Workarounds: How to earn miles at UOB$ merchants with UOB cards

UOB$ merchants= no miles? Not always! Here's some workarounds that will bypass one of UOB's most annoying features.

While UOB cardholders have to contend with numerous gotchas, there’s arguably none more annoying than the UOB$ programme (formerly known as SMART$).

UOB$ Programme

UOB$, for the uninitiated, is UOB’s cashback rewards scheme. Transactions made at UOB$ merchants with UOB cards earn UOB$ cashback, which can be redeemed on the next bill with the same merchant. 

What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Nothing, except UOB$ merchants don’t earn UNI$. This makes it pretty much anathema to miles collectors.

 

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 use your UOB Preferred Platinum Visa Card at Cold Storage for a S$40 expense, you might think you’d walk away with 160 miles (S$40 @ 4 mpd) for paying through mobile contactless.

Wrong. Cold Storage is a UOB$ merchant which awards 1% UOB$ cashback with a minimum spend of S$50. In other words, you walk away empty-handed (and even if you spent S$50, 50 cents of captive cashback is a pittance compared to 200 miles)!

The ever-growing list of UOB$ merchants means that UOB cardholders sometimes find themselves walking on eggshells. Few people have the inclination to whip out their phone and consult the merchant list before swiping their card, even fewer the headspace to memorise every participating merchant.

Fortunately, the UOB$ problem may not be as bad as it first appears, and there are some simple workarounds to ensure you earn your miles.

How bad is the UOB$ problem?

Starbucks: now a UOB$ merchant

Before we dive into workarounds per se, let’s first get a handle on the scale of the UOB$ problem.

The UOB$ merchant list used to be fairly stable- I remember there being only 20 or so for the longest time. Unfortunately, in recent times it’s ballooned to more than 75 merchants and counting (with over 880 locations island-wide).

Popular haunts like Baker & Cook, Cellarbration, Crystal Jade, and Starbucks have joined legacy heavy-hitters like Aburi-En, BreadTalk, Cathay Cineplexes, Cold Storage, Giant and Guardian.

At the same time, however, I’ve discovered an important countervailing force: You can still earn bonus UNI$ at UOB$ merchants with certain cards. 

UOB Lady’s Cardholders still earn 5.6 mpd at Cold Storage

Contrary to popular belief, using a UOB credit card at a UOB$ merchant is not an automatic death sentence. While some cardholders will walk away with no UNI$ at all, others will earn some due to a quirk of the UOB system. 

💳 Transactions at UOB$ merchants
No UNI$/miles awardedNo base UNI$ awarded, but bonus UNI$ awarded
  • UOB Lady’s Card
  • UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card
  • UOB Visa Signature
Note: UOB PRVI Miles AMEX does not participate in the UOB$ programme, and will earn UNI$ at UOB$ merchants as per normal

If you hold a UOB Lady’s Card, UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card, or UOB Visa Signature, bonus UNI$ are awarded separately from base UNI$ as a consolidated lump sum the following month.

When you use these cards at a UOB$ merchant, you won’t earn any base UNI$. But at the end of the month, when the system sums up all eligible transactions for the purposes of awarding 9X (or 14X in the case of the case of the Lady’s Cards), it does not care whether the transaction was at a UOB$ merchant- everything goes into the pool.

To illustrate, suppose I use my UOB Lady’s Card to make 3x transactions at Cold Storage in a given calendar month:

  • Transaction 1: S$15
  • Transaction 2: S$30
  • Transaction 3: S$45

I will initially receive 0 base UNI$, because this is a UOB$ merchant. 

However, the following calendar month, I will receive 252 bonus UNI$, attributable as follows:

  • Transaction 1: 0 base UNI$, 42 bonus UNI$
  • Transaction 2: 0 base UNI$, 84 bonus UNI$
  • Transaction 3: 0 base UNI$, 126 bonus UNI$

252 UNI$= 504 miles, which given a total spend of S$90 works out to 5.6 mpd.

While it’s annoying to earn 0.4 mpd less than what you “rightfully” should, it’s still a lot better than nothing!

UOB$ workarounds

In any case, let’s discuss workarounds to earn miles at UOB$ merchants. There are three I can think of.

(1) Pair your card with Amaze

Apply here
Use code 7HK2A2 for 225 bonus InstaPoints

First up, do note that this will only be an option for Mastercards, since Amaze does not support Visa at the moment.

If you have the UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard, UOB Lady’s Card or UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card, pairing it with Amaze helps to circumvent the UOB$ problem.

