Tag Archives: dbs

DBS Altitude Visa sign up bonus cut to 5,000 miles, has other conditions too…

altitude visa

Well, in a classic case of why we can’t have nice things, the DBS Altitude Visa’s sign up bonus has been cut to 5,000 miles with $800 spend within 30 days of signing up, provided you’re among the first 500 applicants each month.

I always hate these limited availability promotions- you have no way of knowing ex-ante if you’re among the first 500 applicants and that puts you in a pickle debating whether or not to put $800 on the card. I am hoping that you will be able to call customer service and confirm that you are on the special list before making that spend.

And this promotion, when compared to the previous iteration, is decidedly anemic. Previously, all you had to do was sign up and spend $800 within 30 days and you’d get 12,000 miles. None of this first 500 applicants each month crap.

But anyway, if you didn’t pull the trigger then this is better than nothing. Should you wait for a better sign up offer? Possibly. Given how DBS has fallen behind UOB in the miles card war, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a new offer just around the Christmas shopping period.

I’m also hearing strong rumours that OCBC will relaunch its Titanium card (or launch a new card) with a stronger miles earning ratio, although given OCBC’s history dabbling with miles cards, I’m not holding my breath.

These 2 reasons make me believe that if you can wait a bit more, a better offer may come around soon

The Milelion Credit Card Omnibus Week 2: DBS

The Milelion is running a new series that aims to profile every credit card available in Singapore. Each week we will cover a different bank. The appendix below will be updated weekly with hyperlinks as more banks are added, allowing you to navigate between weeks seamlessly

Week 1- OCBC
Week 2- DBS
Week 3- UOB
Week 4- Citibank
Week 5- ANZ
Week 6- American Express
Week 7- HSBC
Week 8- Standard Chartered



Week 2: DBS

As the largest bank in Singapore, it’s not surprising that DBS has one of the widest card portfolios too. DBS is a funny player in the miles game- for a while, they had the best offering on the market with the Altitude cards- offering 1.2 miles on local spend or 1.6 miles if you managed to spend >$2K per month. Then they devalued the card to 1.2 miles and removed the chauffer option, and UOB came in offering 1.6 miles on all local spend.  Then there was a long silence.

Recently DBS launched a mega promotion with the Altitude portfolio- $800 got you 12,000 miles with the Altitude Visa, and the Altitude AMEX gave you a whopping 50% bonus on all your spend for the first 6 months. These two ballsy moves are enough to put the Altitude cards front and centre in my wallet.

DBS also has the intriguing Woman’s card, a card that men can (and often do) apply for because it gives 4 miles per $1 on online spend. That’s another great tool to build your miles.

The rest of the cards are the usual insipid stuff, but there is unique value to be found in cards like the Live Fresh, which is useful to those who do not earn enough to qualify for an Altitude card (or for students even!)

Let’s take a look at the entire portfolio in detail….

Points/ Miles Cards

DBS Woman’s Card and Woman’s World Card

dbs woman's card

  • Annual Fee: $192.60 (World), $160.50 (Basic) (Both with 1 year fee waiver)
  • Income Req: $80,000 (World, Singaporeans & Foreigners), $30,000 (Basic- Singaporeans), $45,000 (Basic-Foreigners)
  • Marketing Spiel: Get 10X points for online spend with the World Mastercard version (5X for the basic version)
  • The catch: Bonus is limited to $2,000 of online spend each month, Woman’s World Card (which has this bonus) has a significantly higher income requirement than the entry level Woman’s Card
  • Sign up here

I’m a big fan of this unisex card. Why? Because it gives 10X rewards on online spending, which equates to 4 miles per $1 spent (limited to the first $2,000 spend per month). And because DBS has the most generous definition of online as any bank. Citibank has the Rewards card, which grants 4 miles per $1 spent on online shopping, but it defines shopping as purchases of bags, shoes and clothes. UOB Preferred Platinum Visa has 4 miles per $1 spent online, but has an extensive list of excluded transaction types. I’ve used the DBS Woman’s Card for things as diverse as movie tickets, Amazon, online translation services (Gengo), air tickets, hotels.com, membership fees and without fail I’ve gotten 4 miles. 

It’s also a World Mastercard, which means you can get SPG gold status with a single stay at Starwood properties in  Asia Pacific countries. The income requirement is on the high side at $80K per annum, but it never hurts to try your luck and apply. 

