Tag Archives: cashback

Three tips for booking travel via cashback sites

I’ve written about cashback portals before and how if you don’t use them, you’re basically leaving money on the table. If you’re conscientious about using cashback portals when buying things online, you can, over time, accumulate a pretty penny for yourself.

As a recap- how cashback sites work is you register for an account, click through to a merchant site, complete your transaction, and earn your cashback. That’s all. Your cashback usually becomes payable in a few weeks, depending on the merchant in question.

I wanted to talk about using cashback sites specifically for travelling, given that travel is a big budget item and earning even 2-3% cashback can really add up.

What cashback site should I use?

There is certainly no shortage of cashback sites out there. For example, Cashbackholic lists no fewer than 43 cashback sites offering varying rebate percentages for Hotels.com (you might be wondering why the same merchant has different rebates for different cashback sites- it’s simple commercial reality. Different cashback sites have different commission agreements with different merchants, and keep different % of the money on their side before giving the rest to you)

Should you use a best of breed approach, picking the cashback site that offers the highest cashback for a particular merchant? I sort of see this akin to the legendary “how many credit cards should I have” question, where some people (like me) insist on using multiple cards so that you max out the miles on each individual transaction, and others prefer to use one card for convenience.

It may surprise you to know that unlike my multiple cards approach, I’d advocate using one cashback portal. This is because I find there are too many merchants out there and the rebate percentages often change. Compare this to credit card bonus categories where I know a restaurant is a restaurant and online is online and overseas is overseas, and so long as I always use my HSBC Advance card for all local dining and online spend and my UOB Visa Signature/UOB PRVI Miles for all overseas spending I’m good.

My personal preference is Shopback, because they have good rebate percentages with the merchants I use the most, their cashout process is painless and their app offers some unique opportunities to earn cashback on things you wouldn’t have thought possible (eg Uber). You can sign up for Shopback here and earn a $5 starter credit (I will also earn a referral bonus).

That said, I would strongly encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions- what works best for me may not work for you. You might also want to check out some other sites like Ebates Singapore and Getex (both of which I have not tried before) to see if they offer merchants that Shopback does not.

So, once you’ve decided on your cashback site, what should you know about booking travel?

Tip 1: You’ll get good cashback on hotels

OTAs (Online travel agents) offer good rebates through cashback portals. If you’re not brand conscious, you can easily get 6-9% cashback on your hotel bookings

Given that OTA hotel pricing can vary widely, it’s probably prudent to shop around and ensure that your 6% cashback on Site X isn’t more than offset by Site X pricing the same property 10% more than the 2% cashback offering Site Y.

The other catch is that hotels require you to book directly with them if you want to earn points and elite status credit. So, for example, you would not get points, credit or elite status recognition on a stay with a Westin booked through Hotels.com, even if you are an SPG Platinum member (certain properties may, at their discretion, offer benefits on such stays. However these are not required under the T&C and these rates will still not earn points or credit)

That doesn’t rule out cashback portals completely, of course. You can still use a cashback portal to book directly with a hotel chain. Shopback offers the following direct booking options

Starwood, Marriott and Hyatt are the major missing chains here, but you should be able to find them on other sites (eg BeFrugal and Mr Rebates)

You might wonder why cashback via direct hotel bookings (2-4%) is less than cashback via OTAs (6-9%). It’s quite simple, really. Hotels pay OTAs commissions every time someone books a site through an OTA.


I’m not privy to the details, but I understand these can be substantial (think 10-15% range, or even higher in some geographies). The higher cashback you earn on bookings via OTAs is reflective of that spread the OTAs earn.

Tip 2: You generally won’t get good cashback on flights

Although 6-9% cashback on hotels is very common, you’d be hard pressed to find the same for airlines. Airlines work on a very different basis from hotels and pay lower commissions to OTAs. That’s in turn reflected in the lower cashback available for flight bookings. Here’s how TopCashBack caps airline cashback for Expedia

and for Orbitz

Low cashback or not, airlines base your miles earning on fare class, not where you bought your ticket, so there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from buying your air tickets through an OTA (note: if you buy an SQ ticket via a 3rd party site and try to upgrade it using your miles, you will not get the 15% online redemption discount, regardless of whether you actually do the upgrade online).

$2.50 and $3 maximum cashback doesn’t really sound appealing, but Shopback is running a promotion with Singapore Airlines till the end of this year that awards 1% cashback on SQ flights, capped at $150 per transaction, booked via the SQ website.

You can also earn 1% cashback with

  • Qatar Airways
  • Emirates
  • Scoot
  • Air France
  • Air Asia

Tip 3: Don’t forget about ground transport

Car rentals and train bookings can also earn cashback. Priceline will give you 2% back on car rentals (don’t forget to buy insurance). Rail Europe also has 2% cashback, but I vaguely remember someone telling me that Rail Europe’s prices were inflated anyway.

Admittedly this is an area where I find Shopback’s options a little lacking. They don’t have any tie ups with Avis/Hertz/Sixt. For these you can consider Ebates Singapore, which offers cashback with Enterprise, Avis and car rentals done via Travelocity. These generally hover in the 2-3% range.


The applicability of cashback sites to travel isn’t just limited to hotels and transport. You can also get cashback on activities you do when you’re there, such as those you find on Groupon or even attractions (I vaguely recall USS being available on Shopback’s site).

I hope this clarifies some things about cashback sites and that you’re able to find a way to save more on your travels.

Standard Chartered wants to give you $188 for free

Thanks to Ms Solitaire who tipped me off about this on 2nd August, and apologies that I could only cover it 2 weeks later. 

