Is Krisflyer UOB Debit Card attractive at all?

Yesterday, UOB released the news with regards to their new savings account and debit card which allows customers to earn Krisflyer miles with their expenditure on the Debit Card.

Today, they had a 2-full page spread in the newspaper and their website went ‘live’ with the full Terms & Conditions. Prior to reading, I was kind of excited as the card looks really pretty but after reading every single line and fine print, I was somewhat disappointed.

I felt that the card was not attractive at all (wondering why they even bother launching such a card) so I ended up doing an in-depth calculation assignment and concluded that the card could possibly only make sense for a certain group of people:

  • Not eligible for Credit Cards (students, less than $30k per annum salary)
  • People that can maintain monthly $3000 account balance
  • People that can spend $500/month (exclusive of AXS, EZ Link Payment)
  • You prefer Krisflyer Miles to Cashback Rebates

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If you have a monthly income of more than $2,500/month, you will most likely be eligible for the most basic Credit Card which requires an annum salary of $30,000/year.

Debit Cards can only attract students or individuals who earn less than $2,500/month.

*Note: I’ve stopped using Debit Cards ever since I qualified for a Credit Card as Credit Card allows me to defer payment to next month (allowing me to keep more money in my bank to earn potentially more interest) plus there are many rewards and rebates across various cards which I will talk about in the second part of the post.

Alright, so now that we have the ‘target group’ of the card, let’s see how they can meet up to their other requirements:

  • Spending $500 in a calendar month and

FINE PRINT: Minimum S$3,000 deposit balance must be maintained in KrisFlyer UOB account to earn bonus KrisFlyer miles. Bonus KrisFlyer miles earned will be capped at 5% of the Monthly Average Balance in KrisFlyer UOB account.


Alright, let’s do the math. Results are summarized in Table below.

  • Spend $500 on debit card, average monthly balance less than $3,000
    • Receives 500 * 0.4 miles = 200 miles
  • Spend $500 on debit card, average monthly balance is $3,000
    • Receives 500 * 0.4 miles + (500*1 mile or 3000*5%; whichever lower) =350 miles
  • Spend $500 on debit card, average monthly balance is $10,000
    • Receives 500 * 0.4 miles + (500*1 mile or $10,000*5%; whichever lower – in this case the same) =700 miles

Table for Potential Miles Calculation

Monthly Average Balance
Less than $3,000 $3,000 $5,000 $10,000 $20,000
Monthly Expenditure on Debit Card $500 500×0.4 = 200 500×0.4 = 200 + bonus (3000*5%) = 350 500×0.4 = 200 + bonus (5000*5%) = 450 500×0.4 = 200 + bonus (10000*5%) = 700 500×0.4 = 200 + bonus (500) = 700
$1,000 1000×0.4 = 400 1000×0.4 = 400 + bonus (3000*5%) = 550 1000×0.4 = 400 + bonus (5000*5%) = 650 1000×0.4 = 400 + bonus (10000*5%) = 900 1000×0.4 = 400 + bonus (1000) = 1400

After doing up the table, I realised that UOB has an example table too:

Value of Krisflyer Miles (KFm) = USD $40 = 1,000 KFm ;
1KFm = $0.04 USD (e/r 1.40) = $0.056

Note: Using the value of the mile (1,000 KFm = $40 USD) as a gauge for the value of Krisflyer mile may be the worse comparison but this is used on the assumption that this customer does not own any credit card at all.

This means that if you have a saving of $10,000 and spend $500/month on debit cards, you will get (700*$0.056)= $39.20 worth of miles per month and they works out to be a 4.704% interest per year.

However, I believe that most average students or salaryman with less than $2500 monthly income will not exactly have $10,000 of savings (at least I don’t before I started working full-time). So if I use the most average conditions that I believe they are ($3,000 savings, $500 debit card spend, it will be (350*$0.056)= $19.60 worth of miles per month (7.84% interest).

Conclusion: Assuming you do not qualify for a credit card, this savings account and debit card combination could be your best bet if you are trying to earn that free ticket from SIA. However, you will need to make sure that your average monthly balance doesn’t fall below $3,000 and that you can guarantee a $500 spend on debit card every month. At the time of writing, this is the only debit card that allows you to earn Krisflyer Miles.

Anyway, if you are still keen on applying, you can earn 1,000 Krisflyer miles (for the first 50,000 applicants) if you spend more than $500 in the first month. Click for more details.

