Welcome to The MileLion’s 2023 Credit Card Strategy, where I lay my cards on the table, quite literally.
📢 Update: I’ve given this article a mid-year refresh to reflect the changes that have taken place over the past six months, as well as add some useful resources.
This article features the cards I use on a day-to-day basis; they’re not the only ones I have, but they certainly get the most action.
Three things to note before we get started.
First, this article is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of the best cards for each category. For example, in the petrol section I’ve not included the Maybank World Mastercard even though it earns the same 4 mpd as other featured cards like the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa and UOB Visa Signature.
That’s because I don’t find the rest of Maybank’s miles cards to be particularly compelling, and by introducing a single Maybank card just for petrol, I’d likely end up with orphan miles. Remember, the goal here is to share a strategy, not an encyclopaedia. If you’re interested in a comprehensive listing of the absolute best cards for a given category, refer instead to the What Card Do I Use For page.
Second, categories can overlap or be subsets of each other, so don’t think about them too rigidly. For example, a card which earns a bonus on contactless payments can be used at a restaurant, department store, supermarket, or anywhere that contactless payments are accepted. Likewise, if a card earns a bonus on foreign currency spend, it doesn’t matter whether that spend is dining, shopping or travel-related.
Third, different cards may define the same category differently. For example, what counts as “dining” to HSBC may be different from UOB. Always refer to the T&Cs for the exact list of MCCs.
|💳 2023 Credit Card Strategy|
|❓ What’s the MCC?|
Most of the above categories are defined by Merchant Category Code, or MCC. You can find the MCC of a given merchant before spending using either of the methods listed below
|Abbreviations: c. month= calendar month, s. month= statement month, m. year= membership year|
Broadly speaking, there are two types of miles cards out there:
- General spending cards: Earn a flat rate of 1.0-1.6 mpd on all transactions
- Specialised spending cards: Earn 4-6 mpd on certain categories
If there’s one resolution you make this year, it should be to use general spending cards as sparingly as possible.
Since specialised spending cards cover such a wide range of transactions, it seems almost sinful to settle for the lower earn rates of a general spending card. Put it another way: someone who regularly utilises 4-6 mpd cards will earn a free flight much faster than someone who puts everything on a 1.2 mpd card.
Your goal, in so many words, is to:
Use specialised spending cards as much as possible
Yes, it may mean applying for more than one credit card. Yes, it may be slightly less convenient. Yes, your spouse may get annoyed when you nag them about using the right card. But I promise you this: no one ever moaned about having to carry multiple credit cards when kicking back in a Business Class seat with some pre-flight champagne.
Contactless Payments: HSBC Revolution, UOB Preferred Platinum Visa, UOB Visa Signature
|4 mpd||Max S$1K per c. month on dining, groceries, shopping, travel|
|4 mpd||Max S$1.1K per c. month, must use mobile payments|
|UOB Visa Signature |
|4 mpd||S$1K-2K per s. month on contactless & petrol|
Contactless payments aren’t a category of spending as such, more like a method. But who cares? Contactless terminals are so ubiquitous these days that earning 4 mpd on the vast majority of your spending should be straightforward.
There are no changes here from last year. The UOB Preferred Platinum Visa (PPV) continues to be the go-to option, earning 4 mpd on all mobile payment transactions except UOB$ merchants and UOB’s standard exclusion list (e.g. hospitals, schools, government entities). This is capped at S$1,110 per calendar month.
|⚠️ UOB PPV: Use Mobile Wallet!|
|To earn 4 mpd on the UOB PPV, you must add the card to your mobile wallet and tap your phone; you won’t earn the bonus if you tap the physical card.|
Those who regularly spend beyond the UOB PPV’s monthly cap can consider the UOB Visa Signature, which earns 4 mpd on contactless transactions with a minimum spend of S$1,000 per statement month on contactless and/or petrol transactions. This is capped at S$2,000 per statement month.
|⚠️ Statement Month vs Calendar Month|
Your card’s 4 mpd cap may follow the calendar month or statement month.
Calendar month is straightforward (i.e. 1-31 January), but statement month needs a little explaining. Generate your UOB e-statement and look for the statement date at the top right hand corner. This tells you what your statement cycle is; in the example below, it’s 12th to the 11th of the following month.
