Atty. Rami Hourani
As a lawyer, you acquire a high patience for dealing with contractual terms. I set myself to the task of deciding which credit cards were the best for people in Business. This is not an advertisement of Credit Cards in general, just a quick hits for people who need one and want to squeeze value out of them. I’ll have my methodology for how I made my selection at the end of the article.
I will speak about each credit card by breaking them down into their important categories and discussing each where elaboration is required. The categories are:
- Return on 100 Pesos – So this is the amount of money that you get back per 100 pesos spend. This will often be range depending on the category or merchant that you spend with which I will explain.
- Annual Fee – This is how much you will pay the bank for having the privilege of the card open in your name.
- Welcome Bonus – What/How much the bank will give you for opening a card with them and meeting a preset minimum spend.
- Ease of Use – How easily you can redeem the points/miles you’ve earned once you’ve acquired enough.
I should also add that I use very rough math to arrive at the “Return on 100 Pesos” category. Due to the quirk of the Philippine Peso being nearly 50 pesos for 1 USD, and 1 Mile being worth 1 US Cent, this shakes out to a value of around 1 mile being at or around half a peso when spent in an airline network. This along with card specific limitations such as foreign transaction fees or other fees was how I arrived at the number that I put in the “Return on 100 Pesos” field. I chose to omit exactly how I arrived at these numbers because, for some cards, it would take almost an entire article to show you how their Terms of Service deliberately obfuscate the speed of accumulation of points/miles.
HONORABLE MENTIONS – Mercury Drug Citi Card & AirAsia Credit Card (RCBC)
The Air Asia card is a very respectable card to choose because it grants you special boarding privileges, gets you points that you can spend in the AirAsia Big Points system. The point system of AirAsia which gets you 2 BIG Points for every peso spent in the BIG system. This is however a very small network of destinations which will only work on one airline and so it will not be as flexible as the other options on this list.
I have an elderly mother who pays a considerable amount of money for maintenance medications to Mercury Drug every month. This along with the free health check-up and other perks of the Citi Mercury drug card that made me consider it. It has an annual fee of only 2,000 Pesos with the promise of being able to recoup some of the thousands of pesos we pay for my mother’s medications as well as the other perks that my mother might have obtained made this card a strong contender with me.
If you have a brand that you patronize regularly and find out they have an affiliated credit card, it is worth it to look at the perks that they come with. You could get back a lot of what you pay to them. However, I had to choose a more flexible card considering the amount of purchases I knew I was going to put on it that I could not attribute to a particular merchant.
#5 Metrobank Travel Platinum Visa
Return on 100 Pesos: ~<1 – ~2.9 Pesos
The Metrobank Travel Platinum Visa advertises 17 pesos per mile but there is a very large qualifier to being able to earn these miles. You only accumulate these miles if your spend is overseas or on airlines. This is a very narrow slice of the things that you could be spending money on, however, if you spend half the year out of the country and need a local credit card to book flights on and for spending overseas, this card could be a good fit for you. The upper bound is achieved only when you buy airline tickets the lower bound is what you make on overseas spend after the foreign transaction fees are imposed.
Annual Fee: 5,000 Php per year
Welcome Bonus: N/A
Ease of Use: Phone In
This credit card is emblematic of how little attention Philippine Banks have given to the Credit Card segment of their businesses. This is not anyone’s fault, but the fact that this is Number 5 on the list let’s you know that the public perception of credit cards has prevented Credit Cards as a service from ever achieving any respectable level of utility.
#4 Cathay Pacific American Express Elite Credit Card
Return on 100 Pesos – 1.3 – 1.5 Pesos
The lower bound is the amount of money you would get back in miles per 100 pesos spent on your spend in general. The upper bound is the miles you would accumulate for overseas spend.
Annual Fee: 5,000 Php per year
Welcome Bonus: 3,000 Asia Miles with 600k Spent
Ease of Use: Direct Credit to the Cathay Pacific Frequent Flyer Program. This is a bonus to the ease of usability.
It should tell you something that the largest bank in the country has a very mediocre offering for its credit cards. If we go by the offerings in the US, this isn’t even close to competitive. Your Welcome Bonus 2.5% return on spend. It’s like they gave you barely anything at all.
#3 EastWest Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Mastercard
Return on 100 Pesos: 1.38 – 4.16 Pesos
The upper bound only applies for spend on Singapore Airlines, Silkair, Scoot, International Hotel, Travel Agencies, Airlines, and Cash Advances made while abroad. This is understandably a very narrow area of purchases and if you factor in foreign transaction fees, you aren’t getting very much at all for your spend on this Credit Card.
Annual Fee: 5,000 Php per year
Welcome Bonus: 6,000 miles for 200,000 Pesos within 3 months and an Additional 15,000 miles for every 200,000 pesos after that within the first 12 months of the card being open in your name. This should read like 3 times miles to you because 200,000 peso spend on this card gets you around 5,500 miles, if you add the 15,000 welcome bonus, that’s like 20,500 miles. I can imagine this card making sense for someone with an already rock solid credit standing who can be sure that he/she will be granted a very high credit limit on application for the card. This benefit is only for the first 12 months of the cards life though and ceases thereafter. Additionally, you are penalized if your spend does not cleanly fit into increments of 200,000. These things taken together are the reason why this card is not higher on the list. This is all hypothetical though, even at crazy amounts of spend, let’s say in excess of 1 Million pesos, you are still only getting back a little over 2.5% percent of your spend.
