Tag Archives: amex

Last call for the UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX dining card!

Preferred-Platinum

The UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX is the best card available for dining right now at 4 miles per $1. Yes, it’s AMEX, but like I’ve said before, the whole reason they need to give better rewards on AMEX cards is to compensate for their lower acceptance.

This card currently cannot be applied for online, and a call to UOB customer service confirmed that they are in the process of “demarketing the card”, whatever that means. However, if you’ve missed the boat there is still one more opportunity to get on. Apparently, UOB has not updated their back-end applications for SMS applications. Meaning that you can apply via SMS following the method below-

SMS spacespace to 77862
For example: SMS Yespp 7890 S1234567H to 77862.

To give a bit more clarity, “7890” here is the last 4 digits of your existing UOB card (This option will only be available to people who have an existing UOB card and not new applicants). “Yespp” means you want to apply for the Preferred Platinum Account. And yes, 77862 is the official UOB SMS number, you can verify that online.

One poster has reported successfully getting his UOB Preferred Platinum card via this method (thanks Lionel!), so if nothing else it is definitely worth a try.

Let me know if this works for you guys

cover photo by seaturtle

Ultra-exclusive credit cards- what’s the point?

photo credit: DBS

I came across an article the other day talking about the most exclusive credit cards in Singapore, those which are made of metal, those without credit limits, those which give the user diplomatic immunity and free unicorn rides.

It got me thinking- I think we can all agree that many of the best miles and points credit cards on the market require you to have at least a certain income (which isn’t to say you can’t still try and apply for these cards if you don’t meet the income requirements– the worst the bank can say is no), but does higher income necessarily mean you get access to “better” credit cards?

Moreover, these ultra-exclusive cards come with very, very high annual fees. The banks point to the benefits that accompany such cards as justification. Let’s examine a few of these cards and see if the maths adds up.

Note: in the analysis below I’m only going to cover benefits that the BANK gives, not the card itself. For example, OCBC World Elite’s marketing materials talk about getting complimentary SPG Gold membership with 1 stay at any Asia Pacific property- but this offer is open to everyone with a World or World Elite Mastercard, not something exclusive to those with the OCBC World Elite Card.

OCBC Elite World Card

ocbcworld

Qualifying criteria:  Invitation only. Generally offered to OCBC Premier Banking clients who have a minimum of S$200,000 with the bank.

Annual fee: $1,605

Mile Earning Rate (per S$1): 0.4 miles local, 1.2 overseas

Key Benefits:

  • Concierge service
  • TPC Private Club Access when playing golf in the USA
  • The card is made of plastic and lightweight

The OCBC Elite World markets itself as a credit card targeting the top tier of society.  But what’s interesting is that the card isn’t even given the highest tier of Mastercard branding. In what is probably the biggest case of false advertising, the card’s Mastercard tier is World, not World Elite.World Elite is the highest tier of Mastercard and comes with several benefits the World card does not, such as complimentary airline tickets and elite status with rental car companies.

Moreover, the World tier is the “mass affluent” tier of Mastercard (similar to the Signature tier for Visa)- hardly poor people, but definitely not the top 1% that the OCBC marketing team would have you believe.

And that mile earning rate? I guess it wouldn’t be an OCBC card if it didn’t completely suck. Honestly, what is it with OCBC and its inability to get a miles card done right?

Really, when I read the OCBC Elite World Card guide I was trying to hard to pick out something, anything that would count as a special benefit.

They highlight things like SPG Gold membership with 1 stay, or 15% off meet and greet airport services, but these are things any World Mastercard holder gets (and you can get a World Mastercard with entry-level credit card qualifications- the Citibank Rewards Card)

You know the Bank is really digging at the bottom of the barrel when it promotes things such as “24 hour card replacement” or “Card anti-fraud protection” as benefits.

1 OCBC $ is 0.4 miles, btw

Oh, and they describe 1.2 miles on overseas earning as a benefit. Despite the fact that minimum income cards like the Citibank Clear Platinum and the Maybank Horizon Platinum give 2 miles and don’t have a $1,605 annual fee.

clap

I think what annoys me the most about this is that OCBC isn’t stupid. They definitely know that their premium card has close to no incremental benefits above other bank’s premium offerings – yet they believe that people will pay 1.6K just for exclusivity. This is perhaps a bit telling of what they think about their customers, or just downright cynical (because we know they’re capable of genuine innovation, eg the OCBC 360 account which was amazing while the bonus interest lasted).