The UOB Visa Signature’s 4 mpd cap resets on the statement date. This adds an additional level of complexity, but you can always call up customer service and ask them to change your statement cycle to follow the calendar month instead.
Alternatively, you can use the HSBC Revolution for 4 mpd on selected contactless payments, namely:
- Airlines, hotels, car rental, cruise liners, travel agencies
- Department and retail stores
- Supermarkets, restaurants and food delivery
- Transportation (excluding public transport) and membership clubs
This is capped at S$1,000 per calendar month. It’s not quite the “4 mpd everywhere” that the UOB cards offer, but still a very wide range of day-to-day merchants.
Dining: HSBC Revolution, UOB Lady’s Cards
|UOB Lady’s Card|
|6 mpd||Max S$1K per c. month. Must choose dining as bonus category|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire|
|6 mpd||Max S$3K per c. month. Must choose dining as bonus category|
|4 mpd||Max S$1K per c. month. Must use online or contactless|
In February 2023, the UOB Lady’s Cards were given one heck of a buff: 6 mpd on a choice of up to two bonus categories, valid till 29 February 2024. This is capped at S$1,000 per calendar month for the UOB Lady’s Card, and S$3,000 per calendar month for the UOB Lady’s Solitaire. Dining is one of the bonus categories you can choose.
Otherwise, try the HSBC Revolution. This offers 4 mpd on dining, capped at S$1,000 per calendar month. While the earn rate is lower, it does compensate by having a wider definition of dining.
|🍽️ Comparison of Dining Card MCC Coverage|
|UOB Lady’s Card|
|❓ MCC Descriptions|
For example, the HSBC Revolution covers bakeries, confectionary stores and bars, all of which don’t fall under the UOB Lady’s Card’s definition of dining. More importantly, the HSBC Revolution also earns 4 mpd on hotel spending, which could make all the difference for a hotel restaurant (sometimes they code as restaurants, sometimes they code as hotels).
|S$5 for new Kris+ Users|
|⚠️ Don’t forget Kris+|
Whenever you dine out, be sure to check whether the restaurant is featured on Kris+. This can be an opportunity to earn bonus miles, on top of whatever you’d get from your credit card. For the best cards to use with Kris+, refer to this post.
Get S$5 when you sign-up with code W644363 and make your first Kris+ transaction.
Foreign Currency (FCY): Amaze or UOB Visa Signature
|Amaze + Citi Rewards|
|4 mpd||Max $1K per s. month|
|UOB Visa Signature|
|4 mpd||S$1-2K per s. month on FCY spending|
Amaze continues to be my first choice for all overseas spend, since it allows you to earn credit card rewards and InstaPoints (worth up to a 1% cash rebate), while enjoying lower FCY transaction fees than you would by using the credit card directly.
The question then becomes which credit card you pair it with, and my default option is the Citi Rewards Card. There’s a few other cards you can consider too, depending on category; refer to the article below for more information.
If you don’t want to use the Amaze, consider the UOB Visa Signature. This earns 4 mpd on overseas spending, subject to a minimum FCY spend of S$1,000 per statement month, and capped at S$2,000 FCY spend per statement month. Do note that this cap is shared with the 4 mpd cap for contactless payments/petrol. For a more detailed explanation of how the caps work, refer to this article.
While this post is meant to focus on evergreen earn rates rather than limited time offers, you might want to refer to the article below for some overseas spending promotions run by various banks.
Offline Shopping: Citi Rewards, HSBC Revolution, OCBC Titanium Rewards
|4 mpd||Max S$1K per s. month|
|4 mpd||Max S$1K per c. month. Must use contactless|
|OCBC Titanium Rewards|
|4 mpd||Max S$13.3K per m. year. Pink and Blue cards have their own cap|
If you shop at brick-and-mortar stores for bags, shoes and clothes, use the Citi Rewards, HSBC Revolution, or OCBC Titanium Rewards for 4 mpd.
