OCBC announced this morning that it’s pulling the plug early on its 10X (4 mpd) promotion on mobile payments made with the Titanium Rewards card. The promotion was supposed to last until 31 December 2018, but the website was quietly updated late last night to bring forward the last day to 4 August 2018.
Needless to say there’s plenty of sackcloth and ashes in the points chaser community today, because that the Titanium Rewards card was the best way of earning 4 mpd everywhere (especially if you didn’t have Apple Pay).
Given the ubiquity of contactless terminals, the Titanium Rewards card was essentially your gateway to earning 10X at places which would never normally earn bonus points, like supermarkets, car repairs, hospital bills, wedding banquets, haircare packages for the follically challenged… you name it.
First of all, let’s give credit where it’s due. When OCBC first launched the 10X mobile payments promotion in October 2016, the intended end date was 31 December 2016. That later got extended to 31 December 2017, and then 31 December 2018. So in a way, OCBC has already extended this promotion way beyond what we initially hoped for.
On the other hand, no one takes kindly to the unilateral modification of T&Cs after the fact, and in that sense you could argue that OCBC had already made a promise to see this promotion through to 31 December 2018 when it decided in late 2017 to extend it. There are plenty of cheesed-off people in the Telegram Group this morning, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bit miffed about the whole situation.
It doesn’t help that OCBC has attempted to take the moral high ground on marketing with its Stay True campaign, which among other things pledges not to engage in misleading advertising. Now to the extent that someone took up the Titanium Rewards card with the understanding that the mobile payments promotion would last till the end of December, I could see how they might feel misled.
Why has OCBC pulled the promotion early?
The easy answer is to cite economics: the promotion was simply costing OCBC more than expected. I’m certain that cost was a factor, but I’m not convinced that’s the whole story. After all, OCBC hedged themselves in this promotion by putting a $12,000 yearly cap on the 10X points, which limits the total damage they incur.
So either (A) OCBC was counting on most people not hitting the 10X cap but the sheer growth of merchants accepting mobile payments meant the costs ballooned faster than anticipated, (B) OCBC didn’t anticipate that so many people would sign up for the card or (C) too many people were hitting the $12,000 cap in one large transaction (easy to do if you have Samsung Pay and MST) and then putting the card in the proverbial sock drawer.
Other people may point to the 10X promotions that Citibank Rewards and UOB Preferred Platinum Visa are running- if those banks can make a $12,000 annual cap on 10X work, why can’t OCBC? I don’t find that a particularly persuasive argument, because it overlooks the very basic fact that each bank has a different cost structure, and also says nothing about sign ups or user behavior.
Moreover, the key difference between those promotions and the OCBC one is that the mobile payments promotion rewards a medium of spend (Apple/Google/Samsung Pay), while other 10X campaigns reward a category (online shopping/department stores/bags/shoes/clothes).
Think about it: with the UOB PPV and Citibank Rewards, you’d have people using the card as a one-size-fits-all solution, which brought down the weighted average cost of points for the bank (I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen paying for lunch, lunch, with a Citibank Rewards card). But the Titanium Rewards, once added it to your mobile wallet, was meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution. That means each and every transaction where you tapped your phone was incurring 10X costs for OCBC (don’t ask me how Citibank is affording the Apple Pay 20X promotion, even industry insiders are at a loss about this). Of course this doesn’t legislate for brain trusts who ended up physically carrying around the Titanium Rewards card and using it for regular swipe transactions (I’m sure there must be some), but you can see how a promotion that rewards a medium of payment is going to run up higher costs than one that just rewards categories.
The above is just my uneducated guess, and only OCBC knows the reason why they decided to pull it early. Strategic priorities change, KPIs get realigned, who knows. None of this, by the way, is meant to excuse the decision made. It’s just my attempt to understand it.
What does this mean for you?
We have about one month between now and August 4. Assuming you’re not already earning 8 mpd with Citibank and Apple Pay, and/or you have a big ticket transaction coming up, I believe it still makes sense to apply for a Titanium Rewards card and try to sneak in that transaction before the deadline.
For example, I still have a wedding banquet deposit to pay off where the hotel (Hyatt) doesn’t take Apple Pay. You can bet that I’m heading down first thing Monday with a Samsung Pay MST-enabled phone (thanks Jon!) to max out the remaining 10X balance on both my and my fiancee’s Titanium Rewards cards, because I’m not about to pass up easy miles.
Those of you with similar big ticket spending coming up should see if there’s any way to bring forward your payment before the 4 August deadline. Obviously if the place accepts Apple Pay you should be looking to use a Citibank Rewards/Citibank Prestige card to earn 8 mpd, but if you don’t have an iPhone or the place doesn’t take contactless payments (use MST) then the OCBC Titanium Rewards still remains your best shot.
I think it’s more pertinent than ever to reiterate the disclosure that I do earn a referral commission for OCBC Titanium Rewards cards applied for through this site. However, now that time is of the essence I’d encourage you to do what you need to get your card approved asap, even if it means bypassing this site and going down to a branch directly to get everything done.
In light of what’s happened some people will object to applying for the card on general principle, and I totally get that. But I can’t think of any other way to earn 4 mpd at so many merchants, especially when you take into account the possibility of MST. I guess my approach to this is to make hay while the sun shines.
I’d have been much less surprised if, say, Citibank decided to call time early on its 8 mpd Apple Pay promotion, because (1) it’s much bigger a promo and (2) it’s uncapped. But I didn’t see this coming at all.
It’s not cool that OCBC pulled the promo early. Although the T&Cs give the bank the right to modify or end promotions early, the fact is that people plan their spending on the assumption that what has been said will be honored. It’s unfortunate that the early termination of this promotion is going to leave a sour taste in the mouth of some consumers, because for a very long time, the Titanium Rewards was my absolute favourite card in Singapore.
It wasn’t just because of the mobile payments promotion- this card also earned 10X on department stores, shopping and personal care. It had that crazy 12 mpd promotion with IKEA. It got 8 mpd with Emirates. It got 6 mpd on Mileslife. People reported getting targeted with promotions for 4 mpd on dining, or overseas spending, or bonus OCBC$ just for making a few transactions. This card was an absolute miles minting machine, and it’ll be sad if this is the last memory people have of it.