The 6 credit cards I spend the most on

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An audit of my credit card spending over the past 12 months- which cards have seen the most love?

While on paper (plastic?) I hold just shy of two dozen credit cards, some of them get more screen time than others.

That’s probably the case for most miles chasers, since certain cards would be part of the day-to-day roster, while others are relegated to the sock drawer once their sign-up bonuses were hit.

At the start of the year, I wrote a piece on my credit card strategy for 2022. While these are objectively the best cards to use in each of their categories, there may be valid considerations (e.g. conversion fees, orphan points) that stop one from optimising to the last dollar.

The MileLion’s 2022 Credit Card Strategy

I was curious to see how closely my actual spending matched the strategy I prescribed, so I pulled the e-statements for all my cards from the last 12 months and summed up the total spend. I excluded annual fees (the only two cards I incur annual fees on are the AMEX HighFlyer Card and AMEX Platinum Charge) and admin fees charged for things like miles conversions. 

The results? Some things were expected, but there were other insights that surprised me…

(1) AMEX HighFlyer Card

Apply
Use ForGrabPay top-ups and “problem categories” like charitable donations, hospital and utilities bills
Current Sign-Up Offer
(Ends 30 Jun 22)
S$400 in statement credits and vouchers with S$6K spend in first 3 months

For all my talk about concentrating spend on specialised spending cards, the card that’s seen the most action over the past 12 months is the general spending AMEX HighFlyer Card.

There’s a good reason though: this is one of the last remaining cards on the market that still earns miles for GrabPay top-ups. GrabPay can be used for AXS payments, so this single card is bearing all the weight of my income tax, MCST fees, insurance premiums etc.

Beyond that, the AMEX HighFlyer Card has also become my default “when in doubt” option, since it has virtually no rewards exclusions. If I’m uncertain as to how a particular transaction will code, I’d much rather take a guaranteed 1.8 mpd than a 50-50 chance of 4 mpd or zero.

❓ What if AMEX isn’t accepted?
If AMEX isn’t accepted, it’s a simple matter of topping up GrabPay and using the GrabPay Mastercard to pay. 

While the AMEX HighFlyer Card is one of my favourite cards, there’s a catch: you need to have a registered business (i.e. an ACRA registration number) to apply. There’s no minimum business size or turnover required, however, so you could formalise your tuition or home baking side-hustle into a sole proprietorship or LLC and then apply.

⚠️ Minimum Income Still Applies

While there is no minimum business size or turnover required, you as an individual must be earning at least S$30,000 per annum to qualify for a card, as per MAS regulations.

This need not come from the business itself; for example, I could earn S$30,000 from my day job with Company A, and have a side hustle with my own Company B. I can then apply for a HighFlyer Card on behalf of Company B, supported by Company A’s salary. 

The other caveat is that the drawdown per year is capped due to the following rule:

  • Each HighFlyer account can only be linked to a maximum of five selected KrisFlyer accounts for the purpose of converting HighFlyer points to KrisFlyer miles
  • Each HighFlyer account is only allowed to convert HighFlyer points to a maximum of 150,000 KrisFlyer miles per calendar year
  • Each selected KrisFlyer account may receive a maximum of 30,000 KrisFlyer miles converted from HighFlyer points per calendar year, regardless of which HighFlyer accounts the points are converted from

In other words, you can extract a maximum of 150,000 miles from your HighFlyer account each year, capped at 30,000 miles per individual. 

Even if you’re the only person in your business, keep in mind it’s still S$16,667 of spending (30,000/1.8 mpd) that would otherwise have gone unrewarded. And should your family members be part of the business, you can add them as nominees too, increasing the drawdown. 

(2) DBS Woman’s World Card

Apply
Use ForAll online spend
Current Sign-Up Offer
(Ends 30 Jun 22)
S$150 cashback with S$800 spend in first 60 days (use promo code 150CASH

This one’s probably less of a surprise. I regularly max out the 4mpd for online spending on the DBS Woman’s World Card (S$2,000 per month), sometimes even busting the cap through sheer carelessness (I know, I know).

