Credit Cards

Miles Game Starter Pack: Four credit cards you need to get going

Playing the miles game doesn't mean a bursting wallet. Here's the handful of cards you need to get started.

At a recent Milelion meetup, someone asked me if I had an article handy on a recommended “starter pack” for the miles game. I always assumed there was something like that on the site, but it turns out there isn’t. 

If you’re just getting started in the miles game and worrying about having to apply for 10 different credit cards, the good news is you don’t have to. In fact, most people will get along just fine with four or so. You could get more, but you don’t absolutely have to. 

So here’s my miles game starter pack, the cards I’d advise anyone to apply for when starting out. 

The article below assumes you’ve already maxed out your sign up bonuses. If you haven’t, you may want to do that first before optimizing your earnings in individual categories

Card 1: General Spending

Pick one of
 Annual FeesEarn Rates

BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$190 (first year free)Local: 1.5 mpd 
FCY: 3.0 mpd
UOB PRVI Miles Visa 
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$256.80 (first year free)Local: 1.4 mpd
FCY: 2.4 mpd

OCBC 90N Card
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Local: 1.2 mpd
FCY: 4.0 mpd (until 29 Feb 2020, after which 2.1 mpd)
DBS Altitude AMEX
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Local: 1.2 mpd
FCY: 2.0 mpd
(Apply by 30 Sept 19 and spend $6K in first 3 months to receive 50% bonus miles capped at 10,000 miles)
DBS Altitude Visa
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Local: 1.2 mpd
FCY: 2.0 mpd
Citi PremierMiles Visa
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Local: 1.2 mpd
(until 31 Dec 19: 1.5 mpd with >$3K monthly spending)
FCY: 2.0 mpd

Even though we’re choosing this first, this should actually be the last card we use, saved for situations where none of the other cards below can work.

That’s because your objective as a miles chaser should be to maximize specialized spending bonuses. In other words, you want to earn 4 mpd on as much of your spending as possible, and that means using the cards below whenever you can.

That said, you’ll still need a general spending card as a fallback option. 

In terms of pure miles earning potential, it’s hard to top the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard at 1.5/3.0 mpd for local/overseas spending. The catch is that BOC customer service and IT is enough to make you pull your hair out. With cards taking months to arrive, mysterious interest charges, and an ibanking interface that makes MS-DOS look futuristic, BOC is definitely not an experience for the faint of heart. 

If you’d prefer a card with less drama, the UOB PRVI Miles can be a good option with 1.4/2.4 mpd on local/overseas spending. Do note, however, that UOB’s policy of rounding transactions down to the nearest $5 can sometimes result in you earning fewer miles than on competing cards, especially on small transactions. Also, the UOB PRVI Miles does not give any miles for paying the annual fee.

The UOB PRVI Miles AMEX will give you 20K miles when you spend $50K in a membership year

If that bothers you, then try the OCBC 90N Card, DBS Altitude, or Citi PremierMiles Visa instead, which offer 10,000 miles with the payment of the annual fee. The DBS Altitude and Citi PremierMiles Visa offer 1.2/2.0 mpd on local/overseas spending. The OCBC 90N Card offers 1.2/2.1 mpd on local/overseas spending, but from now till 29 Feb 2020, the overseas spending rate is boosted to 4.0 mpd with no cap or minimum spend.

Card 2: Contactless Payments

Pick one of
 Annual FeesEarn Rates

UOB Preferred Platinum Visa 
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Contactless: 4.0 mpd
(capped at $1,110 a month)
UOB Visa Signature
($50,000 p.a)
Apply here
$214 (first year free)Contactless: 4.0 mpd (and petrol, overseas and online transactions, min spend $1K per statement period, capped at $2,000 per statement period)
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Given the ubiquity of contactless payments, there’s absolutely no excuse not to be earning 4 mpd at as many places as possible through the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa. You can either tap the card at the terminal, or add it to your Fitbit Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay wallet. This 4 mpd applies to contactless payments both in Singapore and overseas. 

Any of these terminals will support contactless payments

The only thing you need to be careful of is SMART$ merchants, such as Giant, Cold Storage, BreadTalk, Shell, and Guardian. You will not earn any UNI$ at such merchants, because UOB will award SMART$ instead- effectively a form of cashback. In these cases, use your general spending card. 

You can earn 4 mpd on a maximum of $1,110 of contactless spending per month.