Remember that this card comes in 2 flavours- the Woman’s Card and the Woman’s World Card. The World Card has the higher income requirement (but also the better miles ratio), whereas the Woman’s Card is an entry level card (but still grants 2 miles for online spend and is one of the better cards you can get if you can only get the entry level cards.

As an aside, I got every colleague in my mostly male office to sign up for this card. I bet this is really screwing with DBS’s analytics team, seeing a rash in male applicants. Whee.

Yay or nay: Yay. Definitely yay, regardless of which side you swing for

DBS Altitude Visa and AMEX

altitude amex altitude visa

  • Annual Fee: $192.60 (1 year waiver)
  • Income Req: $30,000 (Singaporeans and Foreigners)
  • Marketing Spiel: This card basically sells itself- 1.2 miles on local spend, 2 miles foreign, 3 miles on airline and hotel bookings. 50% bonus on first 6 months miles earning on the AMEX version, 12,000 bonus miles with $800 spend on the Visa version within 30 days of getting it
  • The catch: The basic earning rate is outclassed by the UOB PRVI, but that’s a problem for 6 months down the road. For the first 6 months of the AMEX version, your goal should be to put everything, and I mean everything, on the Altitude AMEX
  • Sign up here 

No secret here that these are my 2 favourite cards now, at least for a limited period. The Altitude Visa has a beefy sign up bonus where you get 12,000 miles for spending $800 within 1 month of getting the card, and the Altitude AMEX has what I think is one of the best promotions in a long while- a 50% earning bonus on all spend for the first 6 months, meaning 1.8 miles for regular spend, 3 miles for overseas and 4.5 for online flights and hotels.

How does this interact with the DBS Woman’s World Card? You should use the AMEX for all your flight bookings until you (somehow) hit $10,000, then use the DBS Woman’s Card for subsequent flight bookings for another $2,000.

Is this enough to make the Altitude my regular card? Yes- for 6 months. After which it is a bit of a tossup between the Atltiude and UOB’s PRVI Miles cards. PRVI has the edge at 1.3 miles per $1 vs 1.2 for the Altitude, but honestly I don’t think that’s going to tip things too much. On overseas spending, though, PRVI definitely has the edge at 2.4 miles per $1 vs 2 for the Altitude. So I’d use PRVI for overseas and be indifferent towards Altitude and PRVI for local.

The Altitude cards are the best cards to have right now guys- go get them both, leverage the bonuses and we’ll talk again in 6 months.

Yay or nay: Yay. Have you been reading any of the past posts?

DBS Live Fresh


  • Annual Fee: $64.20 (5 year waiver if you get this by 1 Oct 15, otherwise 2 year waiver)
  • Income Req: Singaporeans: $30,000, Foreigners: $45,000
  • Marketing Spiel: Excellent miles earning card for those who cannot afford the cards in the Altitude portfolio. For new sign ups, there is a 6% rebate on online spend till 31 Dec
  • The catch: The 6% rebate on online spend is capped at $100 per month and with min $500 spend per month.
  • Sign up here 

I rather like this card. I’ve previously profiled the Live Fresh card in my article on the best credit cards you can get for entry-level income. 3X points on online retail purchases (the phrasing of this leads me to believe that this excludes things like subscription fees, movie tickets, purchases of services (eg translation) or payment of fines) and overseas spend puts you in the 1.2 miles per $1 range, which is on par with the Altitude portfolio.

i think it’s no coincidence that DBS decided to start offering a limited time 6% rebate on online spend, given the spectacular OCBC devaluation on the Frank card. I think they’re hoping to pick up some of the churn arising from unsatisfied customers.  The 6% rebate is earned in addition to DBS points, so there’s the opportunity to double dip.

This card has a student version as well which is awesome, because when I was a student the only credit cards available to me were the non points earning sort, like the Citi Clear card. The student version earns the same points as the adult version- so if you’re studying now, get this and start building your miles!

Yay or Nay: Yay, if you’re not earning high enough for one of the Altitude cards

DBS  Black Card

DBS Black American Express black_visa

  • Annual Fee: $192.60 (1 year fee waiver)
  • Income Req: $48,000 (Locals and foreigners)
  • Marketing Spiel: Get 5X points on Paywave transactions for the Visa version, equal to 1.2 miles per $1. Get 2X points on all transactions with the AMEX, or 0.8 miles per $1. Also, the card is black.
  • The catch: They’re just not very compelling cards at that income bracket, when for $50,000 annual income you could get the Altitude Cards which have superior miles earning potential
  • Sign up here 

Ah, the Black Card. Carefully marketed to evoke comparisons with The Black Card, otherwise known as the AMEX Centurion, the marketing sort of falls apart when you realise this is simply another garden variety credit card.