In case you are thinking of rushing to sign up just for the free 1,000 miles, here are more FINE PRINT for you to take note:

  • Minimum $1,000 monthly deposit (or risk $2 service fee),
  • $30 penalty if close account within 6 months

FYI: AMEX Krisflyer Credit Card gives you 5,000 KFm on first purchase upon signup. (More details further down)

OTHER ALTERNATIVES FOR DEBIT CARD

To be honest, I think that attempting to earn miles through a debit card is not that attractive since the percentage is not that high and there are a lot of strings attached (minimum balance, minimum spend and so on..) why not consider a cash back card instead?

DBS VISA DEBIT Card (Link)

  • Earn 5% Cashback on Paywave (some T&C applies, like making 3 or less withdrawals from ATM)
    • $500 expenditure = $25 cashback
  • Receives $10 Cashback if you spend $200 within 1st month
  • Earn 0.05% interest with your usual savings (min balance only needs to be above $1000 to not incur monthly $2 fee)

OTHER CREDIT CARD OPTIONS

The list I have provided here is based on an individual earning at least $30,000/annum and below $50,000/annum

AMERICAN EXPRESS KRISFLYER Credit Card (Link)

  • Earn 1.1 KFm for every $1 spend.

Pros

  • Earn 5,000 Krisflyer miles the moment you use your card
  • Earn 5,000 sign up bonus KrisFlyer miles when you spend S$2,500 in the first 3 months upon Card approval.
    Apply and receive approval between 1st April and 30th June 2017 (both dates inclusive) to be eligible.
  • Krisflyer miles earned are credited to you Krisflyer account monthly with no additional cost
  • No minimum spend required

Cons

  • No annual fee waiver after 1st year
  • 1.1 KFm per dollar spending is relatively low.
  • Amex card is not as widely accepted as compared to Visa/Mastercard.

Conclusion: $500 spend will give you 550 miles per month, no additional admin or conversion fee.
There is no minimum spend or minimum account balance for you to enjoy this benefit.
(No strings attached except for the annual fee after the 1st year which will not be waived)

My Take: Very useful when you are just lacking a few points to hit the Krisflyer redemption ticket. I use this card for random purchases for offline purchases where PayWave is not applicable. I intend to cancel the card after the 1st year in order no to incur annual fee charges of $176.55.

DBS LIVE FRESH Credit Card (Link)

  • $1 Spend (Paywave/Online) = 1.2 KFm
    $1 Spend (Other spend) = 0.4 KFm

Pros

  • 5% Cashback for PayWave and Online purchases (Requires $700 minimum spend)
  • Receive x3 DBS Points for PayWave and Online purchases (no minimum spend)
  • $5 Spend = 1 point or 3 Points (if PayWave/Online)

Cons

  • DBS Points are can only be converted at a rate of 5,000 points = 10,000 miles
    • This means that you need to spend at least $8,333 worth of PayWave/Online purchases or $25,000 worth of other expenditure in order to meet the requirement for conversion.
  • Each conversion will cost additional $26.75 (after GST) for admin fee
  • Points conversion are in “$5 blocks” which means that you can potentially lose up to $4.90 worth of conversion every month.

Conclusion: Need to spend at least $500 for 17 months on PayWave/Online purchases to be able to receive 10,000 miles.
You can earn 10,000 miles in exchange for $8,333-$25,000 worth of expenditure + $26.75.

My Take: Suitable for long-term accumulation of points, especially on months that you can hit the minimum $700 spend. I use this card very often for online and PayWave purchases (for the 5% cashback) as long as I can hit the $700 minimum spend which can be quite hard to achieve as I have other cards too..


HSBC REVOLUTION Credit Card (Link)

  • $1 spend on online/local dining/entertainment = 2 KFm
    $1 spend on others = 0.4 KFm

Pros

  • Receive x5 Reward Points for online transactions, local dining, local entertainment and x1 Reward Point for other spend
  • 2,500 reward points = 1,000 KFm
    • Conversion can be done when you spend of $500 worth of online/local dining/entertainment or $2500 worth of other spends. (A lot more achievable than DBS)
  • No minimum spend required, no limit on points earned

Cons

  • Pay an annual fee of $42.80 (after GST) or 9,000 Points (worth 3,600 KFm) for conversion.

This shows the ridiculous difference between the ‘value’ of KFm. In this case, you can offset 3,600 KFm with $42.80 but Singapore Airlines is selling 1,000 KFm for $40USD and that’s like 4.71 times more expensive than this conversion. Nobody in the right mind will choose to offset 9,000 points for the annual fee waiver. It makes more sense to pay $42.80.

