Gotcha: What you should know about UOB’s sneaky T&Cs

Last Updated:

UOB may have some good cards, but lurking in those T&Cs are some big surprises. Here's what you should be looking out for.

It’s undeniable that UOB has some very good cards. I’m a heavy user of the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa and UOB Visa Signature, and if I had the right equipment, I’d probably get myself a UOB Lady’s Card too. 

But what’s also undeniable is that lurking in the UOB T&Cs are some very nasty gotchas, which while familiar to miles veterans, often catch out first-time cardholders. You might not earn any miles at certain retail merchants. Your UNI$ may be automatically deducted. Your overseas payment may not really be overseas. Your sign-up bonus isn’t guaranteed. I could go on and on. 

If you’re a newbie to the miles game and have concerns about getting caught out, here’s a compendium of things you should watch out for when dealing with UOB. 

⚠️ UOB Shenanigans

S$5 earning blocks & double rounding

Pop quiz: what’s the earn rate on your UOB PRVI Miles Card? If you answered “1.4 miles per S$1”, well, you might want to check your points balance. UOB has one of the strictest rounding policies on the market, which can lead to a lot of lost miles, especially on small transactions. 

Suppose you make a S$9.99 transaction on your UOB PRVI Miles Card. You might think that earns you S$9.99 * 1.4 mpd = 13.99 miles, but you’d be wrong.

What happens is:

  • S$9.99 is first rounded down to S$5
  • S$5 is divided by 5 and multiplied by 3.5 (since the UOB PRVI Miles Card awards UNI$3.5 per S$5 spent)
  • UNI$3.5 is rounded down again to the nearest whole number

In other words, you earn just UNI$3 (6 miles) on this S$9.99 transaction, which is an effective earn rate of 0.6 mpd.

⚠️ OCBC and Maybank do it too

To be fair, while UOB started this S$5 earning blocks nonsense, OCBC decided to follow suit in June 2020 and Maybank will follow in January 2023.

Contrary to popular belief, DBS does not have S$5 earning blocks, as explained in this article.

How to protect yourself

S$9.99 is an extreme example, but the fact remains that because of this policy, the UOB PRVI Miles Card may earn fewer miles than a card with an ostensibly lower earn rate, such as the Citi PremierMiles Card. 

💳 Miles Earned for SGD Transactions
 UOB PRVI Miles
Earn rate: 1.4 mpd
citi premiermiles card reviewCiti PremierMiles*
Earn rate: 1.2 mpd
S$56 miles6 miles
S$9.996 miles11 miles
S$1520 miles18 miles
S$19.9920 miles23 miles
S$2534 miles30 miles
S$29.9934 miles35 miles
S$3548 miles42 miles
S$39.9948 miles47 miles
*For Citi PremierMiles, round transaction down to the nearest S$1, then multiply by 1.2 and round to the nearest whole number

Therefore, a good heuristic would be to avoid using the UOB PRVI Miles Card for small transactions (<S$25) that aren’t in blocks of S$5. 

Automatic UNI$ deductions

Ever wondered why your UNI$ balance mysteriously declined when you didn’t redeem anything? It’s probably because UOB helped itself to some of your points in exchange for an annual fee waiver. 

UNI$ for a full or half waiver of the UOB Credit Card annual fees will be automatically deducted on the first day of the following month when your annual fees are due upon the annual renewal of Card membership.

-UOB Rewards T&Cs

Simply put: every time your annual fee comes due, UOB will automatically deduct UNI$ from your balance for a half or full fee waiver, depending on how many UNI$ you have available. You have no say in the matter!

