The KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card rewards you with KrisFlyer miles as you save and spend. Is it better than an air miles credit card?
In Singapore, debit cards are rarely as buzzy as credit cards. Many people use debit if they can’t qualify for a credit card, or are so afraid of debt that they refuse to own one. That might change with the launch of the KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card this week.
What is the KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card?
The KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card is linked to the KrisFlyer UOB Account, a new savings account that rewards you with air miles for spending and saving.
First, you must spend at least S$500 through your debit card a month. When you do this, you earn a base rate of 0.4 KrisFlyer mile for every S$1 spent.
You can potentially earn more than this, depending on how much you keep in the KrisFlyer UOB Account. Storing cash between S$3,000 - S$100k in your account gives you a bonus KrisFlyer mile per dollar, adding up to 1.4 KrisFlyer miles for every S$1 spent.
Now, if you have S$350,000 in cash lying around and prefer not to invest it, you can keep it in your KrisFlyer UOB Account and use the debit card to earn 5.4 miles for every S$1. (Note that you won't earn interest on cash stored in this account.)
Is It Better to Earn Miles with a Debit Card Than a Credit Card?
We now have many Singaporeans wondering if they’re better off trying to earn miles with a debit card instead of a credit card.
To answer this question, we calculated how many KrisFlyer miles you can earn a year with the KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card, assuming you have a monthly average balance of S$10,000 in your account and spend S$500 every month. This should give you 1.4 miles per S$1 spent.
We also made the same calculations for the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer credit card, which awards 1.1 KrisFlyer miles for every S$1 spent.
Which card will earn more miles?
KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card vs Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card
KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card
American Express SIA KrisFlyer Credit Card
|Miles Earned Per S$1
|0.4 KrisFlyer mile +
|1.1 KrisFlyer miles
|Miles Per Month with S$500 Monthly Spend
|1.4 x S$500 = 700 KrisFlyer miles
|1.1 S$500 = 550 KrisFlyer miles
|1,000 KrisFlyer miles
|5,000 KrisFlyer miles the first time you use the card
|Miles Earned in 1 Year + Welcome Miles
|8,400 KrisFlyer miles*
|11,600 KrisFlyer miles
* Bonus KrisFlyer miles earned is capped at 5% of the Monthly Average Balance in your KrisFlyer UOB account. Assuming Monthly Average Balance is S$10,000, you will earn 500 KrisFlyer miles in a month.
Judging from the base miles, you’d think the KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card will come out ahead. But the Amex KrisFlyer Credit Card is the clear winner, for two reasons:
1. The KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card Caps Your Miles
1.4 miles for every S$1 spent is a fantastic deal only offered by top-tier air miles credit cards. To have that on a debit card is nothing short of amazing.
Sure, you need at least S$3,000 stored in your KrisFlyer UOB Account to enjoy this earn rate. But there’s another piece of fine print you need to know: the bonus miles you earn each month is capped at 5% of the Monthly Average Balance in your account.
So no matter how much you spend on your debit card, know that you will stop earning miles after a certain point.
2. The American Express KrisFlyer Credit Card Has More Bonuses
Simply put, using the American Express KrisFlyer Credit Card gets you miles faster.
Your first 5,000 KrisFlyer miles is as easy as using your credit card for the first time, plus you can earn 5,000 more if you spend S$2,500 within the first 3 months. Then there’s the 2 KrisFlyer miles you can earn for every dollar you spend at singaporeair.com and KrisShop.
Best of all, earning miles is as simple as using your credit card and paying your bill in full and on time. There are no limits to how many miles you can get. And because KrisFlyer miles expire in 3 years, you have plenty of time to earn enough for a free flight.
When Does It Make Sense to Use a Debit Card for Miles?
Despite the tricky fine print, there are some Singaporeans who might benefit from using a debit card to earn miles.
Parents of school-age young adults can give their kids a debit card instead of a supplementary air miles card. This will teach them how to balance a budget and manage their cash flow, without running the risk of spending more than what they have.
Some Singaporeans don't like the hassle that comes with monitoring their credit card usage and paying their bills on time. If this sounds like you, a debit card might be the more appropriate financial tool. Besides racking up interest, credit card rewards are not applicable when you carry a balance from paying your bill late.
Those who can’t seem to stop impulse shopping and racking up rollover debt are better off with a debit card. While there are many tricks you can use to control your spending, the human willpower has its limits too. Ultimately, you know yourself best. If you can’t trust yourself with a credit card, stick to a debit card.
But if you have discipline, the ability to defer gratification, and a willingness to monitor your bills, a credit card is the simplest, most fuss-free way to rack up miles. And you don’t need piles of cash to get started!
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