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Welcome to my guide on the best general miles credit card for fresh grads!
This is the third of a multi-part series where I try to determine the best credit card for different categories, including specialised miles (rewards) cards, general miles cards, high cashback cards, and unlimited cashback cards.
If you haven’t read my beginner’s guide to credit card rewards, I’d recommend you to check that out first!
Trying to choose the best credit card as a fresh grad is often daunting because there are so many things to learn and think about.
As a fresh grad who’s looking to apply for a credit card myself, I thought it was apt to be writing a series of posts about it.
Since there are more credit cards than anyone can count, I’ll be shortlisting the top 3 contenders for each category using certain criteria or guidelines.
I’ll also take into consideration various factors that are important to me when I look for credit cards and give these factors a weightage.
Then, I’ll score the credit cards from 1 – 5, with 5 being the best.
Finally, I’ll tabulate the weighted scores to obtain the final scores out of 5 and crown the best credit card for the category.
Disclaimer: I learned some of the nitty-gritty details about the cards in this post from The Milelion. If you’re interested in learning about miles, I definitely recommend you to check out their blog!
What Is A General Miles Card?
This refers to cards that earn miles on all eligible transactions regardless of categories and payment modes, but at a significantly lower rate than specialised miles cards.
They also tend to come with travel-related benefits.
I’ll only be considering credit cards that are entry-level, ie, have an annual income requirement of S$30k.
This is because the majority of fresh grads won’t earn high enough incomes to qualify for more affluent cards that have higher income requirements.
This effectively rules out cards like Citi Prestige, OCBC Voyage, and AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend.
Minimum 1.2 Mpd Earn Rate
Next, since I’m looking for the best credit card, I’ll only be picking from among the best.
Only cards that offer miles earning rates of 1.2 mpd (miles per dollar) or more will be considered because that seems to be the current average earn rate.
This eliminates cards like AMEX KrisFlyer and BOC Elite Miles.
Finally, I’ll only be picking from cards that are not co-branded with KrisFlyer.
KrisFlyer cobranded cards are cards that offer special benefits and promotions for KrisFlyer-related transactions but at the price of a shorter miles validity period.
Personally, I don’t think the KrisFlyer-related benefits and promotions are worth it.
This eliminates cards like KrisFlyer UOB.
Even after the 3 shortlist criteria, there are still a number of credit cards that are eligible to contend for the crown.
But after doing some research, I’ve narrowed it down to the following 3 cards.
1: DBS Altitude
2: UOB PRIVI Miles (PM)
Not only do these cards satisfy all the shortlist criteria, but they also scored better than other cards when it came to the grading criteria.
1 Card, Many Providers
Both DBS Altitude and UOB PRIVI Miles are available from multiple card providers.
The former is available in both Visa and AMEX, while the latter is available in Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX.
There’s generally not much difference between each variant of the card, but I’ll just point out some of the differences that I’m aware of.
Altitude Visa VS AMEX
Naturally, the Visa version grants access to Visa-exclusive privileges while the AMEX version grants access to AMEX-exclusive ones.
Further, the Visa version grants 2 free lounge visits every year with Priority Pass and earns miles on bus/mrt rides via SimplyGo.
For the remainder of this post, DBS Altitude will refer to the Visa variant of the card.
PRIVI Miles Visa VS Mastercard VS AMEX
Other than card provider-exclusive privileges, one of the differences between these cards lies in the annual fee.
Both the Visa and Mastercard versions don’t award any miles for paying the annual fee.
The AMEX version doesn’t do so either, but instead, if you spend S$50k in a 12-month membership year, you’ll have your annual fee waived automatically and earn a bonus of 20k miles.
Next, while both the Visa and Mastercard versions are subjected to UOB’s SMART$ program, the AMEX version is not, which means only the AMEX version will earn miles at SMART$ merchants.
However, since AMEX isn’t accepted by SimplyGo, the AMEX version will not earn miles on bus/mrt rides while both Visa and Mastercard versions do.
Finally, only the AMEX version is eligible for limo benefits.
Spending $1k in foreign currency (excluding online transactions) in a calendar quarter grants AMEX cardholders 2 free limo transfers to Changi Airport.
