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AMEX Krisflyer Cards double signup bonus to 10K miles for limited time

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From now till 31 August, AMEX is running a special sign up bonus for its Krisflyer Ascend and Krisflyer Blue cobrand cards. Although I’m not big fans of either for day to day use, the sign up offers are definitely worth taking note of and should be part of your sign up bonus strategy.

The regular sign up bonus for both cards gives you 5,000 Krisflyer miles with your first spend of any amount within 1 month of approval. That has been doubled to 10,000 for online sign ups done till 31 August (Your sign up must be by 31 August, your approval must be made by 30 Sept)

miles

In addition to this, both cards are running separate offers that reward you with bonus miles based on your first 3 months spending. (You’re only eligible to get the 10,000 Krisflyer miles welcome gift once, even if you sign up for both the Blue and the Ascend card)

Which one is right for you? I’m going to break down both offers below.

Krisflyer Blue Sign Up Offer (Spend $2.5K, get 20,250 miles)

Image result for krisflyer blue

The Krisflyer Blue card offers 10,000 miles with your first spend of any amount, plus a further 7,500 miles when you spend S$2,500 within the first 3 months of card approval.

When you add on the base miles of 2,500 @ 1.1 mpd= 2,750, you could potentially get 20,250 miles for S$2.5K of spend.

That’s a very good sign up bonus, in my opinion. Just be sure to switch out to a different miles earning card like the DBS Altitude, Citibank Premiermiles or UOB PRVI once you’ve used your bonus. The Krisflyer Ascend earns 1.1 mpd on local spending and 2.0 mpd on overseas spending only during June and December. The Altitude, Premiermiles and PRVI will earn you 1.2/1.2/1.4 mpd locally and 2.0/2.0/2.4 mpd overseas year round.

Another important point: the AMEX Krisflyer Blue card normally has a S$176.55 annual fee, but it is waived for the first year.  So there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t get onboard with this deal, even if you just intend to get the 10,000 miles by swiping $1 at Watsons.

The AMEX Krisflyer blue has an income requirement of S$30K p.a.

Sign up for the 10,000 mile Krisflyer Blue card bonus here

Krisflyer Ascend Sign Up Offer (Spend $6K, get 32,200 miles)

Image result for krisflyer ascend

The Krisflyer Ascend offer consists of 10,000 miles with first spend, plus 15,000 bonus miles when you spend S$6,000 within 3 months of card approval.

Add the base miles of S$6K @ 1.2 mpd= 7,200 to this, and you’re looking at 32,200 miles after S$6K of spend.

The Krisflyer Ascend, however, has a non-waivable first year annual fee of S$337.05 (there are some benefits of paying the annual fee, as I’ve highlighted here, but it’s your call whether you value them at 300 bucks). Also, the income requirement is higher than the Blue card at S$50K p.a.

Remember that the Ascend earns 1.2 mpd locally and 2 mpd overseas in June and December. Let me emphasize again that it should not be your general spending card, even if you take advantage of the bonus.

Sign up for the 10,000 mile Krisflyer Ascend card bonus here

Which offer is right for me?

Assuming your income allows you to qualify for both offers, I feel the Krisflyer Blue card has more bang for your buck. I like that you don’t need to pay the first year annual fee, and I think S$2,500 spend over 3 months is more achievable for most people than S$6,000. If you’re thinking about using Cardup to meet the minimum spend, remember their platform doesn’t accept AMEX at the moment.

If my reading of the T&C for the Ascend and Blue is right, there’s nothing stopping you from getting both cards. However, like I mentioned earlier, you can only get the 10,000 mile welcome bonus once. So if you had both cards and spent a total of $8,500, you’d have

  • 10,000 welcome miles
  • 15,000 + 7,500 bonus miles
  • 2,750 + 7,200 base miles

For a grand total of 42,450 miles, with an outlay of $8500 + annual fee of $337.05. That’s pretty acceptable to me.

