Tag Archives: amex

The curious case of the UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX card

Legend has it that once upon a time, there was a bank called UOB. Long before UOB fell under the dark spell of inflated marketing, it issued an enchanted pair of cards called the “Preferred Platinum” series.

Preferred-PlatinumNow, like every enchanted pairing, there was a magical twin and a non-magical twin. The Mastercard was not magical. To the contrary, it was the Magikarp of credit cards, spending its days running around the house shouting “wingardium leviosa!” at the top of its voice and making coworkers uncomfortable with jokes about its “magic wand”.

The AMEX, on the other hand, was indeed magical. It gave the wielder a 10X bonus on miles earned for dining, both in the homestead and worlds beyond. Yes, it was part of the AMEX race and therefore shunned by many (less enlightened) merchants. But for those who knew how to harness its powers, it became a formidable tool indeed.

And although there was, for a period of time, a challenge to its title as the most powerful dining card in the realm from the HSBC Advance, said card was eventually lured over by the dark armies of cashback. This left the UOB PP Amex as the undisputed ruler of the dining cards, one card to rule them all.

And you can’t have it, because it’s no longer issued.

Or can you?

Well, that’s the question everyone’s asking, because although the vast majority of people are still getting computer says no responses from UOB, there are drips and drabs of successful PPA applications.

I’ve published three articles on the UOB PPA to date, which have attracted almost 300 comments in total from readers

The death of the dining card in Singapore
Last call for the UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX dining card!
UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX: Dead or alive?

So here’s my compilation of sightings of the UOB PPA, the ultimate rare pokemon, based on readers’ accounts over the past 18 months.

A History of Bigfoot Sightings UOB PP AMEX Sightings

October 2015
A user on HWZ reports that the UOB PPA has disappeared from UOB’s website.

Unfortunately, Wayback Machine coverage of the UOB credit card subpage is patchy, so I can’t verify exactly when UOB took down the card. But subsequent calls by forum members to UOB customer service suggest the card is in the process of being “demarketed”.

December 2015
Thanks to a tip off from an anonymous reader, I post an article on how you can still apply for a UOB PPA, provided you’re an existing UOB card member. Apparently, UOB has an automated SMS system that allows existing cardholders to add on additional cards without the need for further verification. All you have to do is the following-

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.

January 2016- December 2016
Numerous people report successfully applying for the card through the SMS method, with photographic proof (note the valid thru date- cards are issued with 5 year validity, so an expiry date of 01/21 implies a 01/16 issuance)

photo credit: lionel

I’ve gone to tally up the comments of people reporting successful applications by month, only counting people who reported receiving the physical card (others have received approval messages via SMS but the cards never came). Here’s how it looks-

(note: there’s no way of verifying if all these accounts are true, but I’d like to believe that Milelion readers are people of impeccable character and personal hygiene)

Jan 2016: 3
Feb 2016: 8
Mar 2016: 6
Apr 2016: 12
May 2016: 1
June 2016: 8
July 2016: 4
Aug 2016: 4
Sept 2016: 0
Oct 2016: 0
Nov 2016: 0
Dec 2016: 3

You’ll note that the earliest applicants had the most success. April in particular was a bumper crop, with 12 people reporting successful applications.

And then it goes kind of quiet post August. From Sept- Dec 2016 we get a grand total of 3 successful applications, all in December.

Of course this is far from scientific- there’s a whole lot of self selection bias here. Also note that there were many others who were unsuccessful during this period (but thankfully reported it too so we’d have that data point), getting a range of excuses from CSOs about the card being demarketed and unavailable.

January 2017- April 2017
So continued the dry patch with denials, denials, denials. People who try the SMS method got met with a wave of rejections, from CSOs calls to a poor soul who applied for the UOB PPA and got a UOB YOLO card in the mail. Talk about a cruel joke. 

In addition to the SMS method, another possible application method by mail surfaces thanks to posters BIN, Alvin and Tim. There are two different forms out there, to my knowledge. Try this…

Download (PDF, 194KB)

Or this

Download (PDF, 606KB)

And yet, no success reported. Until…

May 2017- June 2017
Breakthrough. 3 successful applications reported, again corroborated with photographic evidence. (note the 05/22 expiry date, evidencing a 05/17 approval)

photo credit: martin

What’s going on?

I have a theory.