Assuming I want to redeem for 10,000 KFm (same as DBS) = 25,000 Reward Points, I will have to spend $5,000 of (Online/Local Dining/Entertainment) or $25,000 Other spend.

Conclusion: As the minimum spend to redemption is a lot lower than DBS and the potential x2 KFm is more attractive than Amex, this option sounds very feasible when it comes to accumulating points in a shorter term but bear in mind the extra $42.80 that you will have to pay. 

My take: Suitable alternative when it comes to payment relating to online, local dining and entertainment. Redemption can start as low as $500 spend and conversion fee, though more expensive, is charged annually instead of per occasion (DBS).

Extra Info for the super kiasu ones
Is extra 0.8KFm more attractive than potential 5% cashback?
$1 = 0.8KFm = $0.0448 while 5% cashback is worth $0.05.
Taking the cashback option from DBS is 11.5% more ‘worth it’ than the extra 0.8KFm that HSBC provides.

CASE STUDY example

I am currently in the process of saving up 50,000 Krisflyer miles for a round-trip ticket to South Africa.

Option  1 AMEX Option 2
DBS Fresh Live
Option 3
HSBC Revolution
 Spend $45,454 (any purchase)  Spend $41,665 (Online, PayWave) or
$125,000 (Other Spend)+ $26.75 admin fee
 Spend $25,000 (Online/Local Dining/Entertainment) or
$125,000 (Other Spend)+ $42.80 annual fee

(Just for comparison sake) If I am using the UOB Krisflyer Debit Card option it will take me 35.71 months assuming that I spend $1,000/month and have a monthly balance of $20,000 in my account balance to accumulate 50,000 miles. Furthermore, Krisflyer miles has a validity of 3 years so.. accumulation over a long period of time may not make sense after all.

 

So what to I do in order to get the ‘Best’ of all worlds?

  • Sign up for AMEX Kris flyer card and make sure that I spend $2,500 in the first 3 months => Receives 10,000 KFm
  • For Paywave and Online purchases, use DBS Fresh Live Card and maintain $700 minimum spend in order to get 5% Cashback
  • For local dining and entertainment (without PayWave services), use HSBC Revolution
  • For all other spends, use AMEX

Note: The above proposal is only applicable for people earning between $30,000 to $49,999 per annum. If you earn more than $50,000 per annum, you will be entitled to better credit card options like the Citi PremierMiles Visa Card and ANZ Travel Visa Signature Card (> $60,000/annum). 

What do I do with the $20,000 savings which I do not want to put in the UOB Krisflyer Debit Card account?

Put in OCBC 360 Savings account where you can receive an interest rate of:

  • 1.2% per annum  (if you GIRO salary of more than $2,000/month)
  • 0.3% per annum (make 3 online payments – with so many credit cards, it is not an issue)
  • 0.3% per annum (if you spend more than $500 on OCBC 365 Credit Card)

1.2% on $20,000 = $240/year
0.3% on $20,000 = $60/year

That’s like $300/year of interest vs 16,800 KFm for UOB Krisflyer (where you have to spend debit card $1,000/month)

In additional if I make $1,000 month on AMEX, I will receive 13,200 KFm.

So OCBC 360 + AMEX vs UOB Krisflyer

$300 interest + 13,200 KFm vs 16,800 KFm

Is the difference of 3,600 KFm worth $300 of potential cash?

Alternatively, for high-interest rates, you can also consider UOB One Account but I personally do not like it is compulsory to spend of $500/month to lock down the first 1%-tier interest rate.

Anyways, after so much being said, my conclusion is that UOB Krisflyer Debit Card is not a good alternative if you are already earning more than $30,000 per annum and eligible for Credit Card.

Any thoughts or recommendations on my summary?

Feel free to leave your comment below as I would like to know if there are any other fine print or good deals that I might have missed out on.


Note: This post is not sponsored by any credit cards (not yet, but I don’t mind if any comes along) and all thoughts and opinions are my own. I am not a guru for numbers so if I do make any calculation mistakes or errors, please highlight to me. Thank You.

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  • Nice post, honest calculations, thank you for this. Just wanted to point out that “the fine print” is already a plural collective. So to look further into the terms and conditions, here’s more of the fine print. Not “fine prints”.

    In fact “fine prints” refer to multiple numbers of high quality art prints.

    Despite the grammatical error, you have done a great job in sifting through the fine print of this truly lousy card.

    • Thank you for pointing out the grammatical error. I will make the edits. Yea this card is pretty hopeless and perhaps the bank will wake up soon and do something about it.