It’s interesting that AMEX has decided to up its game on these cards in recent months. Maybe we are seeing what I alluded to in the ST as a mid-cycle refresh. If you’ve been thinking about pulling the trigger on either card, now might be a good time.

Analyzing the Krisflyer Ascend sign up bonus mile offer

Let the record show that I’m not the biggest fan of the Krisflyer Ascend, because of its substantial non-waivable first year fee (S$337.05- that’s about 2/3 the fee of an entry level prestige card), stingy MPD on overseas spend (2 mpd, only in June and December) and somewhat lackluster benefits.

However, I’m all for good sign up promotions and the Krisflyer Ascend has an interesting one going on now.

Receive 15,000 KrisFlyer miles on your first S$6,000 spend and a Samsonite Sigma 76cm Expandable Spinner on your next S$4,000 spend in the first 3 months upon Card approval. Apply and receive approval between 21st July and 30th September 2017 (both dates inclusive) to be eligible.

Let’s ignore the luggage and just focus on the miles offer. Assuming you’ve never held a co-brand AMEX SQ credit card before, you’ll be eligible for a 5,000 mile welcome bonus with your first spend of any amount. Therefore, you’re looking at potentially 20,000 Krisflyer miles with $6,000 of spend within the first 3 months of approval, plus the $337.05 annual fee.

How does that compare to the other sign up bonuses on the market now?

CardSpend RequirementTime PeriodAnnual FeeBonus MilesMiles: Spending Ratio
Krisflyer Ascend$6,0003 months$337.0520,0003.2
Citibank Premiermiles$10,0003 months $192.6030,0003
AMEX Rewards$1,500 (min $500 each month)3 months$53.5011,6667.8
AMEX Platinum Reserve$5,0006 months$53527,7775.0

You should remember that sign up bonuses are binary- it’s all or nothing. In other words- you don’t realise the ratio until you hit that spending mark. Fortunately, the sweetest ratio is also the easiest one to get- the AMEX Rewards Card. So I’d definitely recommend people go for that before looking at other options. The offers are of course not mutually exclusive and if you have a banquet/renovation/other big ticket item coming up there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spread it over a few cards.

There’s also an additional offer with the Ascend that gives you 1,500 bonus miles for every approved supplementary card. The good thing is that supplementary cards have a first year fee waiver, and I don’t see anything in the T&C that limits the number of supplementary cards you can apply for (although how many they approve is, of course, up to them). Get cards for your kids, your wife, your parents, your secret other family.

This offer is only applicable to American Express Singapore Airlines Credit Card Members whose new Supplementary Card is applied and approved between 21 July 2017 and 30 September 2017 (both dates inclusive)

Other card benefits

To quickly recap some of the other benefits of the Ascend

  • Complimentary one night at selected Millennium Hotels around the world (some hotels have minimum stay requirements- read the fine print!) and upgrade to My Millennium Premium membership
  • 4 lounge vouchers for use at participating SATS and Plaza Premium lounges
  • Double Krisflyer miles accrual voucher with $15K minimum spend on Singapore Air until 30 June 2018 (capped at 5,000 miles. Don’t ask, bad deal)
  • Free upgrade to Krisflyer Gold status with $15K minimum spend on Singapore Air within 1 year of approval (much more intriguing offer…has anyone tried the good ol’ tie up $15K in working capital with SQ and get a refundable ticket strategy?)

I understand that second year fee waivers are available but you don’t get any of the renewal gifts (like the hotel voucher). I’m still unconvinced about the value prop of the Ascend as a general spending card, and this bonus certainly doesn’t change my baseline stance. However, the bonus means the Ascend should be a card you consider as part of your sign up bonus strategy.

Insane Citibank Premiermiles Visa offer to buy miles at 0.76 cents [updated]

[Updated: Thanks to Robin on the comments, we now know there’s a targeted and non-targeted version. The targeted version is described in this article. The non-targeted version requires you to spend S$9.0K during the same 1 July-31 Aug period and pay a S$238 admin fee to get a bonus 31,200 miles.This is still an opportunity to buy mile at 0.76 cents each. The registration process is also different, refer to this document for details]

A lot of credit cards have great sign up bonuses for new cardholders. But if you’re an existing one? Pffffft. Thanks for your continued support, remember to pay your bill on time!