For instance, I can pair my UOB Lady’s Card to Amaze and pay at Cold Storage with Amaze. I’ll earn the full 6 mpd, subject to selecting “Family” as my quarterly 10X category. That’s because the merchant of record becomes AMAZE*Cold Storage (as opposed to Cold Storage), yet the MCC remains the same at 5411 (Supermarkets), which triggers the bonus miles. 

As a reminder:

  • All Amaze transactions code as online
  • All Amaze transactions will be billed in SGD (converted at Amaze’s FCY rates if necessary)
  • All Amaze transactions retain the original MCC of the underlying transaction
  • Amaze can be paired with any Mastercard credit or debit card
  • You can save a maximum of five cards to Amaze

(2) Pay using Kris+

S$5 for new Kris+ Users
Get S$5 (in the form of 750 KrisPay miles) when you sign-up with code W644363 and make your first transaction

The following UOB$ merchants also happen to be on Kris+:

  • Aburi-EN
  • Bee Cheng Hiang
  • bYSI
  • Co Chung
  • Patisserie G
  • Perky Lash
  • Polar Puffs and Cakes

If you want to use your UOB cards, paying via Kris+ will let you earn UNI$ (plus Kris+ miles, of course), notwithstanding the fact the merchant participates in the UOB$ programme. It’s somewhat similar to the Amaze scenario, where the merchant of record changes but the MCC stays the same.

Here’s the best UOB cards to use for Kris+ dining and Kris+ shopping.

🍴 Best Cards for Kris+ Dining
CardEarn RateRemarks
UOB Lady’s Card
Apply
6 mpdMax. S$1K per c. month. Must choose dining as 10X category
UOB Lady’s Solitaire
Apply
6 mpd
Max. S$3K per c. month. Must choose dining as 10X category
UOB Pref. Plat. Visa
Apply
4 mpdMax. S$1.1K per c. month
KrisFlyer UOB Card
Apply
3 mpdNo cap
Note: Even though the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa has a lower earn rate than the Lady’s Cards, it does have a wider definition of dining. For example, it includes MCC 5441 (Confectionery stores) and MCC 5462 (Bakeries), which the Lady’s Cards do not.
🛍️ Best Cards for Kris+ Shopping
CardEarn RateRemarks
UOB Lady’s Card
Apply
6 mpdMax. S$1K per c. month. Must choose fashion as 10X category
UOB Lady’s Solitaire
Apply
6 mpd
Max. S$3K per c. month. Must choose fashion as 10X category
UOB Pref. Plat. Visa
Apply
4 mpdMax. S$1.1K per c. month
KrisFlyer UOB Card
Apply
3 mpdNo cap
Note: Similarly for shopping, the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa has a lower earn rate than the Lady’s Cards, but a wider ambit (30+ eligible MCCs vs 10)

As a reminder:

  • All Kris+ payments must be made in-app via Apple Pay or Google Pay
  • All Kris+ transactions code as online
  • Kris+ transactions retain the original MCC of the underlying transaction
  • By default, Kris+ will attempt to pay with your existing KrisPay miles balance. You must disable the toggle on the payment screen to pay with Apple or Google Pay instead

(3) Shop online

Tread carefully here because there are conflicting data points depending on merchant. 

If online retail is an option, then paying with your UOB cards will earn UNI$ as per normal, at least at some UOB$ merchants. For example, you were to buy Cold Storage groceries via the Cart app and pay with the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa, you’ll earn 4 mpd on your transaction (since MCC 5411 (Supermarkets) is part of the whitelist).

However, this isn’t foolproof because I’ve seen other reports of Giant, Guardian and Cathay Cineplexes not awarding UNI$ for online transactions (here’s where more data points would be helpful, so chip in if you have them!).

Then again, there’s no reason why you can’t combine (1) and (3); i.e. pair Amaze with your UOB Mastercard and then charge the online transaction to Amaze. This should be a very safe way of going about things. 

Conclusion

UOB$ merchants are yet another landmine for UOB cardholders to avoid, but thankfully there’s other ways to earn miles on these transactions. 

Besides, UOB$ merchants aren’t *that* bad if you’re using a card like the UOB Lady’s Card, UOB Lady’s Solitaire and UOB Visa Signature, provided you don’t mind the 0.4 mpd haircut. The haircut might not even be necessary if you have the Amaze Card, come to think of it. 

Any other workarounds for UOB$ merchants?

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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Jpy

Using UOB PPV through Kris+ will not earn 4mpd because of the “mobile contactless payment” requirement.

Feofan Greek

Hi Aaron
it is “tread carefully” not “thread carefully” otherwise great stuff as usual

Jon

Hi Aaron, “dessert”, not “desert”.

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