Rookie Miles Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong

Last updated 06 May, 2024

Just starting your miles journey? Here’s some dumb (and easily preventable) mistakes to avoid!

I’ve been collecting miles for almost a decade now, and while I daresay I’ve gotten the hang of things, it’s not always been smooth sailing!

Like every hobby, there’s something of a learning curve involved. And with so many different cards and T&Cs to track, it’s understandable that you might goof up along the way – I certainly did!

So if you’re just getting started, here are some mistakes I made that I hope you won’t repeat.

Table of contents


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Wasting your new-to-bank status

When you first start applying for credit cards, the most valuable bargaining chip you have is your new-to-bank status. 

Banks measure their success by the number of new customers they can acquire, generally defined as those who:

  • Do not currently hold any principal credit cards with the bank
  • Have not cancelled a principal credit card with the bank in the past 6-12 months (the exact timeline depends on bank)

To attract this crowd, banks dangle extremely lucrative sign-up gifts in the form of miles, cashback, or gadgets like Dyson hairdryers and Sony PlayStation 5s. In contrast, the offers for existing customers are considerably less generous. In most cases you get nothing at all by signing up for a second credit card from the same bank!

When I first started collecting miles, I made a shortlist of all the best sign-up bonuses on the market, and a meticulous plan to meet the minimum spend for each one. 

But there was one card whose sign-up bonus never credited. Upon further investigation, I found that I already had a principal card from that particular bank, applied for years ago at a roadshow where I got nothing more than a water bottle and gym towel. I gave up tens of thousands of miles for a water bottle! 

So your new-to-bank status is valuable, and you should only cash it in when the acquisition offer is good. 

In case you were worried, holding any of the following will not affect your new-to-bank status:

  • A debit card
  • A supplementary credit card
  • A corporate card
  • A bank account

Not tracking points expiry

Having your credit card points expire on you is one of the most painful things ever. And it could very well happen if you’re not paying attention, especially once you start using multiple cards from different banks.

Here’s where some simple housekeeping will pay dividends. Some banks allow you to track points expiry in their app, others will print it in the monthly e-statement. You should make a habit of noting down the validity periods and setting calendar reminders to redeem them in advance.

Where it gets even trickier is that some expiry policies aren’t straightforward. For example, if you own a Citi Rewards Card, your ThankYou points aren’t valid for five years, they’re valid for up to five years.

Citi Rewards Card-1

Example: Citi Rewards Card opened on 15 October 2022
Points Earned From
Valid till
15 October 2022 to 31 October 2027
31 January 2028
(5 years + 3 months grace)
1 November 2027 to 31 October 2032
31 January 2033
(5 years + 3 months grace)

This is a crucial distinction because it means that most of your points will actually be valid for less than five years. In an extreme case, they can be valid for as little as three months! (Citi provides a three month grace period after the five years, so these would be the points earned towards the end of the five year cycle).

Thankfully, such policies are rare. To my knowledge, only Citi and StanChart (up to three year validity) have such rules, and even then, they don’t affect all cardholders equally – Citi Prestige and StanChart Visa Infinite cardholders enjoy non-expiring points, for example. 

CITI_CC_EURO_BLOGARTICLE_800x250

🎉SingSaver x Citi CC Euro Summer Kickoff Lucky Draw🎉: Be one of the 10 lucky winners to win 120k Max Miles each (enough for a pair of economy-class round-trip tickets to anywhere in Europe) when you sign up for an eligible Citibank Credit Card on SingSaver. A total of 10x pairs of tickets will be given away for over 2 weeks, with 5x pairs given weekly. Valid till 23 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

SingSaver_Score_Big_2024_KV1_BLOGARTICLE_800x250

✨SingSaver Score Big CC Campaign✨: The first 10 applicants to apply for participating products daily at 12pm and 6pm will score a rewards upgrade to a PlayStation®5 (Slim) Disc Edition (worth S$799). Meanwhile, the first 10 to apply at 3pm will score a rewards upgrade to a Dyson Airwrap™ Multi-styler and Dryer (worth S$859). Remaining applicants will enjoy existing rewards. Check out FAQs here. Valid till 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

SingSaver Exclusive Offer: Receive the following rewards and experience Fastest Rewards Fulfilment when you sign up for a Citi Rewards Card:

Citi CC_BLOGARTICLE_800x250 (1)

Receive a Sony Portable Theatre System HT-AX7 (worth S$759) or a Dyson Supersonic (worth S$699) or an Apple iPad 10th Gen 10.9 wifi 64GB (worth S$529) or S$450 eCapitaVoucher or S$300 cash via PayNow upon activating and spending a minimum of S$500 within 30 days of card approval. Valid until 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

Rewards Upgrade Campaign_BLOGARTICLE_800x250

⬆️Reward Upgrade Campaign⬆️: Upgrade your rewards when you top up S$1,200 for an Apple MacBook Air 13” (M3 chip) 256GB (worth S$1,599) or an Apple iPhone 15 Pro 128GB (worth S$1,664.25). Alternatively, top up S$1,786.00 for a Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Titanium Gray 12+512GB 5G (worth S$2,128). Valid till 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.


Not tracking bonus caps

Just as important as tracking points expiry is tracking the bonus caps on your specialised spending cards.

