The Krisflyer UOB account needs no further introduction for frequent readers of the site (but for those of you who are new here, take a walk down memory lane…).
The account hasn’t changed since it launched- it still offers 0 interest, it still requires you to park a ridiculous amount of money to earn anything more than 1.4 mpd (which you could just as easily earn with a regular miles card), it still caps the bonus miles you earn at a ridiculously low threshold and it’s still shelling out for influencer Instagram ads (which at least are properly tagged with #ad now, with the exception of a certain ferrous female…)
What’s new is that UOB is currently running a sign up offer of 5,000 miles with $500 of spend on the Krisflyer UOB debit card. You need to open an account and maintain a minimum monthly average balance of $5,000.
Now, don’t get too excited- this is a UOB-style sign up promotion so as you might expect there’s all sorts of caveats. Here are the main conditions (T&C here):
Note that although you have until 31 August to sign up for an account, you need to be among the first 5,000 people to register for the promotion via SMS. The T&C suggest this promotion has been live since 8 August. How many people have registered so far? How many have hit the $500 requirement already? Who knows!
The terms state that if you’re among the first 5,000 to register, keep $5,000 MAB in your account and spend $500 on the debit card by 30 Sept, you get
1,000 miles within 3 months of spending the $500
4,000 miles within 3 months of 30 Sept
But there’s more. Reading the fine print reveals this additional term-
If you close your account within 9 months from the time of opening, UOB reserves the right to claw back the 5,000 miles. There’s nothing stopping you from withdrawing your $5,000 after 30 Sept, but remember that you’ll incur a $2 fall below fee if your MAB is below $1,000 and a $30 fee if you close the account within 6 months.
I value miles at 2 cents each so 5,000 miles is about $100 of value. Is that a decent return for tying up $5,000 for a month and a half (and $1,000 for 7.5 more months, assuming you don’t want to incur $18 worth of fall below fees)? Depends what your alternative is. If that money would have sat in a savings account then you’re not losing much, but that money could obviously be put to much more fruitful purposes. For the record, I’m not a fan of the 3 month timeline given in the T&C either- it seems like a long time for your miles to credit given that one of the professed perks of the account is “faster miles crediting through direct deposit”.
The main problem I have with the promotions that UOB runs is uncertainty. The way they’ve structured this (and other sign up promotions like those for the UOB PRVI Miles card) is that you have no way of knowing ex-ante whether or not the promotion has been exhausted. You have to apply for the account, spend the $500 and pray that you’re still within the first 5,000. If not, the only way you’ll know is when nothing happens. The information asymmetry is not customer-friendly. I understand UOB’s want to cap the liability incurred with each promotion, but surely there’s got to be a better way of doing it than making customers guess in the dark.
Personally I can think of much better and faster ways of earning 5,000 miles, so this one is a pass for me. But if you really need the miles and are willing to bear both the risk (of missing out on the first 5,000 registrations) and the wait (3 months for miles crediting, 9 months for account closure), well…
On this site we’ve covered a lot of ways that you can earn miles through your everyday spend. But what if you’re still short and need to buy additional miles? Well, there are illegitimate and legitimate ways of going about that, but since we are all law abiding straight shooting citizens, we shall only discuss the legitimate options here (back alley, 10 minutes, trenchcoat and dark glasses)
(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
In the PRVI Pay article I decided to focus more on just PRVI Pay, but I think it’s good to have a separate article where we walk through the different options for buying miles and the pros and cons of each.
Things to consider when choosing among miles buying options
Not all the options in the table will be available to everyone. Therefore, just because a cheaper way of buying miles exists doesn’t imply you should rule out everything that costs more.
Which methods do I qualify for?
Basic, almost stupid question, but still important.
Unfortunately, you will need to command a pretty high income if you want to take advantage of some of the better miles buying deals. The cheapest deal now (if we ignore the bigass Citibank promo that, unfortunately, isn’t open to everyone) is 1.14 cpm via the SCB VI tax payment facility. If you spend more than $2K in a month on your SCB VI and put your tax bill on the card, you’ll earn 1.4 mpd for an admin fee of 1.6%. That requires you to earn a minimum of $150K a year though.
In fact, if I look at all the options available, the cheapest price you can access with an entry-level income is 1.75 cpm via the tax payment facility on the HSBC Visa Platinum/Revolution cards (HSBC Premier Mastercard has a $30K income requirement and lets you buy miles @ 1.25 cpm, but you need $200K in deposits with the bank to qualify for a Premier account). And even then the miles you can buy is limited by the amount of your tax bill.
A Cardup/iPayMy combination with UOB PRVI is probably your best bet if you need to buy a large quantum of miles and don’t earn in the 6 digits. Fortunately, UOB PRVI just reduced its income requirement from $80K to $50K so this method has become more accessible. Unfortunately, as I pointed out before, using Cardup/iPayMy requires a bona fide business expense like a tuition fee bill, condo management fee, tax bill etc. You can’t just send money to yourself.