For the remainder of this post, UOB PRIVI Miles will refer to the Visa/Mastercard variants of the card.
Grading Criteria & Weightage
1: Earn Rate – 25%
The first criterion is the miles earn rate, which refers to how many mpd is being awarded for spending on the eligible categories.
This has the highest and most direct impact on your overall miles earning rate, so it’s the most important criterion.
2: Points Calculation – 20%
The next criterion is points calculation, which refers to how exactly miles are calculated based on your eligible card spending.
The reason this is an important criterion to consider is that even though all 3 of these cards have similar miles earning rates, at the core, how they’re really calculated is quite different.
And this ends up affecting your effective miles earning rate, which is why it carries a high weightage of 20%.
3: Bonus Earn Rate – 10%
While all 3 of these cards earn a standard mpd rate on local transactions, they earn miles at a bonus rate on transactions that meet specific criteria.
This criterion aims to capture the extent of this bonus earn rate and how easy it is for these cards to earn miles at this rate, ie the criteria that need to be fulfilled.
4: Pool Points – 10%
Even though I’ve been talking about miles, all of these cards actually earn points, which can be exchanged for miles.
This criterion refers to whether different cards from the same issuing bank (ie Citi Rewards and Citi PremierMiles) will be able to pool the points earned across all cards to make a bulk exchange of your points to miles.
This is a criterion to consider because pooling points will allow you to:
- cash out your miles sooner
- save on transfer fees
- minimise occurrence of orphan points
Orphan points refer to points that are not usable because you don’t have sufficient points required to make a transfer of points to miles.
5: Transfer Partners – 10%
Next, this criterion refers to the availability of airline transfer partners whose miles can be redeemed using the points earned from the credit card.
This will determine which airlines you can ultimately redeem your miles in exchange for flights with.
Different airlines can have different flight routes to get to the same destination, which may end up costing more or fewer miles than other airlines.
6: Points Validity – 5%
As the name suggests, this criterion refers to the validity period of the points earned from the card after they are credited into your account.
Note that this is not the same as miles validity, because when you first earn points on your card, they will have a finite lifespan, ie the points validity period.
Miles validity, on the other hand, is the lifespan of the miles after you have converted your points into miles and transferred these miles into your relevant mileage program account.
Points validity period affects the amount of time you have to earn sufficient points/miles in order to be able to cash out your miles.
7: Travel Insurance – 5%
Unbeknownst to most, credit cards actually provide complimentary travel insurance coverage to people who book their flights via their credit card.
However, the extent of this complimentary coverage differs greatly among credit cards.
Since general miles cards are often classified as travel cards, it seems apt to bring light to this fact and account for the differences in coverage between these 3 cards.
8: Annual Fee – 5%
This criterion refers to how much the annual fee for the respective credit cards is.
While this doesn’t directly affect your miles earning journey, it’s a cost that you’ll likely want to account for if you’re not able to get it waived.
9: Card Benefits – 5%
This criterion refers to the inherent benefits that the credit card entails. These could be benefits that are provided by the issuing bank or the card provider.
This also doesn’t directly affect your miles earning ability, but it’s a way to account for other tangible benefits that you can get out of using credit cards.
10: Promotions – 5%
Finally, this criterion refers specifically to signup promotions that are available for new-to-bank customers.
This could include promotions offered by the issuing bank itself or by financial partners like SingSaver.
Again, this doesn’t affect your miles journey and simply takes into consideration other tangible benefits of the credit card.
This was ignored as a criterion because all 3 cards that are in consideration have no minimum spending requirements.
Similarly, this was ignored because all 3 cards in consideration earn miles across all eligible transactions, with no specific category requirements, unlike specialised miles cards.
Standard credit card exclusions apply to all 3 cards, and more information regarding that can be found in the terms and conditions that govern each card’s rewards program.
Finally, all 3 of these cards earn miles at a standard rate regardless of the spending method (ie mobile contactless, physical card, online).
The only exception to this is for DBS Altitude, which earns bonus miles for online flight and hotel transactions. This will be accounted for in the “Bonus Earn Rate” category.
