending cards. or if you want to go via the cashback route, then you could consider ocbc 360 or anz optimum. note however that there are restrictions on the max cashback you can earn.

      hopefully someone will launch a good miles earning card for dining soon….

      ps: ocbc has the voyage card which gives an ok amount of miles for dining- 2.3 miles per $1. but the high annual fee (non-waivable) and general shittiness of ocbc’s card portfolio turns me off

  6. How do you apply for the uob visa signature. I just went down last week to UOB and they say that they had phase out this card and do not allow me to apply it. The UOB dining amex card is not available anymore. I am looking at HSBC advanced platinum. The card also give 10 times rewards on online/entertainment/dining and offers an exchange rate of 2500 rewards to 1000 miles, which is the same rate as other banks. Given its visa and it has a larger Spending Area on entertainment. I am thinking this would be a good card. I did not find any further info on it. Can you confirm this with me?

  7. Nvm, I had Found the info, its indeed 4mile per dollar spent, but it require a 30 000 dollar advance account with them. Those looking for a dining card and had spare Savings can consider.

  8. Sorry for crashing on this threads multiple times.

    Just some additional thoughts that can rack up some further miles

    Maybank Horizon Platinum Visa Card – 4x Miles for Bills Payment with Local Telecommunication Groups.
    UOB Preferred Platinum Visa Card – 4x Miles for Groceries, include one supp card free. Can be given to parents/wife as alternative to allowances.
    HSBC Revolution Card – 2x Miles for Dining for those who can’t get the UOB/Citibank cards anymore. This card do not need to have a deposit with HSBC.
    HSBC Advance Card – 4x Miles, I am reading on hardwarezone that they are reviewing the terms on 31 March 2016. This card need a 30,000 deposit with them or a housing loan of 200,000. I believe this two HSBC cards are still worth looking at for those people (like me) who had miss the opportunity to get the UOB Amex cards.

    1. thanks lionel, this is very helpful. I’m going to compile some of this in a subsequent post, with proper attribution, of course.

      one point about UOB PP Visa though- that 4x miles is only if they do not give smart$. and cold storage, giant etc with paywave features are all smart$ merchants. so you wouldn’t be getting 4 miles per $1

  9. My colleague and I discussed about the maybank card. Apparently, you can use DBS woman and get 4x miles at your respective telco portal. 🙂

  10. This is a great post! gives me more clarity on what strategy I should take.

    But i have a question regarding Citibank Premier Miles Visa Card, does it also work like the DBS Altitude card whereby you can but things online from the US and pay via paypal in USD and would still get 2x miles per dollar? below is the quote i got from Citibank:

    “overseas retail purchase” means a retail purchase denominated in a
    currency other than S$”

    Thank you

  11. 2017 version please.

    Lots of good and bad cards come and go. Would be interesting to see whether did you change your strategy or it remained the same?

    Cheers Aaron!

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