Credit Cards KrisFlyer

Credit Card Review: OCBC Titanium Rewards MasterCard

OCBC_branch

Here’s our review of the OCBC Titanium Rewards MasterCard credit card issued in Singapore. It forms part of our series of credit card reviews, which are all summarised on our dedicated Credit Cards page.

Dollar amounts refer to SGD, and ‘miles’ refer to KrisFlyer miles, except where stated. This review was updated on 21st January 2018.

Key features

Card

Annual fee: $192.60/yr (first 2 years free)*
EIR/APR: 25.92%
Sign-up bonus: None
Local & Overseas earn rate: 0.4 miles per $1
Local & Overseas earn rate (specific categories): 4 miles per $1**
Minimum Age: 21
Minimum income (Singaporean/PR): $30,000/yr
Minimum income (Foreigner): $45,000/yr
* – Effectively the annual fee is zero, even after year two, provided you charge $10,000 minimum to the card each year
** – Plenty of complication, including an upper cap, applies to this earning rate. You’ll have to read on to make sense of it

APPLY HERE

Foreword

Can we find a more useless range of cards for miles earning than OCBC offer? On the whole, probably not. OCBCs credit cards in Singapore are firmly on the ‘ones to avoid’ list for miles earners.

Even their ‘Voyage Visa Infinite’ card, designed to accrue the highest level of frequent flyer miles, commands a ridiculous income requirement for a very average miles earning rate, when compared with the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite (review here) which offers 30% more miles overseas and 17% more on local spend.

There is one minor exception though, if you’re happy to have a dedicated card to use for shopping (clothes, bags, department stores, electronics, etc…), and that’s the OCBC Titanium Rewards Credit Card. Even if that immediately turns you off, if you use mobile payments (like Apple Pay), there’s some mileage (pun intended) for you too with this card.

Annual fee

$192.60 per year, but only in that they feel they have to quote one. In reality, no one (sensible) pays it. The first two years are free by default, and then provided you charge at least $10,000 to the card within your membership year thereafter (each 12 month period from your card issue anniversary date), it’s waived anyway.

So… zero.

Sign-up bonus

That zero has a ring to it for OCBC. Sign up for this card, and you’ll receive… a card. Sorry but there is no sign-up bonus for the Titanium Rewards MasterCard.

Earning rates

The earning rate for the OCBC Titanium Rewards card is both the best, and the worst thing about it.

For all your spending, both in Singapore and overseas, you’ll earn a basic rate of 0.4 miles per $1 spent, which is abysmal. However, the true key to this card is the 10x reward points spending categories, which will get you 4 miles per $1 spent, and that’s fantastic – especially locally.

The problem is, there are a few catches…

4 miles per $1 spent is only applicable on the following transactions, either in Singapore (i.e. transacted in SGD) or overseas (i.e. transacted in foreign currency):

  • Clothes, shoes and bags
  • Department stores
  • Electronics and gadgets
  • Babies’ and children’s wear
  • Personal care

and also on:

  • Mobile payments (i.e. Android Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay), until 31st December 2018

However all of the above categories are collectively capped at $12,000 of spending per card membership year (so a maximum of 48,000 miles).

Note that you are initially awarded 0.4 miles (1 OCBC dollar) per $1 on all spending, then by the end of the next calendar month the extra 3.6 miles (9 OCBC dollars) are added, provided the spending category was eligible.

The dreaded MCC

Is there a bigger waste of life, than determining whether the payment you are making will qualify for a certain miles earning level on the basis of the relatively secretive (in Singapore at least) Merchant Category Code (MCC) of the retailer?

Well of course the answer is personal – it’s down to you. An MCC is assigned to each retailer by the credit card networks (Visa, MasterCard, etc., not by OCBC for example) when they apply to accept credit card payment.

Even more complicated than that, the credit card networks assign MCC codes to businesses independently of one another, meaning Visa may assign a certain MCC to a retailer, but MasterCard might choose to categorise the same business under a different one.

OCBC_pain.jpg
We can’t figure out whether this is genuine happiness, or the pained expression of not knowing which MCC your next merchant will fall into when using this card. (Photo: OCBC)

Here’s the full list of MCC codes which do qualify for 4 miles (10 OCBC Dollars) per $1 spent both locally and overseas, including online transactions:

  • MCC 5611: Men’s and Boys’ Clothing and Accessories Stores
  • MCC 5621: Women’s Ready to Wear Stores
  • MCC 5631: Women’s Accessory and Speciality Stores
  • MCC 5641: Children’s and Infants’ Wear Stores
  • MCC 5651: Family Clothing Stores
  • MCC 5661: Shoe Stores
  • MCC 5691: Men’s and Women’s Clothing Stores
  • MCC 5045: Computers, Peripherals, and Software
  • MCC 5732: Electronics Stores
  • MCC 5699: Miscellaneous Apparel and Accessory Shops

And a further category applicable in-store only (not online):

  • MCC 5311: Department Stores

How can I find the MCC code of a specific business?

Here’s the problem, there is currently no publicly available database in Singapore showing this information.

