Well color me confused. About a week ago it was all ashes and sackcloth as DBS stealthily uploaded a new set of T&C to its website. You can find a summary of the changes here, but long story short it added a lot of exceptions for what types of transactions could earn the additional 9X points (ie 3.6 miles) for a grand total of 0.4+3.6 (1X +9X)=4 miles per $1.
Now DBS’s rep has gone on the record on the HWZ forums as saying everything’s fine, nothing’s changed. Here’s the quote in full and the screenshots below in case it gets removed
Yes, there was an update to the T&Cs on our website on 7 June, however we have not made any changes to how additional bonus points for online purchases are awarded, the update was meant to provide greater clarity to all. As such, there was no need to send out service eDMs or SMS.
It’s an update to provide better clarity, but the way points are awarded for online purchases have not been changed.
Online purchases – the updated version leaves less room for misinterpretation
DBS positions this as a clarification rather than a policy change, but it’s quite clear from reading the T&C before and after that by the letter of the law, under the new T&C many of the transactions that traditionally qualified for the bonus 9X no longer qualify
DBS says that the way points are awarded for online transactions have not changed. Indeed, people on HWZ are reporting that their 9X for May is successfully posting (bonus points are posted on the 16th of the following month, remember). So it seems that if there was any effect, it will only be prospective, not retroactive.
So it’s prima facie reassuring that DBS says nothing has changed, but I don’t think you can really hold them to that if on 16th July your 9X bonus for June doesn’t post properly. I’m trying to figure out what DBS is doing here- why add these new terms if you don’t want to change anything?
My take: the only way to be sure is to see what happens on the 16th of July. That’s when the bonus points (or lack thereof) will come in for June’s transactions. Until then all this is speculation.
Update (9 Jun): Would like to draw your attention to the following comment by Christopher:
I called DBS earlier this afternoon to ask about the effective date of the above changes in the T & Cs. Twice. Here are the replies I received:
1. 1st CSO claimed that the T & Cs have always been like this ie. prepaid/insurance transactions etc were all prev excluded under the clause in the last line of the old T & Cs regarding excluded AXS/EZ-Link Reload transactions etc. and that they had just updated it to spell it out specifically. I pointed out that this was not the case. She proceeded to imply that it must have just been updated to reflect the current policy hence not a rel change. Again, I refuted this, saying that the T & Cs as of yesterday as available on their website imply that certain transactions (such as topping up prepaid cards) no longer qualify for 9x bonus points whereas they previously had. As such, this is a real change. She then said perhaps the bank hadn’t yet got around to updating its customers ie. us as this may have been just updated online only. I pointed out that well, I haven’t heard from DBS so..
2. She said she would check with the relevant department regarding the effective date of the new T & Cs and get back to me within 3 working days. From the gist of the entire conversation, it sounds like DBS was planning to just update the T & Cs without prior notice and AS SUCH I would believe that the new exclusions would apply as of YESTERDAY.
3. I called again half an hour later to check on the points accrued for my April transactions, verifying that yes, all EZ-LINK IMAGINE CARD transactions had posted their 9x bonus points on 14/15/16 May. The CSO verified that they had – I got ~3700 bonus 9x points posted on 14 May (go figure) – and that I would only be able to check on the status of my bonus 9x points for May transactions (which include 2k worth of top up for one last hurrah) on/after 15 June when they post. He claimed that, as such, there was no way for him to verify if May transactions (which would be excluded under today’s T & Cs) will be awarded the bonus 9x points or not.
In conclusion, we may just have to wait until the 15/16th of June for our answer, unless someone of higher client status with DBS can get through to their card department and get the answer straight from the horse’s mouth.
For a long time, one of the best cards to use for online spending was the gender-bending DBS Woman’s World Card (WWC), which allowed you to earn the equivalent of 4 miles per $1 on almost any online transaction. Despite its name, applications were open both men and women.
Although there was a cap on bonus earning of S$2,000 spending (or 8,000 miles) per month, most people who carefully managed their spend could clock up 96,000 miles in a year from $24,000 of spending, or enough to get a one way SQ suites ticket to Europe or the USA.
If you didn’t meet the $80,000 income requirement required for the DBS WWC, you could always get the regular Women’s Card, which would still have given you 2 miles per $1 on almost any online transaction, subject to the same S$2,000 cap.
DBS has just released a new set of T&C for our beloved WWC which changes the rules of the game. Note that these changes similarly apply to the regular Woman’s Card as well. For comparison’s sake, I have included the old T&C here as well.
No prizes for spotting the big difference between the terms before and after.