This confuses people, because the cap is often quoted as $1,000. The reason for this discrepancy is that the bonus 9X UNI$ (not total 10X UNI$) is capped at 2,000, which is equivalent to $1,110 of spending (2000/9*5)

An alternative is the UOB Visa Signature card, but I’m generally hesitant to recommend it given the minimum $1,000 spending requirement each statement period to earn 4 mpd. Get your sums wrong, and you’ll earn a measly 0.4 mpd. 

Card 3: Dining

Pick one of
 Annual FeesEarn Rates

UOB Lady’s Card
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Dining: 4.0 mpd  (or your choice of 1 of 7 categories including entertainment, family, fashion, transport, travel, beauty, capped at $1K per month)
Maybank Horizon Visa Signature
($30,000 p.a)

Apply here
$180 (first 3 years free)Dining: 3.2 mpd  (and bus/train, petrol, taxi fares, min spend $300, max 30K bonus TREATS per month)
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Dining: 3 mpd (and food delivery, online shopping and travel, transport, requires min $500 spend on SIA-group purchases in a year)

HSBC Revolution
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$160.50 (first 2 years free)Dining: 2 mpd (and online transactions, entertainment)

Once upon a time, getting a decent dining card was pretty easy in Singapore. Both the HSBC Advance and the UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX were readily available, offering an uncapped 4 mpd on dining both in Singapore and overseas. 

And then things changed. The HSBC Advance went to the dark side of cashback, and the UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX simply stopped being issued. Add the loss of Mileslife, and suddenly, dining out seemed less rewarding. 

In an ideal situation, the restaurant would accept contactless payments, and you’d simply use the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa as mentioned above. But if not, there are still a handful of good dining cards out there, albeit with restrictions.

The relaunched UOB Lady’s Card is a good option (unlike the gender-neutral DBS Woman’s World Card, only ladies can apply), because you can pick dining as your quarterly 10X category and earn 4 mpd up to $1,000 per month.

If your income permits, you can even spring for the UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card ($120K p.a), which gives you a second bonus category (beauty, entertainment, family, fashion, transport, travel) and increases the overall cap on 4 mpd to $3K per month. 

Otherwise, the Maybank Horizon Visa Signature is another potential option for dining. You’ll earn 3.2 mpd, subject to a minimum monthly total card spend of $300, and capped at 30,000 bonus points a month (equivalent to ~$4.2K of dining). Do note, however, that Maybank’s definition of dining is stricter than UOB’s. UOB defines dining as:

  • 5811: Caterers
  • 5812: Eating Places and Restaurants
  • 5814: Fast Food Restaurants
  • 5499: Misc Food Stores- convenience stores, markets, specialty stores and vending machines
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Maybank, on the other hand, only considers dining as 5812: Eating Places and Restaurants. In other words, using your Maybank Horizon Visa Signature at McDonald’s will not earn you any bonus miles. 

The KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card should also get a mention here, as you’ll earn 3 mpd on dining provided you spend a minimum of $500 on SIA-group related transactions (i.e. Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Scoot) in a membership year. Do note that you’ll only receive 1.2 mpd initially- the remaining 1.8 mpd will be credited two months after your membership year

A distant fourth is the HSBC Revolution, which offers a no-cap 2 mpd on dining and entertainment expenditure. 

Don’t forget ShopBack GO
If you’re dining out, be sure to link your credit card to Shopback GO. You’ll still earn your regular dining bonuses on your credit card, but you’ll also get some bonus cashback for free. Register for ShopBack GO and get a $5 bonus here

Card 4: Online transactions

Pick one of
 Annual FeesEarn Rates
DBS Woman’s World Card
($80,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60  (first year free)Online spending: 4 mpd (capped at $2K/ month)

Citi Rewards Visa
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first year free)Online spending: 4 mpd (capped at $1K/statement month)
OCBC Titanium Rewards
($30,000 p.a)
Apply here
$192.60 (first 2 years free)Online shopping: 4 mpd (capped at $12K/ membership year )

Given the number of online transactions most people do in a month- groceries, movie tickets, airfares, hotel bookings, shopping, entertainment subscriptions, it’s almost unthinkable not to have a specialized spending card for this category. 

The DBS Woman’s World Card is a natural choice for most. Despite the seemingly high $80,000 income requirement, existing DBS cardholders tend to get instant approval simply by applying through ibanking, even if they’re earning closer to the $30,000 mark. And yes, men can apply for it (just look closely at the name DBS embossed on the card art!).