UOB Privilege Reserve Card

uob reserve

Qualifying criteria:  For customers with min S$2M investment balance with UOB or spend a minimum of S$150,000 per annum on UOB cards

Annual fee:  $3,900

Mile Earning Rate (per S$1): 2 miles local, 2 miles overseas

Key Benefits:

  • Welcome gift of 100,000 miles
  • Tower Club and China Club access
  • Complimentary one-way limo service with the purchase of a pair of First/Business class tickets on SQ, BA, CX, EK, QR, QF
  • 50% off lunch at Grand Hyatt for 2 people (33% for 3, 25% for 4 etc)
  • GHA Black Membership
  • Priority Pass with unlimited visits

Not to be confused with the (relatively) plebian UOB Privilege Banking Credit Card (available to those with S$350,000 in AUM with UOB), the UOB Privilege Reserve Credit Card is metal-tastic and only available to those with S$2M in AUM with UOB.

Sadly, the benefits are rather stingy. Most of the travel benefits require that you book with the (overpriced) UOB Travel Concierge, and what’s your reward for booking two first/business class tickets through them (and generating a lot of merchant fees?)- a one way limo transfer, which you could get by spending $2,000 on the ANZ Travel Card.

The welcome miles are definitely attractive, but remember you’re paying for the privilege- I haven’t independently verified the annual fee for the card (got the $3,900 figure off a forum) but if it is, then you’re paying 4 cents a mile- roughly on par with a business class redemption. 

EDIT: More details on the annual fees from a helpful reader

if you clear 250k in annual spend, they give you another 100k miles on top of the welcome gift of 100k miles. so for 3900 in joining fee, it works out to be $0.019 per mile. I haven’t cross first year yet, but if you spend more than 250k a year, you are suppose to get 200k miles when you pay SGD 3900.

DBS Insignia Visa Infinite Card (Updated: 11 Sept 16)

insignia

Qualifying criteria: S$500,000 annual income

Annual fee: S$3,000

Mile Earning Rate (per S$1): 1.6 miles local, 2.0 miles overseas

Key Benefits:

  • 100,000 welcome miles
  • Priority Pass membership
  • 2 complimentary hotel nights at selected properties
  • Grand Hyatt dining membership and access to spa and fitness centre
  • Club access to One Degree 15 Marina

DBS recently relaunched the Insignia card in a metal version. They seem quite proud of the fact that it is the first metal card to have a paywave function.

100,000 welcome miles for a $3,000 annual fee is certainly not what I’d call a good deal in and of itself.  But I’m guessing if you earn $500,000 the sting of a $3,000 annual fee is much reduced. The miles earning rates are decent, better than the Altitude series but still inferior to the UOB PRVI (at least for overseas spend).

Read the full coverage on all the benefits the Insignia card has here

HSBC Visa Infinite

hsbc

Qualifying Criteria: Min income of $250,000

Annual Fee: $488

Miles Earning Rate (per S$1): A bit unique, in the sense that it varies depending on how much you spend with them and how long you’ve been a member. In Year 1, 1 mile local, 2 miles overseas. In Year 2, 1.25 miles local, 2.25 miles overseas if you spent more than $50,000 the previous year, 1.5 miles local, 2.5 miles overseas if you spent more than $75,000

Key Benefits:

  • 50% off Marriott Singapore dining (25% when solo, 50% with 2, 33% with 3, 25% with 4)
  • Complimentary access to ESPA at RWS
  • 30,000 miles welcome gift
  • One way limo service and expedited immigration clearance with min spend of $5,000 each quarter

The HSBC Visa Infinite is possibly the cheapest “luxury” credit card out there (well- the CIMB Visa Infinite has no annual fee, but we’ll cover that another day). It used to have JetQuay Terminal access but that was phased out on 1st May this year.  In any case, JetQuay access is nothing special, because it just means you get free instant noodles. Seriously.

Again, benefits are plain vanilla. The 50% off Marriott Singapore dining is probably HSBC’s response to UOB (which enjoys the same thing with Hyatt), and the welcome miles are a good value at a cost of 1.6 cents each. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Conclusions

You’ll notice I’ve excluded some cards here- the AMEX Centurion, the Citibank Ultima are two of the other big ones that come to mind. That’s simply because I can’t find enough online (and am too lazy to try harder). I do know the Centurion card is probably the closest thing that comes close to justifying the annual fee, due to the number of  (alleged) benefits such as elite status in several hotel and airline programs.

Let’s make one thing clear- you’re not getting these cards because they have great mile earning rates. The other workhorses on the market do a much better job of earning you those miles.

