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Welcome to my guide on the best unlimited cashback credit card for fresh grads!
This is the final 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.
What Is An Unlimited Cashback Card?
This refers to cards that earn cash back at low rates (< 2%) but have little constraints relating to monthly minimum spending, particular methods of payment, spending categories, and/or other criteria.
These cards are well known as “no-frills” cards because of the lack of restrictions and limitations surrounding them.
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 eliminates cards like CIMB World Mastercard.
No Minimum Spending
I’ll also only consider credit cards that have no monthly minimum spending requirements so that they make good alternatives for high cashback cards.
No Cashback Cap
Finally, only credit cards with no cashback cap will be considered in order to stay true to the no-frills nature of these cards.
This eliminates cards like HSBC Advance.
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: AMEX True Cashback
2: UOB Absolute
Double-Dipping With GrabPay
When it comes to credit card rewards, double-dipping refers to stacking another reward program on top of the card’s regular rewards program.
Grab’s GrabRewards program is one such example.
Topping up mobile wallets like GrabPay is typically excluded from credit card rewards.
However, AMEX True Cashback does include mobile wallet top-ups in its rewards program.
In other words, topping up your GrabPay wallet with either of these cards will earn cashback.
And since Grab has their own debit card in the GrabPay Mastercard (GPMC) that earns GrabRewards points for expenses made with the card, you’ll be able to double-dip on rewards.
You’ll first earn cashback on your credit card for the GrabPay top-up, then GrabRewards points on your GPMC for your expenses.
Depending on your GrabRewards membership status, you’ll earn 0.6% ~ 1.2% cashback in terms of GrabRewards points on your expenses.
This is calculated assuming that GrabRewards points are earned at a rate of 3x ~ 6x points/$1 spent and is used to redeem a $5 voucher for 2500 points.
There are 3 significant advantages of this.
- Higher overall rewards earn rate
- Wider card acceptance
- Earn rewards on almost any expense
The first is obviously a higher reward earning rate.
Double-dipping means that you’re able to earn up to 1.2% more in rewards than you normally would if you just put your expenses on your credit card directly.
Next, AMEX True Cashback is an AMEX card that isn’t as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard cards.
Using the GPMC for payments instead of the AMEX cards directly allows you to benefit from this wider card acceptance.
Furthermore, some smaller merchants like hawker stalls don’t typically accept card payments but do accept QR payments like GrabPay.
This allows you to earn rewards on an even wider range of expenses than credit cards.
Finally, this also allows you to earn rewards on almost any expense – as long as the GPMC or GrabPay QR can be used to make payment.
This is because topping up your GrabPay wallet with your credit card will always earn cashback.
So you’re guaranteed to earn some cash back on the expense even if no GrabRewards points are earned on the actual transaction.
The only exception is for transactions that do not accept the GPMC as a method of payment, like the AXS mobile app.
The inclusion of GrabPay top-ups in AMEX True Cashback’s reward program gives it a decisive edge over Citi Cashback+.
Grading Criteria & Weightage
1: Earn Rate – 40%
The first criterion is the cashback earn rate, which refers to how much cashback is being awarded for spending on the eligible categories.
This has the highest and most direct impact on how much cashback you’ll end up earning, so it’s the most important criterion.
The total earn rate takes into account the effect of double-dipping with GPMC.
2: Categories – 40%
The next criterion is categories, as in what categories of expenses the credit card can earn high cashback for.
Those of you who are savvier with credit card rewards will refer to this as merchant category codes (MCCs). I explained what MCCs are in my beginner’s guide to credit card rewards.
This is the second most important criterion because having a wide variety of eligible categories will allow you to earn cashback on more of your expenses.
Again, this takes into account the effect of double-dipping with GrabPay.
3: Cashback Crediting – 5%
Next, this criterion refers to how the cashback that you’ve earned is awarded to you.
