Category Archives: Credit Cards

UOB PRVI Miles cuts income requirement to $50K

Well well well. I wrote an article a while back when the DBS Altitude cut its income requirement to $30K about how it was nice to see that good miles earning cards were gradually coming within reach of more people.

Another great general spending card has just dropped its income requirement-  the UOB PRVI Miles has cut its annual income threshold from $80K to $50K on both the AMEX and Mastercard versions.

Curiously enough, the Visa version still has an $80K income requirement. Perhaps UOB just hasn’t updated the site, because I can’t think of any reason why the income requirement should be different across card issuers. It’s not even like the Visa version is a Visa Infinite or even Signature, it’s just a basic Visa. (I know the Citibank Premiermiles AMEX and Visa have different income requirements at $80K/$50K, but the AMEX has a better earn rate of 1.3 mpd vs 1.2 mpd plus 15K renewal miles vs 10K)

Based on stories I’d been hearing recently, UOB had already been loosening the qualification criteria for the PRVI. Still, it’s good to see that this is now an official policy and hopefully those who were left out in the cold before can now get one of the better general spending cards on the market.

There’s a generally predictable trend that happens with all newly-launched premium cards. They’ll start with a high income requirement to create a sense of exclusivity, but as time goes by those requirements drop. For example, the DBS Altitude was originally an $80K card when it came out, before dropping to $50K and eventually its current $30K threshold now.

Click here to apply for UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard
Click here to apply for UOB PRVI Miles AMEX

Recap of the UOB PRVI Miles Card

If you’ve traditionally ignored this card because it was out of your reach, here’s a quick refresher of some of its key features

  • Local spending earns 1.4 mpd

1.4 mpd is the best general spending rate you can get for local currency spend*, what with the ANZ Travel card’s imminent demise. Most other miles earning cards will earn in the 1.2-1.3 mpd range.

Because of the way UOB calculates points, you need to spend a minimum of $5 to earn any points. I’ve detailed this more in an article about the rounding policies of different banks.

*technically the UOB Visa Infinite/ Privilege Reserve gives 1.6 mpd on local spend but has a prohibitively high income requirement

  • Overseas spending earns 2.4 mpd

The 2.4 mpd overseas earn rate is also the strongest in the market (unless you can get your hands on a UOB Visa Signature which offers 4 mpd for spending up to $2K each statement period with a minimum $1K spend) for a general spending card. The benchmark for other cards is around 2.0 mpd.

However, be aware that the PRVI charges higher foreign currency transaction fees than other cards which might explain the more generous overseas earning rate

 Visa/MCAMEXRemarks
DBS2.8%3%
UOB2.5%3.25%PRVI MC/Visa- 3.25%
OCBC2.8%N/A
Citibank2.8%3.3%
HSBC2.5%N/A
SCB3.5%N/A
Maybank2.5%N/A2.75% for Visa Diamante, Infinite and World MC
CIMB2.4%N/A1% for CIMB Plat MC and Visa Sig
BOC2.5%N/A
AMEXN/A2.5%
  • Expedia, Agoda, UOB Travel bookings earn 6 mpd

UOB PRVI advertises 6 mpd when booking major airlines and hotels through Expedia, Agoda or UOB Travel. Unfortunately, there’s a glaring omission in the form of Singapore Airlines (it’s strange that SilkAir would qualify for 6 mpd and SQ doesn’t)

airlines available via Expedia
airlines available via UOBTravel
  • Spending on Kaligo earns 10 mpd

Kaligo is a milesback OTA site that offers you bonus airline miles when you book hotel stays with them. Their rates can sometimes be more than other OTAs so I’d advise you to shop around and see whether you’re paying a premium to book via Kaligo, and if so whether the 10 mpd makes it worth it.

UOB PRVI sign up bonus

UOB is running a sign up bonus on its PRVI Miles card from now till 30 Sept 2017.

  • If you’re a new UOB PRVI Miles cardholder and haven’t owned any UOB card before, you can get 12,000 miles when you spend $4,000 within 60 days.
  • If you’re a new UOB PRVI Miles cardholder and have owned a  UOB card before, you get 5,000 miles with $4,000 spend within 60 days.

I’m not a big fan of the way UOB does its sign up bonuses, because you need to register via SMS and only the first 1,200 people to hit the spending threshold will qualify. UOB splits the promotion into 2 periods

There’s no way of knowing ex-ante whether the promotion has been exhausted, so if you want to be absolutely sure I’d try and time my card approval date as close to after the 16th of August as possible (careful not to pull the trigger too early and fall into the previous period…) and spend the $4,000 asap.