I would, however, lean towards the OCBC Titanium as my first choice for the following reasons:
- The OCBC Titanium Rewards has a relatively narrower range of 4 mpd categories compared to the Citi Rewards and HSBC Revolution, and as a general rule you should utilise the less flexible caps first (e.g. it makes more sense to use the OCBC Titanium Rewards for shopping and the HSBC Revolution for groceries)
- The OCBC Titanium Rewards’ 4 mpd cap is based on membership year, so if you have a big-ticket item to purchase, you can utilise your entire year’s cap (S$13.3K) at one go
The OCBC Titanium Rewards Pink and Blue cards each have their own S$13,335 annual cap, so big spenders can get both (OCBC$ will pool together).
Do note that each bank has a slightly different definition of shopping, so I’d advise you check the T&Cs for clarity.
Online Transactions: Citi Rewards or DBS Woman’s World Card
|4 mpd||Max S$1K per s. month, excludes travel|
|4 mpd||Max S$2K per c. month|
Like contactless payments, online transactions are another big catch-all category. Just think of how many online transactions you typically make in a given month: movie tickets, Grab rides, Deliveroo, Shopee, Netflix subscriptions etc.
Both the Citi Rewards or DBS WWMC will earn 4 mpd, so long as it doesn’t fall into the bank’s general list of exclusions (e.g. insurance, donations), or in the specific case of the Citi Rewards, travel (e.g. airfares, hotels, rental cars, travel agencies).
|❓ Blacklist vs Whitelist|
You could certainly use the HSBC Revolution or UOB PPV for some online transactions, but it’s important to remember these cards follow a “whitelist” approach: a given online transaction doesn’t earn 4 mpd unless its MCC falls within the inclusion list.
Contrast this with the Citi Rewards and DBS WWMC, which follow a “blacklist” approach: a given online transaction will earn 4 mpd unless its MCC falls within the exclusion list.
It just means you need to be more careful with the HSBC Revolution and UOB PPV.
If you’re using the Citi Rewards Card, remember to avoid in-app mobile wallet payments, because you won’t earn any bonus. For example, using your Citi Rewards Card with Deliveroo directly would earn 4 mpd, but using your Citi Rewards Card with Deliveroo via Google Pay would earn only 0.4 mpd.
Petrol: UOB Lady’s Cards, UOB Preferred Platinum Visa, UOB Visa Signature
|UOB Lady’s Card|
|6 mpd*||Max S$1K per c. month. Must choose transport as bonus category|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire|
|6 mpd*||Max S$3K per c. month. Must choose transport as bonus category|
|4 mpd*||Max S$1.1K per c. month, must use mobile payments|
|UOB Visa Signature|
|4 mpd*||S$1K-2K on petrol + contactless per s. month|
|*SPC transactions will earn bonus UNI$ but not base UNI$, i.e. deduct 0.4 mpd from the amounts above. UOB PPV will not earn any points with SPC|
Although I feel the best card for petrol is the one that gives the biggest discount, if you’re just looking at miles then it’s a toss up among the UOB Lady’s Cards, UOB PPV or UOB Visa Signature.
UOB Lady’s Cardholders will earn 6 mpd on petrol, provided they select transport as their quarterly bonus category. UOV PPV Cardholders will earn 4 mpd, provided they pay by mobile contactless, and UOB Visa Signature Cardholders will earn 4 mpd, provided they spend at least S$1,000 on local contactless payments and/or petrol in a given statement month.
It was previously thought that UOB cards would not earn miles at Shell and SPC stations, but on-ground testing has shown otherwise. Shell transactions earn full UNI$, while SPC transactions earn bonus UNI$ with all cards except the UOB PPV.
For a better understanding on the trade-off between miles and discounts, refer to the post below.
Public Transport: UOB Lady’s Cards, KrisFlyer UOB Card
|UOB Lady’s Card|
|6 mpd||Max S$1K per c. month. Must choose transport as bonus category|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire|
|6 mpd||Max S$3K per c. month. Must choose transport as bonus category|
|KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card|
|3 mpd||Min. S$800 on SIA Group transactions in a m. year|
|C. Month= Calendar Month, S. Month= Statement Month|
Public transport won’t be a huge component of your monthly expenditure, but it’s still a category worth optimising.