Here is the summary of the scores for the various criteria of the contenders.
Below, I’ll go into more detail about why I gave a particular score for each card and criterion.
|Bonus Earn Rate||4||3||3|
|1: Earn Rate
The higher the earn rate, the better the card is because you will be able to earn more miles with the same amount of spending.
Altitude earns 1.2 mpd on all eligible local transactions.
Not amazing by any means, but I’d say it’s enough to be considered.
UOB PRIVI Miles
PRIVI Miles earns 1.4 mpd on all eligible local transactions, which is actually the highest earn rate around amongst general miles cards – even higher than affluent-level cards like Citi Prestige.
One thing to note about PRIVI Miles is that it doesn’t earn miles at SMART$ merchants, which is UOB’s card-wide rebate program where cash rebates are awarded in place of points, so keep that in mind.
Common SMART$ merchants include the Dairy Farm Group (Cold Storage, Giant, Guardian, etc), Cathay, and BreadTalk.
Finally, Citi PremierMiles earns 1.2 mpd on all eligible local transactions.
Again, not amazing, but enough to remain competitive.
|2: Points Calculation
The more lenient the calculation methodology for points is, the better the card because it allows you to earn more miles for every amount of spending.
1 DBS Point = 2 miles
For every $Y of spending,
DBS Points = ROUNDDOWN(Y / 5 * 3)
For example, if you spend $9.50, you will earn a total of 5 DBS Points = 10 miles.
This calculation means you will only earn miles on transactions of $1.67 or more since you have to earn at least 1 DBS Point.
This is more lenient than what people would expect because DBS states that you earn 3 DBS Points for every $5 spent, giving off the impression that you only earn miles for $5 transactions or higher.
But because of the way DBS Points are being calculated, that isn’t the case.
UOB PRIVI Miles
1 UNI$ = 2 miles
For every $Y of spending,
UNI$ = ROUNDDOWN(ROUNDDOWN(Y / 5) * 3.5)
For example, if you spend $9.50, you will earn a total of 3 UNI$ = 6 miles.
This calculation means you will only earn miles in $5 blocks of spending, where any spending < $5 earns 0 miles.
As you may have noticed, the calculation for UNI$ is quite unfavourable, considering that your transactions are rounded down twice.
In the above example, the effective earn rate on a transaction of $9.50 is only 0.63 mpd, which is plain miserable.
However, this is only an issue for small transactions and becomes much less prominent for larger transactions.
For example, if you spend $99.50, you will earn a total of 66 UNI$ = 132 miles, which translates to a miles earning rate of 1.33 mpd.
1 Citi Mile = 1 mile
For every $Y of spending,
Citi Miles = ROUND(ROUNDDOWN(Y) * 1.2)
For example, if you spend $9.50, you will earn a total of 11 Citi Miles = 11 miles.
This calculation allows you to earn miles from transactions as little as $1 and is favourable because the final calculation is rounded to the nearest whole number rather than rounded down.
|3: Bonus Earn Rate
The earn rates of 1.2 and 1.4 mpd are only for local transactions, ie SGD transactions made here in SG.
All 3 of these cards offer bonus earning rates on foreign currency and selected travel-related transactions. The better these bonus rates are, the better the card is.
Note that for selected travel-related transactions, transactions must be made via the specific promotion link with the selected merchant.
Before making any bookings, you’ll want to cross-check the rates on that link against other websites – the prices tend to be less competitive on these unique promotion links.
Altitude earns 2 mpd on foreign currency transactions and 3 mpd on online hotel and flight transactions, regardless of currency.
This makes it a decent card to use for making travel-related bookings, though you could earn 4 mpd with specialised miles cards.
UOB PRIVI Miles
UOB PRIVI Miles earns 2.4 mpd on foreign currency transactions, maintaining its edge over DBS Altitude and Citi PM.
However, the issue lies in that UOB only classifies transactions that are processed in foreign currencies and outside of Singapore as foreign currency transactions.
If a transaction is processed in foreign currency but within Singapore, it will not count as a foreign currency transaction, and will only earn 1.4 mpd instead of 2.4 mpd.
