What Counts as Eligible Spend For Credit Card Sign-up Promos?

Credit card sign-up promos have been very attractive and especially so in recent weeks. They are a large part of what I feature here on the site, and naturally a chunk of the frequently asked questions in the Telegram group pertains to sign-up rewards.

The most common question would probably be whether certain transactions are counted as qualifying transactions for eligible spend, and hopefully this article can be of use to address such queries.

⚠️ Disclaimer: this article is based on my own understanding and interpretation of the terms and conditions of sign-up promos. These terms and conditions change, and while I’ll try to keep this update, I can’t possibly be 100% right for every sign-up promo that rolls along. Read through the terms and conditions of each sign-up promo carefully and take this as a rouge guide instead of gospel truth. Do also provide data points in the comments or Telegram group to share info for the benefit of all.

Just follow this rule: be safe rather than sorry

Given how generous sign-up promos are, you would probably want to be more conservative and spend them on transactions that have a high certainty of counting towards the spend requirement. To make things more complex, spend that could qualify for card rewards may be entirely different from what count towards the requirements for sign-up rewards. The advice I would give is to not be so experimental in your spending when fulfilling the spend requirements of sign-up promos.

That said, DT from the Telegram group was quite the champion – he tried using AXS transactions for a DCS sign-up promo and it worked.

For everyone else who don’t want to miss out on their sign-up rewards, I would encourage either putting spend on retail transactions or supermarket vouchers.

Retail transactions – safe

Retail transactions are almost certainly counted as qualifying spend. These are things like buying coffee from your favourite joint, buying clothes, purchasing movie tickets etc. The whole point of credit cards is to drive consumer spending, and when you shop and buy stuff, that’s doing exactly what they want you to do.

My verdict: if you signed up for a card intending for it to pay for such things, carry on, this article isn’t really useful for you.

Supermarket vouchers – safe

Supermarket vouchers are a great way for those who don’t have that much retail spend to quickly meet the spend requirements of sign-up promos. You may not have S$1,000 of shopping to do within the next 30 days and spending for the sake of meeting your credit card spend requirement is falling into their trap of unnecessary expenditure.

Buying S$1,000 worth of supermarket vouchers, on the other hand, helps you meet the requirement by bringing forward your grocery spend instead of your actual expenses. You can then use the vouchers over the next year or two depending on the expiry dates.

As a plus, vouchers bought at supermarkets code as MCC 5411 – Groceries so you’d earn a bonus if your card gives extra rewards for that. This little “hack” (if it can even be called one) is quite the open secret, and I’m guessing banks are either closing an eye to it, or don’t really have a means to put a stop to it.

Note that this refers only to vouchers bought at in-store at a supermarket. Update: there is at least one report that FairPrice e-vouchers are coded as MCC 5411 too.

My verdict: just use this method if you can’t think of anything to spend on.

Seth
Seth

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Telco bill payment – manual payment should be safe

When it comes to paying your telco bills, doing it manually should count towards your minimum spend requirement. “Manually” here means making ad-hoc payments online through the telco’s website or app, as opposed to using the telco’s recurring bill payment mode which tends to be excluded. More info on telco payments here.

Verdict: should be fine if you pay manually

Amaze transactions – mostly okay but why risk it?

Instarem Amaze preserves the underlying MCC of transactions, so the transactions should still pass as qualifying transactions for the card. By and large, most banks should recognise Amaze transactions as qualifying spend as long as your underlying transaction is considered to be a qualifying transaction to begin with.

However, there are banks that specifically exclude Amaze transactions like CIMB, DCS and DBS, so definitely don’t try to use Amaze with such cards for the purposes of meeting the spend requirement of the sign-up bonus.

Even if banks don’t specifically exclude it, I wouldn’t really want to risk even a small chance of losing my sign-up bonus. Amaze might save you some foreign currency fees, but is it really worth putting a few hundred dollars or an iPad at stake?

Verdict: try to avoid using Amaze to clock your spend requirement. Some banks outright exclude it, while there’s always a chance of complicating things

CardUp and ipaymy – only some may work

CardUp and ipaymy transactions earn points and rewards for many cards, and should theoretically work for some bank promos. However, this again becomes a situation of better safe than sorry.

I personally tried using ipaymy for a sign-up promo once (from StanChart). It earned the card’s base reward, but my sign-up promo never came. Despite ipaymy not being in the list of exclusions, the reason was that I spent on non-qualifying transactions. S$300 gone and all because I somehow didn’t want to buy supermarket vouchers for the spend requirement.

There are some instances of it working, so it’s not entirely a lost cause. Rental payments made via CardUp have official endorsement from DBS that it works for DBS Vantage’s sign-up promo.

For OCBC cards, transactions that earn card rewards will also qualify for spending requirements, and CardUp transactions (and by extension ipaymy) would hence work since OCBC frequently highlights CardUp as a way to earn card points.

Verdict: only some sign-up promos will count CardUp / ipaymy, so I would generally suggest avoiding this method

Citi PayAll – fee-paying option works

Citi has confirmed that fee-paying Citi PayAll transactions will count towards sign-up spend requirements. No-fee Citi PayAll transactions, however, will not.

Verdict: it is confirmed by Citi that Citi PayAll transactions count towards sign-up promos as long as the fee-paying option is used

Hospital spend via HealthHub – should work, but why risk it?

Hospital spend via HealthHub is a great workaround to getting rewards on cards that exclude hospital bills. A variety of cards earn rewards when you pay your medical expenses through HealthHub rather than to the medical provider directly, so theoretically this should also work for sign-up promos.

Take note that “grey” areas like that leave you little room to appeal should you not get your sign-up reward and a human from the bank reviews your transactions. It’s usually clearly stated in terms and conditions that hospital bills are an excluded transaction.

Verdict: probably works, but why risk it?

Hospital bills (direct), school fees, insurance – almost certainly excluded

These are certainly not going to work for many banks. Maybank has cards that give rewards with insurance, education, and school fees, but again this depends on how much you want to risk your sign-up reward.

Summary Table

Again, this is not definitive and merely my interpretation of terms and conditions. Please read through the terms and conditions of the sign-up promo relevant to your card application. Aside from retail transactions, please try the rest at own risk:

Amex CIMB Citi DBS DCS HSBC Maybank OCBC StanChart UOB
Retail Transactions
Supermarket Vouchers¹
Telco Payments (Manual)
Amaze Transactions² N/A
Payment Services³ ✅ CardUp works; ipaymy unsure ✅ (Citi PayAll) ✅ CardUp works; ipaymy should work ✅ CardUp works; ipaymy unsure
Insurance⁴ ❌ unless bought through Amex
Hospitals⁴
School Fees⁴
  1. Refers to store-bought supermarket vouchers
  2. Most banks do not explicitly exclude Amaze transactions but why risk it?
  3. Most banks do not explicitly exclude Cardup / ipaymy so it is generally unclear. I lost a sign-up reward before using ipaymy to meet a sign-up promo’s spend requirement. DBS Vantage’s sign-up promo works with rental payments via CardUp. Aaron from Milelion says that CardUp works for StanChart
  4. Maybank has cards that give rewards with insurance, hospitals, and school fees. Unclear if this means qualifying spend works as well

Conclusion

This article was a lot of words to say: “just buy supermarket vouchers”. But given it saves you time, effort, and a lot of doubt, it really is one of the best options to take.

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