Almost everything you spend on–from Starbucks coffee to Grab rides–can easily earn miles or cashback if you have the right credit card. Even still, many people neglect to use their credit cards for surprisingly common expenses. In fact, it’s almost taken for granted that credit cards no longer reward income tax payments, recurring bills and AXS, or even medical expenses–but is this really always the case? To make sure you’re not leaving rewards on the table, we’ve identified 4 commonly excluded spend categories on which you may actually be able to earn rewards.
1. INCOME TAXES
While you can’t pay IRAS directly with your credit card, you can take advantage of certain credit card tax facilities to buy air miles at a deep discount. How? When you charge your income tax to your card, two things happen: (1) you earn rewards for the payment, and (2) the bank credits the amount back to your account, leaving you to pay IRAS directly. You will be charged a processing fee for this service, and unfortunately, it’s almost always higher than your earnings, except when you are earning miles to redeem for business class or above.
To put it differently, since you wouldn't normally earn any rewards on your tax payments, paying a small fee to do so actually represents a "cheap" way to acquire miles. So if you charge S$10,000 tax, pay a S$16 fee (1.6%), and earn 14,000 miles (1.4 mi/S$1), you are buying miles at a rate of 1 mile per 1.14 cents. A mile’s redemption value is 4 cents for business class on average, or 8 cents first class–so by charging your taxes, you’re accessing an incredible discount. The rate above actually applies to Standard Chartered Visa Infinite Card, which has the best ‘buy rate’ on the market. Alternatives offer 1 mile for 1.20–2.50 cents each. If you’re a frequent traveller, tax season is an excellent time of year to quickly and cheaply accumulate miles.
2. RECURRING BILLS
While it’s increasingly easy to pay bills with your credit card, it’s not always easy to earn rewards for those payments. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions. In fact, some cards even offer boosted rates if you spend with particular providers. UOB One Card is one such example–you can earn up to 5% rebate on everything from telco and electric to insurance premiums, without merchant restrictions. However, you’ll earn even more if you spend with UOI or EQ Insurance through UOB Bill Pay.
It’s also worth mentioning that most American Express Credit Cards earn rewards for both direct bill pay and for AXS payments. This is pretty great if you’re seeking versatility. Finally, many banks allow you to set up automatic payments through your credit card, so you’ll never need to worry about missing a bill.
3. HOSPITAL BILLS
Paying a big bill on your credit card can be risky. If you’re confident you can pay the balance by your next credit card statement, however, you have a lot to gain. While credit cards typically exclude government-owned hospitals and polyclinics from earning rewards, some allow you to earn on both public and private hospital spend. HSBC Advance Card is a great option for hospital bills of up to S$3,500 (up to S$125 rebate), and CIMB Platinum MasterCard is a match for smaller bills S$1,000 or below (up to S$50 rebate). In fact, CIMB Platinum MasterCard rewards all kinds of medical expenses, from nursing facilities to chiropractors and more.
Nonetheless, if you’re unsure whether you’ll be able to pay back your bill in time, you may want to consider a 0% interest instalment plan or personal loan instead.
4. BIG PURCHASES
Let’s say you do need to make a big purchase, but you’ll need to pay it off overtime. You could go with a personal loan or borrow from friends… or you could actively earn rewards on a 0% interest instalment credit card plan. However, not all plans are equal–only a few plans offer rewards and those that do, charge even bigger processing fees.
OCBC Cashflo Card, however, breaks the mold by offering up to 1% rebate without any processing fee. It has the only 0% plan that allows you to net-earn on instalment payments. It’s easier than a loan because big purchases are split automatically (in other words, no paperwork). It can easily make your money work harder for you when you’re paying for a big wedding or covering hospital bills. Ultimately, the question is–why not earn on your biggest purchases?
Ultimately, the best credit card is one that fits your spending habits and lifestyle. If you already own a credit card that offers rewards on these expenditures, or are considering applying for a new one, even better! Hopefully you can take advantage of rewards in these categories, turning your expenses today into a better tomorrow.