Grab announces major GrabRewards devaluation

From 2 March 2020, Grab will cut earning rates by up to 60%, and increase award prices by up to 39%. It's grim, grim, grim.

Grab has announced a major devaluation to the GrabRewards program, which comes into effect from 2 March 2020.

This is the second devaluation in less than two years. The previous (no-notice) devaluation took place in July 2018, but that only affected the earn side- although Grab initially said that award costs would increase, it later walked back that decision.

This time round, both earn and burn sides have been hit, and significantly so.

tl;dr
From 2 March 2020, Grab is cutting earn rates by up to 60%, while increasing award costs by up to 39%. The net result is that effective rebates drop from 0.6-2.8% to 0.4-0.8%. It’s grim news, but what are you going to do?

Grab Rewards earn rates have been cut by up to 60%

GrabRewards currently has three different earn rates, depending on what service you use:

Earn Rates until 2 Mar 2020 (Points/S$1)
GrabExpress GrabFood/ Rides GrabPay (includes GPMC)
Member 2 3 5
Silver 2 3 5
Gold 3 4.5 7.5
Platinum 4 6 10
GPMC= GrabPay Mastercard. Earn rates assume payment with GrabPay. Otherwise, all cash transactions earn 1-2 points per S$1

From 2 Mar 2020, you’ll earn the same rate across all Grab services. Unfortunately, that earn rate will be the lowest of the three currently offered.

Earn Rates from 2 Mar 2020 (Points/S$1)
All Grab Services (includes GPMC)
Member 2
Silver 2
Gold 3
Platinum 4
GPMC= GrabPay Mastercard. Earn rates assume payment with GrabPay. No more points earned on cash transactions

To summarize, earn rates on GrabFood/rides are being cut by 33%, and earn rates on Grab Pay are being cut by 60%. Although Platinums and Golds continue to earn 2X and 1.5X the points of base members, the cuts affect all tiers.

Grab Rewards award prices have increased by up to 39%

Of course, we can’t look at earn rates alone. We also need to consider what’s happening on the burn side, in particular the prices of GrabFood and Grab ride vouchers.

Unfortunately, it’s bad news here too. The cost of rewards is going up significantly, and there’s no more discounted redemptions for elite members. All awards will cost the same regardless of tier, which means that Platinum members actually see the biggest hike in award costs.

From 2 March 2020, here’s how award costs will increase:

Award Cost Before | From 2 March 2020
S$1 S$5 S$10
Member 500 | 550 (+10%) 2,200 | 2,500 (+14%) 4,200 | 5,000 (+19%)
Silver 500 | 550 (+10%) 2,100 | 2,500 (+19%) 4,000 | 5,000 (+25%)
Gold 500 | 550 (+10%) 2,000 | 2,500 (+25%) 3,800 | 5,000 (+32%)
Platinum 500 | 550 (+10%) 1,9002,500 (+32%) 3,600 | 5,000  (+39%)

So in addition to a 33-60% decrease on the earn side, members will have to contend with a 10-39% increase in the cost of awards (the actual quantum of the decrease is arguably 14-39%, since I can’t imagine too many people were redeeming the S$1 rewards). That’s grim, to put it mildly.

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Moreover, Grab will no longer offer S$15, S$20, and S$25 denomination vouchers. Although I doubt a lot of people actually saved up for a S$25 voucher, this denomination had the highest points:value ratio.

Effective rebates through GrabRewards drop below 1%

With the changes to the earn and burn rates, here’s what happens to the effective rebate offered through GrabRewards:

Effective Rebate Before | From 2 March 2020
Member 0.6-1.4% | 0.4%
Silver 0.6-1.4% | 0.4%
Gold 0.9-2.1%| 0.5-0.6%
Platinum 1.2-2.8% | 0.7-0.8%
I’m basing the minimum rebate in the “before” scenario on GrabFood/Grab Rides and not GrabExpress, which very few consumers use

We’re seeing rebates drop below 1%, which means that GrabRewards may very well cease to be a meaningful point of differentiation for some people. In the past, I sometimes picked Grab over gojek even if Grab prices were slightly higher, because I believed the points would make up for it. Going forward, I’m not so sure I’d do the same.

To put it another way, a base member used to have to spend at least S$440 to get a S$5 voucher. He’ll now have to spend at least S$1,250 to get that same reward, a 2.8X increase. A Platinum member has it worse- he used to have to spend at least S$190 to get a S$5 voucher. He’ll now have to spend at least S$625, a 3.3X increase.

