Here’s a protip for all you aspiring trolls out there: if you ever want to spark a riot, just go online and ask people what they think about women-only credit cards. Then sit back and watch the fireworks.
That’s all the more so given what happened earlier this month, when UOB marked International Women’s Day with a significant enhancement to the UOB Lady’s Cards. Instead of the regular 4 mpd earn rate, UOB Lady’s Cardholders now earn 6 mpd until 29 February 2024.
Yup, you read that right: 6 miles per dollar, for one entire year, on a choice of one or two bonus categories. Caps still apply, of course, but even so that’s:
- 72,000 miles on the UOB Lady’s Card from S$12,000 annual spend (equivalent to a round-trip Business Class ticket to Taiwan)
- 216,000 miles on the UOB Lady’s Solitaire from S$36,000 annual spend (equivalent to a round-trip Business Class ticket to Los Angeles)
It really is an astounding offer, all things considered. What’s more:
- the first year’s annual fee is waived, and subsequent years’ fees are easy to waive too
- spending just S$500 on either card and crediting a minimum salary of S$1,600 per month is a straightforward way to earn 5% p.a. interest on up to S$100,000 in the UOB One Account
- the S$120,000 income requirement for the UOB Lady’s Solitaire is more “serving suggestion” than hard and fast rule; there have been numerous data points of customers getting approved way below that threshold
Unfortunately, one key restriction still remains: the UOB Lady’s Card only accepts applications from females. That’s been a perpetual a sore spot for some people, and it’s only going to get sorer with the stakes now raised.
Is it discriminatory?
The UOB Lady’s Card’s gender-specific nature has always been a catalyst for sensitive, nuanced and civilised discourse on the roles of men and women in society. It was therefore heartening to see more of the same following the announcement, with woke and progressive communities such as HardwareZone providing kudos and applause for the move.
Just kidding. It was a complete and utter sh*tshow (pardon my French, but neither “poop parade” nor “faecal festival” quite captured the sentiment), with unsavoury comments and hot takes aplenty. Unsavoury comments? Hot takes?? On the internet??? I know right, but hell hath no fury like internetizens denied what they want.
It’s pretty self-evident that a gender-restricted card has the ability to trigger some people like no tomorrow, though come to think of it, the UOB Lady’s Card has been around since 1989, and for the first 30 years of its existence was rather crappy (from a miles collector’s perspective, at least). I can’t be the only one who wonders where all this fuss was pre-2019.
But anyway, UOB has certainly not been afraid of stirring that pot with its marketing. For the longest time, the Lady’s Card’s official slogan was a provocative “the men don’t get it” (it was eventually replaced with a more neutral “We see you for the lady you are”).
For better or worse, the UOB Lady’s Card is the only such card on the market (despite its name, the DBS Woman’s World Card is open to both men and women, as I’ve said a million times). Even the SAFRA DBS Card is open to both genders– all that’s required is a SAFRA membership, available to any man or woman who has served in the SAF.
Does that make it discriminatory? That’s certainly a loaded word, so I believe the bank would prefer the term “segmentation”, and to be sure there’s all kinds of segmentation when it comes to credit cards.
Income is an obvious one: a fresh graduate with a S$30,000 annual salary is probably not going to be approved for an AMEX Centurion Card. Then there’s also segmentation based on membership: the AMEX Solitaire PPS Club Credit Card and AMEX PPS Club Credit Card are only available to Solitaire PPS Club and PPS Club members respectively.
That said, those are imperfect analogies, and none of them evoke the same kind of visceral reactions, perhaps because there’s a path (however unlikely) for a fresh graduate to work their way up to a Centurion card, or for a plain vanilla KrisFlyer member to work their way up to Solitaire PPS status. On the other hand, there’s really no way for a man to get a UOB Lady’s Card, short of gender reassignment surgery (and perhaps not even then, if UOB customer service is to be believed!).
We can have endless discussions about the topic, but I don’t really see the point. Let me put it this way: if you believe this card is a textbook example of discrimination, you’re not likely to be swayed by the arguments of those who see it as empowerment (and vice versa).
And given how the online debate has veered into issues ranging from National Service to the Women’s Charter, it’s safe to say that for some, the unhappiness over the UOB Lady’s Card is more than just missing out on 6 mpd– it points to much, much deeper-seated misgivings.
Frankly, we’re not going to resolve those in a 1,000-word blog post, and I know better than to wade further into this minefield, so I’m just going to conclude this section with three observations:
(1) Singapore has no laws prohibiting banks from issuing credit cards restricted to certain genders
(2) Such laws exist in other countries. For example, in the United States the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender (among other factors) when granting credit facilities. By the way, this rule wasn’t created so men could get more rewarding women’s cards; it was to end the practice of banks refusing credit cards to unmarried women, or married women without a husband co-signer. Yeah, there are bigger things out there than rewards.
(3) If it doesn’t sit well with you that (1) is the status quo rather than (2), there are much more effective ways of bringing about change than raging on the internet
A workaround for guys
Just so I’m not accused of leading anyone up the garden path: if you were hoping for some loophole that allows men to apply, you can stop reading here, because there isn’t. So long as you have a Y chromosome, you’re not eligible for this card, period (heh heh). You can’t even get it as a supplementary cardholder, so don’t bother asking.
That said, there are workarounds — I hesitate to use that term because it doesn’t actually address the root issue, though I’m not really in the mood to put my thesaurus through the paces — at least for some men out there.
Let’s assume there’s a lady in your life (and yes, I’m well aware it’s the old “assume a can opener” trope)- your mom, your sister, your wife, your girlfriend (real, not imaginary), your dakimakura. Do whatever it takes to convince them to apply for a Lady’s Card (if they don’t draw an income, a secured credit card might be possible).
And once you have the principal cardholder’s consent…
Add the card to a mobile wallet
UOB cards are supported by all major mobile payment wallets in Singapore, except Garmin Pay.
|UOB Card Support?
This means that you could add the UOB Lady’s Card to your mobile wallet and pay with your device as if you were the principal cardholder, anywhere contactless payments are accepted.
Pair the card with Amaze
Since there may be the odd occasion where contactless payments aren’t accepted, it’s also a good idea to do a one-time linkage between the UOB Lady’s Card and the Amaze. The physical Amaze card offers both chip and magnetic swipe functionality, so between mobile payments and Amaze, you can cover every eventuality.
Save it to your apps
In addition to Amaze, you should also do the one-time linkages required to save the UOB Lady’s Card to apps like:
Naturally, the apps you’ll be linking depend on the bonus category you choose, which can be rotated every calendar quarter.
The UOB Lady’s Card’s “women-only” restriction is by its very nature a tinderbox, but really, all I care about is playing the hand we’ve been dealt. The earn rates for the next 12 months are incredible, and if you want a piece of that, there are workarounds for any guy with a lady in his life.
Maybe instead of “you want to apply BTO?”, the new question should be “you want to apply Lady’s Card”?
The comments section is gonna be lit.