Although this does not fall within the realm of credit card deals (ok well it sort of does), it’s free money and I’m not above taking it.

Standard Chartered is running a promotion for their Bonus$aver account. From now till the end of August, if you

(1) Open a Bonus$aver current/chequing account with S$50,000 in fresh funds
(2) Apply for a Bonus$aver World Mastercard
(3) Keep said S$50,000 in funds in the Bonus$aver account until the end of the calendar month after the month you opened your Bonus$aver Account

You get S$188 cashback in your Bonus$aver World Mastercard (there’s also an option to deposit S$10,000 in fresh funds to get S$88 cashback).

Bonus$aver must be SCB’s answer to the OCBC 360 account. They’ve got a tiered earning system where you can earn up to 3.88% p.a interest on your first S$100,000 of deposits with them, contingent on you carrying out a certain set of activities. This is not my area of specialty and I’m not familiar with what else is on the market so I’d encourage you to do your own research, but 3.88% sounds pretty sweet.

Here’s the breakdown of the bonus interest

  • Earn up to 1.78% p.a. for spending at least S$2,000 in eligible transactions on your Bonus$aver Credit or Debit Card, or earn up to 0.78% p.a. for spending at least S$500 in eligible transactions on your Bonus$aver Credit or Debit Card and/or
  • Earn 1% p.a. for crediting your salary of at least S$3,000 through your employer via giro and/or
  • Earn 0.75% p.a. for 12 months when you purchase a new eligible unit trust investment or regular premium insurance product from SCB and/or
  • Earn 0.25% p.a. for paying any 3 unique bills online or through GIRO

Unfortunately my salary does not credit as SAL (it’s MEPS for some reason) and I don’t intend to put any spending on the Bonus$aver card, so there goes 2.88% interest already. But I’m still going to jump on this for the S$188 (full T&C here, I can’t find anything that makes me unduly nervous)

Where the credit card is concerned, the only benefit I am aware of for the Bonus$aver World Mastercard is that it’s a World Mastercard and means you’re eligible for the SPG stay 1 night to Gold promotion.

I’m going to assume it’s this rather fetching 2-in-1 card and token, which is a very nifty idea I admit, even though it doesn’t earn you any points at all. Note that the credit card is free for the first 2 years, after which an annual fee of S$214 (!) applies. Well, you know what to do when that day comes…

Merits of the card aside, S$188 is S$188, and gift horse look mouth don’t.

Branch Gifts

If you sign up at a branch instead of online, you may win one of the following gifts. However, this is limited to the first 500 customers who sign up and I imagine they would all have been redeemed already. Doesn’t hurt to try your luck though.

S/N Gift Type Number of Gifts
1 Canon EOS 1200D Kit (EFS18-55 IS II) 20
2 CP910 Selphy Photo Printer 60
3 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 270
4 American Tourister Paralite SP66 10
5 Customised Blended Tea (3 types of flavours) 40
6 S$28 NETS Flashpay 20
7 $20 NTUC Voucher 80

I’m not sure why they’re incentivizing you to sign up at the branches instead of online given the lower processing costs of an online application; I can only surmise this to be an opportunity to sell you more stuff in person.

TL;DR, this is valid till 31 August, and I’m going down during lunchtime to apply.

EDIT: Adam on the comments pointed out 2 other things worth taking note. If you close the account within 6 months, you pay S$30, and if your daily average balance falls below S$3,000, you pay S$5 fall below fee.

photo credit: businesstimes

$15 Amazon Card for AMEX holders via TopCashBack

I stumbled upon this promotion on the UOB PRVI Miles website while doing some spring cleaning for The Milelion (I realise there’s a ton of outdated info in the dropdown menus on top and I promise that will be rectified real soon)

Now, it says UOB PRVI Miles AMEX card, but this is open to any AMEX cardholder, as you’ll see on the TopCashBack site.

The US$15 Amazon.com gift card is triggered when you make any one transaction with your AMEX card through TopCashBack. You can register using this link. Registration and transaction must be done by 30 Sept 16.

Remember that you can cashout your cashback using the following methods. The best option for those of us in Singapore is probably Paypal.

There is no fee to cashout from TopCashBack to Paypal, but Paypal may charge you a withdrawal fee if you want to transfer the money to your bank account in Singapore

If you register for TopCashBack using this method you won’t be able to take advantage of my member-get-member promotion which gives you US$15 bonus when you sign up and make your first transaction. So from that point of view it might actually be better to use my link because you’ll then have the option of cashing out the US$15 via Paypal, instead of having a US$15 Amazon gift card that you can’t cashout except on Amazon. The choice is yours, obviously, and you should do whatever works with you.

You can read the primer on cashback sites here, but just to summarise- almost everything you think about can earn cashback online. This includes airlines, OTAs and hotels, Amazon (selected categories only), newegg, Target, Walmart, Lazada, etc etc etc. Seriously the list is almost endless.

Another good cashback site with a stronger Singapore focus is Shopback.

T&C of the promotion

American Express Cardmembers who register an account at URL https://www.topcashback.com/amexasia/ (“TopCashback”) from 1 April 2016 to 30 September 2016 (2359 +8 GMT) (the “Promotion Period”) for the first time, with a valid email address and using a credit or charge card issued by American Express International Inc. (“American Express”), its affiliates or its independent licensees in French Territories, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam (“Eligible Cards”) will be eligible to receive a welcome bonus of US$15 (“Welcome Bonus”), upon completion of any applicable transaction at any of TopCashback’s merchants. To understand TopCashback’s criteria of an applicable transaction, please visithttps://www.topcashback.com/light-box/amexasiaterms