It’s not just for online spending though; thanks to the Amaze and its ability to convert offline transactions into online ones, I’ve been using the DBS Woman’s World Card as the default pairing for all my recent overseas trips.

Sadly, those days are now gone, as DBS added Amaze to its rewards exclusion list on 1 June. But still, given the volume of online spending I typically clock each month (Grab/gojek, food delivery, e-commerce, streaming subscriptions, air tickets), this will continue to be a stalwart of my wallet.

(3) Citi Rewards Card

Apply
Use ForAll online spend except travel; default pairing for Amaze
Current Sign-Up Offer
(Ends 30 Jun 22)
Samsonite luggage + FWD Annual travel insurance, Dyson Corrale, Xbox S or S$350 cash with S$500 spend in first 30 days

Likewise, it’s no surprise to see the Citi Rewards Card getting heavy use. So long as you avoid any travel expenditure (flight tickets, hotels, tour agency, trains, rental car, cruises) or in-app mobile wallet transactions, it’s an easy 4 mpd on all online spending, capped at S$1,000 per statement month. 

In fact, one might argue that perhaps I should be prioritising this card over the DBS Woman’s World Card, given the sheer variety of transfer partners that Citi has, and the longer expiry period (one year for DBS Points on the Woman’s World Card versus up to five years for Citi Rewards).

 CitibankDBS
KrisFlyer
Asia Miles
British Airways
Executive Club
 
Etihad Guest 
EVA Infinity
Mileage Lands
 
FlyingBlue 
Qantas Frequent Flyer 
Qatar Privilege Club 
THAI Royal Orchid Plus 
Turkish Miles & Smiles 

That’s to say: 4 mpd on the Citi Rewards could be more valuable than 4 mpd on the DBS Woman’s World Card. It’s a fair point. What DBS has in its favour is points pooling, but since I don’t actively use any other DBS cards, it shouldn’t factor into my decision. 

I’ve not been very disciplined about maxing out the Citi Reward’s 4 mpd cap each month, though it will probably happen naturally now that it’s my default Amaze pairing.

(4) HSBC Revolution

Apply
Use ForAirfares, dining, groceries, Grab/gojek rides, hotel stays, shopping
Current Sign-Up Offer
(Ends 31 Jul 22)
S$200 cashback with S$500 spend in first 1-2 months

The HSBC Revolution is a card of many uses. It earns 4 mpd on the first S$1,000 spent on airfares, dining, transport, hotels, and shopping each month, but I primarily use it as my groceries card. This avoids the issue of UOB$ at Cold Storage and Giant, and frees up the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa’s contactless cap for other purposes.

My secondary use for the Revolution is for dining, since HSBC has the widest definition of dining relative to other cards on the market. 

Comparison of Dining Card MCC Coverage
 
 HSBC Revo
(4 mpd)
UOB Lady’s 
(4 mpd)
MB Horizon
(3.2 mpd)
5811 
5812
5813  
5814 
5441  
5462  
5499 
Glossary & Examples
  • MCC 5811: Caterers (Eatz, Stamford)
  • MCC 5812: Eating Places and Restaurants (Crystal Jade, Paradise Inn)
  • MCC 5813:  Bars and Nightclubs (Brewerkz, Brotzeit)
  • MCC 5814: Fast Food Restaurants (McDonald’s, KFC)
  • MCC 5441: Candy, Nut and Confectionery (Candy Empire, See’s Candies)
  • MCC 5462: Bakeries (Bengawan Solo, Four Leaves)
  • MCC 5499: Misc. Food Stores (Famous Amos, Nespresso)

It means I don’t need to worry if the MCC falls under 5813, 5441 or 5462, or whether a hotel restaurant codes as a hotel or a restaurant (since both are bonus categories). If I can put it in my mouth, I tap this card. 

I probably should have phrased that better. 

