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With a cash-back card, you earn points on the money you are spending. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

A cash-back card is usually considered a “rewards” credit card because you earn points on money you are spending. For many of us, that’s a bonus. After all, who wouldn’t want to get cash back on stuff they were already going to buy? So, is it too good to be true?

Two Dubai residents, Gerald Eves and Snehashis Chakraborty talk about their spending habits with a cash-back card and how exercising self-control over purchases and paying off the total amount every month help them make the most of the rewards programme.

Snehashis Chakraborty

Snehashis Chakraborty, a finance professional, has been living in Dubai for more than 16 years with his wife and two kids.
Snehashis Chakraborty, a finance professional, has been living in Dubai for more than 16 years with his wife and two kids. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Fits in with my sports and leisure needs

Forty-nine-year-old Snehashis Chakraborty is a finance professional from India. He has been living in Dubai for more than 16 years with his wife and two kids. His daughter Sreeja is now completing her higher studies in the US, while his son Shourjyo is in high school. Chakraborty has been using the Samba Titanium cashback card for over a decade now.

“It’s a great way to take care of my sports, leisure and entertainment expenses. This card gives me the opportunity to get back almost Dh1000 each month, that is Dh12,000 in a year.”

Chakraborty earns a maximum Dh100 cashback on the following categories each month:

  • Movie tickets (across all theatres)
  • Supermarkets
  • Dining
  • Fuel
  • Medicines
  • Utilities

And a further cashback of up to Dh400 for all international and domestic spends other than the above mentioned categories.

“It actually works out well, as you don’t have to worry about what spends to do on this card because you get some cash back on almost all kinds of spending. I use it on all spends, other than dining where I use another cashback card from Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank [ADIB], which gives me 10 per cent cash back on all dining spends anywhere in the UAE.”

The cashback is credited once Chakraborty speaks to the call centre and that amount is mostly earmarked for fuel, medical costs not covered by insurance and purchase of Entertainer packages, which result in further dining discounts.

I get in touch with the call centre and ask them to redeem my cashback value and credit it to my next billing cycle

- Snehashis Chakraborty

“I get in touch with the call centre and ask them to redeem my cashback value and credit it to my next billing cycle. So, for example, if my next card statement has a spend of Dh3,000, and my cashback is Dh1,000, then I pay only Dh2,000,” he says.

How much does he save in a year?

Dh6k


Yearly savings with cashback card

“Approximately Dh6,000 to Dh7,000 in a year. The card has no annual fee, so it’s really great savings. The only trouble is to get in touch with the call centre and ask for the cashback to be credited, there is no other way of redemption. It would be great if the cashback value could be credited back in each statement, which happens with the ADIB card.”

Learning

  • Check which categories a cashback card offers its points on.
  • Find out how the cashback points are calculated.
  • Find out how they are credited to your card – do you need to call or is it automatic?

Gerald Eves

It started with the school fees

Gerald Eves is married with three young boys. He has lived in Dubai for around 16 years.

Gerald Eves

“I had known about cashback cards for some time, but it was only about six years ago when my eldest child started school that I started looking at ways to reduce the school fees. At that time, there were not many cashback cards in the UAE, but Standard Chartered had introduced the Titanium Credit Card, which came with 10 per cent off for school fees, plus 10 per cent cashback for a range of useful merchants, such as supermarkets, utilities and cinemas. During the initial launch, they were also giving airline vouchers as an added incentive, so it made the choice quite easy!”

Eves explains that the card, which is now called the Standard Chartered Platinum Credit Card, works by looking at your total monthly retail spend across all merchants in order to calculate your spending tier. It then gives you a cashback amount as a percentage of your spend at specific merchants, within that tiered range.

The current tier ranges are:

  • Total retail spend greater than Dh20,000 qualifies for a 10 per cent cashback
  • Total retail spend between Dh19,999 and Dh10,000 qualifies for 5 per cent cashback
  • Total retail spend between Dh9,999 and Dh2,500 qualifies for a 3 per cent cashback
  • Total retail spend of less than Dh2,500 does not qualify for any cashback

“So, for example, if your total monthly spend is Dh15,000, you would qualify for a 5 per cent cash back on your school fees. However, the cashback amounts are also capped for each merchant. So, the maximum amount of cashback you can get for school fees in the 10 per cent tier is Dh400 per month. The good news is that this is per merchant type, so the supermarket bill is also capped at Dh400 and utility bills are capped at Dh200,” he says.

Given the tiered nature of the card, it makes sense for us to maximise the amount of spend using the card

- Gerald Eves

“Given the tiered nature of the card, it clearly makes sense for us to maximise the amount of spend using the card, to ensure we always qualify for the highest tier,” says Eves.

“Therefore, I make a point to use my card for absolutely every transaction possible. Even for Dh2-Dh3 purchases, as it all adds up. My wife has a supplementary card, so all her spends also accumulate into the same bill, maximising our chance of reaching the higher tiers.”

credit card
Ensure that you pay off the card balance in full at the end of each month. Image Credit: Stock photo

“The key here though, as with all credit cards, is to ensure that we pay off the card balance in full at the end of each month. Therefore, we incur no interest charges and only reap the rewards of using it,” Eves warns.

“The cashback reward itself is given as bonus points each month where 1 point = Dh1. We simply redeem the points online, and the cash is used to partly pay off the previous month’s credit card bill, leading to direct savings. There is also an option to use the points to buy items from their online store, but we never use this option.”

According to him, the cashback received is quite substantial.

“Given the cashback points accumulated with the merchants, we typically spend the most at school, groceries and utilities. We find that we reach the cashback caps quite often leading to savings of around Dh1,000 per month, or around Dh12,000 a year. This is on top of some of the other card benefits such as 30 per cent off travel bookings with Cleartrip, 20 per cent off Careem and buy-one-get-one-free at Costa Coffee!”

Annual fee

Eves’ card does come with an annual fee of Dh525, but he says: “It is still worth it as long as we stay in the higher cashback earning tiers. I think the only drawback to the card is that the spending tier range keeps getting higher, meaning you need to spend ever more in order to qualify for the 10 per cent cashback.

“The additional benefits are also subject to change every now and again, as well. However, given there is now quite a few cashback cards to choose from, we always ensure to review new deals that come up given our spending patterns, to make sure we are always using the best cashback card.”

Learning

  • Check cashback cards for annual fee.
  • Check if the card uses the tier system to give money back. Then, how much do you need to spend?
  • Also find out how you can use the cashback points/reward system.