Review: Revamped Citi SMRT Card – Nearly Unlimited 5% Cashback on… Wait a Minute, This Isn’t Just For Trains?!

The Citi SMRT Card has always slipped under my radar, and I blame the name. “SMRT Card” sounds like it’s good for few things aside from public transport, but as I delve into the newly revamped card, I realise that this is a significantly much better card than its train-related name suggests. Spoiler alert: I think everyone who is into cashback should absolutely apply for this card, and it is certainly going to turn at least a few heads in the miles camp. Let’s… break down the SMRT Card’s features:

Card features

ProviderCitibank
TypeConditional cashback
Earn Rate– 5% for selected categories
– 0.3% for spend outside of selected categories
Conditions– Minimum spend of $500 in statement month
– 5% for categories of groceries, online, public transport, taxis
– Online excludes mobile wallet and travel transactions
Limits$600 cashback in a membership year
TrackingStatement month
ApplyHere

The Citi SMRT Card delivers what its name suggests: a decently high earn rate of 5% cashback on public transport, and taxis which includes private-hire rides. A transportation card it is, one might think, but one look at the other categories and the usefulness of the SMRT Card starts to become more apparent.

Not only does it offer the same 5% rate on groceries, it also does so for online transactions. Suddenly, it is a card that gives you a decent rate on groceries and online shopping which handily beats many other cards. All you need is $500 of minimum spend to unlock this 5% rate, and that’s not a difficult thing to do. The magic of this card lies more in its maximum cap.

Seth
Seth

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Having no monthly cap is amazing

Instead of having a monthly cap, the Citi SMRT Card caps the cashback to a yearly $600. This one feature, coupled with the online transaction category, is extremely significant: it is the only high earn rate cashback card I know of that does not have a monthly cap.

Buying a $3,000 computer online? Get 5% cashback on the entire sum! Buying a few iPhones for resale your family? No problemo, still 5%, as long as it’s ordered online. Renovating your home and need to buy thousands of dollars worth of furniture online? 5% cashback. As long as you don’t cross $600 cashback within a 12 month-period, you can get 5% cashback for large online purchases. That’s $12,000 worth of purchases which is pretty roomy, and possibly counts as nearly unlimited for most people aside from those who spend extravagantly.

This is also why you should absolutely sign up for the card right now, even if you don’t have immediate large transactions in the horizon. By applying earlier, your card refreshes its cap earlier, which may come in useful at least in the first couple of years of owning this card. For instance, if your large purchase comes 10 months later, you can make good use of the $12,000 cap, and have only 2 months before that cap is refreshed.

Moreover, you’ll never know when you need to buy a diamond ring, hoard up groceries before the next circuit breaker, or buy a new tablet or PC for endless work-from-home Zoom meetings. One of the advantages high-earn mile cards have over their cashback counterparts are bigger max caps, and the Citi SMRT Card handily disarms that point.

Just take a look at the monthly cap of popular, high-earn cashback cards to realise why this is such a big deal:

CardMonthly Cap
UOB EVOL$20 cashback ($250 spend) for online
DBS LiveFresh$20 cashback ($400 spend) for online
OCBC FRANK$25 cashback ($416.67 spend) for online

Closest competitors

Even the UOB One maxes out at $2,000 monthly spend, and you have to maintain the spend for a quarter ($2,000 each month for three months) in order to get 5% cashback, and it does not cope well with large, one-time expenses that may exceed $2,000 within a month.

The only competitor is the OCBC Titanium Rewards card which gives 4 mpd on up to $12,000 of spend. People familiar with my stance on miles vs cashback should know that I have a preference for the larger number, and 5% is clearly better than 4 mpd, and this is during normal times. It’s an even more one-sided comparison to make during pandemics.

Sign-up

Citi has been giving attractive sign-up gifts, and at the time of writing, the Citi SMRT Card seems to have one of the highest priced gifts ever.

New to Citi cards
Receive Oppo Reno 5Z (worth $529)*^ or S$350 Cash* for new cardholders

Existing customers
$30 via PayNow*

*Minimum spend of S$200 within 30 days of card approval. Until 19th Aug 2021
*Remember to fill up the form in your email or you will not get any reward
^First 1,000 card approved

Other odds and ends

Do take note that Citi SMRT Card does not give 5% on the online category for mobile wallets or travel-related transactions, so you won’t have to wonder whether topping up your Grab wallet would work with this card. You also can’t get 5% off your travel packages… not that it is particularly relevant now, though it’s still a usual area of spend that this card wouldn’t be useful for.

Citi, annoyingly, continues its habit of being decidedly odd with how it handles cashback. Literally every other bank credits your month’s earned cashback in the next statement (some even do it on the same month’s statement) correct to the nearest cent, but Citi insists that you SMS them manually to redeem the cashback. You can only do it in blocks of $10 too, which makes the whole process even more cumbersome.

On the plus side, unlike most cards which exclude EZ-Link top ups and only give rewards on SimplyGo, Citi SMRT Card gives its full 5% cashback on EZ-Link Auto Top-ups. You can then use your EZ-Link card to pay for your fares and at merchants that accept EZ-Link card payments for an additional approximately 1.11% rebate. That’s not too shabby.

Conclusion

Little annoyances aside, the newly revamped Citi SMRT Card is extremely compelling with its unique feature of having no monthly cap, and its high earn rate on online spending. I even read through the terms and conditions multiple times to ensure that I was not missing something: perhaps a monthly cap that I hadn’t noticed, or a severe restriction that curtails the usefulness of the online transaction category. I couldn’t find any, so please let me know if I have been very mistaken about this card.

Until such an error is found, the Citi SMRT Card is a must-have in anyone’s arsenal of cards, unless you are absolutely sure you won’t spend more than a few hundred dollars online each month. It does have its oddities and imperfections, but it is definitely a 10-star card when you find yourself needing to buy something expensive online.

The good:

  • Have I mentioned? No monthly cap
  • Yearly cap of $600 is quite roomy ($12,000 spend)
  • 5% is a decently high earn rate
  • Works for groceries, public transportation, taxis, and more importantly: online spend

The bad:

  • Cashback has to be manually redeemed in blocks of $10

The ugly:

  • The name. Just call this the Citi 5% Card because it is simply that

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
10 Stars of Sethisfaction

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