Here’s the good news- the DBS WWC is still the best card to use for most of your online transactions, like general online shopping, buying movie tickets, airline tickets, Amazon, online travel agents like Expedia/Orbitz etc.
But here’s the bad news- from a certain, unspecified start date (can’t believe the new T&C don’t say when they’re effective from), the following will not earn DBS points (i.e. miles)
Let’s go through the carnage shall we?
Payments via telephone and mail order
I would have thought these wouldn’t have qualified for bonus spend in the first place because when you give your credit card details over the phone the transaction is usually processed in an offline manner anyway.
Payments to government institutions
No town council fees, parking fines, library fines, road tax payment, ACRA registration fees etc.
Payments to financial institutions
No OANDA and other share trading account topups
Payments to insurance companies
No AIA, AXA, NTUC Income etc insurance payments. An exception might apply for Prudential policies paid under the DBS Recurring Bill Payment plan, see below for details.
Utility bill payments
No SP Services
No SGgives or Community Chest payments (I read this as one-time payments do not earn points. Recurring payments may still earn points, see below for discussion on DBS Recurring bill payments)
Payments of funds to prepaid accounts and merchants who are categorized as “payment services providers”
This is the one that worries me the most and has big implications because it means that the 4 miles per $1 on everything FEVO trick is dead. After the loss of the Imagine card, it seems that there currently does not exist a method of getting 4 miles on general spend (unless the HSBC Advance Visa allows prepaid top ups-anyone knows?)
Another worrying thing for me- does Paypal count as a payment service provider? An initial read of the T&C suggests yes. But I’ll need to investigate this point with customer service.
Payments to schools, hospitals, professional service providers and parking lots
No season parking renewal, international school fees, online hospital bills
Payments made via AXS and SAM online/ibanking bill payment transactions, EZ-Reload
This term was already in the old T&C, but it kills off the whole thread of questions we’ve been getting on whether you can use the AXS machine for income tax payment/utility payment/phone bill payment/other recurring bill payments. This also removes the possibility of getting points for your recurring EZ-Reload transactions.
Any other transactions determined by DBS from time to time
A deliberately vague term that gives DBS the leeway to exclude some of your transactions at their discretion. I really hope that they do not become liberal in the application of this term, because the wide powers it gives makes me uncomfortable.
My general analysis of the above tells me that DBS does not want to reward non-discretionary spending anymore. They want to reward you for your discretionary lifestyle spending. And from a business point of view that does make sense, no matter how annoying it is. For further analysis you might want to refer to the HWZ thread on the topic.
One caveat to the above- it is my understanding that if you are using DBS’s Recurring Bill Payment plan you will continue to earn points. Whether or not you will earn bonus points (ie the (9X on top of your 1X) I do not know though. Anyone using the recurring bill payment plan care to chime in?
Merchants covered under the recurring bill payment plan include
This is hardly the end of the world and I’m not going to get rid of my DBS WWC for now. (although if Paypal transactions are excluded that is a major loss for me already). I think it’s still useful for the rest of your online transactions, especially if you’re building the rest of your miles with DBS through its Altitude offerings. However, this development should make you take a long hard look at the HSBC Advance Visa as an alternative for your online spending.
Chin up everyone. Deals come and go. I’m sure something better will come along in the future.
cover photo: credit for the cover photo goes to onthesannyside, who used this image for a completely unrelated article on bad grammar in advertising. As a proud card-carrying grammar Nazi, I completely support his views. Irregardless, please do not revert to me with a list of all the grammatical errors in this post.
Premium Economy saver award seats can now be redeemed. They’re not cheap though, at ~80% the cost of a business saver award
The “full” award level has been removed, and anyone holding a “full” award ticket will be rebooked into a standard award and have the miles difference refunded to them. I have yet to meet anyone who has ever booked a full award
Europe has been combined from 2 award zones into 1. Naturally the higher of the 2 rates has been used, meaning that award prices to Amsterdam, Athens, Copenhagen and Rome will increase
You can no longer upgrade to business class from a full fare economy ticket on flights with a premium economy cabin. Only upgrades from premium economy to business will be permitted (from 1 Jun).
Guys I totally called it that SQ would market this as an overall improvement because they’re now allowing PY redemptions (yes I know everyone called it as well)
But overall the changes were nowhere as bad as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it still counts as a devaluation, but with the exception of Amsterdam, Athens, Copenhagen and Rome all other destinations retained their current redemption rates.