The UOB Lady’s Card and UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card will earn 6 mpd, provided transport is chosen as the quarterly bonus category. Alternatively, use the KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card for 3 mpd, subject to a minimum S$800 spend on SIA Group transactions in a membership year.
If you’re planning a wedding, your first step should be to see what sign-up bonuses you can take advantage of.
Assuming you’ve already maxed those out, you can use the following cards to pay off S$11,220 of your banquet amount each month, earning 50,880 miles in the process. I’m assuming the lady qualifies for a UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card (min. income S$120,000- not strictly enforced), but you can swap it out for the regular UOB Lady’s Card if not, for the loss of 12,000 miles each month.
|💒 Monthly Banquet Payments|
|🤵 Him||👰 Her|
|UOB Visa Signature |
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire|
|*If banquet held in a hotel, select travel as your bonus category. If banquet held in a restaurant, select dining as your bonus category|
For more details, refer to the dedicated post I wrote on the subject.
General Spending: AMEX HighFlyer Card, UOB PRVI Miles Card
AMEX HighFlyer Card
|1.8 mpd||Only available to SME owners |
UOB PRVI Miles Card
|1.4 mpd (local)|
2.4 mpd (overseas)
|S$5 blocks mean your effective mpd may be less on smaller transactions|
|If you haven’t fully utilised the 4 mpd cap on the Citi Rewards, then pairing it with Amaze would also work for general spending (since Amaze converts all offline transactions into online ones)- just avoid travel related transactions.|
As I said at the start, you should be using your general spending card as sparingly as possible. This should be reserved for situations where you’ve exhausted your bonus caps on specialised spending cards, or when the category is not “bonus-able”.
If you happen to own an SME, then the AMEX HighFlyer Card is a great general spending solution with 1.8 mpd on all local and overseas spend.
The main drawback of this card is that it limits you to converting a maximum of 150,000 KrisFlyer miles per calendar year (30,000 miles to five accounts), but you probably won’t be putting that much on a general spending card in the first place. Also, it no longer earns miles on GrabPay top-ups, effective 4 April 2023.
For everyone else, there’s the UOB PRVI Miles Card which earns 1.4 mpd on local spend and 2.4 mpd overseas. There’s no real harm in using the DBS Altitude/ Citi PremierMiles/ OCBC 90°N Card either, even though they earn slightly less. Ideally, you’d be putting as little spending as possible on your general spending card anyway, so the difference shouldn’t be too material.
|⚠️ Don’t forget the effects of rounding!|
A card with a lower earn rate could still end up earning more miles than a card with a higher earn rate if its rounding policy is more favourable. For example, the UOB PRVI Miles Card rounds all transactions down to the nearest S$5 before awarding points, while the Citi PremierMiles Card rounds transactions down to the nearest S$1.
To learn more about rounding policies for each card, refer to this post.
Of course, if you earn enough to qualify for one of the 1.6 mpd general spending cards such as the Citi ULTIMA, UOB Reserve, DBS Insignia or the OCBC VOYAGE (Premier/PPC/BOS), by all means go ahead and use it.
There are a few categories that I refer to as “troublesome transactions”, since they’re generally excluded from rewards by most if not all banks.
AMEX HighFlyer Cardholders used to be able to earn miles on such transactions by way of topping up a GrabPay account, then paying the bill via AXS, but that’s no longer possible- GrabPay-AXS was nerfed on 16 January, and GrabPay top-ups on 4 April)
These aren’t lost causes, however. In the articles linked above I’ve mentioned some cards that still earn rewards, and if all else fails, there’s always the option of using a bill payment service. These allow you to pay bills with your credit card in exchange for a small admin fee.
|Provider||Fee||Cost Per Mile*|
|2.25% (code: GET225) |
S$30 off first payment with code: MILELION
(till 20 Aug 23)
|^Min. spend of S$8,000 required on all Citi PayAll transactions during promo period|
*Based on general spending cards with earn rates of 1.2 to 1.6 mpd. For more information about what cards to use with CardUp, refer to this post
Whether or not the admin fee makes sense depends on how much you value a mile. I personally would consider options that let me buy miles at less than 1.5 cents apiece, but your situation may differ. Do look out for periodic promotions that can bring down the cost of miles even further.