That doesn’t make it all bad, though. For the Visa version, Paywave transactions get you 1.2 miles per $1 until 31 Dec 2015, making it a ok card to have if you don’t meet the income requirement for the Altitude portfolio. But given that the Altitude cards require $50K min income vs $48K for the black series, you’d be in a very unique position to be one of those who can get a Black Card but not an Altitude one.

The AMEX version is not so useful- it earns 0.8 miles per $1 and takes up valuable space in your wallet. Avoid.

Oh, the Black Cards let you charter a boat at a somewhat discounted rate, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Yay or Nay: Nay to the Black Card Visa, because whatever it can do, the Altitude can do better, and for roughly the same income requirement. Nay to the Black Card AMEX, even if they released a Spinal Tap version.

Cashback Cards


  • Annual Fee: $38.52 (2 year fee waiver)
  • Income Req: Singaporeans: $30,000, Foreigners: $45,000
  • Marketing Spiel: Get cashback at everyday merchants including Sheng Siong, Comfort, Popular, SPC etc. Enjoy 5% cashback at dining and 3% cashback for groceries until 31 Dec 15
  • The catch: As with all cashback cards, minimum spend requirements and monthly caps on cashback earnings limit the overall value proposition
  • Sign up here 

My usual caveats about cashback cards apply here. I’m not a big fan of these things, because of the caps and the minimum spends required to get significant value out of them.

The Everyday Card was big when it first launched, and there was a period when I saw colleagues using it for pretty much everything. Why, I wondered, when cashback cards are effectively games with dice loaded in favour of the banks?

Turns out that POSB did a great job of marketing the card and who it partners with. It is an impressive list- day to day stalwarts like SPC, Sheng Siong, Watsons, Popular and Comfort taxi all offer varying rebates with the Everyday Card. Even better, from now till end of year, you can get a 5% rebate on dining and 3% rebate on groceries if you spend $500 a month min. This is, of course, capped at $50 for each category per month.

Yay or Nay: This is a good card for someone who has no interest in earning miles. If you monitor the categories you spend in carefully and don’t use this for anything else than the bonus categories (because you earn 0.3% for spend elsewhere) then you could get some mileage out of this. Not for me, but then again, I’m not everyone

Co-branded Cards

DBS NUSS Visa Card


  • Annual Fee: $192.60 (Waived as long as you’re an NUSS member)
  • Income Req: $30,000 for Singaporeans, $45,000 for Foreigners
  • Marketing Spiel: Earn 2X points on dining at NUSS F&B outlets
  • The catch: Outside of NUSS, there are absolutely no benefits at all to having this card
  • Sign up here 

I’m an NUSS member. It’s a great, affordable club that gives you the benefits of a country club at a fraction of the price. The DBS co-branded card, should be avoided. The sole benefit of this is earning 0.8 miles per $1 on NUSS F& B spend. I suppose there’s SOME benefit in this, in that normally your purchases would be charged to your NUSS account which you’d pay off at the end of the month via internet banking, thereby earning 0 miles. So net net you’re somewhat better off…

But even for someone as obsessive as I am, I just don’t dine at NUSS enough to justify going through the hassle of signing up for this and setting up a GIRO account.

Yay or Nay: Nay? If you’re that committed to getting 0.8 miles on a place you hardly dine at you need to start your own site cause you’re more of a fanatic than I am

DBS Takashimaya Cards


dbstaka2 dbstaka

  • Annual Fee: $64.20 for the Visa version with 2 year waiver, $192.60 for the AMEX version with 1 year fee waiver
  • Income Req: $30,000 for Singaporeans, $45,000 for Foreigners for the Visa version, $50,000 for the AMEX version
  • Marketing Spiel: Earn 5-6% rebates on spending at Taka, plus free parking
  • The catch: You can get much better value using the Citibank Rewards card at Taka, free parking is a joke
  • Sign up here 

So. Takashimaya. The place with unaffordable parking. They propose to give you a 6% rebate on spending in their department store. How do they work that out? For the AMEX version of this card, $10 spending at Takashimaya gives you 2  points, 100 of which can be redeemed for a $30 Takashimaya voucher. So for every $500 you spend, you get $30 back. It’s better than a kick in the crotch, but only marginally so.

With the same $500 spend on the Citibank Rewards card you’d be looking at 2,000 miles, which, even if you redeemed them at the quite abysmal economy class rates, would be perhaps $40 of value. If you redeemed them at the proper business class rates (like you should), then you’d get closer to $80.