You can send money to yourself via the UOB PRVI Pay feature, though. UOB doesn’t give two craps what you’re getting the money for- drugs, booze, humanitarian reasons. You just tell them how much and where to deposit the money, they bill your card for that amount + the 2% admin fee, you earn 1 mpd and everyone is happy. Assuming you’re ok with paying 2 cpm (see below)
What’s the limit I can buy/ how often can I exercise this option?
Another key question, because annual fees can only be paid once a year. Once I’ve paid the $192.60 on my DBS Altitude and got my 10K miles, I can’t do it again for another year (I could get the Visa and AMEX versions and pay the annual fee twice, of course, if I were so inclined).
You’ll also note that I’ve distinguished between “welcome gift” and “annual fee” in the table above. A welcome gift is a one time opportunity to purchase miles, which is subsequently not available. An annual fee can be paid each year. To my knowledge, HSBC VI does not give you renewal miles when you pay Year 2’s annual fee. SCB VI apparently offers 20,000 miles for paying Year 2’s annual fee, but that works out to 2.94 cpm which is too high for my liking. This should give people doubts about holding the card beyond the first year, unless you really dig the benefits.
Where tax payment facilities eg HSBC/SCB are concerned, I can’t simply go to them and say “hey, my tax bill is $500K, gimme.” I have to submit copies of my tax bill and they’ll give me miles based on that actual amount. No Citibank Rewards/AXS prepaying the gahmen’s working capital balance here (shhhh)
The only truly “unlimited” options (well, they’re limited by your credit limit) are
Buying at 1.9 cpm via UOB RVI’s Pay anything feature (but you need a huge chunk of income to access the UOB RVI…)
Buying at 2 cpm via UOB PRVI Pay (but is 2 cpm a good price?)
Buying at 1.86/2.17 cpm via Cardup/iPaymy and UOB PRVI/DBS Altitude (but requires a bona fide bill)
Buying at 5.51 cpm via SQ (lube up)
Should I be buying miles?
Maybe we should have started with this question.
Buying miles can certainly be a much cheaper option of getting business and first class flights. Take Singapore to Sydney, for example. Revenue tickets would cost you
Economy- $852 to $1,592
Premium Economy- $1,732
If you use miles, on the other hand, you’d pay
Economy-56,000 miles + $162
Premium Economy- 90,000 miles + $162
Business- 116,000 miles + $162
First- 160,000 miles + $162
So depending on what price you pay for miles, there are potentially some sweet deals to be had. Here’s how buying a ticket compares to buying miles and redeeming, in the example of Sydney.
First and most important observation: this chart shows why it is totally not worth it to redeem miles for economy or premium economy. If you pay 2 cpm and redeem those miles for economy, you’re potentially paying even more than you would have if you bought that ticket outright. You can see that buying miles to redeem on business and first class is so much sweeter, even at the 2 cpm mark.
Second, this chart doesn’t reflect the value of certainty. Award flights may not always be available for immediate confirmation on the dates you need and for the number of seats you need. So, depending on how much you value certainty, you’d need to adjust the miles figures to reflect the cost you incur when you can’t get immediate confirmation. Waitlisting is, shall we say, not fun.
Third, you need to account for the value of miles you’d earn had you bought revenue tickets. This effectively acts as a rebate on the revenue ticket price, and will reduce it ever so slightly.
But, assuming you find yourself in a situation where instantly-confirmable award space is available, it absolutely makes sense to go the buying miles route. You’ll need to factor in the time lag between the time you buy the miles and booking the ticket though, during which the space may vanish (SQ doesn’t do award holds).
Should I be buying miles speculatively?
The previous question assumed that you had a planned use for miles in mind already. If that’s the case, and if the award space exists, you’d be a fool to pay full price rather than buying miles.
But what if you don’t have an upcoming trip planned? What if you’re pretty well-stocked already? This is a more complicated question.
Most of the miles laojiaos will tell you that you absolutely should not buy miles speculatively. And I’d tend to agree with them. Miles are the worst investment to hold. There is no deposit insurance. They do not earn interest. They can only be devalued, sometimes with short or little notice. Miles are only as valuable as airlines’ willingness to accept them. They’re pretty much a fiat currency. Earn and burn etc etc.
I would nuance that by saying you normally shouldn’t buy miles speculatively, but if an excellent opportunity comes around and you’re quite certain you’ll travel in the next 6 months then I wouldn’t feel too bad for loading up.
I would also say that you should ideally have a healthy miles balance in your frequent flyer account to give yourself flexibility to make plans on the fly- there’s nothing more annoying (or nail biting) than to see award space on your perfect dates, transfer your points over and have a few nerve wracking days of F5-ing the screen waiting for them to appear. What’s healthy? For me that’s around the 100-150K mark, but I know it will be different for everyone (and that there will be those who believe in keeping even smaller amounts on hand).
For better or worse, SQ hasn’t attempted to monetize Krisflyer by selling miles on the cheap, like the US airlines have done. Therefore the best options for buying miles, at least for now, are offered through the banks. I hope this article gives you a better understanding of what’s out there, and what is (and isn’t) worth springing for.