CardAnnual FeeUNI$ Waiver
UOB Lady’s CardS$192.60UNI$6,500 (full)
UNI$3,250 (half)
UOB PRVI MastercardS$256.80UNI$6,500 (full)
UNI$3,250 (half)
UOB PRVI VisaS$256.80UNI$6,500 (full)
UNI$3,250 (half)
UOB Visa SignatureS$214UNI$6,500 (full)
UNI$3,250 (half)
UOB Lady’s Solitaire CardS$406.60UNI$10,000 (full)
UNI$5,000 (half)

You can request for a waiver just like you would an annual fee charged in cash, but if the plan was to transfer points to your frequent flyer programme, you might suddenly find yourself short. 

How to protect yourself

The only way to catch this trick is to carefully monitor your UNI$ balance each month. This can be done through internet banking, or via the UOB TMRW app.

A UNI$ deduction for annual fees looks like this.

Once you spot a deduction, request a fee waiver immediately. This can be done via the UOB TMRW app. 

  1. Login to the UOB TMRW app
  2. Tap Accounts at the bottom of the screen
  3. Select the card you wish to request a fee waiver for
  4. Tap Settings, then Waive Fees
  5. Select Annual Fee and confirm

If it’s any consolation, should UOB grant you an annual fee waiver, your UNI$ will be reinstated with a fresh 2-year validity.

To know when your annual fee will be charged, check the expiration date printed on your card. The month refers to the month the annual fee will be billed.

No UNI$ at UOB$ merchants

Since the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa earns 4 mpd on all mobile contactless transactions, I can just tap it everywhere without thinking, right?

Not quite. UOB runs two different card rewards programmes, and of course they have very similar names:

  • UNI$ (a points currency which can be converted to airline miles)
  • UOB$ (a merchant-specific cashback scheme formerly known as SMART$)

These two programmes are mutually exclusive. In other words, you won’t earn any UNI$ at a UOB$ merchant. 

UNI$ will not be awarded for:

20.4 any transactions at UOB$ merchants where UOB$ are issued

-UOB Rewards T&Cs

For example, if you used your UOB Preferred Platinum Visa at Cold Storage, you’d earn a measly 1% UOB$ cashback with a minimum spend of S$50. That’s just 50 cents, a pittance compared to the 200 miles you might have thought you’d earn.

How to protect yourself

It pays to familiarise yourself with the list of UOB$ merchants. This changes periodically, but some of the bigger names to remember are:

  • Aburi-EN
  • BreadTalk
  • Cathay Cineplexes
  • Crystal Jade
  • Cold Storage
  • Giant
  • Guardian
  • Miniso
  • Polar Puffs & Cakes
  • Starbucks
  • ToastBox
⛽ Avoid Shell and SPC too!
Even though Shell and SPC are not UOB$ merchants, they’re explicitly excluded from earning UNI$.

If you’re visiting one of these stores, use a different card to pay. 

“First X” sign-up bonuses

UOB is infamous for its “first X” sign-up bonuses, which cap the maximum number of eligible participants.

For example, a recent UOB PRVI Miles Card sign-up offer dangled 15,000 bonus miles to customers who spend S$4,000 in 60 days. The catch? They need to be among the first 400. The 401st customer onwards walks away empty-handed, even if they otherwise meet all the eligibility criteria.

It’d be one thing if UOB maintained a real-time tracker showing how many rewards were left in the pool, but they don’t. The system is completely opaque to customers, who have to spend and pray that the bonus shows up a few months down the road. It’s an all-or-nothing approach, no different from gambling.

And if you think spending S$4,000 with no guaranteed bonus is bad, do shed a tear for the UOB Reserve cardholders who had to spend S$150,000!

How to protect yourself

Every once in a blue moon, UOB offers uncapped sign-up bonuses on certain cards. This is when you should jump onboard.

If you want to apply during a “first X” campaign, there isn’t much you can do, short of improving your odds by applying and meeting the minimum spend the day the promotion launches. 

Excluding supplementary cardholder transactions from sign-up bonus spending

It’s a fundamental principle of credit cards that the spending of a supplementary cardholder is imputed to be that of the main cardholder. After all, the main cardholder is the one earning the points and paying the bills. A supplementary card cannot exist without a main card. 

