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Cashback Vs Miles: How To Enjoy The Best Of Both Worlds

Which would you choose?


This article was written in collaboration with SingSaver. All views expressed in this article are the independent opinion of DollarsAndSense.sg based on our research. DollarsAndSense.sg is not liable for any financial losses that may arise from any transactions and readers are encouraged to do their own due diligence. You can view our full editorial policy here.

Coke or Pepsi, Ronaldo or Messi, iOS or Android—these are the timeless debates that never fail to stir up lively discussions. While these rivalries often boil down to personal preferences, they can still spark passionate debates among family, friends and even strangers.

When choosing our preferred credit card benefits, the eternal question is whether cashback or miles are better. While both have their die-hard fans, another question worth pondering is whether it makes sense for us to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Experiencing Greater Value With Miles

From a purely financial perspective, miles often come out on top. The logic is simple: the dollar value we get when redeeming miles, say for a business class flight or even an economy or premium economy flight, usually exceeds the cashback amount we would have earned.

For example, if we spend $50,000 in a year on a credit card, the average cashback card would give us around 1.5% cashback, which translates to $750. If we spend $50,000 using a miles card that earns 1.2 miles per dollar, this equates to 60,000 miles—enough to redeem a pair of SIA round-trip economy class tickets from Singapore to Taiwan. The pair of tickets would have likely cost us much more than $750, making it a clear win for Team Air Miles.

Imagine trading those miles for a luxurious business-class ticket instead of mere cashback. The value skyrockets. For instance, spending $100,000 could get us $1,500 in cashback (1.5% cashback), but it could also earn us 120,000 miles (1.2 miles per dollar). That’s enough for a roundtrip SIA business class ticket (113,000 miles) from Singapore to the Middle East, typically costing at least $3,000 or more. Again, an easy win for Team Air Miles.

Read Also: Battle Of Miles Cards In Singapore: OCBC 90°N VS Citibank PremierMiles VS DBS Altitude

Even this conservative estimate of earning 1.2 miles per dollar doesn’t capture the full potential of miles.

For miles enthusiasts who follow sites like The MileLion, earning even more with the right credit cards is possible.

Consider the Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card, for example. As recommended by The MileLion in the 2024 Airmiles Vs Cashback showdown hosted by SingSaver, this card offers an uncapped 3.2 miles per dollar on all overseas spending. Meanwhile, the HSBC Revolution Credit Card provides the equivalent of 4 miles per dollar on online and contactless payments. These options let you maximise your rewards.

Aaron (The MileLion) enjoying yet another luxurious flight

Aaron (The MileLion) shares:

“For anyone who wants to upgrade their travels without downsizing their wallet, miles are the answer. The right combination of miles cards can turn everyday expenses into your next holiday- and make getting there the highlight of the journey.”

One of the strongest endorsements for miles would come from SG Budget Babe, one of Singapore’s top financial influencers. Once part of (the losing) Team Cashback in the 2019 Airmiles Vs Cashback showdown organised by SingSaver, SG Budget Babe has joined Team Air Miles for the 2024 edition. Here’s the reasons wisdom she shared for the switch:

“Cashback cards work only if you’re a single spender. Once you start running a household, a miles card will likely serve you best. With their limited cashback caps per category and minimum spending each month, cashback cards will drive you up the wall. On the other hand, Miles cards don’t have these problems.”

Her decision has proven right thus far, as Team Air Miles has won round 1 of the 2024 AirMiles Vs Cashback showdown.

We think the only reason to skip a miles credit card is if you don’t travel at least once every 3-4 years. If that’s you, then sticking with cashback might be better. However, for everyone else who travels even occasionally, a miles card is highly beneficial.

The Argument For Cashback

If miles cards are so advantageous, how do cashback cards compete?

Yet, some of Singapore’s most popular credit cards are cashback cards, such as the UOB One Card, DBS yuu Visa Card and the Maybank Family & Friends Card. Even among miles enthusiasts, many still hold one or more cashback cards.

The people who design the benefits of cashback cards are savvy. They know that spending habits are critical for card usage. If we apply for a credit card, they want us to use it regularly. The best way to ensure that we use the card regularly is by offering enhanced benefits for everyday spending.

This is why many of Singapore’s most popular cashback credit cards offer unparalleled deals on common expenditures.

For example, the UOB One Card provides up to 10% cashback on groceries (at Cold Storage, Giant, and others), up to 10% on transport and travel (Grab, SimplyGo), and 4.33% on utilities (SP Group), among other benefits. Similarly, the DBS yuu card offers a remarkable rebate of up to 18% at over 1,000 yuu merchants. Not to be outdone, the  Maybank Family & Friends Card offers 8% cashback globally on your 5 preferred cashback categories chosen from a list of 10 options (including groceries, dining and food delivery, transport, online fashion, entertainment and many others)

While many cashback cards have a cap on the amount of rebate you can receive, it is challenging, if not impossible, for any miles card to match the value these cashback cards provide if the cap is not yet hit.

Thus, if you are responsible for household expenses such as groceries, dining, transport, and utilities, having one or more cashback cards makes financial sense to maximise the value from everyday spending, even if you enjoy earning miles.

Financial influencer Seth from Sethisfy captures the essence of cashback:

“Team Cashback is the resilient tortoise in a race against the flashy hare. While business class flights may dazzle momentarily, our cashback cards offering up to 8 to 17.5% rebates will win the showdown through simple maths. There’s much more to life than flying in an armchair.”

Another cashback enthusiast, TikToker IJustTryLah, puts it succinctly:

“Instead of the jet lag, go for the money bag/back.”

Miles Or Cashback: Which Would You Choose?

From now till 6 June 2024, credit card users can participate in SingSaver’s 2024 Airmiles vs Cashback showdown.

To participate, apply for your preferred credit card(s), and this will count as a point towards either Team Air Miles or Team Cashback. In the process, you can also enjoy great gifts offered exclusively by SingSaver, including a Sony Playstation, Dyson hairdryer, Apple iPad, or a $350 eCapitaVoucher. Note that you may need to be a new-to-bank customer to enjoy some of these gifts.

Besides the free gifts, you will also get a chance to win more prizes in the lucky draw when you apply for your preferred credit card through SingSaver during this contest period.

Read Also: Why You Should Always Choose Credit Cards Over Debit Cards