Nasty: GrabPay nerfs insurance payments without notice

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PSA: GrabPay balances originating from credit cards can no longer be used to make insurance premium payments!

While 4 April may be the official RIP date for GrabPay, as American Express cuts off rewards for the HighFlyer and True Cashback Cards, Grab looks keen to get the party started early.

GrabPay users who were topping up their balances ahead of the deadline to make insurance payments via the GrabPay Card have received a nasty surprise: Grab has quietly changed the rules to block such transactions.

GrabPay nerfs insurance premium payments

Yesterday, users started reporting that they were unable to use their GrabPay Card to pay for insurance premiums, despite having a sufficient wallet balance. 

Moment of silence for this poor guy| Screenshot: @seexuanbin

Upon checking with customer service, they were pointed to the following support article:


Grab is dedicated to ensuring you have a fuss-free payment experience. However, if you’re unable to use your GrabPay Card at some merchants, it may be because the merchant or entity is unsupported. All merchants have a Merchant Category Code (MCC), which we use to verify the merchant type.  

You may refer to the list below for the types of merchants and transactions that are not supported:

  • If the merchant does not support Mastercard*
  • Adding your card to Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay
  • Domestic ATM withdrawals
  • Merchants involved in lottery (MCC 7800) or sports betting (MCC 7801780279959754)
  • Merchants involved in cryptocurrency trading
  • Certain drug, tobacco and alcohol stores (MCC 512259675993)

You may refer to the list below for the types of merchants/MCCs of which users can only tap on the transferable balance in their GrabPay wallet to make GrabPay Card transactions:

  • Ez-link app under MCC 4111
  • Selected e-wallet top-ups and remittance services under MCC 6540
  • Selected insurance providers under MCC 6300
  • AXS under MCC 7299

Now, this page is not archived by the Wayback Machine, so we can’t say for sure when it changed. What we do know is that (1) it must have been very recent and (2) no prior notice was given.

As it turns out, Grab has drawn a further line in the sand between its transferrable and non-transferrable balances. As a reminder, this refers to balances originating from: 

  • Transferrable: Local debit cards, bank accounts
  • Non-transferrable: Credit cards, foreign debit cards

Unfortunately, this means that if you were topping up your GrabPay account with an AMEX HighFlyer Card or AMEX True Cashback Card in anticipation of beating the 4 April deadline, your funds can no longer be used to pay for insurance premiums, e-wallet top-ups, AXS or the EZ-link app. 

If you want to make insurance premium payments via the GrabPay Card, you can only do with a balance that originates from a local debit card or bank account. And since you don’t earn any rewards for these transactions, there’s really no point going via the GrabPay Card route anymore (which is no doubt the intention anyway).

For what it’s worth, the wording suggests that only “selected” insurance premiums have been blocked, instead of the MCC as a whole. But based on reports I’m reading, all the major providers e.g. AIA, Prudential etc. have been affected. If you’re still able to pay your insurer via a GrabPay balance originating from a Mastercard, do shout out.

What can I do with my GrabPay balance?

So what should you do if you’ve topped up your GrabPay balance in the hope of making insurance payments?

Well, the bad news is that there’s no way of getting the money back into your bank account. Any balance topped up from a credit card has to be spent within the Grab ecosystem, be it GrabPay Card transactions, or Grab rides, GrabFood, GrabExpress etc. (Edit: apparently it is possible to contact customer service and ask them to reverse the top-up. It’s worth a shot I guess, but YMMV).

Unfortunately, most of these will entail an opportunity cost. For example, if I use my GrabPay balance (from an AMEX HighFlyer Card) to pay for a Grab ride, my opportunity cost would be 2.2 mpd (the 1.8 mpd earned from the top-up versus the 4 mpd I could have earned via other cards).

At this point it’s all about making the best of a bad situation, and my advice would be to use it for transactions that are normally excluded by most credit card issuers, such as:


RIP, GrabPay

GrabPay users who were topping up their accounts in the hope of beating the 4 April deadline will now find that their funds cannot be used for insurance premium payments, effective immediately.

In one sense, whatever funds they’ve topped up are “stuck”, since they can’t be transferred out to a bank account. They will need to spend it instead on other GrabPay Card transactions or Grab services, which may entail an opportunity cost compared to using other credit cards. 

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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