Ranked: Best Cards to Maximise Cashback/Miles (Feb 2020)
I have been talking about “top tier” and “A+ tier” cards in my credit card reviews, and it’s time for me to define them instead of leaving them as vague concepts.
The tiers have always been in my mind based on rough estimates that 1 mile is roughly equivalent to 1 to 1.25 cents, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that it can be neatly arranged in a table. Lends credence to my theory on the value of miles, methinks 🙂
Tiers According to Cashback % and MPD
|D||1.5%||1.2 to 1.5 mpd||Miles|
Tiers by Specific Cards
|A+||UOB One + GPMC||OCBC 90°N||Cashback|
|B||OCBC 365||UOB KrisFlyer||Miles|
|C||SC Spree||HSBC Revolution||Miles|
|D||SC Unlimited Cashback|
Amex True Cashback
|1.2 to 1.5 mpd (eg. DBS Altitude, Citi PremierMiles, UOB PriviMiles)||Miles|
How to use these tiers
Just clock your spending on cards starting from the highest A+ tier, until you have maximised the rewards. If you have excess spending, move those amounts to the next best tier.
If you’re a cashback user, you will obviously focus on the cashback column, and the equivalent is true for mile enthusiasts. If you’re value optimisers like me, as you should be, you will look at each tier’s winner to decide which card to put spending on.
You can stop here, or read my explanation for each tier.
Remember to get your free AirPods and $80 cash for this month.
The A+ Category hosts the holy pinnacle of cashback and mile rewards. They tend to be around temporarily, so whenever something like that pops up, you need to grab hold of it; they’re not going to be around forever.
10% cashback and 8 mpd are very much on par. In fact, I might give the edge to 8 mpd since miles become more valuable when there are more of them, and 8 mpd allows you to clock it really fast.
Unforunately, the only 8 mpd exists right now as a very limited category in OCBC 90°N, and even that is going away after February ends. The cashback representative, on the other hand, is virtually unconditional since you can top up the GrabPay Mastercard with UOB One and use it anywhere that accepts cards. It’s a really easy win for cashback.
The A category holds the useful Maybank FnF with 8% cashback. A 6 mpd would fit nicely here, but there just isn’t any card that gives this number yet. A walkover for cashback.
Depending on your spending habits, you may want to consider the UOB YOLO card, which rewards 8% as well but it is more conditional than Maybank’s offering.
I do wonder if 6 mpd would eventually show up. I don’t believe that banks offer more than a cent to buy each mile from airlines, so 6 mpd is cheaper for banks than 8% cashback is, and mile chasers would go crazy over this. An idea, if any bank product manager is listening.
5% cashback and 4 mpd are pretty good rates. It would be a draw, but cashback’s sole representative here is DBS LiveFresh. It’s an okay card, but it’s up against venerable 4 mpd cards that simply hit much harder.
LiveFresh has annoying sub-limits – maximum of $400 on online and $400 for contactless transactions. If you have an $800 online transaction, only half will generate 5% cashback.
Its closest miles contemporary, UOB Preferred Platinum, has no such annoyances, and has a slightly higher capacity of $1,000 (compared to LiveFresh’s $800).
If you’re looking an online purchases, DBS Woman’s World offers you a generous $2,000 monthly cap. Electronics? OCBC Titanium has no monthly cap. You could spend all $12,000 of its annual cap in a single purchase and be on your way to Japan with 48,000 miles.
With so many good 4 mpd options, miles take this tier.
UOB KrisFlyer is technically a 3 mpd card which gives 1.2 mpd if you don’t spend on qualifying categories. I call it the card for lazy miles collector, and I think that still applies for people who just want one card instead of managing multiple ones for optimal mile-gathering. No minimum spending nor cap, unlike its cashback counterpart in this category which has both, along with unexciting categories for a mere 3% cashback. 3 mpd is already better than 3%. An easy win here for miles.
C and D Tiers
We should avoid these tiers as far as possible, unless you are left with no choice, because your higher cashback/mile cards are already exhausted for the month. They are generally unexciting and populated with uncondtional cards with low cashback percentages and mpd.
Since 1 mpd is slightly more valuable than 1% cashback, mile cards tend to take these categories. When you have a large transaction of say $62,666 (well outside the reach of high cashback/mile cards), going to Japan in business class with 94,000 miles is also more exciting than getting $940.
Do you agree with my rankings? Let me know if you have any cards in mind you want me to place in the tiers. As many cards as I have and keep my eyes on, there are bound to be a few gems that I overlook.
In the meanwhile, sign up for a SCB card for free AirPods and $80!