OCBC have listed a few large merchants which definitely do fall into the respective MCCs:

  • Alibaba
  • AliExpress
  • Amazon
  • Courts
  • Daigou
  • Ezbuy
  • Hachi
  • Lazada
  • Lenovo
  • Sgshop
  • Shopbop
  • Taobao

But there are definitely many others including the Apple Store (online and offline) and Gain City.

There’s good news though – “Mobile Payments”

If you use your OCBC Titanium Rewards card for a mobile payment (i.e. using Android Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay), you’ll achieve 4 miles per $1 spent regardless of the merchant category. The single exception is at Drug Stores and Pharmacies (MCC 5912), and of course you can’t “double dip” at places you would earn 4 miles per $1 anyway.

This can work really well at stores like Giant, Cold Storage and Marketplace, which do accept mobile payments, and of course several other merchants are now offering this payment method. Look out for the logo at the checkout. Mobile payments overseas are also eligible.

Mobile Pay

Remember that “mobile payments” are not the same as “contactless” payments like PayWave / PayPass. You won’t be eligible for the 4x miles per $1 spent if you just use PayWave at a non-eligible merchant from the MCC list. Mobile payments all take place through the app on your phone and your card details are not shared with the retailer.

Are KrisFlyer miles credited directly?

No, rather than being credited miles directly you’ll accrue ‘OCBC Dollars’ for your spending on this card. These transfer to KrisFlyer miles at a 2.5:1 ratio (so the standard accrual rate is 1 OCBC Dollar per $1 spent, which translates to 0.4 miles per $1, and the bonus rate is 10 OCBC Dollars per $1 spent, which is 4 miles per $1).

What is the transfer cost to KrisFlyer miles?

It’ll cost you $25 each time you transfer your points to KrisFlyer miles.

Is there a minimum transfer amount?

The minimum volume of miles you can transfer into KrisFlyer is 10,000, and they must then be in blocks of 10,000.

But hang on…

The minimum transfer quantity presents a bit of a problem, as you’ll clearly only want to use this card for the first $12,000 of your membership year spending at the 4 miles per $1 earning rate, since it drops to 0.4 after that.

That means you’ll end up with 48,000 miles to transfer into KrisFlyer, but you can only actually transfer 40,000 of that total across. To reach the next transfer level of 50,000 miles, you’ll need to spend a further $5,000 on the card, as you will earn only 0.4 miles per $1 spent on this spending. That drags the average miles earning rate for $17,000 of spend down to 2.94 miles per $1.

To avoid this, you could spend only $10,000 on this card in the 4 miles per $1 spent categories, transfer 40,000 miles across to KrisFlyer, then stop using the card until your next card membership year begins. This will also ensure the card remains fee-free, even after the second year, but you won’t drop to the 0.4 miles per $1 rate getting to the 50,000 level.

Does that make sense though? Actually probably not. Even if you have a relatively high miles-earning rate on a card in Singapore, like 1.2 miles per $1 on the Citi PremierMiles Visa, the maths still makes sticking with OCBC Titanium Rewards worthwhile provided you’ll reach $17,000 of spend in your card membership year.

After that, you definitely need to switch back to a better card. See the example below.

$17,000 Spend, first $10,000 on OCBC TR, then Citi PMV

  • Miles earned on OCBC TR card: 40,000 (4 miles per $1)
  • Miles earned on Citi PMV: 8,400 (1.2 miles per $1)
  • Total miles earned: 48,400

$17,000 Spend, all on OCBC TR

  • Miles earned on OCBC TR card up to $12,000 spend: 48,000 (4 miles per $1)
  • Miles earned on OCBC TR card for next $5,000 spend: 2,000 (0.4 miles per $1)
  • Total miles earned: 50,000

In fact your local earn rate would have to be 1.43 miles per $1 or higher for it to make sense to stop spending at $10,000 on the OCBC Titanium Rewards card. Again this does assume that the $17,000 spend will definitely be achieved, if you’re not sure of hitting that then change back to your higher earning card once you’ve hit $10,000 spend on OCBC TR.

Another alternative is to spend $12,000 in the 4 miles per $1 earning category, transfer 40,000 miles to KrisFlyer and leave the 8,000 remaining miles (which will be referred to as 20,000 OCBC Dollars, if you haven’t got the gist of the 2.5:1 ratio yet) and then begin the process again in your next card membership year. That’s because OCBC Dollars have a 2-year validity period, so they’ll still be there in your second card membership year.

As you’d have an 8,000 miles head-start in year two, your $12,000 spend at the 4 miles per $1 rate (+48,000 miles) will then result in 56,000 miles, so in year 2 you can transfer 50,000 miles across, leaving 6,000 miles head-start in year 3, and so on.

An even better alternative, get 2 cards

You’ll notice the OCBC Titanium Rewards card comes in two colours – blue and pink. These are treated as separate card accounts, and OCBC have confirmed that there is nothing stopping you applying for both cards, in which case you’d get the 4x miles rates on $12,000 worth of eligible spending on each one.