I believe that when UOB demarketed the card in late 2015, the change was mostly cosmetic, in that they took the card off their front end webpage but didn’t update anything on the back end.

Now, a big bank like UOB handles thousands if not tens of thousands of credit card applications in a month. It’s not practicable for each of them to be manually approved. So UOB probably has an automated card printing press that kicks into action once the system approves a new application (based on credit risk, income requirements etc). The cards are embossed, the account is opened on iBanking, the CBS warnings/ promotional vouchers are added to the envelope and the package is dispatched, with little to no human intervention.

Therefore, although CSOs were trained to say the card had been demarketed, the system was still set up to produce such cards upon approval. It doesn’t explain why some people who applied in early 2016 didn’t get the card, but it does explain how some people could still get the card despite it being “demarketed”.

The other thing that intrigues me? Look at the most recent version of the UOB PP Mastercard. Yes, it’s still useless, but the design tells us something.

photo credit: chelsea

That there is Mastercard’s new logo.

Now hear me out. The way I understand it, card production has two components. There is the “raw” cardstock, which doesn’t have names, card numbers or expiry dates embossed. They have the base design (the card artwork + the Mastercard logo) and maybe a blank chip there, but nothing else. The cardstock sits around waiting until it’s needed. When a card is approved, the embossing happens, the chip is activated and the card is sent out.

Which means at some point in the recent past, UOB must have updated the cardstock’s design to incorporate the new Mastercard graphic. I’m guessing this didn’t take a lot of time, because in all likelihood there’s a placeholder for the Mastercard graphic on all cards, and it was a simple matter of replacing the old object with the new one.

But then they also bothered to do a print run of the new PP Mastercard cardstock, which implies in a warehouse somewhere there’s a pile of these babies waiting to be embossed. Now why would they do that for a card that’s supposedly demarketed? Card replacements, possibly, but this may also lend some hope that UOB hasn’t decided to kill the account entirely.

How do I get one?

And that begs the question, how do I get one?

Unfortunately, there seems to be absolutely no rhyme or reason why some people’s applications are successful and others aren’t. The UOB PP Amex was always a $30K income requirement card, so income can’t be a factor for why some people get it and others don’t.

Could it simply  be a matter of persistence? Three accounts from successful applicants suggest so.

Account 1 from Anonymous:

15Nov – applied for card via SMS

20Nov – received call saying discontinued, but continued to push them citing other people who have received the card recently, CSO agreed to apply for me.

8Dec – received card in mailbox

still works! goodluck guys!

Account 2 from Martin:

I applied for this card mid of April 17 via SMS and shortly after via mail again. Called up 3 CSOs after, all saying the system doesn’t allow an application any more. Nothing they can do. Today I saw the card (with number) showing up in the ibanking. But can only be certain once the card is in the Mail.

(later)

Cards have arrived today, 03/05/17. Still works.

Account 3 from Chelsea:

I sent 12 SMS and 2 paper applications…UOB really makes you work for this card

These accounts seem to suggest that those who eventually got the card had to jump through a lot of hoops to get it. I certainly don’t think you should badger the poor CSOs for something they’re trained to reject, but I imagine SMS channels don’t mind being harassed.

What now?

To those who are still waiting-  given the point we’re at, no one should apply for the UOB PPA and expect to be approved. We’re far past that point already. You can only hope against hope that one day you’ll log into your iBanking and see that glorious account opened.

To the banks- there’s a giant sized hole now in the credit card market for a good dining card. Come on, bring back a 4 mpd card. You can put a minimum spend. You can put a cap on bonus points. But just give us something, anything!

I WANT TO BELIEVE

AMEX-Shopback $50 sign up promo is back

Back in December last year, AMEX and Shopback held a joint promotion that offered a $50 cashback and a $50 welcome voucher with Fairprice/Tangs/Starbucks/Tung Lok when you signed up for selected AMEX cards via Shopback’s website. If you’re new to Shopback, signing up via this link gives you a bonus $5 credit in your account (I earn a referral bonus too)

Well, if you missed out on that one there’s another promotion ongoing from now till 31 May that gives you a $50 cashback plus a chance to win a pair of business class tickets to somewhere or other.

This time round there are only two cards eligible for the promotion versus four the last time round.

