Tag Archives: dining

What should your dining card strategy be?

The recent demise of the HSBC Advance and unicorn nature of the UOB PP Amex have been taken as signs by some people that the dining card is well and truly dead in Singapore.

It looks grim for sure, and I don’t know whether any bank is willing to step up and fill the gap for a 10X dining card (a certain loss leader for them). Assuming that doesn’t happen, I wanted to lay out a blueprint for how you can make the best of a bad situation.

(1) UOB Preferred Platinum Visa

Image result for uob preferred platinum visa

People (myself included) tend to forget that many restaurants now have Paywave terminals, which means that you can use your UOB PP Visa to earn 4 mpd. This assumes the restaurant isn’t a SMART$ merchant, but there are so few that fall into this category anyway (Hard Rock Cafe, Pasarbella, BreadTalk Cafe, Bread Society).

Remember that the maximum amount that can be paid through Paywave is $100 per transaction, but there’s nothing stopping you from splitting a bill across multiple transactions. The cap on 4 mpd earning per month is $1,000 for the UOB PP Visa.

(2) Maybank Horizon Visa Signature

Image result for maybank horizon visa signature

Believe it or not, the best card for dining now belongs to Maybank. The little known Maybank Horizon Visa Signature offers 3.2 mpd on local dining, petrol and taxi fares, provided you spend a minimum of $300 a month on the card.

One thing to point out is that Maybank’s definition of “dining” is fairly narrow. The T&C state that only merchants with MCC 5812 will enjoy 3.2 mpd. 5812 refers to restaurants and eating places, which should cover the majority of places you might dine at. But it doesn’t cover 5814 (fast food restaurants), 5813 (drinking places) and 5811 (caterers). And like all dining cards, it also does not cover dining in hotels which codes under the hotel’s MCC.

The bonus points you can earn in a month are capped at 30,000, so assuming you only put dining on this card, you’d max out the 3.2 mpd at $4,285 in a month.

My biggest gripe with this card is that Maybank TREATS points expire after 1 year, unless you’re a Rewards Infinite member (requires spending more than $24K in a year). Fortunately, the minimum redemption amount for Maybank TREATS is 5,000 points, or 2,000 Krisflyer/Asiamiles miles. That’s certainly a lot lower than the UOB/DBS 10K minimum. So even if you’re not a massive spender on dining, you should be able to hit the minimum cashout amount pretty soon.

With an income requirement of $50K, it unfortunately isn’t an entry-level card but I think it’s well worth a speculative application even if you don’t meet the criteria.

On a side note, I see a banner on the Maybank site that alludes to some herworld credit card awards. Although I am an avid reader of female-focused literature, herworld is not on my list. If anyone can point me to the full list of winners I’d love to do some analysis on it.

Winner of ‘Best Air Miles Card’ in Her World Nuyou Credit Card Awards 2017

(3) HSBC Revolution

Image result for hsbc revolution

Assuming you can’t meet the $50K income requirement for the Maybank Horizon card, the HSBC Revolution is a good choice too. You earn 2 mpd on local dining, entertainment and all online spend.

2 mpd is less than 3.2 mpd, obviously, but where the Revolution is better than the Horizon is it has a wider interpretation of dining. The Revolution considers fast food to be part of dining, and explicitly states that spend at clubs, pubs, bars (what’s the difference between a pub and a bar?) will get 2 mpd. There also is no minimum spend amount required to earn this.

HSBC Rewards points expire after 3 years, and the minimum transfer amount is 2,000 miles.

(4) OCBC Voyage Card

Image result for ocbc voyage card

I’ll be the first to say I’ve not seen eye to eye with the Voyage card, but if I’m going to include the HSBC Revolution (2 mpd) I can’t get away with not talking about the Voyage as well because it earns 2.3 mpd on local dining.

The T&C of the Voyage card defines dining as restaurants, cafés, caterers and fast food outlets. I take this to mean MCC 5811, 5812 and 5814. However, the T&C explicitly exclude bars and pubs, which means 5813 is out of the question. Similarly, hotels and country club dining doesn’t count.

The interesting thing about the Voyage card is that you don’t earn miles, or points for that matter. You earn Voyage miles (which don’t expire). Have a read of any of my past Voyage articles to understand how these babies work, but the TL;DR version is they can either be converted to Krisflyer miles at a 1:1 ratio, or used at a (relatively) fixed value to pay the cost on a revenue ticket on any airline (typically 2-3 cents per mile). I certainly wouldn’t use the Voyage card as a general spend card because i feel the 1 mpd general earning ratio is simply not good enough, but if you want to get the card and pay the (not insubstantial) annual fee just to use it as a dining card, well, it’s a free country.

(5) Mileslife

Ok, it’s not a credit card, but I think Mileslife needs to become part of your dining strategy if you want to build miles. When you use Mileslife, you earn miles from two sources- the Mileslife app itself, and whatever miles you get from your credit card.

If you sign up for Mileslife via my link, you get 1,000 bonus miles with your first spend of $49 within 30 days.