(5) UOB Preferred Platinum Visa

Apply
Use ForAll in-store mobile payments
Current Sign-Up Offer
(Ends 30 Jun 22)
S$250 Grab vouchers with S$1,500 spend in first 30 days (capped at first 200)

The UOB Preferred Platinum Visa earns 4 mpd on the first S$1,000 spent on mobile payments each month, and given how ubtiquous these are, I was surprised it ranked only fifth on my list (albeit marginally, just S$300 behind the HSBC Revolution). 

I think part of the reason is that I consciously tell myself to preserve this cap because it’s the most flexible. There’s no sense tapping this card at a restaurant or shopping outlet, for example, when I could use the HSBC Revolution instead. But since the HSBC Revolution already covers the vast majority of my spending categories, the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa simply gets the overflow. 

(6) UOB Visa Signature

Apply
Use ForAll in-store mobile payments
Current Sign-Up Offer
(Ends 30 Jun 22)
S$250 Grab vouchers with S$1,500 spend in first 30 days (capped at first 200)

The UOB Visa Signature earns 4 mpd on the first S$2,000 spent on mobile payments each statement month, though there’s one catch: you need to spend at least S$1,000. Spend below that, and you earn a puny 0.4 mpd- hardly worth your time! 

Because of this restriction, I’m rather paranoid about using it. I only bring it out when I’m dealing with a big ticket purchase (like a health screening or electronics purchase) which is above or close to S$1,000. That’s only happened a handful of times over the past 12 months, hence its relatively low ranking.

However, for bigger spenders I’d absolutely recommend prioritising the UOB Visa Signature over the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa. Put it another way: you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you’ve busted the Preferred Platinum Visa’s S$1,000 cap, but only have about S$500 more to put on the Visa Signature.

The surprising absentee

My list features the usual 4 mpd cards, with one key exception. 

It surprised me to learn this, but when I went into the data I found that I’d spent just over S$1,300 on the OCBC Titanium Rewards over the past 12 month. That’s not a lot, relatively speaking.

It’s not that I actively seek to avoid this card; I don’t. The OCBC Titanium Rewards earns 4 mpd on eligible online and retail purchases like department stores, electronics and fashion, with a cap of S$13,335 per membership year (not S$12,000 as previously thought).

The fact that the cap is applied by membership year instead of calendar month makes it very useful for big ticket purchases, but the problem is I haven’t had any big ticket purchase in an eligible category over the past 12 months (or maybe that’s a good thing). I also don’t do serious shopping on Qoo10, Lazada and the like, with the odd sub-S$100 transaction here and there. 

It’s a far cry from the days when the OCBC Titanium Rewards was earning 4 mpd everywhere!

Conclusion

While it’s not a big surprise to see my list dominated by 4 mpd cards, going through 12 months of spend was still a useful exercise, insofar as it showed me which cards I’m underutilising (Citi Rewards, arguably the OCBC Titanium Rewards)and overutilising (have to stop busting the cap on the DBS WWMC). 

It also threw out a few interesting tidbits, like how my AMEX HighFlyer Card spend is many times the amount of the next most used card. 

A useful exercise to do, if you have the time.

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

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Mark

The Amex High Flyer card is not the best way to do a Grab Top up. You get 0.9mpd. You are better off using the UOB Cash Back Card, which gives you 1.7% cash back. So consider, a $1000 purchase. Using Amex High Flyer via Grab Top up you get 900 miles. Using the UOB Absolute Cash Back card you get $17. This $17 can then be spent, via Citi Payall, which enables you to “buy miles” at $8/1000. So $17 buys you 2,125 miles at the moment ($8/1000). So using the UOB card is twice as effective as using… Read more »

Mark

OK, but that still makes the UOB Absolute Cash Back approach better. 2125 verse 1800 miles currently. 18% more miles.

