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Grab has done it again.
For the second time in 3 months, GrabPay is getting nerfed once again, and it’s the worst one yet.
In this post, I’ll go over what the changes to GrabPay are, what this means for us, the use cases for GrabPay, and what alternatives there are.
What Is The Nerf?
Previously, in July, Grab made it such that transactions on the Grab ecosystem would only earn GrabRewards points if you pay via the GrabPay card or wallet.
This probably didn’t produce the changes that Grab was expecting, and now, they’re making it worse again.
Here are the details of the next nerf, which has taken effect since 14 October 2022:
- GrabPay in-store (QR) payments give you a chance to earn up to 25,000 GR points
- GrabPay card payments will earn 0.2% cashback in GR points (1 point) for F&B spending regardless of membership tier
- Other spending on GrabPay card will earn 0 points
In other words, the only ways to earn continue earning GR points at the same rate are:
- Grab rides and deliveries via GrabPay wallet
- Online GrabPay transactions via GrabPay wallet
- Grab PayLater transactions
Here is a breakdown of the changes summarized in a table:
Before 14 Oct
After 14 Oct
|GrabPay wallet (rides /
deliveries / online partner
merchants) & Grab PayLater
|0.6% – 1.2%||0.6% – 1.2%|
|GrabPay wallet (in-store, QR)||0.6% – 1.2%||Random|
|GrabPay card||0.6% – 1.2%||0.3% (F&B only)|
Clearly, the value of using the GrabPay card and Grab QR has significantly reduced.
Instead of earning a guaranteed 0.6% – 1.2% cashback for such transactions, you’ll either earn a random number of points for Grab QR payments or a measly 0.2% cashback for F&B GrabPay card payments.
Now, some people might get lucky with the random GR points for QR payments and win thousands of points with a single transaction.
But on average, we’re more likely to earn fewer GR points than we normally would have, based on the previous mechanics.
Otherwise, what reason would Grab have to change this?
What Does This Mean For Us?
If you’re an avid user of GrabPay, you’ll probably want to seriously reevaluate if it’s still worth it to continue using it.
The removal of GR points for GrabPay card payments and Grab QR payments means that it’s a lot less useful for day-to-day expenses because your rewards earning potential is significantly reduced.
To put things in perspective, let’s take a look at how much in rewards you’d earn for using GrabPay pre-nerf and post-nerf.
Assuming that you double-dip on rewards by first topping up your GrabPay wallet with a card that earns rewards for doing so like the AMEX True Cashback, and that you’re a Platinum GR member, your effective cashback rate for eligible transactions would be:
Before 14 October
1.5% (AMEX TCB) + 1.2% (GR points) = 2.7%
After 14 October
1.5% (AMEX TCB) + 0.3% (GR points) = 1.8% (F&B transactions only)
1.5% (AMEX TCB + 0% (GR points) = 1.5% (all other transactions)
This translates into a 33% and 44% reduction in rewards earning rate respectively, which is huge.
Is GrabPay Still Worth Using?
Despite how bad the GrabPay rewards programme is, it surprisingly still has some use cases.
Earn Rewards For Reward Exclusion Transactions
This has always been the best use case for the GrabPay card, and thankfully, it’s still valid.
In the world of credit card rewards, there are some types of transactions that are excluded from earning rewards such as insurance, education, taxes, etc.
There are, as of now, only 3 cards that officially earn rewards for such transactions, namely:
- AMEX SIA Business Card
- AMEX True Cashback (TCB) Card
- UOB Absolute Cashback Card
Using any of the above 3 cards will allow you to earn rewards regardless of the transaction.
The problem is that all 3 cards operate under the American Express (AMEX) network, which not all merchants accept.
The workaround for this issue is to use these cards to top up the GrabPay card and then make payments via the GrabPay card.
This works because the 3 aforementioned cards will earn rewards on all transactions, including top-ups to the GrabPay wallet.
And since the GrabPay card operates under MasterCard, it is accepted at many more merchants.
This guarantees that you’ll be able to earn rewards by topping up your GrabPay card even if the transaction with the GrabPay card doesn’t earn any GR points.
Earn Rewards For QR Payments
By extension of using one of the 3 cards that earn rewards for GrabPay wallet top-ups, you’re able to earn rewards for transactions made via QR payments, even if card payment is not accepted.
Many smaller merchants and stalls at coffeeshops or hawker centres only accept QR payments, such as SGQR via PayNow or merchant-partnered QRs like GrabPay QR.
Since the GrabPay wallet is compatible with SGQR payments, you’re able to make such payments via GrabPay.
