Credit Cards

Common Credit Card Transactions Excluded from Earning Rewards

Get the Best Credit Cards in Singapore

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Rewards structures vary from credit card to credit card, as well as by rewards type–miles, cashback or points. However, in nearly every case, certain transactions are not eligible to earn rewards. This guide reviews commonly excluded transactions, as well as exceptions within each category.

Table of Contents:

Overview of Rewards-Ineligible Credit Card Transactions

Credit card issuers frequently advertise the types of spend that earn high rewards rates. In some cases, these may be specific categories–dining, shopping, entertainment & more–while in others, cardholders earn a flat rebate on "all spend." While this may sound appealing, "all spend" actually refers to all qualifying spend. In fact, in both of these cases, cardholders' earnings are usually limited by a list of rewards-ineligible transactions.

When transactions are labeled as rewards-ineligible, this may mean a few things for consumers. For many credit cards, excluded transactions simply won't earn at advertised rewards rates, but may qualify for a base rate (usually about 0.3% cashback). For example, a card may offer 10% cashback on dining, but only offer a base rewards rate for spend on restaurants within hotels. Alternatively, some cards will not even offer base rate rewards for excluded transaction types. Generally, spend in excluded categories will also not count towards monthly minimum spend requirements or fee waiver requirements.

Example Transactions Excluded from Dining Rewards Category

Credit CardDining CashbackExclusions
UOB YOLOUp to 6%Hotels, bakeries, caterers
Maybank F&FUp to 8%Restaurants located in hotels
OCBC 365Up to 6%Bars, pubs, wedding banquets at hotels & country clubs
Rates and terms as of 2019

To be clear, this does not mean that cardholders cannot use their credit card at all to make purchases in these categories. Rather, spend will just be straightforward and without rewards. There aren't any penalties for spending on rewards-ineligible items, unless otherwise stated within the card statement or by another 3rd party.

Commonly Excluded Transactions & Exceptions

A large number of transaction types are excluded from earning rewards across nearly all credit cards, regardless of type. However, there are also exceptions to nearly every category, as explored below. It's important to mention that the exclusions listed below are representative and not all-inclusive, as terms differ for every card.

  • Bank Fees & Charges: Interest charges; late payment charges; cash advances; quasi-cash transactions; balance transfers; transactions subsequently cancelled, voided or reversed; annual or monthly fees or charges; instalment plan payments
  • Institutional Payments: Payment to government institutions & services, insurance premiums, recurring bills, tax payments, educational services, financial institutions, charities, religious or political organisations, gambling & betting
  • Transfers, Top-Ups, Prepaid: Transactions made via AXS and SAM, payments to, EZ-Link, Banc de Binary, Flashpay, MoneyBookers, NETS, OANDA Asia PAC, PayPal, Skrill, SkyFX, Transitlink, IG Markets, Plus500, YouTrip & more

While these exclusions are common, there are a few exceptions in each category. OCBC Cashflo Card, for example, is the only credit card that offers cashback on purchases made on an instalment plan. Other credit cards reward hospital bill-pay, which is typically categorised as payment to a "government service." Cards like UOB One offer rebates on insurance premiums, and HSBC Revolution is the best option for earning miles for recurring bill payments. Finally, several credit cards reward EZ-Link spend, including Citi SMRT Card, which provides 2% rebate on top-ups.

Changes Over Time in Rewards-Ineligible Transaction Policies

Excluded transactions are not static. Additionally, you may not always know when changes to the list have been made. In the past year, many credit cards have moved towards excluding payments to educational institutions and, most recently, insurance payments. If you're planning to make big expenditures in a typically excluded category, it's worth double checking your card's terms ahead of time to avoid surprises.

Where to Find Excluded Transactions for a Specific Card

While many credit cards have similar rewards-ineligible transactions, it's important to check the exclusions list for the specific card you have or are interested in. Such a list can be found in the credit card's terms and conditions, which you can typically access from a link on the card website. There is usually a section labeled as "Exclusions" (or a similar term), which may be below an explanation of the card's rewards rates. The bank usually asserts the right to change these terms at any time, and then lays out all excluded transactions and merchants in bullet points.

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Carrie Arndt

Carrie is a Senior Analyst at ValueChampion, helping consumers find the best credit cards and other financial products based on quantitative and qualitative analysis. She previously led consumer studies worldwide as a Senior Research Executive at MMR Research, and led development & operations and BellaVetro. She attended Duke University and Penn State University, graduating with a degree in Political Science and Government. Her work has been featured on a variety of major media such as Yahoo Finance, Asia One, Buro, Zuu Online and more.

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