The changes also mean there’s no meaningful distinction between Member and Silver status anymore, at least for those redeeming Grab vouchers. Both tiers earn and redeem at exactly the same rates from 2 March 2020.

Silver tier members do enjoy some incremental benefits over base tier members like Agoda discounts and preferential airport access rates, but otherwise it’s mostly the same

You’ll earn significantly fewer KrisFlyer miles

As you already know, GrabRewards points can be converted into KrisFlyer miles

For now, the prices of KrisFlyer miles in the GrabRewards catalogue are unchanged:

  • Platinum: 1,400 points for 160 miles
  • Other tiers: 1,500 points for 160 miles
Grab added some new KrisFlyer conversion options in December, but these are lower value so we won’t consider them here

With the reduction in earn rates, here’s how the effective miles per dollar you earn from Grab services changes.

Effective MPD Before | From 2 March 2020
GrabFood/Rides GrabPay (includes GPMC)
Member 0.32 | 0.21 0.53 | 0.21
Silver 0.32 | 0.21 0.53 | 0.21
Gold 0.48 | 0.32 0.80  | 0.32
Platinum 0.69 | 0.46 1.14 | 0.46
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This basically mirrors the 33-60% cut we saw on the earn rates.

Grab elite status now requires 2.5X the spend to earn and maintain

With the changes in earn rates, it’ll now cost you 2.5X more to earn and maintain elite status with GrabRewards.

In the table below I’ve shown the minimum cumulative spending required to earn status in GrabRewards before and after the changes:

Min Cumulative Spending To Earn Status Before | From 2 March 2020
Silver S$60 | S$150 (2.5X)
Gold S$240 | S$600 (2.5X)
Platinum S$680 | S$1,700 (2.5X)
Assumes all spending made on GrabPay

Here’s how much it costs to maintain status in the following membership period. The figures here are lower because once you’ve hit a particular status, you earn points at that status level throughout the requalification period.

Min Cumulative Spending To Maintain Status Before | From 2 March 2020
Silver S$60 | S$150 (2.5X)
Gold S$160 | S$400 (2.5X)
Platinum S$450 | S$1,125 (2.5X)

Long story short, you’re going to have to spend a lot more within the Grab ecosystem to achieve and maintain the same tier. You still have some time to earn at the old rates, so if you’re intending to qualify/requalify, you’d better do it soon.

What does this mean for the GrabPay Mastercard?

Well, the GrabPay card earns 60% fewer points from 2 March 2020, but as I mentioned in my GrabPay Mastercard review, so long as banks continue to offer rewards on GrabPay top ups, there’s no reason not to use it because it’s basically double dipping. You earn rewards on your credit card when you top up, and you earn points when you spend your GrabPay balance.

The devaluation doesn’t change that logic. It’s still double dipping, just that your second dip is a lot less generous than before. As of right now, the GrabPay card and regular credit cards are not an either/or proposition.

However, it also means that when (and it really is when, not if) the last few banks decide to stop offering rewards for GrabPay top-ups, there’s no reason for a miles chaser to use the GrabPay Mastercard over a credit card (unless its a category where your card doesn’t earn rewards, e.g insurance).

Local MPD FCY MPD
GrabPay Mastercard 0.21-0.46 0.21-0.46
OCBC 90°N Card 1.2 4.0 (until 29 Feb 20)
BOC Elite Miles 1.5 3.0
UOB PRVI Miles 1.4 2.4
DBS Altitude 1.2 2.0
Citi PremierMiles Visa 1.2 2.0
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend 1.2 2.0 (Jun & Dec)
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card 1.1 2.0 (Jun & Dec)

We just saw American Express announce that GrabPay top-ups won’t earn points from March 2020, so I reckon the end is coming soon for the last few holdouts.

How does this compare to the previous GrabRewards devaluation?

GrabRewards earn in 2017. The 30 points/S$1 didn’t last long…

It’s hard to imagine now, but once upon a time you could earn up to 30 points per S$1 on Grab rides, regardless of your status. To be fair, that was a limited time promotion, but even the regular 16 points per S$1 rate is a far cry from the rates now.

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For perspective, here’s how the GrabRewards earn rate has decreased over the past two years.

  Points per S$1
Prior to July 2018* July 2018- Feb 2020 From Mar 2020
Member 5-16 2-5 2
Silver 5-16 2-5 2
Gold 5-16 3-7.5 3
Platinum 5-16 4-10 4
*Ignoring promo rate of 30 points/S$1

Rebates have therefore trended downwards, to the point where they’re almost negligible.