This refers to cards like the DBS Woman’s World Card, Citi Rewards Card, HSBC Revolution or UOB Lady’s Card, which award 4 miles per S$1 on eligible spending up to a cap, and then just 0.4 miles per S$1 after that. Needless to say, anyone spending beyond the cap would be better off putting it on a general spending card for 1.2 - 1.6 miles per S$1.

Unless you have a photographic memory, however, it’s going to get trickier and tricker to remember how much you’ve spent on each card as the month goes on.

While there’s no magic bullet here that saves you from having to do periodic checks, one thing you might find useful is to turn on transaction alerts for any amount spent on your card, so you can quickly scroll through your SMS inbox and do an on-the-fly tally, instead of having to login to your ibanking app every time.

Alternatively, DBS allows you to set a monthly spend limit on your card, which you can cap at S$1,500 for the DBS Woman’s World Card (since that’s the 4 mpd cap). Any transactions beyond that threshold will fail, so if your transaction does not go through, you’ll know it’s because you’re at risk of busting your cap.

Best miles cards for specialised spending

  • DBS Woman's World Card: 4 mpd on online purchases and 1.2 mpd on overseas purchases
  • Citi Rewards Card: 4 mpd on select online and in-store retail purchases 
  • HSBC Revolution Card: 4 mpd on select online and contactless transactions
  • UOB Lady's Card: 4 mpd on one enrolled category 

DBS Woman's World Card open_in_new

Airmiles Retail: 4 miles per dollar

HSBC Revolution Credit Card open_in_new

Airmiles Local Online Shopping: 4 miles per dollar

UOB Lady's Card open_in_new

Airmiles Local Online Shopping: Up to 10 miles per dollar

Confusing calendar month and statement month

While we’re talking about bonus caps, another pitfall is confusing calendar month and statement month.

Bonus caps can be tracked by either calendar month or statement month. Calendar month is straightforward, and needs no explanation. Statement month, however, will differ from person to person, and you can find your particular cycle on your e-statement. 

For example, if I have a Citi Rewards Card and my statement cycle runs from the 15th of each month to the 14th of the following month, then I could spend S$1,000 on the 13th and S$1,000 on the 16th and not burst my cap, since each statement period has its own bonus cap. This would not be possible with a card that tracks its bonus caps by calendar month. 

Since statement month isn’t very intuitive, you might want to check whether the bank lets you change your statement month to match the calendar month more closely. This can be done online, or by calling up customer service.


Forgetting to ask for an annual fee waiver

Most entry-level credit cards waive the first year’s annual fee, but subsequently you’re looking at an annual charge of around S$200 or so.

It is possible to get a waiver of this fee, even if you don’t meet the official minimum spend required, but you have to ask for it!

These days, it’s no more complicated than tapping a few buttons on the app, or calling up the bank and navigating through an automated menu system. In most cases, it should take no more than five minutes.

Keep in mind, there may be some out there who want to pay the annual fee, because it gives them additional miles. For instance, the Citi PremierMiles Card, OCBC 90°N Card and DBS Altitude Card all offer 10,000 miles with the S$196.20 annual fee. I personally feel the cost per mile is on the high side, but if you need some bonus miles desperately then I’m not about to stop you.

What if the bank refuses to waive the fee? Well, that probably means you haven’t been using that card very much, and in that case it might be better to cancel it. Remember, annual fees are charged in respect of the upcoming year, so the bank should refund it if you decide to cancel the card.

Read more:
Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards in Singapore
What Are Credit Card Fees and How to Avoid Them?
Can Cancelling a Credit Card Have Detrimental Effects?
Spring Cleaning Your Credit Cards


Spreading yourself too thin

When I first started collecting miles, I had a card for everything. Dining? One card! Shopping? Another card! Air tickets? Yet another card!

But even though I was optimising on a transaction level, I wasn’t optimising at an overall level. You see, by collecting points across too many cards, I was creating the problem of orphan points.

For example, even though I didn’t do a lot of department store or fashion shopping, I got an OCBC Rewards Card (called the Titanium Rewards back in the day) so that on the rare occasions when I did, I could earn 4 mpd. But because my spending was minimal, it was difficult to accumulate the minimum block of 10,000 miles that OCBC required for a transfer to KrisFlyer.

Therefore, it’s not a good idea to spread yourself too thin. By insisting on using the “best card” for every single category, even those you don’t normally spend a lot on, you run the risk of ending up with orphan points that are stuck in your bank account. 

Important Note
There’s no problem with having multiple cards from a single bank if the bank pools points (e.g. DBS, HSBC, Maybank and UOB). This means that all points are combined into one pile for redemption, reducing the likelihood of orphan points. 

Conclusion

The miles game isn’t rocket science, but when you’re first starting out it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the options and fine print out there. 

The key here is to be organised. Track your spending caps and points expiry on a regular basis, check your statement each month for annual fees, and don’t apply for a card until you’re certain the welcome offer is worthwhile. 

Follow these tips, and hopefully you won’t have the facepalm moments that I did!


Read these next:
How to Earn KrisFlyer Miles Quickly?
Best Air Miles & KrisFlyer Credit Cards in Singapore
Guide on How to Earn KrisFlyer Elite Miles
How to Convert Credit Card Points to Miles?
Best Credit Cards With Airport Lounge Access

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.

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