You’re also not getting them because the cards have great published benefits. Private club access aside, I’m really struggling to see what these cards give which justifies the annual fee.

You are getting them because (1) you are the sort who feels important owning such a card (and if you are, I feel genuinely sorry for you) or (2) there are some unpublished benefits that only card members know about which change the equation dramatically and make the cards worth it (in which case, fair enough).

Long story short- you do need a slightly higher income to play the miles and points game, but you certainly don’t need the stratospheric requirements these cards have.

American Express cards- don’t bother

 The Idea

  • AMEX-issued AMEX cards are not ideal for earning miles- the highest base earning rate is 0.83 miles per S$1, well below the 1.2-1.6 standard given by local banks
  • Premium AMEX cards come with hefty annual fees which cannot be waived easily after the 1st year
  • Premium AMEX cards also do not have compelling benefits like lounge access, private club access or complimentary hotel loyalty memberships (only provided by the invite-only Platinum/Centurion cards)
  • The only worth-it card is the Krisflyer Ascend card (which you should never spend more than S$1 on)

The Details

I have no big love for AMEX cards in Singapore, at least those issued by AMEX themselves. They’re expensive, they don’t waive annual fees, their earning rate is terrible and the perks on their premium cards aren’t anything to get excited about.

But I still owe it to you to explain why AMEX cards are a colossal waste of plastic, so here goes

Let’s run down the AMEX product offering in Singapore. I’m only going to talk about the cards which can be applied for by the everyman- ie not the Krisflyer PPS Amex cards nor the invitation-only Platinum Card (although it should be noted the earn rates on these cards are terrible too)

The table below summarises 5 different AMEX cards available in the market

AMEX Rewards AMEX KF Gold AMEX KF Ascend AMEX Platinum Credit Card AMEX Platinum Reserve
Earn Rate (S$1) 0.56 0.63 0.83 0.69 0.69
Min Income S$30,000 S$30,000 S$50,000 S$50,000 S$150,000
Annual Fee S$53.50 (1 year waiver option) S$117.70 (1 year waiver) S$256.80 (1 year waiver option) S$321 (1 year waiver option) S$535
FAR Card No No No Classic Classic
Sign up Bonuses 13,333 miles with S$1.5K spend in first 6 months 5,000 miles with first spend5,000 miles with S$5K spend in 6 months50% bonus miles with S$5K spend in 1 year, additional 50% with S$12K capped at 8,000 mile bonus 5,000 miles with first spend15,000 miles with S$5K in 3 months OR 35,000 miles with S$10K in 3 months(requires full payment of annual fee) None 27,778 miles with S$5K spend in first 6 months
Spending Bonuses S$1=0.84 miles at 5 favourite placesS$1=0.84 miles if annual spend >S$5K S$1=1.25 miles on SQ spend S$1=1.67 miles on SQ spend S$1=3.47 miles at selected EXTRA merchants (~90, mostly luxury stores) S$1=3.47 miles at selected EXTRA merchants (~90, mostly luxury stores)

Remember that I don’t hate all AMEX cards- the Krisflyer Ascend Card is ridiculously good value (though probably not for reasons AMEX intended)

But otherwise,  earning rates are hopelessly complicated, especially for the Krisflyer cards. Even with all the fancy bonuses applied, you’d still be better off with getting 1.6 miles per S$1 (soon to be 1.4) with UOB PRVI Miles. Heck, they can’t even be generous with SQ-related spend. Citibank PremierMiles AMEX gives 2 miles per S$1 spent at SQ, whereas these guys are at best 1.67.

Below are my other gripes

Dismal Miles Earning Rate

Membership Rewards (MR) points can be redeemed at a rate of 9 MR to 5 miles with Krisflyer, AsiaMiles, Avios, DynastyFlyer, Enrich and Royal Orchid Plus.

In other words, 1 MR gets you 5/9th of a mile. We know that S$1.60 spending with the AMEX Platinum Card gets 2 MR, so S$1 generates 1.25 MR or 0.7 miles.

Yes, AMEX has what they call EXTRA partners where you earn 10 MR per S$1.60. But this list is extremely limited and features luxury brands that you’re unlikely to make regular spend on. In fact, of the ~90 EXTRA partners, only the following seem remotely useful

  • Harvey Norman
  • Reebonz
  • EpiLife

So at best, you’re earning 3.5 miles per S$1 here. That’s a lot, but considering how little you will spend at such outlets, this is hardly useful. Several high end restaurants feature on the EXTRA partners list- all of which you’d get 4 miles per S$1 if you used a UOB Preferred Platinum Card

Note that my criticism extends to miles earning. I’ve not studied the AMEX Membership Rewards catalogue closely, and they may have some options which make the cards more worthwhile. They’d better, because their base earning rates are less than half what the best miles earning cards in Singapore get you.