Oh, and about that expensive parking? $120 of spending gets you a $3 top up to your cash card. Which, when you consider that 1 hour of parking at Taka costs $2.50-$3.60, is pretty much a kick in the crotch.

For the Visa version, you get 5% rebates in the form of vouchers and the same parking “privilege”.

I have absolutely no idea why the AMEX version has a higher fee and income requirement.

Yay or Nay: Nay, the Citibank Rewards card gives much better value at department stores

DBS Esso Mastercard


  • Annual Fee: $85.60 (1 year fee waiver)
  • Income Req: $30,000 for Singaporeans, $45,000 for Foreigners
  • Marketing Spiel: 17% off at Esso outlets, plus $70 in fuel vouchers for sign ups until 30 Sept
  • The catch: Nothing, really. There’s no reason not to take the $70 in free fuel. Or to spend any money on this card outside of Esso
  • Sign up here 

If you drive and pump with Esso, you can get 17% off your fuel purchases through this card. I don’t own a car, so I’ve not really been keeping up with what the best-in-class discount is on fuel. What I do know is that this is a further 7% off what other people would get at Esso. Apparently you earn 2.5% bonus Smiles points too, a concept which I can’t be bothered to wrap my head around.

But hello, what’s this? Till 30 Sept there’s a free money offer afoot! Sign up for the DBS Esso card and get $70 of free fuel vouchers. Remember that the 1st year fee waiver is active, so you get this effectively for free. I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly give my parents $70 in free fuel any day.

Yay or Nay: Yay, yay, yay, until 30 Sept.



  • Annual Fee: None, so long as you remain a SAFRA member
  • Income Req: $30,000 for Singaporeans, $45,000 for Foreigners (But how would foreigners become part of SAFRA?)
  • Marketing Spiel: 3% cash rebate on online and grocery bills
  • The catch: Cashback requires min spend of $500 and capped at $50 per month
  • Sign up here 

The SAFRA card straddles the line between a co-branded card and a cashback card, but it’s a poor card in either case. 3% rebates on online shopping and grocery bills are promised with a minimum spend of $500 per month. That’s hardly a benefit that should make you drop everything.

There is a promotion now when signing up for the card and spending $500 within 1 month of approval gets you a $50 grocery voucher, but that doesn’t meet my definition of free money. Free money means getting the money without having to do an outlay you wouldn’t otherwise have done.

Yay or Nay: Nay

DBS CapitaMall Card

credit_visa_capitacard prod-comparator-220x140-dbs-capitacard-mastercard

  • Annual Fee: $160.50 (2 year fee waiver)
  • Income Req: $30,000 for Singaporeans, $45,000 for Foreigners
  • Marketing Spiel: Get rebates of up to 15% at shops in CapitaMalls, earn free parking every month for 3 hours per day
  • The catch: Free parking requires a significant spend of $1,200 per month
  • Sign up here

I remember that this was the card my dad would tell my mum to put $800 on each month so we could get free parking at CapitaMalls. That, to me, is still a really good benefit, and probably one of the most compelling reasons to bite. Because there are so many CapitaMalls out there, odds are good you’d earn back a fair deal with 3 hours free  parking every day.

But of course, like all good things, it got ruined. $800 was increased by 50% to $1,200, with the added “enhancement” of privileged parking lots for $1,800 spend (aside: I’ve never understood how the privileged parking system works- what’s to stop some random guy from parking in that lot?). Put it this way- assume you visit the mall on both weekends. In 1 month, that’s 24 hours of free parking (8 weekends * 3 hours each day). Assume you’d be paying $2.40 an hour otherwise- $57.60 in total. Call it $60. $60 rebate on $1,200 is 5%. That’s fairly decent, if your assumptions hold true. Throw in a weeknight visit to the mall for dinner and you’d be even better off.

The rebates system on this card is up to 15%, which seems fairly hefty, until you realise it’s at “participating” merchants. I’ve not actually explored this in detail, but gut instinct tells me that (1) the list of merchants opting out will be fairly comprehensive (supermarkets at CapitaMalls definitely do not qualify for this rebate, getting 0.3% at most), and (2), “up to” 15% will translate into 5-10% in most places

Yay or Nay: Really conflicted here. The free parking has the potential to be really useful, but spending $1,200 on a card that earns little in the way of rebates outside of CapitaMalls is painful. I’m leaning towards nay, but your answer may vary depending on your individual shopping patterns.

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


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.


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)


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


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.


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.