Maximum Rebate
Prior to July 2018* July 2018- Feb 2020 From Mar 2020
Member 4.4% 1.4% 0.4%
Silver 4.4% 1.4% 0.4%
Gold 4.4% 2.1% 0.6%
Platinum 4.5% 2.8% 0.8%
*Ignoring promo rate of 30 points/S$1

Or to put it another way, here’s how the minimum amount you have to spend to earn a S$5 voucher has changed.

Prior to July 2018 July 2018- Feb 2020 From Mar 2020
Member S$138 S$440 S$1,250
Silver S$131 S$420 S$1,250
Gold S$125 S$267 S$833
Platinum S$119 S$190 S$625

I suppose part of me knew that Grab wouldn’t be able to sustain such a high rebate forever, but the rate at which value has plummeted is alarming. Barely 18 months ago, you could get a ~4-5% rebate through the rewards program. In just over a month, it’ll be closer to 0.5%.

Conclusion

Although it’s good that Grab has learned from the previous devaluation fiasco and given some advance notice this time round, it doesn’t change the fact that GrabRewards has been seriously nerfed.

As painful as this is, there isn’t really anywhere else for customers to turn to. gojek doesn’t have a loyalty program, Ryde has non-existent customer service, I can never find a TADA, and Comfort’s idea of a rewards program is, well…

So even a nerfed GrabRewards program is, sadly, better than the competition. The main question is whether it can make consumers less price sensitive, and the answer for me going forward is a resounding “no”. If Grab’s the same prices as the competition, I’ll take it and enjoy the free points. If not, I’ll simply spring for the cheaper option.

That kind of defeats the purpose of a loyalty program.

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Pontiff's Pontiff

As Aaron mentioned, it’s time to give Gojek more business come March. Suspected Grab was burning through cash way too quickly with its promotions ongoing and past – they even had to relocate their corporate offices to an ulu location from swanky Marina One.

Powell

The Marina office is still there if I’m not wrong.

I have a friend that just went there for interview.

Pontiff's Pontiff

They will be moving out once the current lease ends, should be late this year.

CK

GoPay (Gojek’s wallet) is expanding to Singapore. It’s now about time.

J

Not that surprising as I expect Grab to grab (pun intended) one of the digital banking license and pretty sure MAS would want them to be more prudent than now.

Hence the introduction of the GPMC and now the devaluation.

Seriously?

Prudent by giving out lesser rewards? I doubt that’s one of the factor.

John

They just wanted to think of a way to finance their coming digital banking project.

Kelvin

Any feedback/comments from Grab on other reward items ? Looking at grab voucher may not help those who have lots of points currently.

brandon.t

I’m deciding what to do with my points now as well. To hold or burn it on sq miles conversion?

freedom

SQ miles sure beat the devaluations. It can be generally useful

Vidula Verma

but it may make sense to redeem the points now for Grab transport vouchers? they last until end June 2020 at the old conversion rate i believe?

Stan

Sadly they have already changed the conversion, 500points for 50miles, 1000points for 100 miles and so on and so forth…

johnLove

not any more… now only 10 points to 1mile options i.e. $9 of miles for $10 of points (2.5k points for $5 NTUC/qoo10/capita)

Chris

Ok. With Amex also pulling out from GrabPay then no incentive on topping up any amount liao.

John Jones

The rest will follow suite… just like what happened with the EZLink top-ups of the past.

John Jones

What the key folks at Grab forgot, is that a Loyalty programme costs a lot of $$$ to operate and manage, and your P&L is for those folks that suffer points expiry. So it was only a matter of time, as they cannot give something for nothing. Anyway, with the value going down the toilet, most people don’t have loyalty for food delivery or ride hailing, so Grab is just handing the market to other competitors… Remember, if you are at the top, you can stay they or drop … and that can happen quickly. More importantly, the launch of… Read more »

ksp210

I will probably run down my grabpay balances by end Feb for various reasons, including the devaluation.

What’s a good card to link to FavePay once I delink GrabPay from it?

Thanks!

Drakka

Yes, good question. Aaron, can you post the crowdsourced excel sheet on what merchants count as eligible to 4mpd card?
Before this, you can earn 4+1.1mpd or 3.2+1.1mpd when you use FavePay linked to Grab credits. Now, that GrabPay earns no credit card points and Grab only pays you 0.4, what are eligible cards to earn 4mpd direct from being used at FavePay

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