And there isn’t really any way for you to determine with certainty whether a transaction is processed within or outside of Singapore – you’ll just have to find out.
Citi PremierMiles earns 2 mpd on foreign currency transactions.
|4: Pool Points
DBS Points pool across various cards, ie DBS Points earned from Altitude, Woman’s, Woman’s World, Black cards can be collated and transferred to an airline partner in 1 transaction.
However, if you were to cancel your DBS Altitude card, the DBS Points earned from it will not be transferred into the balance from any other DBS cards – it will be forfeited, and vice versa.
If I had to guess, it probably has to do with the fact that DBS Points earned via Altitude never expire, while DBS Points earned from other cards are only valid for 1 year.
UOB PRIVI Miles
UOB supports points pooling across its various cards. This means that all the points earned from PPV, PriviMiles and/or Lady’s can be combined and converted into miles in 1 conversion.
Also, cancelling any of these cards will result in the UNI$ balance from that card being transferred into another active card, so you don’t have to worry about forfeiting UNI$ as long as you have at least 1 valid card.
Citibank does not allow points pooling across cards.
All Citi Miles/ThankYou Points earned across various cards need to be converted separately into miles from each respective card.
|5: Transfer Partners
DBS has 4 transfer partners, which are KrisFlyer, Asia Miles, Qantas Frequent Flyer, and AirAsia’s BIG Rewards.
This puts it slightly above the average of only having KrisFlyer and Asia Miles.
UOB PRIVI Miles
UOB only has 2 transfer partners, which are the standard KrisFlyer and Asia Miles.
Citibank has, by far, the widest variety of transfer partners.
It includes airline and hotel programs such as British Airways Executive Club, Qatar Privilege Club, Etihad Guest, IHG Rewards Club, and more, on top of KrisFlyer and Asia Miles.
|6: Points Validity
DBS Points earned via DBS Altitude never expire, which allows you to rack up sufficient points before making a transfer without having to worry about them expiring.
UOB PRIVI Miles
UNI$ are valid for 2 years after crediting.
UNI$ are credited into your account when the transaction is posted, which can take up to 3 working days.
Citi Miles never expire, which allows you to rack up sufficient points before making a transfer without having to worry about them expiring.
|7: Travel Insurance
Complimentary travel insurance is provided by many credit cards to cardholders and their families if bookings are made with a credit card.
The coverage provided by these cards varies from the bare minimum policy to generous policies, so you may or may not want to get separate travel insurance for your trips.
Altitude provides vastly inadequate coverage in its travel insurance, covering only accidental death and permanent disability for up to S$1m.
This means you can’t make claims for any flight inconveniences like cancelled flights or lost baggage, nor can you make claims for medical expenses.
UOB PRIVI Miles
Similarly, PRIVI Miles’ insurance coverage is also thoroughly lacking, covering accidental death and permanent disability for up to S$500k and medical evacuation for up to $50k.
This does not cover medical expenses or any flight inconveniences.
Also, cardholders need to activate their travel insurance at least 5 working days before their trip, and it only covers the cardholder.
Thankfully, Citi PM’s insurance coverage is pretty thorough.
Besides covering accidental death or permanent disability, it also covers up to S$100k for medical evacuation, S$40k for medical expenses, and S$1k for various flight inconveniences like loss of baggage and flight delay.
Also, while most cards only provide coverage if the full fare of the flight is charged to your card, Citi PM’s kicks in even when you redeem flights with miles, as long as you charge the associated taxes and fees to it.
|8: Annual Fee
Altitude’s annual fee is $192.60 with a guaranteed first-year waiver, which is pretty standard for entry-level cards.
Subsequent annual fees are waived automatically if you spend $25k or more in a membership year, though you should be able to get it waived reasonably easily by calling in.
If you don’t manage to waive the annual fee, or if you’re short on miles, paying the annual fee earns you 10k miles.
UOB PRIVI Miles
PRIVI Miles’ annual fee is slightly higher at $256.80 with a guaranteed first-year waiver.
Again, you should be able to call in to waive this annual fee in subsequent years.