But it’s really frustrating not knowing beforehand whether or not the promotion still exists, and this is a major gripe I have with UOB’s sign up bonuses. Put it another way, I wouldn’t sign up for the card expecting to get the bonus. If I do, it’s a, er, bonus.

An interesting dynamic exists between the DBS Altitude and the UOB PRVI. The Altitude has better sign up bonuses (and ongoing promotions) but the PRVI has a better day to day miles earning rate. I own both cards and manage my spending between the two.

I’m of the opinion that credit card income requirements beyond $30K (MAS mandated minimum) are completely arbitrary and more often than not are to create a false sense of exclusivity. Let’s hope we see more income requirement reductions in the near future so more people can access great miles cards.

UOB PRVI Pay offers opportunity to buy unlimited miles at 2 cents each

UOB has launched a new payment facility called PRVI Pay that lets you use your PRVI Miles card to make any sort of payment where credit cards are not accepted. You earn 1 mile per S$1 spent with a processing fee of 2%, i.e. 2 cpm.

When someone first told me about it, I felt a bit meh. I mean, 2 cents per mile was the ceiling price I’d pay to buy miles, and I’m all for more options but this didn’t seem like a price at which I had to jump on.

Then I thought about it a bit more and changed my mind. I don’t think it’s a must grab deal still, but it’s certainly got its uses.

Let’s recap the options that exist right now for buying miles in Singapore

Options for buying miles in Singapore

I went to research the different options that are available for buying miles, the effective cost per mile, the limit you can buy each year and the implied income you need to take advantage of each option. This really deserves a separate article which I’ll get to in a bit.

For now, look at how the PRVI Pay facility stacks up against other options.

MethodTypeImplied Income ReqCents Per MileAnnual Limit
SCB VI Tax Payment- >$2K p.mPayment Facility1500001.14Tax bill
HSBC VI IRAS Payment- >$50K p.a (1)Payment Facility1200001.2Tax bill
HSBC Premier MC IRAS Payment (2)Payment Facility300001.25Tax bill
HSBC VI- Premier CustomerWelcome Gift1200001.3935000
HSBC VI IRAS Payment- <$50K p.aPayment Facility1200001.5Tax bill
SCB VI Tax Payment- <$2K p.mPayment Facility1500001.6Tax bill
SCB VIWelcome Gift1500001.6835000
HSBC Visa Plat/Revo Tax PaymentPayment Facility300001.75Tax bill
Citibank PM AMEXAnnual Fee800001.7815000
HSBC VI- Regular CustomerWelcome Gift1200001.8635000
iPayMy/Cardup with UOB PRVIPayment Facility500001.86Unlimited
UOB Reserve VI "Pay Anything"Payment FacilityInvitation1.9Unlimited
Citibank PM VisaAnnual Fee500001.9310000
DBS AltitudeAnnual Fee300001.9310000
OCBC Voyage- Option 3Annual Fee1200002500000
UOB PRVI PayPayment Facility50000 2Unlimited
OCBC Voyage- Option 2Annual Fee1200002.14150000
Citibank PrestigeAnnual Fee1200002.1425000
iPayMy/Cardup with DBS AltitudePayment Facility300002.17Unlimited
DBS Altitude- Tax PaymentPayment Facility300002.5Tax bill
OCBC Voyage- Option 1 (3)Annual Fee1200003.2515000
Buy from Singapore Airlines (4)Stupid05.51Unlimited

(1) The HSBC website says that $1=0.4 miles for tax payment facility, but I have received reports that VI holders have received 1/1.25 mpd as per their relationship bonus
(2)  The income requirement to get a HSBC Premier MC is $30,000, but you need $200K in deposits to open a HSBC Premier account
(3) OCBC Voyage Option 1 involves paying $488 to get 15,000 Voyage miles. These can be converted to Krisflyer miles at a 1:1 ratio but are technically more valuable than Krisflyer miles as they can also be used to pay for revenue fares at a fixed value per mile.
(4) SQ charges US$40 per 1,000 miles purchased. Price shown here is reflective of current exchange rates. The only way I could justify paying this is if I needed the miles right this minute, as SQ will credit them instantly

This table shows you that there are indeed many ways of buying miles for less than 2 cents each. However, the amount you can buy is limited. You could pay the annual fees on certain credit cards, but the amount of miles you can buy is limited because you can only pay the annual fee once per year. You could use your credit card to pay your tax bill, but the amount you can buy is capped by your actual tax bill.