That’s why this new Citibank Premiermiles deal should be really exciting, if you already have a Citibank Premiermiles Visa card. Yeah, if you haven’t held the card for at least 6 months, you can stop reading here because this deal doesn’t apply to you.

If you have had a Citibank Premiermiles Visa card for at least 6 months and received an invitation to participate, you need to spend either S$3K or S$9K from 1 July to 31 August.

If you spend S$9K and pay an admin fee of S$238, you get 10.8K miles (S$9,000 @1.2 mpd) + 31.2K miles for paying the admin fee. What’s the admin fee for? Hell if I know, but I’m not going to ask too many questions.

This nets you a total of 42K miles for S$9K of spend. Paying the admin fee of S$238 to get 31,200 miles is the equivalent of buying miles at 0.76 cents each. That is an amazing price to pay for miles, considering that you can get upwards of 2 cents even if you redeem for economy class (don’t).

If you spend S$3K and pay an admin fee of S$58, you get 3.6K miles (S$3,000 @1.2 mpd), + 6.4K for paying the admin fee.  That’s the equivalent of buying miles at 0.91 cents each. Again that’s a great price, but I’d much rather net the larger bonus.

I’d also like to point out that I value Citimiles more than I would DBS points or UOB UNI$ because Citimiles have more transfer partners. DBS and UOB transfer to SQ and Cathay, but Citimiles can be transferred to both of those plus

  • British Airways
  • Club Carlson
  • Etihad
  • EVA
  • Air France
  • Garuda
  • Hilton
  • IHG
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Thai Airways

You need to opt in to participate in this promotion, which you can do so via SMS

You can find the full T&C here. When I first got word of this promotion, I was so excited and had loaded up the application page for the Premiermiles Visa. Then as I was filling it out, I alt-tabbed through the pages and read the T&C. My excitement quickly evaporated when I saw this

It’s kind of ironic because I’m the sort who advocates people to time their credit card sign ups so they can take advantage of joining bonuses. But this offer is one that favors the loyal. It’s actually a very nice move by Citibank to reward their long term cardholders, and I applaud them for that.

I hope as many of you as possible can take advantage of this great deal.

(HT: Zhizhong & Adam)

What do you make of the new Standard Chartered Visa Infinite sign up offer?

I received a nice glossy mailer from Standard Chartered (getting snail mail makes me feel alive) advertising a new sign up offer for their Visa Infinite card.

Image result for standard chartered visa infinite

For successful applications approved before 17 June 2017, SCB is offering a choice of two promotions (T&C here)-

  • 86,000 miles with S$12,000 spending within 60 days of approval OR
  • 66,000 miles + 28 inch Samsonite bag with S$12,000 spending within 60 days of approval

The 35,000 mile welcome gift was always available with the payment of the $588.50 annual fee (SCB used to disclose the annual fee before GST but now includes it, as per their obligations under the income tax act. Sorry, but this always bugged the accountant in me), and the 36,000 base miles would have been yours anyway had you spent $12,000 overseas under the regular T&C of the card. Therefore, the real carrot they’re offering is the 15,000 miles you get when you spend S$12,000 within 60 days of approval.

I’ll have a fair amount of overseas spending on my upcoming RTW trip, and gave some serious thought as to whether I could make this work.

If I were to bring along my UOB Visa Signature card for my overseas spending, I’d be able to get 4 mpd on $2,000 a statement cycle for the 2 cycles I’ll be overseas for. That’s a total of 16,000 miles.

Assuming I spent the other $8,000 on my UOB PRVI Miles at 2.4 mpd, I’d end up with a total of 16,000 + 2.4 * 8,000=35,200 miles for $12,000 of overseas spending.