At the time I wrote it off as an oversight, figuring that UOB would update the site a few days later. After all, it wasn’t like the PRVI Miles was a special tier of Visa- as per the branding on the card it was just plain vanilla Visa, not Gold, Platinum, Signature or Infinite.
And then I got this comment from Dennis
Aaron – not sure how much truth is in this but running the PRVI Miles Visa BIN through a bunch of online databases seems to suggest that it’s an Infinite :O
Even though the bank doesn’t market it as such (unlike the MC version which is clearly marketed as a WMC), perhaps that’s the reason why the income req hasn’t come down yet. (and also how they’re able to make enough money to sustain 1.4mpd)
Pffft. I thought. Some nutjob on the comments. Just humour him.
And then I got this from Matthew
I can indeed confirm that UOB Privi Miles codes under Visa Infinite.
I registered for Visa Infinite Concierge under with the card as well as the Hilton Fast Track to Gold with 2 stays/ 4 Nights.
A bit of a shocker for me as well.
I follow the principle that if one person tells me something it’s unreliable, but if two people tell me something it’s gospel truth. This philosophy has worked out swimmingly for me, which is why I am convinced global warming is a liberal hoax. Stupid polar bears.
Gospel truth or not, I still decided to verify it for myself with my friend’s card (I only have the AMEX and MC versions). But how do you tell if something is a Visa Infinite when it doesn’t say so on the tin?
(1) Checking the bin on bindb
For the uninitiated amongst you, a Bin is a Bank Identification Number. I’ll let bindb explain it better.
The Bank Identification Number, also known as the credit card bin can tell you the name of the bank that issued the card, the type of card like Debit or Credit, brand of card Visa, MasterCard and level of card like Electron, Classic and Gold. From the bindatabase you can also check other details about the card and issuer. Credit card bin numbers are the first 6 digits of a card number.
I plugged in the six digits and this is what came out
What’s relevant is that before you use the service yo need to register, and the form asks you for the first 9 digits of your Visa Infinite card. Entering the UOB PRVI Visa numbers checked out
So that’s two data points in favor.
(3) Registering for the Hilton Gold fast track offer
I decided to do one more test.
Once upon a time anyone with the first six digits of a Visa Infinite card could get instant Hilton Gold status. But that got abused like you can’t imagine, so they eventually tightened the system up to the point where it’s no longer a straight match but rather a status challenge.
Registration for this worked perfectly with the PRVI Visa.
What’s going on?
Ok, so the PRVI Miles Visa is a Visa Infinite. But why isn’t it branded as one? This is going to involve a lot of speculation from me because I’m not privy to the B2B dealings between Visa and various banks. If you know better, please feel free to chime in.
First, does it cost UOB more to issue a Visa Infinite than a Visa Signature/Platinum/regular card? Intuitively it seems the answer should be yes. After all, Visa Infinite has a concierge and a few other exclusive perks and those all cost money to provide. But if it does, why wouldn’t UOB want to play that up in its branding? It would certainly help raise the card’s profile, because Infinite branding still means something (unlike how Platinum and Signature have become mass market). But instead, UOB has just stuck a regular Visa logo on the cardface. Why would UOB be paying more (assuming it is) and not reaping the branding benefits of that?
Could it be because there’s some minimum income required if you want to market a Visa Infinite card? Based on what I know, all Visa Infinite cards in Singapore have a minimum income requirement of S$120K (I know CIMB will issue a Visa Infinite if you put a fixed deposit collateral of $50K, but let’s ignore that for the moment). So perhaps UOB isn’t allowed to market the card as a Visa Infinite because its income requirement is only $80K. But that brings us back to the previous question- why would UOB want the PRVI Visa to be a Visa Infinite in the first place? What benefit does it give them when they don’t market it that way?
Perhaps it’s because UOB doesn’t want to cannibalize demand for its UOB Visa Infinite. But that still doesn’t add up to me, because the UOB Visa Infinite @ $350K annual income is appealing to a very different market from the PRVI. And besides, the UOB Visa Infinite comes with a host of different privileges (eg special invitations to frou frou events) that the PRVI can’t hope to compete with. And it still doesn’t answer why UOB wants the PRVI Visa to be a Visa Infinite when it doesn’t even market it as such.
So that’s what I can’t figure out now. Help me out guys. What is the purpose of having a stealth Visa Infinite?
Do you need a Visa Infinite?
I’m not completely sold on the benefits of having a Visa Infinite, but just so you know what you’re getting yourself into, here are some of the exclusive benefits (I’ve only listed those which are truly unique to Visa Infinite- a lot of the benefits that banks list for their Visa Infinite cards are really things you could get with Signature/Platinum/any other type of Visa, eg the Visa Luxury hotel collection)
Of the benefits listed above, I’d say National Car and Hilton status are the most useful, It’s good to have National Car Executive status because it gives you access to the Executive Aisle, which normally has nicer car options stocked in it than the usual Emerald Aisle. If you have no idea what I’m talking about read this and this. Likewise, Hilton Gold is arguably one of the best mid-tier statuses to have.
From time to time there are special offers that pop up on the internet for Visa Infinite cardholders only. So it could be useful to have a VI on hand to take advantage of such deals.