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Ah, the air miles credit card. Clearly the most glamorous of all credit cards. Every time you use one, you’re reinforcing your image as a globetrotting, wanderlusting, jet-setter.

But more importantly, you earn frequent flyer miles at the same time. As you go about planning your next holiday, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to swap your air points for a free air ticket?

Trouble is, if you just sign up for the first air miles card you see and only use it when you remember it exists, chances are you’ll never collect enough points to even make it to KL. Collecting air miles needs to be done strategically with the right card.

Here are the best credit cards for air miles in Singapore, plus some useful info on how they work so you can game the system.

1. Best air miles cards in Singapore 2023

Best for 

Best air miles credit cards

Miles that don’t expire

Citi PremierMiles, DBS Altitude, OCBC 90°N

Earning KrisFlyer miles

Amex KrisFlyer, UOB KrisFlyer

Everyday spending

UOB KrisFlyer, Maybank Horizon, HSBC Revolution

One-off expenses

UOB PRVI Miles, Amex KrisFlyer

Petrol

Maybank Horizon, DBS Altitude

Dining

UOB KrisFlyer, UOB PRVI Miles

Online shopping

 UOB KrisFlyer, OCBC 90°N, HSBC Revolution, Standard Chartered Journey Credit Card

Overseas spending (foreign currency)

UOB PRVI Miles, DBS Altitude

2. Citi PremierMiles Card

If the thought of spending thousands of dollars in just a couple of months makes you blanch, you need a card with miles that don’t expire so you can take your time to slowly accumulate them. This is especially the case if you’re a fresh grad or a generally frugal person without any big expenses coming up. Enter the Citi PremierMiles Card!

While the earn rate of such cards is typically not that great, the Citi PremierMiles offers a fairly attractive earn rate: 1.2 miles for every $1 of local spending, and two miles for every $1 spent on foreign currency spending.

From now till Oct 31, 2023, the card gives you a welcome gift of 30,000 Citi Miles when you apply and spend $800 in two months. You’ll also have to pay the annual fee of $194.40, payable from the end of your first year.

3. DBS Altitude Card

DBS Altitude is another card that lets you accumulate air miles that never expire. The card rewards you with:

  • 10 miles per $1 spent on online hotel bookings with Kaligo ($5,000/month cap)
  • 6 miles per $1 spent on flight, hotel, and travel bookings with Expedia ($5,000/month cap)
  • 2.2 miles for every $1 spent overseas (at point of sale)
  • 1.3 miles for every $1 spent locally

As you might have guessed, this is a card that is best used for travel bookings and overseas spending rather than locally.

To sweeten the deal, DBS Altitude also has additional card privileges that you can opt in to earn an additional mile on all your expenses. However, you’ll be charged an admin fee of two per cent of your expenses. For instance, if you spend $2,000 locally, on top of the 2,400 base miles you’ll earn, you’ll earn an additional 2,000 miles, (bringing your miles earn rate to 2.2 miles per dollar) with a $40 admin fee charge. If you do the math, that equates to paying $0.02 for one mile, which is a pretty good deal if you’re looking to clock in those miles quick without increasing your overall expenditure.

One thing we want to point out: You earn miles in the form of DBS Points. These are awarded for every S$5 spent (1 DBS Point = two miles) per transaction.

The DBS Altitude Card’s annual fee is $194.40, but can be waived. If you do pay the annual fee and renew your card, you’ll receive a present of 10,000 miles from DBS.

4. OCBC 90°N Card

If you’re looking for a non-expiring air miles card to use on overseas online shopping sites, OCBC 90°N card is a good candidate.

In general, you earn 2.1 miles for every $1 spent in foreign currency and 1.3 miles for every $1 spent locally. For bookings made on Agoda, you’ll earn 7 miles per $1 spend in foreign currency, and 6 miles per $1 spend in SGD.

Do note that points are awarded in blocks of $5 spent. That is to say, even if you spent $4.90 locally, you will not earn any points until you meet the $5 minimum spend.

The OCBC 90°N’s annual fee is $54-that’s a lower annual fee than many other cards on this list.

5. HSBC Revolution Credit Card

This card is ideal if you’re collecting points for Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer programme. There’s no need to redeem your points — all miles accumulated each month are automatically credited to your KrisFlyer account. Just be aware that KrisFlyer miles have a shelf-life of three years.

The basic earn rate is nothing to shout about. You get two miles for every $1 spent in foreign currency on eligible purchases, and $1 spent on eligible local purchases.

But what is interesting right now is that they also reward you with 3.1 miles for every $1 spent on Grab in Singapore, valid for up to $200 worth of spending per month. Since travel isn’t possible at the moment, that’s an easy way to get a decent earn rate on your commutes, even if the cap is rather low.