Regular readers will know that I’m no big fan of either one, but it says in the T&C that a ShopBack Member can apply for multiple cards and $50 Cashback will be given for each successful card application so why not. Both cards have the first year annual fee waived.

If you have not already signed up for the Krisflyer AMEX in the past, you’re welcome to do so, spend $1 and get the 5,000 first spend activation miles and subsequently chuck it. I know there’s this ongoing promotion where you get 5,000 bonus miles when you spend $2.5K in the first 3 months upon approval, but there are much better sign up bonuses out there to put that spending on.

When you’re done applying, you need to send in your application reference number to Shopback, so don’t forget that step.

Your $50 cashback should be redeemable within 60 days.

I took part in this promotion the last time round and signed up for an AMEX Platinum card, which still sits in my drawer unactivated. The $50 cashback came through just fine, however.

Thanks to NBsjcs for the heads up on the comments.

Putting this 1.2/1.4 mpd and rounding issue to bed

A common objection I get when I recommend UOB cards for miles earning is that these banks round your transaction down to the nearest $5, so a $9.99 transaction earns the same amount of miles as a $5 transaction ($5 @ 1.4 mpd with the UOB PRVI Miles).

Other banks, like Citibank/HSBC, award miles to the nearest $1, so that same $9.99 transaction would earn you 10.8 miles ($9 @ 1.2 mpd.

But the key question you need to ask yourself is this- what is my average/median transaction size? This determines whether or not the enhanced miles earning of a UOB PRVI Miles card (1.4 mpd) can make up for the rounding down effect.

How big a problem is rounding?

Here’s a simple table showing how you end up with transactions ranging from $4.99 to $99.99, comparing a hypothetical 1.2 mpd arrangement (Citibank Premiermiles Visa) with a 1.4 mpd arrangement (UOB PRVI Miles)

Red= you lose out with a the 1.4 mpd, rounding down card. Calculations for 1.4 mpd based on transactions rounded down to the nearest $5, calculations for 1.2 mpd based on transactions rounded down to the nearest $1

What you can see is that once your transaction goes above ~$30, the incremental 0.2 miles you earn with UOB offsets the rounding down effect. The gap only grows bigger the larger the transaction is.

Or fine, let’s take the Citibank Premiermiles AMEX (1.3 mpd) instead and see what happens.

Red= you lose out with a the 1.4 mpd, rounding down card. Calculations for 1.4 mpd based on transactions rounded down to the nearest $5, calculations for 1.2 mpd based on transactions rounded down to the nearest $1

Now, as expected, the “sweet spot” moves upwards in that transactions of ~$55 or above favor the UOB card.

My median transaction size is just under $30, but my average is $270 (it’s skewed because of large business expenses). So although 50% of my transactions are under $30 (and I’m losing out on some miles due to rounding there), I’m still winning overall by using a card like the PRVI because the marginal 0.2 mpd is being earned on some significantly large transactions. 

What you need to realise is that even if you are using the UOB PRVI and have, say, 30 transactions where you’re losing out on 2-3 miles each time, all it takes is a large single transaction of ~$300-450 to put you in the same position as if you were using a 1.2 mpd, no rounding card. And that’s what most people’s transactions will look like, right? You’ll have maybe 30 small transactions in a period and the occasional big ticket purchase.

I mean, sure, if you really wanted to there’s nothing stopping you from swapping between your Citibank Premiermiles and UOB PRVI, depending on the transaction size. But that’s a step too far, even for me.

Other considerations

Moreover, the mpd rate is no doubt important but there are other things you need to consider as well. If you’re comparing the DBS Altitude cards (1.2 mpd, rounding down to nearest $5- for more details on rounding please see the comments where johnnyboy has some excellent analysis. It’s not exactly as simple as I’m making it sound) to Citibank Premiermiles (1.2 mpd, rounding down to nearest $1) then the Premiermiles card seems to be better, but better here is in the context of miles earning potential.

Think about pooling (Citibank has two different currencies (ThankYou points and Premiermiles) that you can’t pool, which forces you to pay two conversion fees), think about transfer partners (Citibank has so many more transfer partners than DBS), think about card and mile earning promotions (like the one currently happening with the DBS Altitude Visa), think about expiry of miles, and the picture becomes a bit different.

So I’d encourage you to do a serious analysis of your own spending patterns in deciding whether the rounding issue will be a hindrance to you.