Huge Nerf: UOB EVOL’s Realistic Cashback Yield to Fall Below 4%

UOB just announced big changes to UOB EVOL’s cashback mechanics and they are not good news despite the bank using words like “enhanced”. As part of these changes, the effective cashback rate is greatly nerfed, falling from a roughly 6.7% to around 3.75%.

The changes will take effect immediately for new cardholders whose cards are issued from 7th June 2024 onwards, and will kick in for existing cardholders for statements generated from 7th August 2024.

New Mechanics

The new mechanics now involve 2 main categories:

  • Online Spend and Mobile Contactless Spend
  • Overseas in-store FX spend

The minimum spend increases to S$800 (from S$600), and the following are the sub-limits for each category:

CashbackCap
10% cashback on Online Spend and Mobile Contactless SpendS$30
10% cashback on Overseas in-store foreign currency spendS$20
0.3% cashback on all Other SpendS$30

Effective yield takes a big hit

Instead of being separate categories, online spend and mobile contactless spend are merged into a single category with a sub-limit of just S$30. This means that just S$300 of spend maxes this category while you still need another S$500 to hit the minimum spend of S$800.

While the marketing says “10% cashback”, just relying on online and mobile contactless spend to hit the minimum spend thus only generates S$30 which is 3.75% effective cashback on S$800 of spend.

After S$300 of spend has been clocked on the online and mobile contactless spend category, you could consider using the physical card at retail stores for the remaining S$500 to achieve 0.3% cashback on the Other Spend category. At this point, it is a little like squeezing blood from a rock, but it does improve the overall effective cashback to 3.93%, or S$31.50 on S$800 of spend.

Overseas in-store foreign currency, as the name suggests, requires you to make spending in person while you are overseas. This is not going to be something most people can achieve each month, especially not when foreign currency spending online isn’t counted. Even if you max out this category along with the online/contactless one, you would see only S$50 of cashback on S$800 spend which is 6.25%.

New cardholders immediately affected; existing cardholders have at one more statement month

While banks often announce changes 1 month in advance, new cardholders who apply for this card before the announcement will find their card a drastically different one from what they applied for if their card approval is from today onwards.

For existing cardholders whose statements are generated on/after 7th August, they would have at least one statement month to continue earning cashback under the old mechanics.. My statement is generated on the 7th of each month, so my spending in this new statement month from 7th June to 7th July should be safe. After 7th July, my spending will fall under the statement generated on 7th August and hence get the “enhanced” and lower cashback rate.

Alternatives?

The timing of this nerf is impeccable, coming right after my piece on great cashback cards to use. Being on the same list, Maybank Family & Friends is perhaps one of the top replacements for UOB EVOL, giving 8% cashback if you are able to split your spend across a few categories. UOB One might be another obvious replacement, especially those who need a card for UOB One account’s interest.

Those who have been using the UOB EVOL due to the convenience of just having to spend online or via mobile contactless, myself included, may find it difficult to truly replace this card. UOB EVOL was once part of the cashback triplets that gave decent cashback without having to worry about categories and Merchant Category Codes, but its contemporaries are no longer viable alternatives. OCBC FRANK was nerfed some 2 years ago and DBS LiveFresh suffered the same fate earlier this year.

That leaves another avenue to look at – 4 miles per dollar cards. Miles cards too have their own trio of Paywave/online cards: UOB Preferred Platinum Visa, Citi Rewards (with Amaze) and HSBC Revolution and they work pretty similarly enough compared to UOB EVOL. While 6.7% is better than 4 miles per dollar in my opinion, 4 miles per dollar handily beats 3.75% cashback.

A falling tide sinks all ships

UOB EVOL has been my primary card for a long while now and was my Cashback Card of the Year 2022. To the bank’s credit, UOB has maintained the EVOL’s earn rate for years and was the last to nerf it after OCBC and DBS.

My worry now is a potential contagion effect that could lead to more nerfs, particularly within the cashback space which has been quite weakened in recent times. Those on the miles side should also think twice about gloating; weak cashback cards would likely lead to an influx to the miles camp, leading to not just nerfs on the miles’ side as well, but also sooner and sharper devaluations.

As my primary card of choice, this nerf upends my card strategy, so I will have to take some time to evaluate my options moving into the second half of 2024. Stay subscribed for updates!

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