That means once you’ve reached $12,000 on the blue card, for example, apply for the pink one and you’ll get another $12,000 spending cap for that at the bonus rate. This strategy means you can accrue 96,000 miles per card anniversary year in total, provided you can spend $24,000 per annum in the designated categories or using mobile payments (remember the mobile payments offer technically ends on 31st December 2018, but it has been extended previously).

How long do miles take to credit to KrisFlyer?

The official line is “approximately 21 working days”. That’s probably the worst transfer time between reward points and KrisFlyer miles in the whole of Singapore.

Since I don’t hold this card myself, I can’t claim my personal experience relating to miles transfer time, hopefully someone can confirm that it doesn’t actually take an entire month to receive your points when transferred from the card?

Which loyalty schemes can I transfer into?

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is the sole frequent flyer program for OCBC rewards redemptions. Other redemption options, like shopping vouchers, all represent very poor value in comparison.

You can see the full list at the OCBC Rewards portal.

My strategy for this card

I’ve avoided the OCBC Titanium Rewards MasterCard because I’m not a fan of the complexity of deciding which transactions are eligible for a mileage bonus and which aren’t when I shop. That means I’ve stuck to my trusted Standard Chartered Visa Infinite (review here) for local spending, giving me 1.4 miles per $1 spent.

Writing this review however has given me cause to reconsider, as I’ve come up with what I think will be a good strategy for extracting the bonus miles from this card, while maintaining some level of simplicity, and here it is:

  • Spend $12,000 in the first anniversary year with a blue card mainly on grocery shopping at Giant and Cold Storage, using Apple Pay. This avoids wondering if the transaction will be eligible or not.
  • If I reach the $12,000 limit before the end of the year, I’ll get the pink card too. Hopefully I can max out mobile payments on both cards, which will be 96,000 miles a year instead of the 33,600 I would have earned with SCVI (though I still want to get my SCVI spending above $75,000 to qualify for the free yacht charter!)

Other benefits

There aren’t many other perks with the OCBC Titanium Rewards card, as you’d expect for a fee-free card, but the key benefits which will be of most interest to our readers are:

  • Complimentary use of JetQuay Quayside single trip service for the principal cardholder and up to 1 companion travelling on the same flight. Valid until 31st October 2018.
  • LoungeKey membership allowing access to over 800 worldwide airport lounges for US$27 per visit (note – no free visit allowance, this is the basic membership).
  • Cathay Cineplex cinema discounts.

Our summary

A tricky one, the OCBC Titanium Rewards MasterCard surely has one of the highest local earn rates of 4 miles per $1 spent across Singapore credit cards right now.

The problem is twofold; it’s only valid at specific merchants (and sometimes you’ll be left to guess on eligibility), and it’s capped at the first $12,000 of annual spending (based on your card issue date anniversary), before the earn rate falls to almost nothing.

On the plus side, there’s no annual fee for this card for the first two years, and even after that provided you churn $10,000+ of spending through it each year, you won’t be charged one. You can also get a second card, as it comes in both blue and pink versions, effectively doubling your annual benefit if you can spend enough in the designated categories.

Another positive is the ability to use mobile payments and also get the 4 miles per $1 earn rate (i.e. when using Android Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay). That means you can get 4 miles per $1 at places like Giant, Cold Storage and Marketplace, where you may well do a lot of annual spending, but which wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for the bonus miles earning rate (don’t forget to use your Passion Card too, for an extra 0.435 miles per $1).

While the $12,000 annual spending limit exists for both cards, note also that there is no monthly spending cap for this promotion, so you could spend all $12,000 in one month if you like (potentially useful for a large electronics purchase, for example).

From my point of view, while it’s clearly got great local miles earning potential, it’s hard to get excited about a card which requires you to think about each transaction before you use it. Mobile payments make this easier, but are slightly more limited.

However, can any of us afford to ignore 4 miles per $1 for a good chunk of our annual local spend? It may involve a bit more hassle than your average card, but it’s probably worth the effort.

Card

APPLY HERE

Our recommendations for credit cards and other similar products on this site do not constitute financial advice.

4 comments

  1. Hi. Don’t really understand this. “The single exception is at Drug Stores and Pharmacies (MCC 5912), and of course you can’t “double dip” at places you would earn 4 miles per $1 anyway”. So at Watson, Guardian etc, how much do we earn if we use ApplePay there ?

    Like

    1. Hi,

      Watsons, Guardian or any other MCC 5912 (drug store or pharmacy) will only earn 0.4mpd (basic rate) regardless of whether you use ApplePay or not. That category is specifically excluded in the T&Cs for mobile payment.

      The “double dip” comment relates to MCCs that are included on the 4mpd scheme – you get 4mpd regardless of how you pay, you don’t get more for using ApplePay too (e.g. not 8mpd!).

      This is at least how the T&Cs read – it is rather complicated.

      Hope that helps

      Like

    1. Let me check with OCBC to be sure and get back to you, unless any of our other readers who hold the card can confirm?

      It all depends what MCC these stores are categorised in by MasterCard I believe. Or we may be misinterpreting the conditions!

      Like

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