When it comes to buying an unlimited quantity, only a handful of options exist. The two cheapest (and most accessible) ones are UOB PRVI Pay and iPayMy/Cardup.

But you could argue that iPayMy and Cardup aren’t truly “unlimited” in the sense that there needs to be some bona fide business transaction before you can use them. You need a tax bill, or a condo management fee, or a tuition payment etc.

When you use UOB PRVI Pay, all you need to do is fill on the form where you want your funds credited. UOB doesn’t ask you what the money is for. UOB doesn’t care.

UOB doesn’t make the payment on your behalf to anyone- the mechanism through which this works is they credit a cash amount to your designated bank account (it could be your own), then bill your card for the amount + admin fee. Obviously you need to be within your credit limit, but this is still easier than going through iPayMy/Cardup.

It’s interesting if you think about why UOB decided to start offering this facility- they’re the only miles card on the market that does not offer renewal miles when paying the annual fee, so perhaps this was their way of throwing people a bone. I also wonder if this is the reason why UOB stopped offering 10X on Cardup payments recently.

Nothing in the T&C raises any eyebrows for me, but do note that the PRVI Pay facility will only be available until 31 Dec 2017. Presumably UOB is testing this on a trial basis and may extend it based on response. Also note that if you have a UOB PRVI Amex, this amount does not count towards your $50,000 annual spend to earn 20,000 bonus miles.

The folks on HWZ aren’t too impressed, but this is something I could see going for if I needed to load up on miles and had exhausted other, cheaper options, or if my income didn’t let me assess the payment facilities of higher tier cards.

If you don’t have a UOB PRVI miles card yet, you can apply for one here-

Click here to apply for UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard
Click here to apply for UOB PRVI Miles AMEX

Comparing the rounding policies of 3 major miles cards

A while back I wrote an article about how I felt the rounding down that UOB did on its PRVI Miles card wasn’t that big a deal, assuming you made a good mix of various sized-transactions. Their 1.4 mpd general spending rate is higher than the 1.2/1.3 mpd you’d earn on other cards, and therefore you’d earn back the difference on average.

I hubristically called this article “putting this 1.2/1.4 mpd rounding issue to bed”, but it turns out that if anything it just opened a can of worms. I’m glad my readers know their stuff better than me, because there’s a whole long chain of comments laying out exactly how each bank does its rounding. Turns out I’m guilty of oversimplifying some of the calculations, and I wanted to take this opportunity to lay out the situation for avoidance of doubt.

Let me state something upfront- this is really an article more for the boffins out there. On a practical basis, you’re talking about a difference of a handful of miles. Yes, they build up over time, but if you find it too stressful to track things on an individual card basis you could get away with not taking this into account and you’d still be fine, on an overall basis.

Many thanks to all you commenters out there for helping me make sense of this- johnnyboy, Naro, and the rest who were too modest to leave their names.

DBS Altitude

Image result for dbs altitude

DBS’s T&C for their rewards program states the following

DBS Altitude Cardmembers earn 5 DBS Points for every S$5 equivalent in foreign currency purchase and 3 DBS Points for every S$5 local currency purchase. Cardmembers earn an additional 2.5 DBS Points for every S$5 equivalent in foreign currency online flight & hotel purchase and an  additional 4.5 DBS Points for every S$5 local currency online flight & hotel purchase, capped at S$5,000 spend on online flight & hotel purchases per calendar month.

This led me (and many others) to assume that if you spend less than S$5, no points for you. That’s not correct, as DBS does prorate spending.

So if you spend S$3, for example, you earn 3/5*3=1.4 DBS points. DBS rounds points down to the nearest point, so you get 1 DBS point, or 2 miles.

This means that the minimum spending with DBS to earn miles is $1.67, for which you will earn 1 DBS point, or 2 miles for a 1.2mpd rate (The curious thing is that if you spend $2, you earn the same 1 DBS point, but you now have 1.0 mpd). What happens if you spend, say, $8.49? The same prorating kicks in and you earn 5.1 DBS points, rounded down to 5 points or 10 miles.

The interesting thing is- cents matter with DBS because of the prorating. If you spent $8.33, you’d get 4.998 points, which would be rounded down to 4 points or 8 miles.

TL;DR- Minimum spend to earn miles with DBS is $1.67, DBS prorates and awards you points on both dollars and cents spent.