Pulling double duty
While the sheer number of cards mentioned above may seem intimidating, the good news is that many can pull double duty. For example, a HSBC Revolution would take care of your dining, grocery and travel expenses, while a UOB PPV would be a simple solution for anywhere that accepts mobile payments.
Likewise, if you’re dining at an overseas restaurant, you could use the HSBC Revolution (dining) or the UOB Visa Signature (FCY) to earn 4 mpd.
If you told me I could have four cards and no more, my top picks would be:
- UOB PPV (for all mobile payments at physical merchants)
- Citi Rewards (for all online transactions)
- DBS WWMC (for all online transactions)
- HSBC Revolution (for dining, grocery, travel and shopping transactions)
And of course, I’d take the UOB Lady’s Solitaire Card as well if I were otherwise qualified.
Is it possible to over-optimise?
As much as we want to maximize 4 mpd everywhere, is it possible to overdo it?
Yes, definitely. The way I see it, there are two additional considerations:
(1) Conversion Fees
By spreading your cards across multiple banks, you’re collecting different points currencies and will have to pay more than one conversion fee.
However, I’m not too worried about this. Conversion fees are annoying and we try to minimise them where we can, but paying them isn’t the end of the world. In the grand scheme of things, an extra S$25 here and there isn’t going to destroy the overall value proposition of the miles game.
|Issuer||Per Conversion||Annual Option|
|1. Waived for all AMEX Platinum and AMEX Centurion cardholders|
2. Waived for Citi ULTIMA cardholders
3. Automatic conversions in blocks of 500 DBS points (1,000 miles) each quarter. Additional ad-hoc redemptions can be done for free
4. Covers all HSBC cards you may have, even though HSBC points don’t pool
5. Waived for Maybank Visa Infinite and Maybank World Mastercard cardholders
6. Waived for UOB Reserve, UOB Visa Infinite Metal, UOB Visa Infinite and UOB Privilege Banking cardholders
7. Automatic conversions in blocks of UNI$2,500 (5,000 miles) each month for balances above UNI$15,000. Additional ad-hoc redemptions cost S$25
Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily mean more cards = more fees. If you own multiple cards from the same bank, you may still pay only a single conversion fee, provided the points are pooled.
For example, a UOB customer could hold a UOB PRVI Miles, UOB PPV, UOB Visa Signature and UOB Lady’s Card, all while paying only a single conversion fee.
(2) Orphan Points
Orphan points are a bigger concern than conversion fees in my book. If you spread yourself too thin, you may end up in a situation where you’re optimising on individual transactions, but not in an overall sense.
To illustrate, suppose I drive very infrequently but get a Maybank World Mastercard just so I can earn 4 mpd on petrol. I may be optimising on that particular transaction, but it counts for very little if I end up with a small chunk of TREATS points that I can’t cash out.
|✈️ Min. Conversion Blocks for KrisFlyer Miles|
|AMEX Membership Rewards||450||250|
|AMEX Membership Rewards|
(Plat. Charge, Centurion)
|Citi ThankYou Points||25K||10K|
|OCBC VOYAGE Miles||1||1|
|SC Rewards Points |
|SC Rewards Points|
|* Fee waived for Citi ULTIMA cardholders|
^Fee waived for Maybank Visa Infinite and World Mastercard cardholders
#Fee waived for UOB Reserve, Visa Infinite, Visa Infinite Metal and Privilege Banking Visa Infinite cardholders
Optimisation is good, but you need to look at both the micro and macro picture. If you don’t spend a significant amount on a particular category, then consider using your general spending card instead.
A good credit card strategy is more than just knowing what the best cards are for each category. It’s about smartly managing your caps (e.g. since the UOB PPV earns 4 mpd on all contactless transactions, I’d rather use my HSBC Revolution to pay for lunch and conserve the PPV’s cap for non-dining venues), minimising conversion fees and avoiding orphan miles.
Don’t forget to check out the “What Card Do I Use For…” guide, which provides more granular advice for certain categories.
Any other cards that are featuring in your 2023 game plan?