I included this criterion in order to account for the terms and conditions that the cashback reward is subject to and how easy it is for you to realise it.
4: Annual Fee – 5%
This criterion refers to how much the annual fee for the respective credit cards is.
While this doesn’t directly affect the cashback you earn, it’s a cost that you’ll likely want to account for if you’re not able to get it waived.
5: 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 the cashback you earn, but it’s a way to account for other tangible benefits that you can get out of using credit cards.
6: 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 the cashback you earn and simply takes into consideration other tangible benefits of the credit card.
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.
|1: Earn Rate
The higher the earn rate, the better the card is because you will be able to earn more cashback with the same amount of spending.
AMEX True Cashback
True Cashback awards 1.5% cashback on all eligible transactions.
However, when used in conjunction with GrabPay, this jumps to anywhere from 2.1% – 2.7%, with the extra rate awarded in the form of GrabRewards points.
This is a reasonably high amount of cashback to earn given that there’s no minimum spending requirement.
UOB Absolute awards 1.7% cashback on all eligible transactions.
It no longer earns cashback for GrabPay wallet top-ups, so double-dipping with GrabPay no longer applies.
Finally, Citi Cashback+ awards 1.6% cashback on all eligible transactions.
Since it does not allow double-dipping with GrabPay, the overall cashback earning potential is significantly lower than that of AMEX TCB.
The more categories the card allows you to earn high cashback on, the better the card is because it allows you to earn cashback more easily.
Some exclusion categories apply to all these cards. For more detailed information, refer to the card terms and conditions which I have linked at the end of this table.
AMEX True Cashback
True Cashback, true to its name, earns cashback on almost every type of transaction where AMEX is accepted as a payment method, including mobile wallet top-ups like GrabPay.
Some of the exclusion categories include interest payments and late/annual fee charges. You can find the full list of exclusions here.
Double-dipping via GrabPay top-ups allows you to earn cashback on any transaction as long as the GPMC or GrabPay QR is accepted for payment, which is a wider range of transactions as compared to being limited to the AMEX network.
Similar to True Cashback, UOB Absolute awards cashback on all transactions where AMEX is accepted with a few exclusions like NETs transactions and UOB-imposed fees/charges.
Citi Cashback+ has the standard rewards exclusion categories that are applied to most credit cards, which has more exclusions than its other 2 contenders.
While it’s still able to earn cashback on a wide range of categories, it loses out to AMEX True Cashback due to its extended reach with GrabPay.
|3: Cashback Crediting
The sooner and easier it is for your cashback to be credited, the better the card is.
AMEX True Cashback
All cashback earned with True Cashback will be calculated to 2 decimal places after rounding each transaction to the nearest dollar.
Cashback will be credited to your card account automatically in the same statement month in which it was earned.
To my knowledge, this is the only card that does this and it’s great because it ensures that you will always receive the cashback you duly earned.
Cards that only award cashback in the following month will always result in “unrealised” cashback.
Cashback earned with UOB Absolute will be calculated and rounded to the nearest 2 decimal places based on the total transactions for the statement month.
Cashback is automatically credited to your card account in the following statement.
That is, all cashback earned within a statement month is automatically used to offset your statement for the following month.
Cashback will be calculated on the amount of each eligible transaction, rounded to the nearest 2 decimal places.
Citibank has quite an awkward cashback crediting process.
Unlike other banks which credit cashback automatically, Citibank requires you to manually request redemption of cashback.
You need a minimum of $10 cashback before you can redeem it.
Redemption of cashback has to be done via SMS, following the format “RWDS <last 4 digits of card number> <redemption amount keyword>” to 72484.
It can take up to 7 working days for the redemption of cashback to be fulfilled, so if you want it to reflect in your next statement, you’ll need to remember to make the request almost 2 weeks in advance.
Also, the amount for redemption has to be done in blocks of $10, $20, or $50, where the corresponding keywords are “CSHBK10”, “CSHBK20”, and “CSHBK50” respectively.