The card’s welcome bonuses are also quite attractive. You get 5,000 free miles the first time you use your card, and an additional, 13,000 miles if you manage to spend $3,000 in your first three months. You might thus want to sign up for the card when you have a big ticket expense coming up just for those bonus miles.

The annual fee is $176.55, which makes the Amex KrisFlyer slightly cheaper than the average air miles card.

6. Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

The Amex KrisFlyer card is ideal if you’re collecting points for Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer programme. There’s no need to redeem your points-all miles accumulated each month are automatically credited to your KrisFlyer account. Just be aware that KrisFlyer miles have a shelf-life of 3 years.

The basic earn rate is nothing to shout about. You get 2 miles for every $1 spent in foreign currency on eligible purchases during June and December every year, and 1.1 miles for every $1 spent on eligible local purchases. On the plus side, there’s no cap to these earnings.

What’s interesting is that they also reward you with 3.1 miles for every $1 spent on Grab in Singapore, valid for up to $200 worth of spending per month. That’s an easy way to get a decent earn rate on your commutes, even if the cap is rather low.

The card’s welcome bonuses are also quite attractive-you get 5,000 free miles the first time you use your card. If you charge $12,000 or more to your Card from now till 30 June 2024, you’ll also get $150 cashback at Singapore Airlines.

The annual fee is $178.20, and it can be waived for the first year.

7. UOB KrisFlyer Card

Most air miles cards let you earn more on your travel spending, but the UOB KrisFlyer card is one that offers a decent rate on everyday local spending. This stylish-looking card offers 3 KrisFlyer miles per $1 spent on dining, online shopping, online travel and transport card transactions.

The catch is, to qualify for this earn rate, you must spend at least $800 per year on Singapore Airlines-related transactions (including KrisShop).

You also get three miles per $1 spent on Singapore Airlines, Scoot and KrisShop purchases, and 1.2 miles per $1 on other spending.

The card charges an annual fee of $194.40 which can be quite hard to escape. But on the plus side, from now till 30 Sep 2023, you can get the first year’s annual fee waived and receive a welcome gift of up to 31,000 miles.

So while the UOB KrisFlyer card may not have the highest earn rates, they certainly offer lots of bonus miles as incentives.

8. Maybank Horizon Card

Here’s a card that doesn’t get much attention but is actually excellent for local spending. You earn 3.2 air miles whenever you spend on restaurant dining, petrol, public transport (including Grab and taxi) and hotel bookings at Agoda. And that’s just local spending.

When you are overseas, you’ll earn two miles for every dollar spent on air tickets, travel packages and foreign currency transactions. This last category includes foreign currency spending online, which you don’t need to go overseas to indulge in.

The earn rate for overseas spending is so-so, but the card offers one of the best rates for local spending.

The main drawback? You need to spend at least $300 in a calendar month in order to qualify for the miles. That’s a bummer considering most air miles cards don’t have minimum spending requirements.

The card’s annual fee is $180, but waived for three years instead of the usual one year. If you spend at least $18,000 in a year you can get subsequent annual fee payments waived.

9. UOB PRVI Miles Card

This card offers one of the best rates for general overseas and local spending, at 2.4 miles per $1 spent overseas and 1.4 miles per $1 spend locally. You also get 6 miles per $1 spent on Agoda, Expedia and UOB Travel, as well as 1.4 miles per $1 spend on bus and train rides. All this, with no minimum spend and no cap on the miles you earn.

For specific categories like dining and hotel bookings, you can get better rates from some other cards that offer selected accelerated earning. But as far as general spending goes, the UOB PRVI Miles Card delivers.

This card is a good one to use if you’re anticipating a big expense like a wedding banquet, as the 1.4 mile per $1 rate is among the highest you’ll be able to get on such miscellaneous local spending, with no cap.

Up to Aug 31, 2023, UOB is also rewarding you with up to 50,000 miles for spending at least $1,000/month for two consecutive months and paying the annual card fee of $240 (before GST). It’s a pretty steep spending/payment requirement, but also a pretty generous bonus mile reward. If you get the annual credit card fee waived, you can still get up to 30,000 miles with the same spending requirements.

10. Standard Chartered Journey Credit Card

If you spend regularly on transport and food online, the Standard Chartered Journey Credit Card might be the miles card for you. An entry-level credit card, it offers a high earn rate of 3 miles per S$1 on online transactions for transportation, food delivery and online grocery merchants. This is capped at 3,000 miles, which means you max out the bonus rate at S$1,000.

The SC Journey Credit Card also offers decent earn rates of 2 miles per S$1 foreign spend and 1.2 miles per S$1 local spend, which is comparable to most other air miles cards on this list. All earnings come in the form of 360 Rewards Points, which never expire and can be redeemed for miles, cash rewards, or shopping vouchers.