So guess who tried to change that?

Back in 2019, UOB attempted to set an unwelcome precedent by excluding supplementary cardholder spending for a couple of its sign-up campaigns. 

For the avoidance of doubt, the eligible transaction as detailed under Paragraph 1 and 2 incurred on a supplementary Card will NOT accrue to the respective principal Card.

-UOB T&Cs

There was simply no good reason to do this, and besides, the entire premise was just silly. A main cardholder could easily circumvent the restriction by digitising their card onto the phone of a partner, effectively duplicating it.

Of course, that’s provided you knew that supplementary cardholder spending was excluded in the first place. If you assumed that UOB would follow standard market practices, well, gotcha!

How to protect yourself

If it’s any consolation, I haven’t seen UOB try a similar stunt with any of its recent sign-up promotions.

However, the fact they’ve done it before is reason enough to be extra paranoid and carefully check the definition of qualifying spend every time you see a sign-up bonus.

Definition of overseas spend

When is overseas spend not overseas spend? When UOB says so

General spending cards typically offer a higher earn rate for overseas spending, in order to encourage customers to use their cards on holiday.

For most banks, overseas spending is simply defined as any transaction not in SGD .

For UOB, it’s not so simple. Overseas spending is defined as any transaction not in SGD, and processed by a payment gateway outside of Singapore.

For the avoidance of doubt, card transactions made overseas but effected/charged in Singapore dollars and online transactions effected in Singapore dollars or in foreign currencies at merchants with payment gateway in Singapore will not be treated as overseas transactions and will earn UNI$3.5 per S$5 spend.

-UOB PRVI Miles T&Cs

How do you know where a merchant’s payment gateway is located? You don’t. Even if you called up the merchant, I doubt a frontline customer service officer would be willing or able to divulge that information.

The only real way of knowing is to make a transaction first and check the points later, which could be an expensive lesson.

How to protect yourself

If you’re physically overseas and using your card at a brick-and-mortar merchant, you have nothing to worry about. 

If you’re shopping online, that’s when you need to take heed. Generally speaking, if you’re dealing with a transaction that has no nexus with Singapore (e.g. buying United Airlines tickets for domestic travel within the US), you should be safe. However, if you’re making a foreign currency purchase on a Singapore-based site (e.g. buying a one-way Scoot ticket from Australia to Singapore), using UOB cards may be more risky.

I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful than that, because just like you, I’m in the dark as to whose payment gateway is where. 

Definition of contactless spend

Tapping the physical UOB Preferred Platinum Visa card won’t earn you 4 mpd!

The UOB Preferred Platinum Visa earns 4 mpd on all contactless transactions, making it an excellent tool to have in your arsenal.

But beware! UOB’s definition of “contactless” is probably different from how yours. Ever since 22 May 2020, the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa has only awarded 4 mpd on mobile contactless transactions, where the card is digitised into Apple Pay, Fitbit Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay. Tapping the physical card does not qualify. 

“Mobile Contactless Transactions” refers collectively to: Card Transactions made via Apple Pay, Fitbit Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay (or such other payment or mobile wallet services as UOB may from time to time approve at its sole discretion), that is effected at any Visa payWave Readers by waving the mobile device against the Visa payWave Readers.

For the avoidance of doubt, Mobile Contactless Transactions shall exclude any Card Transactions that are performed using the Card via Visa payWave, Magnetic Secure Transmission Transactions, all transactions at SPC Service Stations and Shell Service Stations, UOB$ participating merchants and SimplyGo (ABT) transactions performed on public bus and train reader

-UOB PPV T&Cs

Now, I’m a bit more hesitant to criticise UOB in this respect, because I understand merchant fees vary depending on whether a customer taps his/her physical card or uses his/her phone to pay. If the reduced fees are what enables UOB to continue offering 4 mpd on the Preferred Platinum Visa, then fair enough. 