If that doesn’t work for you, consider the Citi Rewards Visa or Citi Rewards Mastercard. In March, Citi started offering 4 mpd on all online transactions (except travel) made on the Citi Rewards cards, capped at $1,000 per statement month. Both the Visa and Mastercard versions have their own individual caps, so you holding both doubles your cap to $2,000 per statement month (but remember, Citi points do not pool). 

Another option is the OCBC Titanium Rewards, which gives 4 mpd on selected online shopping merchants. The list below is not exhaustive, so if you want to confirm a particular merchant, try reaching out to OCBC on HWZ. 

The OCBC Titanium Rewards comes in Pink and Blue versions, each with their own $12,000/membership year cap on 4 mpd. Although the aggregate cap is the same as the Citi Rewards cards, the OCBC Titanium Rewards works better for big ticket purchases because it doesn’t limit you to $1,000 per month. 

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Remember: if the online transaction is in foreign currency, you can also use the OCBC 90N Card to earn an uncapped 4 mpd, until 29 Feb 2020. 

Other categories

In the interest of conciseness, I’ve not included cards for other commonly-asked categories like insurance, petrol, public transportation or Grab top ups. Those can be found in this guide, and the good news is that some of the cards above can pull double duty. 

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the cards here, you can consider adding on additional ones based on your spending patterns and preferred benefits. Perhaps I spend a lot online each month, beyond the DBS Woman’s World Card’s $2K cap. In that case, I can get an additional Citi Rewards Visa to “top up” my cap. Or perhaps I’d like the benefit of complimentary airport limo transfer and unlimited lounge access. Then I can start looking at higher-end cards in the $120K segment.

Other considerations

There are other factors which may influence the cards you select, including: 

  • Points expiry
  • Transfer partners
  • Points pooling
  • Minimum conversion amounts
  • Conversion fees

The below table should provide you with a quick reference guide:

Click to enlarge

Remember: it may not make sense to optimize your spending in every single category. For example, if I hardly dine out, then getting a Maybank Horizon Visa Signature will most likely result in me having orphan miles. In that case, I’d be much better off using a general spending card for this category, notwithstanding the fact the headline earning rate is lower. 

Whenever you get a specialized spending card, be sure to do a quick sense check as to how much you actually spend on that particular category in a given month. 

Conclusion

Getting started in the miles game may appear to be daunting, but although the archetypal miles chaser has a wallet overflowing with credit cards, reality is somewhat more pedestrian. Four or so credit cards is a good place to start, and with the setup proposed here, you’ll be well-placed to maximize your spending on different categories. 

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So that’s the miles game starter pack! Be sure to have a read also of our page on sign up bonuses to ensure you’re not missing out on anything. 


Signing up for credit cards through any of the links in this article may generate a referral commission that supports the running of the site. Found this post useful? Subscribe to our Telegram Channel to get these posts pushed directly to your phone, or our newsletter (on the right of your screen) for the latest deals and hacks delivered to your inbox.

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Aaron WongWilly KangUltim@voyagefanWinston Recent comment authors
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Kai
Guest
Kai

Hi Aaron

This is super useful thank you! But wouldn’t uob ppv be good for online transactions too ( if total spend per month is < 1k) ? As it also offers 4mpd for online shopping, entertainment, food delivery… same as Citi rewards no?

Jasper
Guest
Jasper

Hi Aaron, which credit card would be good for insurance payments?

K
Guest
K

if only there were a guide that covered this, that was linked in the article itself. wouldn’t that be grand!

KH
Guest
KH

You can probably look at https://milelion.com/credit-cards/guide/ for the answer

GT
Guest
GT

Thanks, Aaron! This is a very good summary for starters like me.

Effjay
Guest
Effjay

Comparing OCBC 90N, DBS Altitude and Citi Premiermiles… only premiermiles have lounge access. But the 4mpd and 8mpd promo with 90N also v compelling but con is that only have Krisflyer as transfer partner. Probs will still get both.

