Contactless payments aren’t a new invention but have really taken off over the past two years with various new players such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and others coming into the market. I’ll start first by recapping the various digital/mobile wallets out there before presenting a feasible card spend strategy to maximize miles.
Apple Pay – This was the first mobile wallet in Singapore, launched back in 2016 and it uses NFC (Near Field Communications) technology.
Samsung Pay – Samsung Pay is a proprietary digital wallet service offered by Samsung on its flagship phones beginning with the Galaxy S6+Edge. Samsung Pay works in 2 ways:
- NFC – Commonly known as the “Paywave” option, similar to Apple Pay and Android Pay
- MST – MST, otherwise known as Magnetic Secure Transmission, is a technology that is proprietary to Samsung, which holds the patent, having bought over the company which developed it in 2015.
The gist of how it works is that there is a magnetic coil at the back of the phone. Once Samsung Pay is activated, both the NFC and MST functions are live (i.e. you don’t need to further toggle between NFC or MST options) and all you need to do is to remove the phone sleeve (if any), and place the back of your phone against the lower right side of the credit card terminal, where the swipe section is. The magnetic pulses from the Samsung phone would then transmit your credit card details to the terminal which will then process your credit card as though it had been swiped.
Why use MST ? – Ah…that’s the million dollar question, “What’s in it for me if I use the MST function” ? You may want to know that OCBC is currently running a promotion on their Titanium Rewards Card, and that all transactions (other than the typical exclusions) done via Mobile payments, (including MST) will accrue 10X OCBC points, equivalent to 4 miles per dollar. In practical terms, what this means is that spending at merchants who do not have a Contactless or Paywave reader can also net you 4 mpd.
Here is a video on how to carry out an MST transaction:
Overseas MST usage: If you are intending to use MST functions overseas, you must activate the overseas usage function on your credit card. This is because MST is still considered a “swipe” transaction. (H/T to Dr. Keefe from The Milelion Telegram Group)
The following devices support Samsung Pay:
Currently, the cheapest phone which can support Samsung Pay is the J7 Pro, which retails for around $368 without contract.
Android Pay – Android Pay works similarly to Apple Pay, using NFC technology and can be used either on its own or as an in-app payment.
GrabPay – Other than its function as a wallet for Grab rides, there is an increasing, but small number of merchants who are beginning to accept GrabPay for in-store purchases. For in-store GrabPay, you just have to scan the store QR code, and then enter the amount you wish to pay. There is a current promo till 4th March where for every in-store purchase of at least $3, you get a $5 Grab coupon, up to a maximum of 3 times a week.
What cards should I use?
This table below provides a high level overview on which cards should be digitized into the various digital wallets, in order to maximize miles.
|Apple Pay||Android Pay||Samsung Pay||Fave Pay||Grab Pay|
|UOB PPV/ Visa Signature||X||X||X|
|OCBC Titanium Rewards||X||X||X|
If we compare the 2 main banks who are still providing 4 mpd for mobile payments, we now have to decide how best to maximize miles earned across these cards. The following table may help in your decision making:
|OCBC Titanium Rewards||UOB PPV|
|What earns 10X?||Mobile wallet (ApplePay, SamsungPay or Android Pay) for all mobile transactions.|
Physical card for certain categories like Dept Stores, Electronics, Children and Baby stores.
|Either mobile wallet or physical card via Paywave.|
|MST eligible for 10X ?||Yes||No. MST is not an eligible transaction|
|Cap on miles earned||Annual cap of $12,000||Preferred Platinum Visa – Calendar month cap of $1100|
Visa Signature – Statement month cap of minimum $1,000 to a maximum of $2,000. (Note that Petrol spend will count towards the $1,000 min spend)
|Points posted on ?||1X on transaction posting date and 9X by the 2nd statement cycle.||PPV – Points posted within a few days.|
VS – 1X on transaction posting date and 9X points posted on the 2nd statement cycle.
|How points are awarded ?||Rounded down to nearest $1||Rounded down to nearest $5|
|FFP partners||Krisflyer only||Krisflyer or Asiamiles|
|Exclusions ?||In app Android and Apple payments do not qualify for 10X, nor do transactions at GTMs||SMART merchants and a numerous list|
The exact best fit strategy would really depend on an individual’s spending patterns (both online and offline), as well as what cards he or she owns.
Let me use my spending lifestyle as an example. I have all these cards and use all the digital wallets, except Apple Pay. My biggest spend, for the last 3 years, is actually on hospital and medical bills. Given that most hospitals do not have Paywave terminals, I only use my OCBC Titanium Rewards cards exclusively on medical and hospital bills.
Soon after I maxed out the $12,000 limit for both my Titanium Rewards cards, I now realize that I really need to examine my spending patterns in order to maximize my miles earning game plan. Luckily, i still have both the PPV and VS cards, both of which are eligible for 10X points under certain conditions.
So going back to the question, “How do I optimize usage between these 2 sets of cards” ?
The short answer is to put the following types of spend on the OCBC Titanium Rewards cards:
- Wherever there isn’t a Paywave terminal or if the Paywave terminal can’t handle more than $100 per transaction. In that case you should use MST, if you have a Samsung phone
- Where the amount is similar to $9.90 or $19.90, then I would suggest to use OCBC Titanium Rewards to get away from the nasty “rounded down to the nearest $5” for PPV and VS.
- UOB SMART merchants such as Cold Storage, Guardian Pharmacy, Metro, etc.
This then means that any transaction which does not fall into the above categories should then be charged to the PPV or VS cards.
Hopefully this helps to get you started on planning your card spend strategy !
Addendum for UOB PPV or VS cardholders who have an Android phone: For the newer Paywave terminals, UOB’s app, UOB MIGHTY has a Payment function that can bypass the $100 cap for contactless transactions. This requires you to digitize your UOB PPV or VS card on the UOB MIGHTY app and make payment from the app.
$192.60 (First 2 Years Free)
OCBC Titanium Rewards
- Until 31 December 2018, earn a bonus 6 mpd on Mileslife, capped at your first $1,000 spend
- Earn 4 miles per dollar when you shop at department stores, electronics stores, babies' and children's wear, or clothes, shoes and bags both online and offline, in Singapore and overseas
- Bonus miles are capped at $12,000 of spend per card membership year. But apply for both the Blue and Pink version of the card and double that cap to $24,000 (96,000 miles)
- Spending on the OCBC Titanium Rewards helps you earn bonus interest if you have an OCBC 360 account. Check out this article about bank accounts and miles cards