If you don’t, however, you will not earn any miles for paying the annual fee, unlike the case with DBS Altitude and Citi PM.
Finally, Citi PM’s annual fee is also $192.60 with a guaranteed first-year waiver.
Citibank waives its annual fee quite easily as well, given that you’ve been using the card.
In the event that you don’t manage to get it waived, or if you’re short on miles, paying the annual fee earns you 10k miles.
|9: Card Benefits
All of these cards are either Visa Signature or World Mastercard cards, so they grant access to privileges like free night stays, free room upgrades, preferential rates, and more at selected hotels, among others.
On top of its Visa Signature benefits, Altitude also grants access to 2 free lounge visits per membership year via Priority Pass.
UOB PRIVI Miles
For whatever reason, despite the PRIVI Miles’ higher annual fee, it does not come with free lounge visits for cardholders, unlike DBS Altitude and Citi PM.
Nonetheless, as a Visa Signature/World Mastercard, it has its fair share of benefits, though none more than DBS Altitude or Citi PM.
Citi PM also offers 2 free lounge visits per calendar year via Priority Pass, on top of its World Mastercard benefits.
Sign-up promotions are usually only for new-to-bank customers, which tend to be defined as customers who are not currently primary cardholders and have not cancelled cards for which they were primary cardholders for the past 12 months.
This exact definition varies from bank to bank and can be found under the respective promotion terms and conditions.
DBS has regularly been having signup promotions.
The current promotion is a cashback reward of $300 for spending $300 within 30 days of card approval with promo code “SEPFLASH”.
This is effectively a 100% cashback, which makes it a great promotion to take advantage of. Similar promotions have been launched in the past, and I believe DBS will continue to launch such promotions.
UOB PRIVI Miles
UOB doesn’t frequently have signup promotions, nor do they often partner with SingSaver.
And when UOB does decide to have signup promotions, it’s along the lines of “first X customers who apply between this date and that date and spend $Y within 30 days from card approval”.
The problem is that there’s a cap on the number of rewards given out with no way to know how many rewards have been given out during the promotion period.
The current promotion is a cashback reward of $300 for the first 100 customers who applied from 17 Aug – 30 Sep 2021 and spend $1500 within 30 days from card approval.
Compared to other promotions, this reward almost doesn’t seem worth the effort, especially since $1500 is a huge sum for fresh grads.
Citibank is probably the most generous and aggressive bank when it comes to issuing signup rewards.
They’ve been known to give out rewards like Apple Airpods Pro, Dyson Cooling Tower Fan, and cash of up to $350, in partnership with SingSaver.
The current promotion with SingSaver is one of the most attractive ones yet, where you can snag either a Dyson Supersonic hairdryer, Apple Watch SE, or $350 cash with minimum spending of $500 within 30 days of card approval.
As a standalone pick, it would be Citi PremierMiles.
Its generous points calculation methodology, never-expiring miles, wide variety of travel partners, and extensive complimentary insurance coverage make it an ideal travel card.
Even though its miles earning rate is marginally lower than UOB PRIVI Miles’, I don’t think a difference of 0.2 mpd is substantial enough to take away all the advantages that Citi PM boasts.
However, my pick is actually going to be UOB PRIVI Miles.
This is because my pick for a specialised miles card was the UOB PPV and UOB supports points pooling across cards, which will allow me to efficiently utilise all the points I’ll be earning.
Also, using UOB PPV already limits my choice of airline partners, so that benefit from Citi PM is no longer valid for me.
While SMART$ merchants and minimum $5 spending blocks aren’t ideal, I don’t think they make a significant difference in the grand scheme of things.
I can’t think of a strong reason why you should pick DBS Altitude over Citi PM, given how similar they are.
To me, Citi PM offers almost everything that DBS Altitude does, but better – with more travel partners and wider insurance coverage.
Also, I think that it’s more important to pick a good specialised miles card rather than a good general miles card since you’ll be earning miles at a much faster rate with the former.
The only time you’ll use general miles cards is probably for big-ticket expenses that go above S$1k, which is the cap for bonus miles on specialised miles cards.
Which general miles card will you pick? Let me know in the comments below!