Mark

To clarify the above, you do a Grab Top up using the UOB Absolute Cash Back. So, using a Grab Top with Amex High Flyer card gets you 900 miles for a $1000 spend. Using a Grab Top up using the UOB Absolute Cash Back card gets you $17, which can be used to “buy” 2125 miles.

Tom

Highflyer card gets you 1.8mpd not 0.9mpd. 1 highflyer point = 1 mile.

Wil

God level in maximizing your rewards earning!

D K

Have to agree with Mark’s logic. BUT given the current devaluation, difficulty in obtain ANY tickets from SQ ( even award economy tickets are difficult to secure in the next 12 months for many destinations (forget about business or first class), limited leisure travel destinations etc, cash is now king. In addition, backend service level at SQ is horrible and they also stopped allowing requests for chasers, what the …. I currently have a stash of more than 1.5M miles (1M with SQ) with no viable option to use them for the next 12 months. Hence, my personal valuation of… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by D K
Fees

Got to agree with this. The award space on SQ is currently terrible. QF rates are completely ridiculous – 700K miles for a one way economy reward to Australia. WTF. Hope I can burn through my remaining nearly 1M KF miles before they expire.

Shiro

When u pair the Citi Rewards card with Instarem, can u get 4 mpd if u use Instarem for spend on travel and in- app mobile wallet?

Lifshitz

nope. Instarem passes the MCC on.

Shiro

If that’s the case, then why is CitiRewards card good when paired with Instarem? I am assuming that for spend on travel the MCC is passed on, but for in- app mobile wallet eg Gpay, can get 4mpd with Instarem CitiRewards card pairing?

beezelbub

To avoid foreign transaction fees, have transactions code as online, and also some cashback.

Yiwei

you turn non online transactions to online ones

chk

Facepalm…….keep forgetting CitiRewards not to be used for hotel. Arrgghh

Gordon

Same here, I’ve wasted thousands of miles using my instarem with CitiRewards instead of HSBC revo/Amex highflyer on cruise/air tickets.

Last edited 15 days ago by Gordon
Kenny

Hi Aaron, this is a very good insight! Do you carry and use other cards such as AMEX Plat Charge or general spending cards like Voyage/Premier Miles?

Tom

Hey Aaron, you didn’t manage to get a AF waiver for the highflyer card? Considering you’ve spent a substantial amount on it, i would assume you’d get a AF waiver.

Alex

I got my AF for Highflyer card waived last year, you’ll need to call in to request for it. And I still receive the Accor Plus membership with the free stay too for the new card year.

Mike

Yes – always call and request. They waived mine too this year.

Tasma

Thanks for the insights Aaron.

Was wondering which card you use for overseas payment when you travel, such as overseas dining / car rentals or transportation.

beezelbub

I would guess Amaze+CRMC for valid categories otherwise UOB VS.

travellogus

oh visa signature allows for payment for medical payment?

Traz

Yes if not hospital mcc and can paywave and meet the min $1000 local spend in a month

Fees

Be careful. Some medical clinics code with hospital MCC and are excluded. Parkway Shenton at Anson doesn’t award any points for paywave – only one I’ve encountered.

Adrian

Tks Aaron for sharing. One question, isn’t your Citi Rewards 4mpd monthly spending cap S$3,000 when paired with your Amaze card, instead of just S$1,000 (which is Rewards card by itself)? Thanks!

noob

any recommendations for watches / jewellery purchases? OCBC titanium doesn’t cover this category, and I feel abit pai seh to use 6 different cards on a 10K purchase, and sometimes the cards just get maxed out for miles.

P.S. at the same time I’m quite scared when I buy a fancy bag for the wife on OCBC titanium, always afraid it’s not covered as a retail outlet

Adam

Amex Platinum Charge with 10Xcelerator merchants, otherwise gen spend card lor

David

my last bag purchase for wife in LV store in MBS did not qualify for the titanium bonus, they just simply say not bonus MCC 🙁

invisible

Why would AMEX card be better for tax payment vs Citi PayAll?

Fees

No 2% service fee

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