Review: OCBC 90°N – Get Your 8 Miles Per Dollar Before It’s Gone

Tl;dr: It is still an okay unconditional 1.2 mpd card with no conversion fees after its 4/8 mpd benefits go away, but you might want to use this card to book some confirmed travel plans if possible over the next month.

I should probably have reviewed this card when it was launched in August last year, but it’s better late than never I guess? There is such a thing as being too late though, since most of this card’s benefits going away on 29th Feb this year. Is it still worth it signing up for the card now there’s only a month left?

Most conditional mile cards offer high 4 mpd for spending on qualifying categories, and usually very pathetic 0.4 mpd for everything else. Unconditional cards offer anywhere between 1.1 to 1.5 mpd, but that mean losing 2 to 2.9 mpd you spend on stuff that might have gotten you 4 mpd.

I like the trend where cards give an okay base rate of 1.2 mpd on just about everything you spend on, and then give you bonus miles when the spending happens to be a special category. It started with the UOB KrisFlyer Credit Card, and the 90°N follows suit, albeit in a time-limited manner.

8 miles for AirBnb!

At its normal rate of 1.2 mpd, it’s pretty much an average card, but it balloons to not just 4 but 8 mpd on categories like travel accommodation (Agoda, AirBnb, Expedia etc). 8 mpd is A+ tier when it comes to mile collection, and it stands up pretty well against the A+ tier of 10% cashback.

While 8 mpd sounds attractive, do note that Agoda and Expedia are on ShopBack usually with 6% cashback – sometimes even 12% during promotions – and you can earn rewards on top of that using a card like DBS Woman’s World which gives 4 mpd. In my opinion, 12% + 4 mpd trumps 8 mpd, but you go probably go either way if it’s 6% + 4 mpd versus 8 mpd. You may want to start thinking twice when it is 6% + 10% if you used ShopBack with a GrabPay Mastercard. 8 mpd stands up against 10% cashback, but not against 16%.

It definitely shines for AirBnb though, since ShopBack only offers a measly $5 cashback. Unfortunately, this generous 8 mpd rate is going away on 29th Feb later this year, but hey – if you already know that you’re going somewhere later this year, I find it absolutely worth it to book your stuff early just to get 8 mpd.

4 miles per dollar on flights, overseas spend, DFS shopping, and… Netflix for some reason

Besides the high 8 mpd rate, it also offers 4 mpd for flights and overseas spending. That’s comparable to high-tier cards like DBS Woman’s World for flights, and virtually unparalleled for overseas spending. It also gives this rate for Spotify and Netflix (weirdly enough), and duty-free shopping outlets at Changi Airport.

I’m hoping that overseas spending gets extended beyond 29th Feb, but it probably isn’t likely.

No conversion fees, no expiry, smaller conversion blocks

Cards that automatically transfer to KrisFlyer are convenient and obviate pesky conversion fees, but they also have a downside of starting the clock on expiry (KrisFlyer miles last 3 years), and having less flexibility on how to use your points.

Bank points, on the other hand, are kinda obnoxious since you can only transfer unwieldy blocks of 10,000 miles, and you have to pay a conversion fee (usually $25) each time you make this transfer. They do provide some flexibility, providing a place for your points to reside with until you’re ready to redeem them for miles, extending the lifespan of your miles, as well as conversion to things like vouchers (usually at a poor rate, but an option nevertheless) and other airlines if the bank has other flight partners.

It seems like someone at OCBC went through the list of crappy things associated with mile cards and came up with: no conversion fees, no expiry on points, and much smaller conversion blocks of 1,000 miles. It has both the convenience of automatic transfers, and the flexibility of keeping them as bank points for conversion to other things aside from KrisFlyer miles, including converting each mile for 1 cent which is a pretty decent rate for banks to buy miles from you. Great job, OCBC.

If I converted my OCBC$ now, I can only convert 175,000 for 70,000 miles, with almost 20,000 OCBC$ stuck (since I can only convert in blocks of 25,000 OCBC$ for 10,000 miles). I will also have to pay $25.

For Travel$ clocked by 90°N, I can convert 64,000 into 64,000 miles, with a tiny amount of 136 stuck inside. Once I get another 864 miles, I can convert those again, for free. It’s great.

Still worth getting?

Personally, I would plan and put spend on this card for my travels later this year where possible. Booking travel plans months or even a year ahead isn’t too much of a stretch, especially if you are rewarded with 8 mpd for your lack of procrastination.

Since you can convert small blocks of 1,000 miles each time without any fees, you don’t have to clock a lot of spend to make this card worth it. Even if you have an upcoming Airbnb bill of $500, that’s still 4,000 miles you can easily convert without cost – twice as many as what you’d get on a 4 mpd card.

The lack of fees and small conversion blocks also make it a very worthy unconditional card to use even after 29th Feb. I find it annoying having to micromanage my other bank cards, making sure that I maximise my $25 conversion fees with as many 10,000-mile blocks as possible. This issue is almost non-existent with 90°N’s free 1,000-mile block conversions.

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Conclusion

Obviously, the card decreases a lot in value when the 8 and 4 mpd features disappear after 29th Feb, but with no conversion fees and small conversion blocks, it remains a good unconditional card to supplement most credit card strategies. $25 conversion fees and 10,000-mile blocks have been the norm for mile cards, and they just seem unnecessarily onerous and money-pinching now that 90°N has set a precedent. Other banks should follow suit, and this includes OCBC itself who still has conversion fees and 10,000-mile blocks for its other products.

The good

  • 8 mpd for Airbnb is awesome
  • 4 mpd for overseas spending is awesome
  • No conversion fees is awesome
  • Small 1,000-mile block conversion is awesome

The bad

  • Limited transfer partners: only KrisFlyer for now

The ugly

  • Obviously, card is less valuable when the 4 and 8 mpd go away after 29th Feb

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

8 Stars* of Sethisfaction

*Until 29th Feb. It’s a 6★ unconditional card after 29th Feb, but may well be a contender for 9★ depending on whether its benefits get extended. Fingers crossed!

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