Restaurants on Mileslife offer anywhere between 1-3 mpd, but there are frequent sales where 3-4X the regular miles are on offer, meaning you can get up to 12 mpd with the right restaurants. Mileslife does not currently qualify for any 10X online spending bonuses, but they’re working on getting their MCC changed.

Mileslife is still in the expansion stage and its list of restaurants is fairly small but hopefully as they scale up this will become an increasingly attractive option.

Conclusion

I am hearing disturbing rumours that people holding the UOB PP Amex are getting calls from CSOs offering to “upgrade” their cards to something else (One person was offered the UOB YOLO; I told him to call the police because that was certainly a scam call). UOB has certainly demarketed the card, but whether they’re looking to actually shut it down, only time will tell.

Those with the UOB PP Amex should make hay while the sun shines. For the rest of you- any of the above methods should help you maximise the miles you earn on dining.

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

Mileslife launches in Singapore, offers up to 9 mpd on dining for limited time

[the following is not a sponsored post, however I earn a miles referral bonus for every person who signs up using my link]

The demise of the dining card has caused much despair among food-loving miles chasers in Singapore. The HSBC Advance (as we know it) will cease to be from 31st May and the UOB PP Amex continues to play a game of cat and mouse with most applicants, as does the Citi Clear Platinum.

Fortunately, there’s a solution at hand. A few months ago I attended a beta testing event for Mileslife and met its founder, Troy (one of the original members of BoardingArea).

Troy told me more about Mileslife, a payment platform that lets you earn additional miles on top of your credit card, all for no additional cost. Read on for a special sign up offer for Milelion readers.

How does it work?

How it works is simple-  you dine at a Mileslife-eligible restaurant and when the time comes to pay, tell them you want to pay through the Mileslife app. You’ll then earn miles not just from your credit card, but the Mileslife platform too. There’s no additional cost for paying through the Mileslife app.

So in the example above, if I use my DBS Altitude credit card and spend S$40 in total, I will earn S$40 *3 miles= 120 miles from the Mileslife app + S$40* 1.2 miles= 48 miles from my DBS Altitude card for a total of 168 miles (from now till 20th June you earn 3X the miles from Mileslife, so you’ll get 40*9 + 48= 408 miles total- see below). 

Who can I transfer my miles to?

Although Mileslife lets you earn your garden variety SQ and Cathay miles, what’s interesting to me is that you can start building a base with other loyalty programs. There are a total of 12 different loyalty programs you can choose to earn with.

That’s a very extensive list, and mileage crediting takes place within 3-5 business days. No conversion fee applies.

Here’s how it looks like in your Krisflyer account (I got 5,000 miles for being part of the beta testing event that happened back in April)

Mileslife Launch Offers

As part of the Singapore launch, Mileslife is running a series of bonus miles promotions that I’d like to share with you-

Sign up bonus for Milelion readers

The regular signup bonus for Mileslife is 1,000 miles after a spend of S$39. However, if you use the referral code MILELION, you’ll earn 50% more miles, or 1,500 miles after a S$39 spend.

If you sign up using this link, you won’t need to enter any code– the bonus will be automatically credited to your account!

Triple miles on all restaurants till 20 June

From now till 20th June, Mileslife is offering a dining promotion where restaurants award 3X the regular miles. You can see the base earning rates in the spreadsheet below. So if a restaurant here says S$1= 3 miles, it gets S$1=9 miles from now till 20th June.

EDIT: There are some delays in the rollout, so you should refer to the Mileslife app for the latest list of available restaurants before deciding where to dine. Have removed the list temporarily to avoid confusion

100 miles for linking your FFP account

This one is easy- simply link your FFP account to Mileslife and you get 100 bonus miles. Remember that Mileslife automatically credits your miles to your FFP, so no conversion fees apply.

Things to note

I’ve been told by Mileslife that payments through the app will be coded as online transactions for professional services. This means you will not earn any 10X bonuses with cards like the DBS Woman’s World card. You should therefore use your general spending card with Mileslife, and not count on earning 10X online spending bonuses, at least not just yet. 

I’ve also been told that although the app prices in SGD, the backend sees this as a foreign transaction, so you may incur foreign transaction fees and/or DCC fees, depending on your bank. Fortunately this is only temporary- Mileslife is working to get processed as a local merchant, and when that’s done the problem should go away.

Finally, if you use Mileslife to pay, you will not be able to use the restaurant’s own loyalty program. This is mainly a Crystal Jade issue- if you use Mileslife, you can’t earn Crystal Jadeite points. 

All things considered though, I think this is a great opportunity for those of you who don’t have a dining card to earn closer to the 4 mpd mark on dining. Even if you have a dining card, there’s the potential to earn beyond 4 mpd with the promotions that Mileslife runs. I would imagine that as the restaurant list expands and new partners are signed up, you’ll be seeing some restaurants offering limited time promotions to drive business.

Mileslife will eventually expand in Singapore to offer miles on spa trips, theme park tickets and other recreational activities.