Tragic: Visa Reclassifies Grab Top Ups, Virtually No More Rewards Left

The usefulness of GrabPay and GrabPay MasterCard has been on a clear downward spiral since late last year:

  • 16th Dec 2019: AXS blocks all payment via GrabPay and GrabPay MasterCard
  • 18th Dec 2019: Mastercard reclassifies Grab top-ups, excluding Mastercard cards from getting rewards
  • 1st Mar 2020: Amex to stop giving miles for Grab top-ups (cashback is still applicable)
  • 2nd Mar 2020: GrabRewards nerfed (from 10 to 4 points per dollar spent)
  • 16th Mar 2020: UOB One stopped giving cashback on Grab top-ups

We can add one more final nail to the coffin with the newest bullet point:

  • 17th Jul 2020: Visa reclassifies Grab top-ups, excluding Visa cards from getting rewards

For the uninitiated, Grab top ups have been excellent for two main reasons: firstly, conditional cards used to give high cashback/miles when you topped up your Grab account. You can then spend these credits anywhere, thus bypassing the pesky conditions high earn rate cards tend to have. This allows the user to earn good amounts of miles or cashback on transactions that normally wouldn’t have such rewards.

Secondly, the Grab points given are an additional reward. It used to be 10 points per dollar which is a really respectable 2% cashback on top of whatever you were getting on topping up your wallet. It is now 4 points, or a paltry 0.8% additional cashback, which is still better than nothing… if you already get rewards from your top ups.


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What now?

Unfortunately, it seems like the Grab top up game is all but over. The dust has yet to settle and I’m personally waiting to see if there are any survivors, but with Visa joining MasterCard in classifying Grab top-ups into a merchant category that are excluded from rewards, almost every card we have in the market is likely ineligible for cashback or miles on topping up your Grab wallet.

Amex True Cash Back card may be unaffected since it’s neither MasterCard nor Visa, and American Express has explicitly stated before on their ads that cashback is awarded on Grab top ups. Anecdotally (take it with a giant pinch of salt), I’ve heard that StanChart Unlimited Cashback card still works.

Even if so, it seems like GrabPay MasterCard is at best a 2.3% cashback card (1.5% + 4 Grab points), which is pretty unattractive when you can earn 6% on OCBC FRANK and 8% on Maybank Family and Friends. Nevertheless, 2.3% cashback is pretty good if you use it on transactions that normally don’t earn any rewards (eg. insurance, road tax, certain utilities etc), and I’m crossing my fingers that this survives.

I know of people who use Grab’s card even without top up rewards, either by topping up with cards that have excluded Grab top ups, or even using PayNow, so this wouldn’t affect them since they’re perfectly happy with just the Grab points. At a paltry 0.8% cashback given in form of Grab points, please don’t do this. Even some debit cards give 1% in actual cashback.

Visit my rankings to see better cards to use, although now that has to be slightly updated too to reflect this significant change.

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