UOB PRVI

Image result for uob prvi

Here is UOB’s policy, from their T&C-

UOB PRVI Miles Cardmembers earn UNI$3.5 for everty $5 charged locally and UNI$6 for every S$5 charged overseas. In the event the UNI$ awarded is in decimal points, the final UNI$ awarded for each transaction will be rounded down to the nearest whole figure.

UOB requires a minimum spend of $5 to earn any points. That’s because they don’t prorate. So spend anything less than that and you have bupkis.

This rounding down to the nearest S$5 results in a form of  “double rounding”. What does that mean?

Suppose I spend $6 on my PRVI Miles card. You might think- ok, round down to $5, and at 1.4 mpd that’s 7 miles. Wrong. $6 spending will first be rounded down to the nearest $5, which gives you UNI$3.5. But that UNI$3.5 will be rounded down again to UNI$3, so you earn 6 miles for this transaction.

TL;DR- Minimum spend to earn miles with UOB is S$5. UOB does not prorate, and therefore you earn points on dollar spending rounded down to the nearest S$5.

Citibank Premiermiles

Image result for citibank premiermiles singapore

Citibank’s Premiermiles Visa T&C state (emphasis mine)

A cardmember will receive, on a monthly basis, Citi Miles which will be credited to his card account at the rate of 1.2 Citi Miles for every S$1 incurred on local retail purchases charged to his card account and 2 Citi Miles for every S$1 incurred on overseas retail purchases charged to his card account. Citi Miles shall be calculated on the amount of each retail purchase transaction and will be reflected in your statement of account as rounded down to the nearest Citi Mile

(The AMEX version is much the same, except the earn rate is 1.3 mpd instead of 1.2)

Unlike DBS and UOB, Citibank awards points on each $1 of spend. This means your transaction ($2.38, $5.95, $10.24 etc) is rounded down to the nearest $1 ($2, $5, $10 etc), multiplied by 1.2 and then rounded down again.

Therefore a spend of $1 earns 1 Citimile, a spend of $2.38 earns 2 Citimiles etc.

TL;DR- Minimum spend to earn miles with Citibank is S$1. Cents are irrelevant as all earnings are based on dollars.

Comparing Spending

This article wouldn’t be complete without a comparison, so I put 4 different cards to the test- the Altitude, the Premiermiles (both Visa and AMEX versions) and the PRVI. Here’s what came out.

You can see that the Premiermiles AMEX is actually a pretty good card due to combination of its 1.3 mpd base rate and practice of awarding on every $1. Eventually at around the $65 mark the PRVI’s superior 1.4 mpd earn rate allows it to overtake the Premiermiles AMEX though.

However, if you’re comparing the Altitude and the PRVI, the inflection point is around $30. At this point, you’re earning 34 miles with both the Altitude and PRVI, after which the PRVI starts earning you more. So if you need an easy heuristic, remember: >$30, PRVI. <$30, Altitude. 

I created the last column just to illustrate a point- if your purchase amounts are below $50, there’s really no point sweating this because you’re losing at most 3-5 miles per transaction. Suppose you do 30 transactions a month. You’re going to lose about 1.4K miles over the course of the year, assuming you got it wrong every single time. Would I rather have those miles? Yes. Am I going to lose sleep for having lost those miles? Probably not. Stick to the rule of $30 and you’ll be fine.

Here’s the excel if you want to play around with the figures yourself.

Download (XLSX, 11KB)

Other considerations

Rounding is an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the only consideration. You should also consider

  • The validity of the points earned. Citimiles and DBS points earned via the Altitude card do not expire, UOB UNI$ have a 2 year expiry period. Once transferred to Krisflyer, miles have a 3 year validity
  • The choice of airline transfer partners. UOB UNI$ and DBS points can be transferred to SQ and CX. Citimiles can be transferred to those + Qatar, MAS, Thai, Qantas, BA, EVA, Etihad, Air France/KLM and Garuda, plus Hilton, IHG and Club Carlson
  • Points pooling. A major weakness of Citibank is that they don’t pool your points together. You cannot redeem Citibank ThankYou points (earned from its Rewards card) with Citimiles and pay one conversion fee, rather you need to convert them separately (sporadic reports of getting CSOs to waive this, but definitely not SOP)
  • Annual fees. You shouldn’t be paying annual fees without getting something in return, and to that end the DBS Altitude + Citibank Premiermiles give you 10K miles when you pay the $192.60 annual fee. UOB PRVI Miles gives you 20K miles if you hit $50K spending in a year (AMEX version only), but otherwise does not give you renewal miles. I’d watch this card very closely to ensure they don’t proactively deduct UNI$ from your balance to cover the annual fee, as they are wont to do