If I went with the SCB Visa Infinite, I’d end up with 86,000 miles but would be out of pocket $588.50 for the annual fee. So conceptually speaking, I’d be paying $588.50 for the ability to acquire 50,800 more miles than my best alternative. This is about 1.16 cpm, a fairly decent amount.

My actual outlay would be less than $588.50, however, given that SCB is running a rebate promotion with Uber until 30 Sept 2017 that gives you 20% cashback on your Uber (Eats + regular Uber) spending each month, up to $50. You need to spend at least $600 a month on your SCB card to qualify.

After this promotion ends, the SCB VI card still offers 10% cashback on Uber spending capped at $100 a calendar quarter and $400 a year.

I use Uber a lot for work, so assuming I could max out this promotion, I’d get $50*5 (May-Sept, 20% rebate promotion)+ $100 (Oct-Dec, 10% rebate regular) + $100 (Jan-Mar, 10% regular rebate) and a bit more for April to May before my annual fee is due again. That’s about $450 in value, which sounds so generous I’m starting to think I’ve not done this calculation properly*.  And I’d need to spend upwards of $3,250 on Uber in under a year. Which means I’d need to order dinner for quite a few people in the office…

*The T&C of the 20% Uber rebate promotion doesn’t specify how it interacts with the usual 10% rebate granted to the SCB VI card, but I think it’s safe to assume they don’t stack. Likewise, I’m not sure if the bonus cashback earned on the 20% promotion will count towards the $400 annual cap on the SCB VI. 

But assuming it does, and I max out at $400, that’s an actual outlay of just below $200 which makes the card more palatable.

Benefits of the SCB Visa Infinite Card

I’ve written about the perks of the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite before here, but I believe some additional benefits have been added since then. To recap, you get

  • 1.4 mpd for local spending and 3 mpd for overseas spending, provided you spend a minimum of S$2,000 in a statement cycle. If you don’t, you get 1 mpd for both
  • 6 free lounge visits a year via Priority Pass
  • A free 4 hour yacht charter for 14 people if you spend $75,000 in a year (worryingly, blackout periods and 20% peak period surcharges apply)
  • The Uber credits I mentioned above

But then I asked Jeriel what he thought and he reminded me of what I’ve told many a person- don’t acquire miles speculatively. Thanks to our good friend the HSBC Advance card, I have a sizable amount of unconverted points with no travel plans in the near future. So the more I think about it, the more I can’t really justify paying the annual fee.

What does this mean for your sign up bonus strategy?

However, if you’ve got upcoming big ticket purchases (and meet the minimum income requirement of $150K per annum) you may want to consider this card. Note that if you spent that $12,000 locally instead of overseas, you’d end up with 35,000 (joining gift) + 15,000 (bonus) + 16,800 (base miles @ 1.4 mpd)= 66,800 miles from $12,588.50 of spend.

What other options do you have?

  • If you’re not already a Citibank credit card holder, you can get the Premiermiles card and spend $10,192.60 (including $192.60 annual fee) within 3 months of obtaining the card to get 42,000 miles
  • You could get the AMEX Rewards card, spend $1,535.50 (including $53.50 annual fee) within 3 months to get 13,333 miles
  • You could get the DBS Altitude Visa card, spend $2,000 ($1,000 a month for 2 months) to get 10,000 miles (for new DBS/POSB cardholders. Existing get 7,000)
  • You could get the Krisflyer Ascend card, spend $6,337.50 (including $337.50 annual fee) in the first 3 months after approval and get 20,000 miles (but please, don’t use the card after that)

This means that in theory, someone with an upcoming spend of ~$31,500 (renovation, wedding, paternity suit) could get just over 170,000 miles if they time their sign up bonuses just right (and were willing to pay a total of $1,172.10 in annual fees).

So I’ll probably not go for this sign up offer, but anyone who has upcoming big spending might want to see if they can build a strategy around this.

