As friends with progeny often remind me, educating a child is an expensive task.
Gone are the days when you could throw them out of the house and let the mean streets do their thing. Now it’s all pedagogy this and Socratic method that, with five-digit tuition bills the norm. And even after graduation, there’s still skills upgrading, professional development, MBAs and all sorts of lifelong learning to suck your wallet dry.
So if you’re going to spend all that money anyway, how can you earn something in return (esoteric knowledge aside)?
|💳 What’s the Best Card for…|
|This guide forms part of the “best card” series. Check out other category specific guides below, or the overall guide here.|
| 💗 Charitable Donations | 🏫 Education | 🥡 Food Delivery | 🏥 Hospital Bills | ☂️ Insurance
| ⛽ Petrol | 🚍 Public Transport| 🚰 Utilities Bills
What MCC does education code as?
Education institutions can code under the following MCC ranges:
- 8211: Schools, Elementary and Secondary
- 8220: Colleges, Universities, Professional Schools and Junior Colleges
- 8241: Schools, Correspondence
- 8244: Schools, Business and Secretarial
- 8249: Schools, Trade and Vocational
- 8299: Schools and Education Services Not Elsewhere classified
Merchants assigned these MCCs typically pay a below-average processing fee, which makes these transactions less profitable for banks. Consequently, there’s less margin to offer rewards.
What credit cards earn rewards for education?
Sadly, there are very few options left for earning rewards on education expenses. Citibank started excluding these in October 2018, UOB in September 2019, Standard Chartered in May 2020, Bank of China in June 2020, and HSBC in July 2020.
This leaves American Express and Maybank as the only two card issuers who still award points for education.
|Bank||Awards Points for Education?|
|💳 OCBC VOYAGE|
|From now till 28 Feb 2022, OCBC VOYAGE cardholders can earn 0.5 mpd on education expenses, limited to foreign currency transactions coding under MCC 8220. I won’t be covering this option here, but you can read more about it in this article.|
The problem is, AMEX acceptance at educational institutions will be hit and miss (unless perhaps you’re paying a US university, or taking an online course on Udemy or Coursera).
If AMEX isn’t accepted, then Maybank becomes the primary solution, and the only two options are the Maybank Visa Infinite (which has a S$150,000 income requirement and S$600 annual fee) or the Maybank Horizon Visa Signature (which earns just 0.4 mpd on local transactions).
|Card||Local Earn||FCY Earn|
|AMEX HighFlyer Card||1.8 mpd||1.8 mpd|
|AMEX Solitaire PPS Card||1.5 mpd1||2.4 mpd2|
|AMEX PPS Card||1.4 mpd1||2.0 mpd2|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||1.2 mpd
|Maybank Visa Infinite||1.2 mpd||2.0 mpd|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||1.1 mpd||2.0 mpd3|
|Maybank Horizon||0.4 mpd||2.0 mpd4|
|1. Earn 1.4 and 1.5 mpd on the PPS and Solitaire PPS Card respectively for every dollar over S$3,800, otherwise 1.3 mpd for both
2. Earn 2.0 and 2.4 mpd on the PPS and Solitaire PPS Card respectively for every dollar over S$3,800, otherwise 1.3 mpd for both
3. Earn 2.0 mpd in June and December only; otherwise 1.1 mpd (AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card) or 1.2 mpd (AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend)
4. Min spend of S$300 per calendar month on all retail transactions
One potential workaround is to top up your GrabPay account with a credit card, then use the GrabPay Mastercard to pay your bill.
However, this is contingent on your credit card offering rewards on GrabPay top-ups, and there’s only three cards left in the market which do:
|💳 Cards for GrabPay Top-Ups|
|AMEX SIA Business Card
|1.8 mpd||Only for owners of SMEs|
|AMEX True Cashback Card
|1.5% cashback||No cap|
|UOB Absolute Cashback Card
|1.7% cashback||No cap|
Do remember that:
- You won’t earn any GrabRewards points for education payments
- Your annual transaction limit on the GrabPay Mastercard is S$30,000
Alternatively, if you’re willing to pay a fee in exchange for earning miles on education expenses, the following options are available.
Whether it’s “worth it” to buy miles all boils down to how much you value a mile. The gold standard is of course to earn miles for free, but if banks keep cracking down, this may be the only option left.
For overseas education payments
If you’re paying an overseas educational institution, there’s one more angle to consider: foreign currency transaction fees (FCY fees).
Remember, your credit card will charge you an FCY fee for any transaction that isn’t in Singapore dollars. This adds an additional 3% or so to your final cost- which can be significant on a big ticket expense like tuition.
Here’s a rundown of how many miles each card earns on FCY spend, its FCY fee, and what that means for the cost per mile (CPM- expressed here as cents per mile).
|AMEX HighFlyer Card||1.8 mpd||2.95%||1.64#|
|Maybank Visa Infinite||2.0 mpd||3.25%||1.63|
|Maybank Horizon||2.0 mpd||3.25%||1.63|
|AMEX PPS Card||2.0 mpd^||2.95%||1.48|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||2.0 mpd*
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||2.0 mpd*||2.95%||1.48|
|AMEX Solitaire PPS Card||2.4 mpd^||2.95%||1.23|
|#A better option is to top-up your GrabPay account to earn 1.8 mpd, then use the GrabPay Mastercard to pay. The FCY fee will be 2%, which means a CPM of 1.11 cents.
*Only in June and December; otherwise 1.1 mpd (AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card) or 1.2 mpd (AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend)
^For every S$1 spent above S$3,800; otherwise 1.3 mpd for both AMEX PPS and Solitaire PPS Cards
Again, whether or not it’s worth it depends on how much you value a mile.
The opportunities to earn free miles when paying education expenses are rapidly disappearing, so you’d better make hay while you can. If you have an AMEX or Maybank card, it’s still possible to earn some sort of rebate, although the scenarios will be marginal at best.
Are there any other ways to earn miles for education payments that you’re aware of?