And if you top up your GrabPay wallet with a card that earns rewards for doing so, you’re effectively earning rewards on an SGQR payment that would otherwise not earn rewards.
If you make payment via a GrabPay QR, that’s even better – you’ll earn the same rewards for topping up your GrabPay wallet, plus you earn some GR points.
Good Option For Low-Spending Adults
For adults who are able to use credit cards but don’t spend enough to meet the monthly spending requirement of high cashback cards, using the combination of an AMEX card + the GrabPay card is still one of the best options available.
Even after the nerf, you’re not any better off spending with the AMEX TCB or UOB Absolute cards without using GrabPay.
You’ll either earn the same amount of cashback as you otherwise would have, or you’ll earn a bonus in GR points for eligible transactions like F&B and online spending via the GrabPay card or GrabPay QR spending.
While there are alternatives available, as I’ll discuss later, none of them are perfect alternatives.
Great Debit Card For Students And NSFs
If you don’t have access to regular credit cards, ie if you’re a student or an NSF, the GrabPay card is still one of the best options available to you now.
This is due to the fact that topping up your GrabPay wallet with the Standard Chartered Cashback Debit Card (the one that comes with the JumpStart account) also earns cashback.
So, you can double-dip on rewards in the same way that an adult using the AMEX TCB Card would.
Now, this isn’t advertised by StandChart, and it even lists mobile wallet top-ups in the exclusion list of transactions for the debit card.
But it’s been working this way for years, so hopefully it continues this way.
What Alternatives To GrabPay Are There?
Since the reason for using GrabPay is usually a low monthly expenditure, I’ll only consider cards with no monthly minimum spending as a possible alternative to GrabPay.
Citi Cash Back+
The Citi Cash Back+ is an unlimited cashback card like AMEX TCB and UOB Absolute.
The biggest difference is that it has the same reward exclusion categories as every other credit card and does not award cashback on the same transactions as its AMEX competitors.
Also, it only awards 1.6% in cashback – marginally better than the AMEX TCB and marginally worse than the UOB Absolute.
So, you’re earning a similar amount of cashback with Citi Cash Back+ at the expense of common exclusion categories.
To me, I think this makes it a poor alternative to the AMEX + GrabPay strategy.
The HSBC Revolution card is a specialised rewards card, meaning it doesn’t earn cashback – instead, it earns points.
It’s conventionally known as a miles card because the points can be converted to miles at a favourable rate, but these points can also be redeemed for cash vouchers, making it a proxy for a cashback card.
The HSBC Revolution earns 10 points / S$1 spending on:
- selected contactless payment transactions
- selected online transactions
The rewards exclusion list for the HSBC Revolution is fairly standard, and you can expect to earn 10x points on most transactions like groceries, dining, ride hailing, shopping, etc.
It doesn’t award 10x points for public transport.
With the points earned from your HSBC Revolution card, you can redeem cash vouchers for Amazon, Lazada, Qoo10, Dairy Farm Group, and more.
The redemption rates are slightly different for each voucher:
|20 SGD Voucher||Points
|Dairy Farm Group||7,000||$700||2.8%|
|Sephora / ZALORA||7,500||$750||2.6%|
|Amazon SG / Qoo10||8,000||$800||2.5%|
As you can see, the cashback rate varies around 2.5% – 2.8% for these vouchers that can be widely used.
There are even better redemption rates for highly specific merchants like GNC, Popular, and Isetan.
These rates are on par with the best-case scenario of using GrabPay.
If you top up your GrabPay wallet with the UOB Absolute card and earn 1.2% cashback as a Platinum member, you earn a total of 2.9% cashback.
The difference here is that the HSBC Revolution is probably more useable since you can earn 10x points for both online and offline transactions.
Meanwhile, GrabPay only earns the full 2.9% cashback for online and Grab-related transactions.
The drawback is that with the HSBC Revolution, you don’t get to earn points on rewards exclusion categories like insurance and education payments.
Also, you don’t get to enjoy the rewards until you’ve accumulated enough points to redeem a voucher, and these cash vouchers are not exchangeable for cash, so it’s not quite the same as earning cashback.
This latest nerf to GrabPay is like beating a dead horse – just when we thought GrabPay couldn’t get much worse, it somehow did.
But even after this nerf, there remains to be some use for GrabPay, so all hope is not lost.
For anyone who has been primarily using the GrabPay card, a possible alternative to consider would be the HSBC Revolution card.
Even though it’s not a perfect substitute, the rewards rate is similar, if not better, than the GrabPay card, though you’ll only get cash vouchers instead of cash.
Personally, though, I don’t plan on using GrabPay for the foreseeable future.
Will you still use GrabPay? Let me know in the comments below!