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American Express raises foreign currency transaction fees to 2.95%, adds GrabPay wallet top-ups, SPC to list of exclusions

Now it’s even harder to earn miles for GrabPay wallet top-ups

Amex hasn’t really been the most popular card to hold for miles chasers given its relatively lower earn rates. Having said that, it has a particular niche following for very specific reasons, such as its (in)famous $1712-per-year Amex Platinum Card for the insane perks.

They also once had a solid dining programme, offering up to 50% discounts at a good range of restaurants for customers holding certain cards.

The card issuer is also a pretty generous one when it comes to rewards. While many banks curate a fairly extensive list of exclusions on spending that will earn points or miles, Amex has been relatively lax in that aspect.

So I guess as with all good things, they must come to an end.

Foreign currency transaction fee revised to 2.95% from 1 March 2020

Amex will be revising its foreign currency transaction fee upwards to 2.95% from 1 March 2020, up from the current 2.5%.

At 2.5%, Amex also has the lowest foreign currency conversion fee in town for the longest time, especially when we see practically all the local banks raising their conversion fee to as high as 3.25% in 2019.

At the revised rate of 2.95%, it is actually rather low – only Maybank and HSBC comes in lower.

BankVisa / MastercardAmex
SCB3.5%N.A.
Citibank3.25%3.3%
DBS3.25%3.0%
OCBC3.25%N.A.
UOB3.1% to 3.25%3.25%
CIMB3.0%N.A.
Bank of China3.0%N.A.
AmexN.A.2.95%
(from 1 Mar 20)
HSBC2.8%N.A.
Maybank2.75%N.A.

To be fair, it’s a matter of time given that Amex has not raised this fee since 2013.

Despite that, this upward revision just makes it less likely for me to use the Amex card, given that their miles earn rates are rather dismal to begin with.

New exclusion categories for earning points

From 1 March 2020, Amex will also stop award points for the following spend:

  • Bill payments and all transactions made through SingPost SAM kiosks and mobile app
  • Payments to insurance companies (except payments made for insurance products purchased through American Express authorized channels)
  • Payments to SPC petrol stations
  • GrabPay wallet top-ups

Of the above, the one that will hit most cardholders is probably the SPC petrol station spend, as well as GrabPay wallets.

For the longest time, Amex has held out on excluding GrabPay wallet top-ups, and even gone on to give bonus points for GrabPay wallet top-ups (as high as 3.2 miles per dollar spend), although this is capped at $200 per month.

This new exclusion will definitely be a sad one, so I can imagine most people turning to Citi Rewards Visa for bonus points or UOB One card for cashback.

Final thoughts

This latest development is definitely not a good one but most cardholders, but one that is definitely on the cards. I just hope this is the end of it (for at least a long while), and Amex doesn’t go on to broaden its exclusion clauses even further.

Having said that, for the American Express Singapore Airlines-branded cardholders, this card still provide good value for low value spend, given that points are earned on the dollar (as opposed to S$5 blocks at UOB), and transfers to Krisflyer is free and done automatically.

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