Should I use my credit card overseas to earn miles?

Using your miles card overseas can earn you bonus miles, but are the additional fees worth it?

Historically, people have steered clear of using their credit cards overseas due to the fear of high bank fees, or fraud, or the dreaded DCC scam (which, come to think of it, is pretty much fraud).

However, banks have started offering bigger incentives for customers to whip out their plastic when on the road. Most general spending miles cards offer an enhanced earn rate for overseas currency transactions, which can be as high as 4 miles per dollar in certain cases.

Is it worth using my credit card overseas?

Many people ask me whether it’s “worth it” to use their miles card overseas. It comes down to a simple question: how do you value your miles?

To put it in simple terms:

if (value of miles > cost of using card overseas), then (use card overseas)

I’m assuming you have your personal valuation of a mile handy; mine’s 1.8 cents. Now here’s the fees that each bank charges for foreign currency transactions (inclusive of the fees levied by Visa/Mastercard/AMEX)


Knowing this, you can factor in the foreign currency earning rates to derive your cost per mile.

CardFCY RateFCY FeeCents Per Mile
OCBC Titanium Rewards (eligible 10X categories)4.03.25%0.81
Citi Rewards (eligible 10X categories)4.03.25%0.81
UOB Visa Signature (min $1K, max $2K FCY per statement period)4.03.25%0.81
SCB Visa Infinite (spend >$2K per statement period)3.03.5%1.17
SCB Rewards+ (capped at $2.2K p.a)2.93.5%1.21
HSBC Visa Infinite (spend >$50K in previous year)2.252.8%1.24
UOB PRVI Miles (all versions)2.43.25%1.35
DBS Treasures Black Elite2.43.25%1.35
Maybank Visa Infinite/Horizon Visa Signature2.02.75%1.38
HSBC Visa Infinite (reg rate)2.02.8%1.4
OCBC VOYAGE2.23.25%1.48
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card and AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend (June/Dec)2.02.95%1.48
OCBC 90N2.13.25%1.55
Citi PremierMiles Visa, Citi Prestige, Citi ULTIMA2.03.25%1.63
DBS Altitude AMEX/Visa2.03.25%1.63
SCB X Card2.03.5%1.75
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend1.22.95%2.46
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card1.12.95%2.68
SCB Visa Infinite (spend <$2K per statement period)1.03.5%3.5

The best card to use overseas right now (until 29 Feb 2020 at least) is the OCBC 90N Card, because 4 mpd at a 3% fee is a good deal, even if your mileage valuation falls at the lower end of the spectrum. The proposition gets more marginal as you move down the table, and where you draw the line really depends on your personal valuation of miles.


One of the biggest gripes I have about using a credit card overseas is that should you need to do a refund, you can be sure that the refunded amount won’t be as much as the original charge. I get that exchange rates move and all, but it still feels wrong that a transaction done and reversed on the same day should have that large a spread.

If you’re not big on paying foreign transaction fees and don’t mind skipping the miles, you may want to consider getting a DBS Multi-currency Account, which allows you to top up a debit card with pre-purchased foreign currency. The YouTrip and Revolut cards offer similar functionality, with the additional benefit of free ATM withdrawals and interbank exchange rates. Alternatively, the AMEX True Cashback card is offering 2.5% cashback on foreign currency spending, which offsets the bank’s 2.5% fee.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

Similar Articles



Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Team You

You can TOP-up the You card using local credit cards. Will You be able to earn miles on the TOP-ups You think? Thank You.


What about PPV? No mention of it here.


For refunds in the case of foreign currency transactions, can always call the bank’s CSO to waive/nett off the FCY fees. I have a few data points for StanChart Visa Infinite card and they always nett off the difference for me. I make noise and go to the trouble in this case to call the CSO because the spread for the SC VI is ridiculous for refunds. Like 3-4% difference meaning if you pay S$100 you get around $96-97 in refund.


yes, just call and complain, you’ll get the same amount back.

if the CSO says no. Just hang up immediately and call again


Hi Aaron, have been lurking on your wonderful site (sounds borderline creepy I know) for close to 2 years and have learnt loads.

Just wanted to suggest a few more options for those who are loathe to paying forex transaction fees…the ICBC global travel MC, or the CIMB visa signature (quite a number of hoops to jump thru, but 10% cashback nonetheless, though capped at $60)


hi Aaron, I am new so i need more guidance. if i use 45K miles to redeem a business class to Istanbul, does it equate to value :-

UOB PRVI Miles at 1.35 per Cents/Mile

45Kmiles DIVIDE by 1.35?
i could not get the amount, please help me out here


Let me try to answer your question.

1.35cts per mile is what you earned or “buy” through overseas spending.