However, it doesn’t exactly help that the UOB Visa Signature has a different definition of contactless that includes transactions made by tapping the physical card!

I hope I’m not giving them ideas…

How to protect yourself

If I were you, I’d digitise all cards onto my phone by default. This saves bulk in your wallet, and ensures you’ll always have them with you. 

Statement month vs calendar month

Most specialised spending cards will cap the maximum transactions on which you can earn 4 mpd on every month. That’s fair enough- 4 mpd is a generous return, and they can’t just offer it carte blanche. 

But UOB uses different definitions of “month” depending on card. 

Card4 mpd capped by
UOB Lady’s Card
Apply
Calendar month
UOB Lady’s Solitaire
Apply
Calendar month
UOB Pref. Plat Visa
Apply
Calendar month
UOB Visa Signature 
Apply
Statement month

The UOB Lady’s Card, Lady’s Solitaire and Preferred Platinum Visa cap 4 mpd by calendar month, which is intuitive enough.

But UOB Visa Signature caps 4 mpd by statement month, which is slightly more complicated.

Yes, I’m aware that Citibank also uses statement month when applying the 4mpd cap on its Citi Rewards Mastercard and Citi Rewards Visa, but at least they’re consistent with the application. 

How to protect yourself

Fortunately, it is possible to call up UOB customer service and ask them to adjust your statement month for the UOB Visa Signature. 

It can’t be a perfect match for calendar month (because some months have 30 days, others 31), but at least there’ll be a closer correspondence. If I recall correctly, the latest date you can put is 28th of each month. 

5% MAB cap for KrisFlyer UOB account

The marketing materials for the KrisFlyer UOB Account sure look impressive. An accountholder who spends on their credit card can earn a bonus 5 mpd (or 6 mpd with salary crediting), on top of the miles from the card itself!

Well yes, but there’s a catch. 

The key gotcha of the KrisFlyer UOB Account is that bonus miles are capped at 5% of your Monthly Average Balance (MAB).

The amount of Bonus Miles that may be earned and awarded to you is subject to a cap on the Monthly Average Balance in your KrisFlyer UOB Account for that particular month

-KrisFlyer UOB Account T&Cs

For example, if you maintain a S$50,000 MAB in your account (at 0.05% p.a. interest, I might add), you can earn 2,500 bonus miles per month at most, which means you’ll max it out with just S$500 of spending! 

Don’t expect prominent disclosure of this fact, however. In fact, it’s almost comical how UOB does it. The disclaimer is mentioned at the bottom of the miles calculation widget.

Did you spot that? No? Here it is again with the key text highlighted.

Yup. Whoever created this website chose to put the disclosure text in black, against a dark blue background, rendering it all but invisible. 

How to protect yourself

The simplest way of protecting yourself is to just steer clear of the KrisFlyer UOB Account. Even if you love collecting miles, this isn’t the way to go about it, given the paltry 0.05% p.a. interest and 5% MAB cap on bonus miles.

The opportunity cost of foregone interest is just too high, especially in a time where bank accounts are hiking interest rates left and right. 

Delayed bonuses for KrisFlyer UOB card

The KrisFlyer UOB Card makes a big deal of its bonuses for dining, food delivery, online shopping & travel and transport. Cardholders earn 3 mpd with no cap- pretty sweet right?

Sure, until you read the fine print. Of that 3 mpd:

  • 1.2 mpd is credited at the end of each calendar month
  • 1.8 mpd is credited two months after the end of the membership year, subject to meeting a specified minimum spend on SIA Group transactions 

It’s ironic that UOB calls the 1.8 mpd component “accelerated miles”, since you could be waiting up to 14 months to receive it!

For avoidance of doubt, Accelerated Miles earned will be awarded within two (2) months after the annual fee is posted and it will be automatically credited to your KrisFlyer membership account that is linked to your Card in the following month after the Accelerated Miles have been awarded. Expedition of Accelerated Miles is not allowed.

-KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card T&Cs

The delayed crediting creates four problems:

  1. You’re locked into the card, because all pending bonus miles are forfeited if you cancel.
  2. Reconciling bonus points will be a nightmare. It’s already hard enough to check transactions on a month to month basis. Imagine doing it for an entire year’s worth.
  3. Because your pending bonus miles take anywhere from 2-14 months to reach you, you’re especially exposed to devaluation risk. If Singapore Airlines announces an award chart devaluation, other cardholders can rush out to burn their miles before it happens. You can’t, because they’re in limbo.
  4. Your miles will age at different rates. Some will be credited each month and start their 3-year expiry countdown immediately, the rest will follow in 2-14 months

While it might be a bit uncharitable to suggest that (2) was part of the plan all along, I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to say that (1) is intentional. Because 60% of your miles are in limbo until two months after the membership anniversary date, you don’t really have the freedom to cancel the cardeven if UOB pulls a fast one.

A fast one, like what they did recently by hiking the minimum SIA Group spend for bonus miles to S$800 with no notice.

Membership Year EndsMin. SIA Group Spend
April 2021 to August 2022S$300
September 2022 and March 2023S$500
April 2023 onwardsS$800

For some members, this change takes place a few months into their membership year, which means they either comply and bump up their SIA Group spend, or forfeit all bonus miles earned to date. 

How to protect yourself

Quite frankly, any delayed miles arrangement has the effect of holding you hostage. It’s for that reason I’d rather not spend with the KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card (I’m a cardholder, but only to enjoy the occasional discounts on KrisFlyer Experiences).

I reckon you’d be much better off earning 4 mpd on dining, food delivery, travel, online shopping & travel and transport with alternative cards. Yes, the 4 mpd will be capped, but at least you receive it sooner rather than later. 

Conclusion

UOB cards have their uses, though it’s frustrating that every time I want to recommend one, I always have to caveat it with “but take note of the following…”

It’s almost as if UOB gets some kind of kick out of making things as convoluted as possible for its customers. I mean, just look at their recent miles extension perk, which requires sending an SMS in January 2024!

Explained: KrisFlyer UOB’s absurd miles extension perk

All these gotchas mean that customers always need to be on their toes, and if you don’t like that kind of relationship, then UOB might not be the right bank for you.

Any other UOB tricks to look out for?

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

Similar Articles

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

31 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tom

Great article Aaron. It’s for this reason that I don’t bank with UOB or have a single UOB credit card. Sure, I may be missing out on some extra perks but their ridiculous terms and conditions require too much brainpower that it’s simply not worth it for me.

Samuel

100% agreed with you – too many hoops to jump through for UOB

Damien

It’s not just the hassle of having to think thru these terms and conditions. What bugs me the most is the mindset behind it. It’s almost like UOB just wants to be able to make these ridiculously good claims on advertising, but doesn’t actually want to give the benefits. I don’t feel like being a sucker, thank you.

Joon

Can report to MAS alr

Alian

Nothing to report if it’s in T&C. It’s a willing buyer willing seller open market capitalism. Too bad you didn’t read or understand the conditions is a not reason. So not much MAS can and will do. It’s sad but true

Exactly sentiments with the first 2 post. I stop banking with UOB because of the shenanigans. Hopefully more will follow suit and UOB will hear consumers out. But until then …

Jim

can write to ASAS.. the disclaimer in dark blue font is scummy

Aaron Waite

As always. UOB. Singapore’s worst bank

chrispstan

I suppose this post was not sponsored 😬
Other pain points:
1. Definition of month for usage caps differs from card to card. Calendar month for Visa Preferred Platinum; statement month for Visa Signature.
2. Contactless transactions (a term the bank uses) excludes use of the physical card to tap.

