Category Archives: Credit Cards

Earn double miles with the new DBS Altitude AMEX sign up promo

Until 30 Sept, the DBS Altitude AMEX card had a very generous 50% bonus miles promotion. Upon card approval, you would earn 1.8 miles for local spend, 3 miles for overseas spend and 4.5 miles for online hotel and flight bookings for the first 6 months (as opposed to the 1.2/2/3 miles normally). There was no minimum spend nor cap on the maximum number of miles you could earn via this promo.


DBS Altitude AMEX now has a new sign up promo. For all cards approved between now and 30 April 2016, spend $800 in your first month and get 3,000 bonus miles. More importantly, you also enjoy double miles on overseas and local spend (but not the online hotel and flight booking category) for the first 3 months after approval subject to spending a minimum of $800 per month.

That translates into

  • Local= 2.4 miles per $1 (an incredibly generous rate)
  • Overseas= 4 miles per $1 (ditto)

The maximum bonus you can earn is capped at $6,000 of spend per month. The spend is capped on spend rather than miles, so the way to max this out is by putting all $6,000 on overseas spend.

How does this compare to the previous 50% additional miles promotion? 2.4 miles/4 miles  for local/overseas spend is unheard of. DBS must really be taking it to UOB in the fight for the miles card market. The $800 min spend is a bit of a downer, but if you’re certain you’re going to hit $800 a month for the next 3 months then you should absolutely take advantage of this sign up promo. In theory, you could max this out with 72,000 miles in 3 months for $18,000 of overseas spend.

T&C here– only for new signups, but if you’ve cancelled your DBS Altitude card for more than 6 months you’re eligible to take advantage too.

Short story: If you’re confident of hitting $800 a month for the next 3 months, definitely go for this and frontload some of your big ticket item purchases. The card has a minimum income requirement of $50,000 (when it launched it was $80,000). My understanding is DBS is relatively flexible about income requirements but YMMV.

Read the Milelion’s take on the DBS portfolio of cards here.

cover photo by paulnelhams

UOB’s 5 miles per $1 promotion sounds exciting but really isn’t


So UOB sent out a mailer to all its PRVI cardholders informing them of a promotion where card members can earn 5 miles per $1 spent between 23 Oct and 31 Dec. Registration is required.uobhohum

This sounds amazing, but really isn’t.

  1. A minimum spending of $1,000 on overseas shopping and dining is required
  2. This promotion is limited to the first 2,000 cardholders to do (1)
  3. The maximum bonus miles you can earn is 4,000 miles

The definition of dining is, I must say, rather generous. It even includes spend at grocery stores


Shopping too, is similarly generous…


However, the promotion maxes out at 4,000 bonus miles, AND you have to be among the first 2,000 people to incur the $1,000 spend.

Your base overseas spend is 2.4 miles per $1, and this gives you an additional 2.6 miles per $1 (remember though that UOB awards this in blocks of $5 not $1).

This promotion maxes out at ~$1,540 of overseas spend.

This gives me 3,696 of base miles (@ 2.4 miles per $1) and ~4,000 of bonus miles (actually 4,004 but remember the bonus is capped at 4,000 bonus miles)

To summarise: If you’re going to spend money on your UOB card anyway, this promotion is a nice bonus and you should definitely sign up for it. But it’s not worth going out of your way to do overseas spend, especially since only the first 2,000 cardholders who do so get the bonus and you have no way of knowing ex-ante if you fall into that category


When is overseas spend not overseas?

Because banks earn a nice profit on all your foreign spend (nowhere as bad as that scammy DCC but still a good margin), they tend to offer lucrative overseas spend bonuses to entice you to use your plastic overseas.

For example, DBS Altitude offers 2 miles per $1 on overseas spend (Potentially 3 if you have the AMEX version and are within the first 6 months of card membership), UOB PRVI Miles offers 2.4 miles per $1 and Citibank earns 2 miles per $1.

However, there are some cases where you think you’ve clocked something in foreign currency, but it really books as local. Here is the general rule

Foreign currency payments processed by Singapore-based payment processors do not qualify for overseas spend bonuses

That’s a bit wordy, so let’s go through some examples

Example 1: Foreign Currency Payments by SG-registered Paypal accounts

Suppose I make a US$500 payment to a merchant in the USA using my SG-registered Paypal account. Seems pretty straightforward right?

But SG-registered paypal account payments will be processed through a payment processor located in Singapore. Therefore, when you use your account to pay in foreign currency, you only earn the local spend figure. If USD$500 becomes S$700 after conversion and your card offers 1.2 miles local, 2 miles overseas, you’d earn 840 miles instead of 1,400. Quite a big difference!

Paypal does count as online spend for purposes of maxing out the $2,000 per month on the DBS Woman’s World card, but after you hit this cap you should then look on the basis of which card gives the best miles per local spend.

Example 2: Foreign Currency Payments made to a travel agency

I read online of someone’s account of dealing with the Singapore office of a Japanese tour company. The tour company quoted him in JPY, the final invoice was in JPY and his card receipt when he signed showed JPY, but he earned only local spend. Further investigation revealed that the transaction, although done in JPY, went through a Singapore-based payment processor.

The 2.4 mile question here is- how do I know where a payment processor is based? The answer is, you don’t. Short of calling up the bank to ask them (and even then they might not know), you’ll be hard pressed to know ex ante  whether or not your foreign spending will come through.

Of course, this only affects online spending, because spending done physically overseas is not going to run into these issues. I think a good rule of thumb is to look at whether the merchant has a SG-based operation. Paypal for example, has one. Amazon does not. So foreign currency spend on Amazon will go via its US payment processor and thereby earn you a bonus.

You can avoid all this drama by simply putting your online spend (or at least the first $2k of it) on the DBS Woman’s World card.

Anyone has any other instances of no FCY bonus awarded to report?


EDIT: I’ve since clarified that this issue only impacts UOB cards. DBS policy is that Paypal transactions done in FCY will enjoy the overseas spending rate.