Ease of Use: These miles are accumulated and credited to your KrisFlyer account so it gets a bonus because of the ease of usability.
#2 HSBC Platinum Card
Return on 100 Pesos: .5-1.5
The HSBC card is the most difficult to appraise of all the cards on this list. Each card has its own Terms of Service, each card accumulates points at different rates, the rewards can be redeemed at different rates as well. The HSBC card gives you Bonus Points which can be converted into miles and remitted to the frequent flyer miles or points. The lower bound of the range is for outside of category spend, the upper bound is if you spend in the categories of: Overseas/Foreign Currency Spend, Restaurant/Bars, Department Store/Clothing Boutiques. This monthly Accelerated Points Accumulation is however capped at 60,000. Anything in excess of that will be at the lower rate. Notable omissions are the categories of Groceries and Gas. (Although the latter has a limited cash back feature.)
Annual Fee: 5,000 Php per year (Known to be waived)
If you are comfortable with being very conscious about which card you use and when, this card can be a nice card to pair with the #1 on this list because of the Perpetual Annual Fee Waiver that this card has been known to be advertised with. I have it also on good authority that, if you accumulate a good amount of spend on the card, the customer service representatives will waive the annual fee if you ask.
Welcome Bonus: 2,500 Php rebate for 5,000 spend within the promo period. (End February 2021) This is only for first time cardholders with HSBC. This is a return of 50% on spend. However, it is a very small amount when compared to how many expense a person could actually put on a card.
Ease of Use: Online Form for converting points into frequent flyer program miles. The miles are then redeemed on their respective frequent flyer miles pages.
#1 Citibank Premier Miles
Return on 100 Pesos: 1.65
There is no explanatory note required because there are no complicated multipliers or other cognitive hoops to jump through to be able to understand that every 30 pesos spent is 1 mile. This shakes out to 3.33 miles per 100 pesos, or 1.65 pesos per 100 spent.
Annual Fee: 5,000 Php per year
Welcome Bonus: 30,000 miles for 40,000 peso spend within 60 days of receiving the card. This is roughly 15,000 pesos worth of value just for opening the card and placing your family’s expenses on it. This is a return of 37.5% on spend.
Ease of Use: Dedicated Online Portal, Citibank has a dedicated website where you can use the miles you acquire with them to book on any of their partner airlines. If you can think of an Airline, it is probably one of their partners. The fact that there is a dedicated portal on which you can book on all of their travel partners really streamlines the booking process when spending miles which is a big plus in favor of this card.
It truly feels like you’re getting away with something if you use a Citibank Card wisely. In the past year of having a card in my name I have been able to extract 50,000 Miles from it, or 25,000 Pesos in value. It is far and away the best card for people who know they will be spending money for large purchases and business expenses. The customer service is quick and responsive when contacted via e-mail, chat, or via phone banking.
If you are interested in getting a Citibank Card for yourself you can apply for one here. Full Disclosure: That is a referral link that will qualify me for a reward if your application is successful. I cannot predict when you will be reading this article so the assumptions I made here might become out of date as time passes. If I continue to receive notifications of people who applied through my link I will know I will need to update this article regularly in the event of new offers.
If you found this article helpful or have any questions, do not hesitate to comment down below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If you want to know how I arrived at this particular selection, please feel free to read on!
The cards that are on this list were selected purely on the strength of the value that spending money on them could create. As some of these cards have large annual fees and welcome bonuses if you meet a minimum spend threshold, I will assume that you can meet the minimum spend. This is not a list of the best entry-level cards. If you are a first time card user without an existing account at these banks, you will get denied. I will also omit the cards that are for preferred banking clients because this often means parking a large amount of cash with the bank for only a marginal increase in benefits. (Sometimes this marginal increase in benefits is just the status symbol of a darker color of Credit Card.) The list was dominated by travel cards because those cards impose few to no restrictions on the number of miles you can accumulate. This is as opposed to other cards like cashback cards or rewards card that often cap the points or cashback you can earn in key categories like groceries, utilities or gasoline or require spending thresholds in non-select categories for you to qualify for the advertised cash back rate. The banks whose offerings I checked were: BDO, BPI, Metrobank, EastWest Bank, Security Bank, PNB, HSBC, and Citibank.
A premium was placed on ease of redemption as well, because some cards make you jump through hoops to redeem your miles/rewards points. Truthfully, some make redeeming their points quite cumbersome. I restricted the entries in this list to one entry per bank because otherwise the list would have been dominated by Citibank. Lastly, this is seen through the lens of one person with particular biases, I imagine people putting together other lists with different credit cards so feel free to comment them down below!