The cheapskate’s guide to getting around New York

New York is an expensive place, as you might expect. A basic lunchtime set meal starts upwards of US$15, a weekly pass on the subway costs US$31 (A single ride on the subway will cost you $2.75, regardless of how far you’re going), and if you’re not into NY tapwater (which regularly wins awards for being the ‘champagne of tapwater’), a 330ml bottle will set you back US$1.60 every time you chug.

That doesn’t mean the seasoned travel hacker can’t find ways and means of saving money though, especially on transport.

I’m assuming everyone here uses Uber already so I’m going to skip that because whatever sign up bonus you’d have must have been used already. But the US is the land of competition, and there are numerous other ridesharing services, each keen to offer you some sign up credit for free.

Protip: If you’re going into Manhattan from JFK/EWR, you can get $35 flat fare Uberpool rides. That’s a good deal in my book, and cheaper than a yellow cab.

If you know how to use Uber, there’s no reason why you can’t figure out the following

Lyft

Lyft is available in pretty much every major US city including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle.

If you use my code AARON761045 you get $20 in credit when you take your first ride.

But…depending on your travel patterns you may be more interested in the generic Lyft offer of $5 off each of your first 10 rides.

If you’re taking a single long trip, my code makes more sense. If you’re taking several short trips (like I did in NY), then use Lyft’s generic offer to maximize your value.  Decide what makes more sense for you and go with that

I maximised my $5 off 10 rides in NY by using Lyft Line, Lyft’s equivalent of Uberpool. Trips in NY are generally short in distance but long in time (Due to traffic). I was able to hop around distances of 20-30 blocks without spending more than $2-3 of my own money. Take that, public transportation!

I also found Lyft Line extremely useful in DC, where fares are a lot lower than New York.

screenshot_2016-09-11-14-10-39

I can’t think of more than a handful of times when I had to share my Lyft Line with anyone else. Drivers were uniformly excellent. I had one who simply wouldn’t believe me when I told him the Toyota Camery he was driving would cost about $100,000 in Singapore. I told him I couldn’t believe his country was about to elect either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. “Touche”, he said.

I struggle to think of a single difference between Lyft and Uber, except that after your ride Lyft prompts you to select a tip amount for your driver, along with the rating. Everything else works the same way.

Via

Via is yet another ridesharing startup that is going to change the way we travel yada yada yada.

Here’s the hook: All rides within Manhattan (South of 125th street) are just $5, regardless of distance. That’s right, $5. I got $10 of free Via credit when I signed up, and you can too with the code: aaron5g5

I’m sure this is promotional pricing and it’s not sustainable in the long run, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.Via operates in Manhattan south of 125th Street, as well as the JFK + LGA airports.

Via works like this- you enter where you are and where you want to go.

screenshot_2016-09-15-14-01-06

The system will match you with a passing by Via. You’ll see here that I’ve been given a routing that sees me get picked up in 3 minutes. Via quotes expire about 30 seconds after they’ve been made, after which you’ll need to get a new one.

screenshot_2016-09-15-13-15-44

To improve efficiency, Via will pick you up and drop you off within 2 blocks of where you need to go. This involves some walking on your part, but if you’re the only passenger in the car the drivers gladly drop you at the door.

Here’s the other catch about Via- there are operating hours. Presumably, its $5 pricing model means it’s only economical to offer Via when it can fill up those vehicles with as many passengers as possible, so they operate during periods when that’s most likely to happen.

Via operates weekdays, 6am to midnight, Saturdays 10am to midnight, and Sundays 10am to 9pm. 

The full pricing model can be found here, if you’re interested.

Via was a lifesaver when I wanted to get to JFK upon leaving NY. I left the hotel at 4pm for an 8.55pm departure (so I could enjoy more of that lovely Virgin Clubhouse, more on that to follow!) on a Friday. 4pm seems like a good time to avoid the evening rush! I told myself confidently.

The usual UberX fare to JFK is about US$55. If you opt for UberPool it will be about US$47. So when I see this…

screenshot_2016-09-16-16-05-39

US$102.93? Methinks surge pricing has gone a little bit crazy right now.