J
Guest
J

Does the 1k min 2k max for UOB signature counts both paywave + overseas spend together to hit 1k? Aka lets say 500 paywave + 500 overseas spend = 4k miles?

readtandc
Guest
readtandc

the T&C answer your questions, have a look at them

Too many miles
Guest
Too many miles

500 paywave + 500 overseas spend = 400 miles

bluepanda
Guest
bluepanda

Probably no need for dedicated dining card. PPV should cover most cases. VS can cover the FCY cases where WMC couldn’t. I would vote for Alt Visa to pair with WMC so as to hit the minimum transfer threshold (since WMC points only last one year).

With Grab MC, it’s possible to dump the PPV too. And just use CRV/CRM.

Jay
Guest
Jay

Hi! Thanks for this. Just wanted to ask why did u not recommend the UOB-Krisflyer for dining?

On my end, I have the altitude, citi rewards and UOB-Krisflyer. Do you think this combination is good for beginners?

Thanks Aaron!

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hi Aaron, what would you consider to be the minimum card spending per month to start playing the miles game?

JErmyn Wee
Guest
JErmyn Wee

Whats the difference between UOB Preferred Platinum Visa vs UOB Visa Signature. Both are available to me, but I can’t really find any differences other then the minimum salary. Can anyone shine some light on this?

JErmyn Wee
Guest
JErmyn Wee

Also does taking the bus on either card also give you 4 MPD?

SQ Flyer
Guest
SQ Flyer

Try reading the article again

MelSim
Guest
MelSim

Even though UOB stopped issuing the PPA, is it still valid for 4ppm for dining?

Zezima
Guest
Zezima

Hi Aaron. I started my miles game last year and my current and only miles card is DBS Altitude VISA card. This card’s specialization spend is online flight and hotel bookings. My general monthly spend is only $700+ / month (Estimated). They are mainly food, transport spend and teleco bills. (Food courts / Fast food restaurants / SimplyGO / Singtel Starhub online payment portal) I do travel once / twice per year. I booked flights and hotels online from Singapore Airlines and Agoda / Kaligo. I get bonus miles for using this card for online travel bookings. During overseas, I… Read more »

Adam
Guest
Adam

I would suggest getting the DBS WWMC on top because Altitude and WWMC points pool. When you redeem, WWMC points will be deducted first because they expire while Altitude points have no expiry.

Use your WWMC for your online payments (telco bills).

Zezima
Guest
Zezima

DBS WWMC – “S$80,000 and above per annum (Singaporean or Foreigner)”
Unfortunately, my current income does not meet the requirements.

Also DBS WWMC does not give bonus miles if required to pay the annual fee.

At least i still get 1.2 mpd for teleco bills (via their online payment portal) on my DBS Altitude VISA card, better than nothing.

Adam
Guest
Adam

From the article:

“The DBS Woman’s World Card is a natural choice for most. Despite the seemingly high $80,000 income requirement, existing DBS cardholders tend to get instant approval simply by applying through ibanking, even if they’re earning closer to the $30,000 mark.”

Just give it a try. What’s the worse thing that can happen? You get rejected and continue using your Altitude card.

Zezima
Guest
Zezima

Hmmm ok… But however, annual fees might be another problem if the request for annual fee waiver was rejected (Thinking of worse case scenario). The Annual fee costs might outweigh the benefits for my case.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Honestly, I think you’re being a little paranoid. You’ll find many stories of instant fee waivers, even for a “premium” card like WWMC.

If you’re worried, here’s my suggestion. Sign up for the WWMC (first year fee waiver). Don’t redeem any miles on your Altitude in the upcoming year. When the second year for your WWMC comes up, give DBS a call and try to get the fee waiver. If you succeed, great! If you fail, then do a redemption (pooling points with Altitude if needed) and cancel your card.

Zezima
Guest
Zezima

Noted. Thanks for your advice. Probably will take WWMC into consideration.

Winston
Guest
Winston

I just got my PP for Citi pmv, but it’s got an expiry date which is 3 years earlier than my altitude visa’s PP gotten last year. Why is this so and would there be any practical difference in usage?

voyagefan
Guest
voyagefan

voyage for general spend @ 1.6miles/$?

Ultim@
Guest

between the UOB PPV and Sig, it seems the PPV is better for general paywave spend (even better than the PRVI) cos it’s 4 MPD and the Sig only kicks in 4 MPD at 1K online spend and above, is this correct?

Willy Kang
Member
Willy Kang

Thanks for this helpful post.
At some SMART$ merchants, such as Giant and Guardian, there is option not to earn SMART$. I presume by choosing no to SMART$, 4mpd will be credited for UOB PPV?