Let’s look at this in detail-
Allowing Premium Economy Redemptions
The move to allow premium economy redemptions in and of itself is welcome (the real problem is SQ maintaining its 1 cabin upgrade policy as we’ll touch on in a bit), but the rates are very steep
As you can see from this table, the cost of redeeming a premium economy saver is approximately 80% the cost of a business saver across the board
Zone (One way redemption rates for saver)
4: South China, HK & Taiwan
5: North China (BJ & SH)
6: South Asia (India, Sri Lanka Maldives & Bangladesh)
7: Japan & South Korea
9: Australia (ex Perth & Darwin) & NZ
10: Africa, ME and Turkey
12: USA (West Coast)
13: USA (East Coast)
14: South America (Sao Paulo)
So redemption rates for premium economy are closer to business class than economy. Which means that there’s really not much reason to redeem outright for premium economy instead of business, given the small gap in miles and big gap in comfort.
Removing the Full award level
Old unfunny joke on forums goes “they call it full award because only a fool would pay those prices”. But it’s true, you know. I have never understood what the purpose of the full award was, given that it costs an astonishing 315,000 miles to fly one-way to San Francisco in business class.
Random thought: does the removal of the full award level create an opportunity to get an award ticket on certain routes where there is no standard or saver awards available?
Everyone who has a confirmed full award ticket as of 24th May will have that changed to a standard ticket and the miles refunded, so if you’re looking at the infamous SQ25/26 route and there is only full award space available, this might be a way for you to nab a standard award (assuming you have enough KF miles to confirm a full award in the first place!)
One Europe Zone
SQ used to have 2 Europe redemption zones which have now been combined into 1. As you can see, the revised Europe zone uses the higher of the 2 rates
Europe 1 (Athens, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome)
Europe 2 (All else)
The revised European classification means it makes all the more sense to explore using Star Alliance partners to get to cities in Europe not served by SQ. You can read more about that here, suffice to say that the additional 12,000 miles involved in flying with a Star partner may be offset by the need not to buy a connecting ticket or worry about interline baggage issues.
I wonder if this has anything to do with SQ introducing the A350 to Amsterdam. SQ is generally loathe to allow cheap redemptions for their newest aircraft, as we saw from them not allowing saver award redemptions on their 2006 cabin products when they first launched for a few years.
No more upgrading from economy to business
The revised chart means that whenever a flight offers all 4 cabins (including PY), you cannot upgrade from economy to business class directly. You can only upgrade from economy to premium economy, and premium economy to business.
Let’s first see how the premium economy to business upgrade rates compare to the old economy to business upgrade rate. For the sake of space (and because I am pathologically lazy) I am only going to look at long haul routes where this kind of upgrade would make sense
Upgrade Y to J
Upgrade PY to J
9: Australia (ex Perth & Darwin) & NZ
10: Africa, Middle East and Turkey
12: USA (West Coast)
13: USA (East Coast)
14: South America (Sao Paulo)
Turkey looks like a potential sweet spot for upgrading from PY to J, with a 15% discount you’d spend 21,250 miles only. But the bigger savings are to be found in Zones 11-14, where the miles required for an upgrade are reduced by ~20,000.
Sadly the flip side of this is that you cannot upgrade from a full fare Y ticket to a business class seat anymore on the routes that you’ll really need it. Meaning that if your company has an economy-only policy, you’re really going to feel this change.
That is, unless you’re willing to pay the miles to upgrade from economy to premium economy…
Upgrade Y to PY
Zone 4: South China, Hong Kong & Taiwan
Zone 5: North China (Beijing & Shanghai)
Zone 6: South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Maldives & Bangladesh)
Zone 7: Japan & South Korea
Zone 9: Australia (ex Perth & Darwin) & NZ
Zone 10: Africa, ME and Turkey
Zone 11: Europe
Zone 12: USA (West Coast)
Zone 13: USA (East Coast)
Zone 14: South America (Sao Paulo)
Now unless your company is already paying I struggle to see why anyone would pay for full fare economy only to add on more miles for an otherwise marginal comfort upgrade. Because anyone who is travelling on their own dime would surely either (1) buy the cheapest non-upgradable economy fare there is or (2) outright buy a premium economy ticket.
I also do not understand why SQ doesn’t simply have 2 types of upgrades: from PY to J and Y to J, where you charge a bit of a premium. Other airlines can do that so why not SQ?
Some part of me think this all goes back to SQ’s “cabin protection” policy where they do not upgrade as far as possible to maintain the exclusivity of the premium cabins. It’s a silly policy but what are you going to do?
In the words of a wise and learned sage, “are we out of the woods?” For now, yes. I don’t think even SQ would have the cojones to do 2 devaluations in quick succession. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say the next 12-18 months the award chart will be stable. This is good news if you’re still saving up for a dream suites/first/business redemption.
So all in all, this is a devaluation but we should all be thankful because it could have been much , much worse.