So if you want to redeem $50 of cashback, you need to send an SMS that looks like this: “RWDS 5678 CSHBK50”, without the inverted commas.
If you want to redeem cashback of say, $30, you need to send 2 redemption SMSes because there’s no keyword for redeeming $30 at a time.
Also, since cashback redemption can only be done in blocks of $10, it’s quite likely that you end up having orphan cashback that you don’t get to redeem because you’re unlikely to have a nice, even balance of cashback.
Thankfully, the cashback earned with Cashback+ never expires, so you can plan how to maximise the redemption of your cashback if you plan to cancel the card in future.
Overall, the process for redeeming cashback is more tedious than what most people would like it to be for a card that is supposed to be “no-frills”.
|4: Annual Fee
AMEX True Cashback
AMEX True Cashback has its annual fee waived for the 1st year and is subsequently chargeable at $171.20/year, slightly lower than the standard fee of $192.60/year.
Even though it should be relatively easy to waive, having a lower annual fee is still beneficial on the off chance that you don’t manage to get it waived.
UOB Absolute’s annual fee is $192.60 with a guaranteed first-year waiver, which is pretty standard for entry-level credit cards.
UOB’s annual fee should be quite easily waived as long as you make the request, given that you’ve been using the card.
Similarly, Citi Cashback+ also has an annual fee of $192.60 with a guaranteed first-year waiver.
Citibank waives its annual fee quite easily as long as you make a call to the phone banking hotline, given that you’ve been using the card.
|5: Card Benefits
AMEX True Cashback
As an AMEX card, not only do you get to enjoy AMEX’s wide range of benefits and promotions but also the limited-time AMEX offers that are available in the AMEX SG mobile app.
Such offers tend to be quite attractive, like a $10 cashback reward for spending $50 at selected Chinese restaurants.
On top of the UOB-specific promotions that you get to enjoy, the Absolute card also grants complimentary memberships for FoundersCard (6 months) and Tablet Plus (2 years).
Tablet Plus offers several hotel benefits like a guaranteed early check-in/late check-out, free breakfast, airport transfers, and more at selected properties.
Again, Citibank offers several dining and shopping deals with selected merchants like Paradise Group.
As a World Mastercard, Cashback+ also comes with several benefits like free night stays, free room upgrades, preferential rates, and more at selected hotels, among others.
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.
AMEX True Cashback
AMEX used to run signup promotions fairly regularly, but recently in 2022, there haven’t been many promotions.
Currently, AMEX’s welcome promotion allows you to earn 3% cash back instead of the regular 1.5% cashback on all eligible transactions on the first $5k spending in the first 6 months.
However, GrabPay top-ups are not eligible for the 3% cashback.
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 usually mediocre at best.
The current promotion is a cashback reward of $150 if you’re a new UOB customer and spend $3000 before 30 Sep 2021.
This reward almost doesn’t seem worth the effort since $3000 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 from SingSaver is a choice of either a Samsonite luggage, an Apple iPad, a Xiaomi robot vacuum, or $350 cash with minimum spending of $500 within 30 days of card approval.
Even though I’m more into collecting miles than cashback, the versatility of an unlimited cashback card can be useful to have to earn rewards on transactions that wouldn’t earn miles.
Among these cards, my pick would be AMEX True Cashback.
Its capability to double-dip with GrabPay makes it one of the most easily usable credit cards to earn cashback.
AMEX True Cashback and UOB Absolute are great cards to add to your wallet if you’re looking for a no-frills cashback card with high versatility.
I personally prefer AMEX True Cashback due to its ability to double-dip with GrabPay and AMEX offers.
Meanwhile, UOB Absolute may provide more value to those who travel frequently with complimentary memberships for FoundersCard and Tablet Plus, albeit at a lower cashback rate
Which unlimited cashback card will you pick? Let me know in the comments below!