My 2019 in Miles and Cashback

I started getting hooked on miles in July 2018, but this year has to be the first full year I got really serious in optimising my credit card spending. Instead of solely chasing miles like many miles enthusiasts do, I sought to maximise value from my spend. 1 mile per dollar = 1% cashback, and that was the rule of thumb that guided me this year.

I was also quite lucky to be able to clock lots of business expenses, family spending, as well as helpful friends who very kindly let me pay for things on their behalf.

Here’s a look at the MVPs of my cards.

Cashback MVP: UOB One

In a world where 4 miles and 5% cashback are considered top-tier rates, it is not hyperbolic to call 10% god-tier. UOB One achieves this – as long as you spend $2,000 a month on Grab. It turns out this was really easy to do in the year of 2019. GrabPay became increasingly common, and in September 2019 AXS added GrabPay as one of the payment methods. Insurance premiums, which almost never attract credit card rewards, now were fair game for 10% cash rebates. I paid my entire family’s annual premiums for the year.

Runner-up: UOB YOLO

See above, except 8% for $750 of Grab spending. It got nerfed recently, however, to exclude Grab top-ups, but it was good for $60 a month for as long as it lasted.

Honourable Mention: DBS LiveFresh

I can’t really remember the specifics, but it used to be king of the hill at 7% (I think) without many conditions. At 5% now for PayWave and online transactions, it still isn’t too shabby. It fits nicely in my spending habits as I consistently find myself being able to clock $400 on each of its category to score its maximum $40

Miles MVP: CitiRewards

MVP two years in a row!

This is really two cards, since it comes in Visa and MasterCard variants, but they both work nicely as the rare few cards that gives you bonus miles mere days after your transaction, taking out the guesswork on whether something garners miles or not. Until recently, the MasterCard version was also generating 7.6 mpd on certain transactions. Certainly a bug, since its published rate is 4 mpd, but a much welcomed one nonetheless.

This card was my MVP last year, when it got 8 mpd on everything Apple Pay, and it is again for this year, as I have consistently maxed out both cards $1,000 monthly limit for almost 100,000 miles this year. Nice.

Runner-up: OCBC 90°N

This was a card I did not expect to earn many miles on, but I signed up nonetheless, given that it allows for transfers in blocks of 1,000 (instead of the usual 10,000) without any conversion fees. 4 mpd on overseas transactions was also pretty nice for my trip to Shanghai, coupled with Alipay for tourists, as well as 8 mpd for the AirBnB I stayed in.

These would all count for a few thousand miles at best, but my friend had a $5,000 AirBnB for his exchange. 40,000 miles in a single transaction? Yes please. Got my friend a nice present for Chrismas 🙂

Honourable Mention: OCBC Titanium Rewards

As I mentioned earlier in the year, OCBC TR isn’t a card one would use very often, but when you do need to buy electronics, it comes in really useful. iPhone launch? I’ll get a couple of iPhone 11 Pro Maxes to resell for 16,000+ miles thank you. OCBC also had a few nice sales with Best Denki too, and I helped friends buy an Apple Watch, a Samsung TV, and Dyson hairdryers. Discounts for them, miles for me.

What a year!

July 2018 was my first foray into miles chasing, and I got 300,000 miles to start 2019 with. I clocked some 260,000 miles this year, and while that seems fewer than last year, I also diverted a lot of spending towards cashback this year (I should really start tracking this too) and I’m really happy with it. This year is hard to beat, but hopefully 2020 is even better for credit card rewards!

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