I do think UOB gives extra bonus to the credit card teams for coming up with these Ts&Cs because the cost savings must be significant. I have lost count of the number of miles not earned because of the fine print.

mongoose

Upvote these 2 points! This article should be made mandatory reading for every miles junkie. Thanks Aaron, this is great stuff as usual.

mongoose

Actually, come to think of it, iirc, time of crediting of bonuses are also a bit of issue for PP vs VS? One credits immediately and the other is delayed by +1SM or something like that? Not exactly a gotcha and to be fair there the practice varies across banks, but it’s annoying when splitting the atom reconciling miles balances (or, maybe, when you urgently need miles to transfer).

Last edited 2 months ago by mongoose
DrRespect

I suppose this post was not sponsored 😬

That’s because Aaron has written sponsored posts for Dbs……

Mark

And one further convoluted UOB process follows. Once, I had the rare occasion, where I did want to sign-up to a UOB offer. However I had to register. To register I had to send an SMS. But I was out of Singapore. So I called UOB and said how to send a message to that 7776 number (or whatever it was) when I am not in Singapore? How to register? Short and long of it was, I couldn’t !! They could not even do it manually for me on the call. Unbelievable. Other banks, like Citi, allow registration through the… Read more »

Eddy

When paying monthly card bill by GIRO.
UOB always debit 1 day before the actual date.
and much earlier if it ‘s weekend or holidays

jason

i think amex deducts almost 10 days earlier (or could be slightly shorter)

Dk

In Australia, this is call fake advertisements and is illegal

Cherron

UOB Lady’s Card has this feature which allows card holder to select a category to earn 10X UNI$ (or 20 miles) per S$5 spent on your chosen category (with no minimum spend required. The part which confused me is if I select the category “Family” which includes Giant & Cold Storage, do I earn that 20 miles per $5 spent or 1% UOB$ cashback subject to $50 min spend?

bluepanda

Pair with Amaze and you’d get both the 1X and 9X

Really one kind

Great article calling out all these classic uob nickel and dime-ing BS tactics.

Truly the most awful kiasu bank in SG

chk

UOB PPV was my fav 4mpd card few years back until I learnt of how much I can get shortchanged!

Ortloc

The real solution is just to steer clear of UOB, period. My blood pressure has improved ever since I cancelled my PPV card. Imagine having all your UNI$ earned for the year taken away for the annual membership renewal and they refuse to waive the annual fee.

Things will never change as long as there are sheep willing to jump through the never-ending hoops UOB continually comes up with. There are better cards out there.

Phister

This is truly scummy. I have moved spending away from my PPV as much as possible and am all the happier now.

Jim

omg that’s a nightmare scenario. If they don’t waive your annual fees and the points are deducted, you’re left with the option of cancelling the card. But if you cancel the card, you can’t get use the points if you get it refunded anyway!!

jason

guess that’s why i’m not one of their users

Nicholas

Can also include how different cards consider posting date vs transaction date. Eg Transaction date for PPV, vs posting for VS.

CH LIM

I FK**IN HATE UOB- WORST BANK OF THEM ALL

cheesecake

Retroactive change of T&C. For the UOB Krisflyer card, you’re supposed to earn a rebate for shopping $100 on Krisshop. Then they changed it to $100 before GST on Krisshop. I didn’t receive my rebate, and even when I sent them a screenshot of the T&C before they changed it, they didn’t budge. Incorrigible.

duhduhduh

UOB imo is one of the bank that is not really sincere in its offerings to the customers. there are many hoops to jump to get the marketed goodies.

troddenbyBank

Once i cancel a UOB card 2 weeks before the annual deduction payment for a certain regular subscription for a certain private membership club and i even received the termination letter.Yet later 2 weeks ,i still received a statement saying the deduction was made and i had to pay for it subscription.So i wonder how successful would i be if i had the energy and tenacity to bring my right to dispute to FIDReC ?

CREDIT CARD SIGN UP BONUSES

Advertisment

Featured Deals

Advertisment

Follow us

7,110FansLike
2,641FollowersFollow

TAGS