Hefty Annual Fees with No Waiver

First year fee waivers are possible for all the cards except the Platinum Reserve (however, not paying the annual fee prevents you from taking advantage of some of the key earning bonuses AMEX emphasises in their marketing + you can’t get the fee waived if you already own an AMEX-issued AMEX)

Subsequently, however, AMEX does not grant waivers, particularly for its flagship series of Platinum cards- the Platinum Credit Card has a S$321 annual fee (vs S$256.80 for the UOB PRVI Miles AMEX). The Platinum Reserve hits a lofty S$535. Reports online and personal experience tell me that AMEX does not offer fee waivers for its cards, especially the Platinum series

Perhaps this is because they believe the additional benefits the Platinum series brings are worth the annual fee in themselves. But…

Limited Additional Benefits

At the Platinum Card roadshows marketers like to play up the supposed perks of the Platinum series, one of which is the FAR card (formerly known as the Feed-at-Raffles card).

The Platinum Credit Card and Platinum Reserve Card come with the Classic Tier of FAR, which would you back S$425 if you bought it elsewhere. FAR gives a scaling type benefit at restaurants at Fairmont, Swissotel The Stamford and Swissotel Merchant Court

Number of diners
Usual member reductions
Member plus 1 guest (2 adults)
50%
Member plus 2 guests (3 adults)
33%
Member plus 3 guests (4 adults)
25%
Member plus 4-9 guests (5-10 adults)
20%
Member dining alone
10%

50% off is great, sure, but that’s only if you bring along a sucker friend (unless you’re willing to dine on Monday, the most perfect day for a long leisurely meal, in which case you can get 50% off for up to 5 people. Public holidays not included)

You also get some spa and accommodation discounts off ridiculously marked-up prices. Oh, and 10% off at Raffles City Dry Cleaners. No, really.

FAR card
10% off drycleaning omgwtfbbq11one!

But hey! 12% off at Zuji!

zuji

“The hotel savings is not eligible for hotel reservations at properties belonging to the following chains: (a) Accor Hotels (Accor Hotels, Pullman Hotels and Resorts, Sofitel, Ibis, Mercure, Grand Mercure, All Seasons, Novotel, Mgallery, hotelF1, Formule, Sea Temple, Quay West, The Sebel and Citigate), (b) Hilton Hotels Corporation (Conrad Hotels and Resorts, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton International, Double Tree by Hilton, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts), (c) Intercontinental (ANA Hotels, Crowne Plaza Hotels, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, Intercontinental Hotels, Special Properties, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites), (d) Marriott International (Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Marriott Hotels, JW Marriott, EDITION, Marriott Vacation Club, Renaissance Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott and TownePlace Suites by Marriott, (e) Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (aloft Hotels, Le Meridien, Luxury Collection, Sheraton Hotels, The St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin Hotels and Resorts and Element Hotels), (f) Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (Shangri-La Hotels, Shangri-La Resorts, Traders Hotels and Kerry Hotels), (g) Marina Bay Sands, (h) Venetian Macau Resort, (i) Sands Macao Hotel (j) Banyan Tree Macau (k) MGM Macau (l) Chatrium Hotel & Residence, (m) Hansar Group, (n) Carlson (Country Inn & Suites, Park Inn, Park Plaza, Raddison), (o) Fairmont (Fairmont Hotels, Raffles, Swissotel), (p) Hyatt (Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt, Hyatt House, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt), (q) Langham Hospitality (Eaton Hotel, Langham Hotels & Resorts, Langham Place) and (r) Melia Hotels International (Gran Melia, Innside, Me by Melia, Melia Hotels & Resorts, Paradisus Resorts, Sol Hotels)”

 

Oh.

I keep trying to find some redemptive value in these cards. They don’t come with lounge access (well, the 4 vouchers from the AMEX Ascend aside), they don’t have private club access (you’d think that for S$535 the Platinum Reserve would at least throw that in), they don’t have overseas spending bonuses.

AMEX roadshows sort of remind me of that time I was at the IT Show and this salesgirl was trying real hard to push a laptop on me. I asked why it only had 1 year limited warranty when all the other models had 2 years. She said, and I quote “Oh sir, the manufacturer is so confident about the quality of this laptop they believe that you only need 1 year’s warranty”

charliebrown

 

Remember to read about what cards you should be getting for your general purpose and specialised spending!