How Does GrabPay Mastercard Compare To Other Credit And Debit Cards?

Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong

Last updated 02 February, 2021

After months of beta testing, Grab finally took the wraps off the GrabPay Mastercard, a virtual and physical card which dramatically enhances the liquidity of GrabPay credits. 

The GrabPay Mastercard allows you to spend your GrabPay balance anywhere Mastercard is accepted. This effectively increases the acceptance of GrabPay from 15,000 merchants in Singapore to 53 million merchants worldwide. You still can’t cash out your GrabPay balance to a bank account, but this is at least a step towards making GrabPay credits “as good as cash.”

The GrabPay Mastercard works just like a prepaid debit card, drawing funds from your GrabPay balance. It can be used online and offline (if you get the physical version, which is being rolled out in batches), in Singapore and overseas.

But how does the GrabPay Mastercard measure up to “traditional” payment solutions like credit and debit cards? Let’s find out.

GrabPay Mastercard vs credit cards 

The biggest lure of credit cards by far is their rewards, and despite being a debit card, the GrabPay Mastercard still fits in here.

From left to right: GrabRewards Member, Silver, Gold, Platinum

Depending on your GrabRewards status, you’ll earn 3-6 GrabPay points per S$1 spent on the GrabPay Mastercard (from 22 March 2021 onwards). These points can be converted into KrisFlyer miles at the following ratio:

  • 10 GrabRewards points = 1 KrisFlyer mile

This means your effective miles per dollar rate is 0.3-0.5. That’s unimpressive, considering the average miles card would earn you 1.2-1.4 mpd on local spending. Moreover, its 2% FCY fee is lower than any bank, but its low miles earning rate means you’re still paying over the odds to earn miles via overseas transactions. 


Local SpendingFCY SpendingFCY FeeCents/Mile for FCY
OCBC 90N1.24.0 (until 29 Feb 2020)3.25%0.81
BOC Elite Miles1.53.03%1.0
SCB Visa Infinite1.4 (with at least $2K spend per statement period)3.0 (with at least $2K spend per statement period)3.5%1.17
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend1.22.0 (June/Dec only)2.5%1.25
UOB PRVI Miles1.42.43.25%1.35
Citi PremierMiles Visa1.22.03.25%1.63
GrabPay Mastercard0.3-0.50.3-0.52%4

But we’re forgetting something here. Using the GrabPay card or a credit card is not an either/or proposition. You can top up your GrabPay balance with a credit card and earn cashback or rewards points in the process*. Whatever points you earn by spending on the GrabPay Mastercard are then just the icing on the cake. 

It remains to be seen how long this will be possible, as some (but not all) banks have already excluded GrabPay top-ups from earning rewards.

One major advantage the GrabPay Mastercard has over traditional credit cards is that GrabRewards points can be earned on a wide range of transactions – some of which banks don’t issue rewards for. This includes:

  • Insurance payments
  • Payments for government services
  • Education fees
  • Utilities
  • Hospital bills

In other words, even though the GrabPay Mastercard may earn only 0.3-0.5 mpd when paying a hospital bill, it’s still better than earning nothing by using a credit card, which excludes such transactions from rewards. 

In terms of card benefits, the GrabPay Mastercard offers complimentary mobile phone insurance when you use your card to pay the phone bill. As far as I know, this is the only card in Singapore to offer such a feature. Your phone is an expensive investment, and it may make sense to get a policy protecting it from damage.

The card also offers lounge access as part of the Mastercard Flight Delay Pass program. Note that unlike the regular lounge access offered by credit cards, this program only allows access if your flight is delayed by 120 minutes or more (you’ll need to register your flight details before traveling).

This means the GrabPay Mastercard isn’t as good as a regular credit card in this respect, but then again it’s not an either/or proposition. There’s nothing stopping you from using this alongside your regular credit cards.

GrabPay Mastercard vs prepaid multi-currency cards

Grab calls the GrabPay Mastercard “the perfect travel companion”, citing how it lets you top up your GrabPay balance in your home currency and spend overseas, and its lower FX fees compared to banks.

The natural question then, is how it compares to prepaid multi-currency cards like YouTrip and Revolut. There are few factors to consider:

  • Exchange rates: Does the card use the interbank rate (a.k.a Google rate- what you see when you google 1 USD in SGD) or the Mastercard/Visa rate (slightly less favorable)
  • FCY Fee: Does the card charge a further mark up to the converted amount in return for the “service” of converting currencies?
  • ATM Fee: How much does the card charge if you want to withdraw funds from an ATM overseas?

FCY FeeATM FeeExchange Rates
GrabPay Mastercard2%S$5 per withdrawalMastercard
Revolut0%None, up to S$350 per monthInterbank (0.5-2% markup applies on weekends)
YouTrip0%S$5 per withdrawalInterbank rates for 10 currencies, Mastercard rates for the rest
Transferwise0.35-1%None, up to S$350 per monthInterbank

As the table above shows, the GrabPay Mastercard is nowhere as good as dedicated multi-currency cards. Its FCY fee, while lower than banks, is still significantly above the multi-currency cards. It doesn’t offer free overseas ATM withdrawals, and uses Mastercard’s exchange rates instead of the more favorable interbank ones. 

The only advantage the GrabPay Mastercard has over the multi-currency debit cards is it earns rewards. Therefore, if your only concern was minimizing the cost of overseas transactions, you wouldn’t be using the GrabPay Mastercard. 

Conclusion

The GrabPay Mastercard has the potential to be a very useful tool, even if you already have other credit cards in your wallet. So long as banks continue to offer rewards on GrabPay top ups, the opportunity to double dip on transactions (earning bank rewards + GrabRewards points) exists.

Even if this stops one day, it’ll still be worthwhile using the GrabPay Mastercard on transactions that banks exclude from earning points/cashback. However, if your concern is simply to save on overseas transactions, you’re still better off using one of the multi-currency prepaid cards on the market.

It’s currently free to get both a digital and physical GrabPay card- the latter until 2 March 2020, after which a small fee may apply. Applications can be done via the Grab app, so be sure to check it out if you’re interested.

Read these next:
Ultimate Guide To Digital Multi-Currency Accounts
Should I Use A Credit Card Or Multi-Currency Card For Overseas Spending?
Mobile Wallets in Singapore: Complete 2021 Guide
EZ-Link vs EZ-Reload vs SimplyGo: Best Option to Pay for Public Transport
What Is YouTrip Card And How Does It Work?



Aaron founded The Milelion to teach people how to travel better for less, with credit cards, airline and hotel loyalty programmes. With 500,000 miles flown and counting, he’s keen to debunk the myth that you can’t travel in style without breaking the bank.