photo by mark stevens
This is a 2 part series on the new OCBC Voyage Card. The first part introduces the card and OCBC’s Voyage Mile currency.
The second part analyses the earning opportunities via the OCBC Voyage Card
OCBC’s Great Metal Hope
Ah OCBC, will you ever get it right? OCBC’s portfolio has long been missing a decent miles card. Until recently the closest thing they had was the rebranded OCBC Titanium card which they proudly stated could “earn up to 2.5X air miles overseas and locally”
Of course what they didn’t tell you what this was subject to a whole load of conditions- meaning that your regular spend would get 0.4 miles and you’d only hit 1.2 miles per S$1 if you spent at least S$1,500 per month. That’s right, you’d have to spend S$1,500 per month just to put yourself on par with other miles earning cards like Citibank PremierMiles (and you’d still be behind ANZ Travel Card/UOB PrviMiles holders)
So you’ll excuse me for feeling skeptical when I read about OCBC’s new miles-earning offering, the Voyage Card.
OCBC went on a marketing blitz and issued a lengthy press release where they detailed the wish list of local mile earners (I’ve rephrased the pointers for clarity)
- No expiry date for air miles earned
- Card should offer air mile redemption on all airlines
- Less cumbersome conversion process from card points to airline miles
- No administrative charge for conversion
- No blackout periods for purchase of air tickets
The thing is, I’m not sure OCBC has hit the nail on the head with what irks consumers the most. (1), (3), (4) and (5) are annoying, but
– With regards to (1), even the least generous card issuer gives you 2 year point validity, which is extended by 3 years once converted to miles. As I point out in my post on general card spending, if you can’t earn sufficient miles to redeem in 5 years you may be better off with a cashback card instead.
– With regards to (3), it’s always troublesome to have to take an additional step to convert points to miles, but most banks do this within 24-48 hours
-With regards to (4), the conversion fees can be minimised by only converting when you’ve reached a critical mass. DBS has an annual frequent flyer program where you pay S$42.80 for unlimited conversions throughout the year. Of course I’d rather not pay, but this isn’t my main gripe either
-With regards to (5), availability is part and parcel of the miles game. Sure, I hate that SQ is so stingy with its saver availability and of course I’d love it if there were a way to get space on demand, but with advance and careful planning it’s still possible to get saver availability in first and business class cabins.
(2) however, is truly intriguing, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
The currency you’re earning with the OCBC Voyage card is “Voyagr Miles” (VMs). VMs are unique in that they can be redeemed for commercial seat availability, which implies no blackouts, no conversion time, no conversion fees and the ability to earn miles on your “award” flights.
The unique nature of VMs mean that it’s not fair to compare them on a 1:1 basis to Krisflyer miles (even though they can be converted at that ratio). Because VMs can be redeemed on any airlines, are not subject to award availability restrictions and allow one to earn miles on flown award tickets, they’re inherently worth more.
But even though VMs are worth more, you still need more of them to redeem premium cabin bookings on SQ- a business class round-trip ticket to London needs 218K VMs vs 136K KF Miles (Saver), to San Franciso 230K VMs vs 136K KF Miles (Saver).
Again, it’s not fair to do this comparison on a 1:1 basis because the VM award ticket is not subject to the availability restrictions of Krisflyer Saver plus it earns miles.
So what OCBC is asking you to do is make a trade-off. OCBC offers you the ability to get award tickets as and when you want plus earn miles on those tickets, but in exchange gives you a lower earning rate for VMs and higher redemption costs.
Whether or not this trade off is worth it depends on the value of a VM. Let’s try to get to the bottom of that in the next post