No problem. I’ll use Lyft Line!

Wait, what?

screenshot_2016-09-16-16-09-36

$94.74. Hmmm….

The alternative was to get a yellow taxi and pay $52 + tolls and tip, which would bring it closer to $65. But I get stressed out when tipping and besides there wasn’t a yellow taxi in sight.

Then I remembered- Via has flat $39.95 rides to JFK. Plus, I had $10 of credit I could use, bringing down the price to $29.95. Horrary!

screenshot_2016-09-16-16-08-41

I ended up sharing my ride with a very stressed Australian lady who had a 6pm flight. We ended up getting to the airport at about 5.45pm, meaning she missed her plane. I suppose there’s a teachable moment here about overbudgeting travel time.

Gett

Gett offers new riders $10 of free credit. I never actually used this when I was there but if you’ve exhausted your Via and Lyft credits here’s another $10 to get you around (sign up code: GTUADGI)

screenshot_2016-09-16-11-01-21

 

Juno

Juno is a competing rideshare app to Uber that is currently still in its beta phase. 

I didn’t actually try Juno while I was there, but it’s still in beta mode and has a 25% off fares which puts it cheaper than Uber. It also does not have surge pricing.  You can read about Juno here. No free credit for sign ups, but 25% off and no surge pricing will save you a pretty penny on your trips if you don’t fancy using the subway.

Conclusion

The NY subway is great and all, but assuming you’re staying for one of those awkward periods that makes the unlimited 7 day $31 pass not economical and buying individual $2.75 passes each time you ride not a good deal either, then you can leverage all this free rideshare credit to save money on your transport.

Of course the advice here can be applied to pretty much any big US city where these ridesharing services operate, but I find that a lot of them launch in NY before diffusing elsewhere.

One last shoutout: you can also consider using an app called Bandwagon if you’re taking a cab from JFK. This is a taxi share service that lets you split the cost with someone heading the same way. Haven’t tested it, but might come in handy if you’ve exhausted all your credit with other apps.

Citibank Premiermiles has an awesome signup bonus and I can’t take part

Thanks to Zack on the comments who tipped me off that Citibank  is having an awesome signup promo for their Premiermiles Visa card from now till 14 Aug 2016.

citibankpremier

Here’s the breakdown of the deal

  • 15,000 miles are yours when you apply and spend any amount in the first 3 months
  • 15,000 further bonus miles when you spend $10,000 within the first 3 months
  • 12,000 base miles earned on the $10,000 spend in the first 3 months

Total=$42,000 miles for $10,000 of spend. That is one heck of a welcome deal.  Do note that to take advantage of this deal you need to pay the first year annual fee of S$192.60

Now the bad news-

citibanksigh

Yup. As long as you hold an existing Citibank Credit card of any type, you can’t take part.  If you have owned a Citibank credit card in the past 12 months you can’t take part either.

If you do not already own a Citibank card, you absolutely need to take advantage of this. In a way what this promotion is doing is frontloading the annual fee and renewal miles (because Citibank already offers 10,000 renewal miles when you pay the $192.60 annual fee). But it’s also offering 5,000 bonus miles on top of that for a total of 15,000 welcome miles. At $192.60, this is 1.3 cents per mile, or one of the cheapest rates I’ve seen for buying miles in Singapore via annual fees

cititandc

It’s a shame because I have some big hotel bills coming up on my RTW trip, but if you’re planning a wedding or any other kind of massive spend you should seriously consider getting on board with this.

Remember that Citibank has some of the most diverse transfer partners in Singapore. In addition to the standard SQ and CX, you also can transfer to

  • Royal Orchid Plus
  • SkyMiles
  • Executive Club
  • Enrich
  • Infinity MileageLands
  • Garuda Frequent Flyer
  • Etihad Guest
  • Qantas
  • Qatar
  • Flying Blue

Too bad I was to trigger happy on my Citi applications…