If you are redeeming:
Krisflyer business class saver award ticket to Istanbul:

One way: 45,000 Krisflyer miles, cost of air ticket SGD4020 (excluding taxes)
S$4020/45,000=8.93cts per krisflyer mile (your krisflyer mile is worth 8.93cts)
1.35cts x 45,000=S$607.50 is the cost of the redeemed ticket excluding taxes

Roundtrip ticket: 90,000 Krisflyer miles, cost of air ticket SGD4600 (excluding taxes)
$4600/90,000=5.11cts per krisflyer mile (your krisflyer mile is worth 5.11cts)
1.35cts x 90,000=S$1215 is the cost of the redeemed air tickets excluding taxes


oh wow! thanks Tiger9119! I’ve got so much to learn! So 1way SGD 607.50 is the cost of the redeemed ticket!!! Thanks so much for sharing! now i know how to calculate!


think your table for BOC EM FCY charge should be 2.5% instead of 2%


Would just like to point out also that the cost per mile calculation should also include the additional difference between FX rates by banks/MC/Visa versus money changers.

These could potentially be an additional ~0.3% in costs for major currencies like USD, or more for exotic emerging market currencies, easily making the cost per mile 10% higher than calculated above.



If u go to a money changer, they will charge u more. So the exchange rate can be disregarded as you will incur it either way.

Credit card is much better. U only pay for when u use it and won’t come back home with a truck load of foreign currency which you may not use in the near future. If u exchange it back to sgd, I lose out a second time.


Btw you can try it out. When your credit card bill comes, search in Google the exchange rate for that day you transacted. Factor in your admin cost by the credit card and u will see 100% of the time credit card exchange rate is at Google rate.


It sounds like you could be referring to a neighbourhood money changer which charge significantly higher spreads. In contrast, money chargers in Arcade are very very reasonable. I’ve been using products like Mighty FX which offer superior FX rates over bank counter rates – all of which have been above spot rate as quoted by Bloomberg/XE/Google/Yahoo at time of exchange. From a logical perspective, banks will also never charge you at their interbank rate when you have no access to cheaper rates anyway. To further substantiate, at time of writing, SGD 1,000 will get you the following: Arcade money changer… Read more »


for SGD1000 gives me AUD987.60
Google gives me AUD998.23 give mes EUR634.30
Google gives mes EUR637.87 gives me GBP566.50
Google gives mes 572.08

do give credit card a try when you travel. i have and am 100% sure you are better off since they give rates extremely close to Google.

moneychangers are earning from exhange rates, lets not kid ourselves.


Heya! Ofc money changers are earning from the exchange rate. I guess the point is that FX rates from banks are always worse than money changers. Whether or not these rates are similar to Google isn’t really relevant. What should be compared is the rate between a good money changers versus the card being used, to determine the additional costs to be factored into the valuation of the miles above.


from my experience, 99% of the time the credit card rates are worse. my most recent experience was twd, i just changed at 22.6 at the arcade. the interbank rate is only 22.45. visa rate is even worse, at 22.39, and this is not even including fx charges of 2.5%


I’d agree with you that in most cases, any good money-changer would beat the socks off any bank charge/ transaction fees.. and that’s without even going into things like, having a multi-currency account, having preferential exchange rates, and having bought and sat on a particular currency when it was favorable to yourself… However.. even if you had the latter.. which would be even better than any spot rate that the best money-changer can give you (assuming a much more favorable exchange rate x months or years ago).. you then have to weigh other things… such as.. 1) Is it better… Read more »


Agreed! That’s why we are all here on this website 🙂 Anyway, I was just refuting TooEasy’s point that rates from credit cards are always better (he/she said 100% of the time). In my 20 years of travel, i have almost never found that to be the case, but of course the perks can offset the cost like you mentioned. Although I also believe you are also cherry picking and your personal situation is unique and those 4 points are not applicable for most people. point 1 is the easiest 1) I’ve had the citi prestige for 4 years now,… Read more »


Haha.. Hi Janice.. I hear you.. on all points.. and yeah, hence my “if the shoe fits”.. We, too, have had the Citi P for some years now and as both are Principle Cards, we get the double up on some perks, which have been useful in the past (sometime needing 3 MPVs to airport, Priority Pass guests etc), you know what I mean.. 4th night free.. never even bothered until this year, when the shoe fit (no Corp rates at ski resorts!) and read about it on blogs like Aarons.. and you’ll be surprised.. unlike Amex’s FHR, SG Citi… Read more »


Good rates at money changers will mean <1% spread though


Hey, great post! Thanks for sharing. One thing I noticed: if I’m not mistaken, I think the Citi PremierMiles overseas earn rate for foreign currency is 2.0 instead of 2.4


Hi Aaron,

I have a UOB Visa Signature prepared for the FCY hotel stay. However, any suggestion on the amount exceed 2K for the offline hotel spend? Any card can ear 4mpd?

Best regards,


[…] amount (and that’s before taking into account foreign currency spreads). Is it worth using your card overseas to earn miles then? The simple answer is: it all depends on your valuation of a […]


HI Aaron – this post has been really helpful for me when I travel overseas. Just trying to understand the maths here – Cents/ mile = FCY Charge / Specialized Earning Rate So when i look at the cents / mile calculation – it’s telling me what is the incremental cents / mile i have to pay to get my headline overseas earning rate. My total cents / mile would be ( 1+ % FCY Charge) / Specialized earning rate is what i’m paying in total and that’s what I should be using to evaluate whether it make sense for… Read more »