Cashback/Miles Cards Ranked by Earn Rates (August 2022)
There are many credit cards and it can be difficult to start from somewhere. I try to organise many cards by their earn rates so that it’s easier to find a card that suits your spending habits.
Note that the cards are arranged by the maximum earn rate they can get, and not by how good the card is overall. A card’s effectiveness depends on one’s spending habits, so a Tier 1 10% card can be wonderful for some people, but not for many others.
|1||CIMB Visa Signature (10%)|
UOB One (8.33%)
Citi Cash Back (8% cashback)
Maybank FnF (8%)
|2a||UOB EVOL (6.67%)|
OCBC FRANK (6%)
StanChart Smart Card (6%)
|StanChart Smart Card (5.658 mpd)|
|3||DBS LiveFresh (5%)|
Citi SMRT (5%)
|DBS Woman’s World (4 mpd)|
CitiRewards (4 mpd)
UOB Preferred Platinum (4 mpd)
OCBC Titanium Rewards (4 mpd)
HSBC Revolution (4 mpd)
CitiRewards (4 mpd)
|4||UOB One (3.33%)|
Maybank Platinum Visa (3.33%)
UOB Absolute + GrabPay Mastercard (1.7%+0.8%)
CapitaCard (up to 3% rebate in STAR$)
|5||StanChart Spree (2%)|
Citi Cash Back+
and other ≤ 2% cashback cards
|DBS Woman’s (2 mpd)|
and other ≤ 2 mpd cards
How to use this tier list
Simply start from Tier 1, and look at whether each card suits your spending habits, and move on to the next Tier until you find something that suits you. Into cashback? Ignore the miles column; into miles? You know what to do.
Tier 1: dominated by conditional cashback cards
The best earn rates that exist now would be between 8 to 10% cashback. The equivalent earn rate in miles, I feel, has to be around 8 miles per dollar for one to think about giving up 10% cashback, but this earn rate unfortunately does not exist currently (it used to; but 2018 is already 4 years ago).
8 to 10% cashback cards, unfortunately, also come with a set of conditions that wouldn’t suit most people. Maybank Family and Friends is perhaps one of the easier to use cards in this category given that you get to choose your categories for 8% cashback, while CIMB Visa Signature has a fixed set of categories that gets 10% cashback.
UOB One remains a high cashback card for those who can meet its quarterly spend requirement and spend a lot on Shopee, Cold Storage, Grab and other merchants on its list of merchants giving bonus cashback.
These aren’t the easiest of cards to use, but 8 to 10% cashback is a generous earn rate that probably shouldn’t be easy to achieve (well, it used to; but 2020 is already 2 years ago).
Tier 2: easier cashback cards
Tier 2 earn rates hover around 6% cashback, and I think a fitting equivalent should be around 5 to 6 miles per dollar.
Alas there is only one card that gives more than 4 mpd, and it’s the StanChart Smart Card which gives a miles earn rate of 5.658 mpd. The Smart Card is marketed as a 6% cashback card too, making it a rare hybrid card that’s good for either miles or cashback. Unfortunately, it gives this earn rate on a very select few areas of spend: McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Burger King, Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Toast Box, Fun Toast, BUS/MRT via SimplyGo, Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Disney+.
Given the nature of these expenditures, it’s unlikely to earn much rewards from this card unless you really spend heavily on one of the above areas.
It’s far easier to get 6% cashback with OCBC FRANK, and 6.67% cashback with UOB EVOL.
Tier 3: 4 mpd, 4mpd, 4mpd cards
Tier 3 is where 5% cashback cards and 4 mpd mile cards reside in, and we have DBS LiveFresh which of late has really been quite lacklustre. The 5% earn rate of DBS LiveFresh is clearly lower than that of its cousins OCBC FRANK and UOB EVOL, but DBS used to dole out very generous spend promos on a monthly basis. That has since stopped, and so has my usage of the card.
While also 5%, Citi SMRT Card is an excellent card that does not have a monthly cap on the cashback awarded – a rarity in credit cards, miles and cashback alike. It’s easy to use this card to great effect for large online transactions. The latest iPhone 14 Pro and Series 8 Apple Watch, perhaps? Citi SMRT Card has no issue giving you 5% cashback where most other cards’ earn rates just give up due to the price tags of Apple products. The major downside of the Citi SMRT Card is its exclusion on travel-related expenses. Air tickets and hotel expenses tend to be big ticket items we buy online, and the exclusion here stings for what is otherwise an excellent cashback card.
Tier 3 is where all the 4 mpd mile cards live, and you might want to watch my miles webinar for more info on them.
Tier 4 – 5: cards that you use as a last resort
Tier 4 to 5 are filled with cards that are of 3% cashback or 3 miles per dollar and below. Such rates are really more for situations where your Tier 1 to Tier 3 cards don’t work, and such situations are probably quite rare. As far as possible, I would stay away from using these cards since the earn rates are just pretty suboptimal.
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