On top of the card’s promised complimentary travel insurance and 2 complimentary visits to Priority Pass lounges each year, Standard Chartered is also dangling some limited-time carrots to tempt you into getting their miles card. This year, you get to enjoy a S$0 foreign transaction fee for overseas spend made and posted in June-July 2023 and November-December 2023.

From now till Sept 30, 2023, Standard Chartered is awarding up to 45,000 miles if you sign up for the Standard Chartered Journey Credit Card. The only downside is that the requirements to get this welcome bonus are pretty steep-you need to spend $10,000 in total and pay the annual fee of S$194.40.

11. Entry-level vs premium miles cards in Singapore

All of the above credit cards are entry-level ones, meaning you can sign up once your annual income hits about $30,000.

But premium air miles credit cards for those more well off tend to offer better air miles earn rates and/or sign-up bonuses.

For instance, the American Express The Platinum Card gives you a whopping welcome bonus of 113,750 Membership Rewards points when you sign up for the card. That’s worth a 1-way Business Class trip to Japan or Korea via Singapore Airlines! The catch? You must be prepared to fork out an annual fee of  S$1,728. And while Amex hasn’t disclosed the exact minimum income requirement, you can be assured the usual $30,000 sum won’t cut it.

12. What are air miles and how do they work?

Air miles are part of frequent flyer programmes (FFP), the best-known one here being Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer programme. KrisFlyer miles can be used on many partner airlines, including all of Star Alliance.

Technically, you can buy miles with cold hard cash. That’s what some people do – buy KrisFlyer miles because they have nothing better to spend their money on.

But why do that when a credit card will help you earn them for free, right? When you spend on an air miles credit card, you can accumulate frequent flyer miles either directly or by earning points (which you then convert to miles).

Once you’ve got your miles, you can put them towards your next holiday’s airfare. Woohoo!

Here’s a look at the bigger and more well-known FFPs in Singapore:

FFP

Airline

Notes

KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines

Offered by all air miles cards (pay conversion fee).

Possible to earn directly (no conversion fee) with these SQ co-branded cards.

KrisFlyer miles can be used with SQ, Scoot, Star Alliance and SQ partner airlines.

Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific

Offered by many air miles cards (pay conversion fee).

Asia Miles can be used with CX, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas, Lufthansa, Swiss and many others.

Miles & More

Lufthansa

Europe’s largest FFP, not available through air miles cards in Singapore.

But most Miles & Moreairlines are under Star Alliance, so you can use KrisFlyer miles.

13. What should you look out for in a miles card?

Here are some factors you need to consider when evaluating miles cards:

Miles expiry date: Borders may largely be open now, but you never know when the next pandemic wave may hit and if travel restrictions will kick into high gear again. Or, maybe you just don’t travel frequently and need miles that don’t expire, such as those for the Citi PremierMiles Card and DBS Altitude Card. On the other hand, KrisFlyer miles expire in 3 years from the date they are credited to your account. If your card requires you to accumulate and then convert miles, you’ll also want to check the expiry date so you can convert them as late as possible.

Flexibility to redeem miles for other rewards: For a while, COVID-19 totally wrecked our ability to travel, and many of us might have started to wonder if we could spend our miles on something else. That’s why checking what else you can redeem miles for in an important consideration. See if you can use them to redeem other rewards or convert them to cashback. If you’re under the KrisFlyer programme, you can use your mile to make purchases at the online KrisShop.

Ease of earning miles without travelling: Many cards reward you more handsomely for spending overseas, but earning high rates for local and/or online spending will help you accumulate more miles faster while still in Singapore. The Maybank Horizon Card is a good option for high local spending earn rates.

14. MoneySmart tip: Use a rewards credit card as a miles card

Before you rush to sign up for an air miles card, you should also know that rewards credit cards are a viable alternative to air miles cards.

So what’s the secret? Well, you actually earn rewards points (rather than miles) with many air miles cards. You can earn those same points with a rewards card as well, and later convert them to miles. In fact, you can think of air miles cards as simply a subset of rewards cards as the points-collecting mechanism is usually the same.

Broadly speaking, air miles cards reward travel-related spending, while rewards cards reward general local spending e.g. shopping and dining.

Good rewards credit cards offer high bonus points for the latter, making it possible to earn air miles more quickly. For example, the HSBC Revolution Credit Card we discussed above earns you the equivalent of 4 miles per $1 on online shopping and contactless payments.

However there are usually reward caps on these-for example, the HSBC Revolution card limits you to 10,000 reward points per month, which may not be a large enough cap for heavier spenders. The best card (or combo of cards) really depends on your actual spending habits.

So if you want to be really thorough, check out some of the best rewards credit cards in Singapore as well.

ALSO READ: Are we in a Schrodinger’s recession? Understanding the dual reality of recovery and recession In Singapore

This article was first published in MoneySmart.

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