Tag Archives: guestwriter

DASH-ing through the snow on a 4-mile-per-dollar sleigh…

Ho ho ho! It’s that time of the year again, and sounds of festive cheer are in the air. Or maybe that’s just the sound of holiday tunes being piped in stores. Whatever the case, hopefully this post can help put you in the holiday mood.

I’ve been trying out this mode of payment recently and have been successfully gaining 4 miles per dollar on it for some time now. Didn’t think to write about it earlier because I was pretty late to the party myself, it’s pretty troublesome, and I only see it as useful for Singtel users, but if there’s anything recent news has taught me, it’s there there are plenty of Singtel users in Singapore.

Also, what are MileLion readers if not brave folk ready to jump through hoops in order to maximise mileage gain?

MileLion Circus Charlie

What is (Singtel) Dash?

Dash can be a rather confusing product, mainly because it includes multiple services like a bank account, personal loans and insurance. What’s immediately relevant here is Singtel Dash, a mobile app [Android | iOS] that acts as a mobile wallet. Think of it like an EZ-Link card on your phone that you can use to make payments (though somewhat more limited).

The website states that it is accepted at “20,000 stores and counting”, so if you happen to see Dash being accepted where you buy stuff, you’re all set!
Dash merchants

(Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that – coverage can still pretty limited; I was disappointed to find out that FairPrice Finest outlets are excluded, for instance!)

If you’re a Singtel user and have an NFC-enabled phone (for most people – the more advanced Android phones), you can even get a Singtel Transit NFC SIM to use Dash to tap for public transport. You can also tap to pay at Dash merchants (regardless of telco), though iPhone users have to manually input a counter code, which slows down the process noticeably.

How do I get 4 miles per dollar via Dash?

Singtel Dash is essentially a prepaid account that you need to top up before use. Most people would do so directly from their bank accounts, but Singtel users also get the option of topping up via Singtel bill (edit: this is capped at $200 per monthly billing cycle).

This allows you to effectively channel a chunk of your spending to your Singtel bill, and since Singtel allows you to make payments via their website (or through their app), which codes as online spend…

Now, if only there were some way to get 4mpd on online spend… Hmm…

(You might also want to take a look at the crowdsourced Google Spreadsheet to check which cards have been successfully clocking miles on online payments to Singtel.)

Isn’t this a whole lot of trouble?

Yes, it is. This is especially so for me since I’m on an iPhone, and payments can be painfully slow when there’s a line behind me at the cashier. Still, we’ve gotta do what we gotta do, right?

I also prefer not to leave extra funds in the mobile wallet, so I have to top it up every time I make a Dash purchase. It’s not that difficult, but the extra steps can get annoying.

(To be frank, I’m still evaluating if I want to continue doing this in the long run. Still, it seems to be a more painless procedure for Android users, especially if you’re willing to leave funds in the mobile wallet.)

Other deals on Dash

One thing that’s kept me coming back to Dash is the abundance of promotional deals it’s been running. For instance, they’re currently offering 5% cashback on a number of merchants (e.g. FairPrice, taxis) – coupled with the 4 miles per dollar (which I value at about 2¢ each) I currently get about a 13% return of value on my Dash purchases.

This particular offer is set to last until 31 Dec 2016, though, so I’m not sure if that’ll still be the case come 2017.

Conclusion

If you happen to spend a fair bit of money at merchants that accept Dash as payment (e.g. FairPrice), this could be one way to gain 4mpd on that expenditure, if you’re a Singtel user (edit: up to $200 per month). The additional promotional deals don’t hurt, either.

Admittedly, it’s rather troublesome, especially if you’re an iPhone user. However, there’s no set up cost, so maybe you’d like to get the app [Android | iOS] and see if you think it’s worth the effort?

Hotel Review: Conrad Bangkok (Deluxe Suite)

Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.


So I recently stayed at Conrad Bangkok, booked during one of the Hilton 40% flash sales earlier in the year. The rate worked out to be about S$150 per night, which though pricier than many other places in the city, works out to be a pretty good deal for what you get.

The jury’s still out on which of the Hilton properties in Bangkok is the best to stay in, but the general consensus on the Conrad is that it offers a solid service soft product and a central location, though it’s a bit of a walk (about 10min) from the nearest BTS station, and is starting to show signs of age. I agree with this assessment, but still rather enjoyed my previous stay and was hoping I would be rewarded for my loyalty in this repeat visit. Boy, was I ever!

The hotel lobby was all decked out for the festive season, with a gigantic Christmas tree and a Christmas market-themed booth selling holiday snacks.

1-lobby 1-lobby-market

Perhaps the decor had made an impact on the generosity of the hotel staff as well – I had originally been upgraded to a Executive King room (from my basic King room) and decided to try my luck by asking if any better room was available. The agent clicked around on her terminal for a bit and proceeded to inform me that they would usually only upgrade a Diamond member up to an Executive Suite, but since those were already full they’d decided to give me a taste of the Deluxe Suite instead.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was akin to hitting the hotel upgrade jackpot. To give an idea of how large the room is, I’ve highlighted (and labelled) it in the floor plan below:

1-room-layout

The Room

It started becoming clear to me that this wasn’t quite an ordinary room when, upon entering, I was greeted by a decorative piece immediately to the right of the corridor. To the left was a toilet. One without any shower or bath facilities…

So apparently the room came with its very own guest toilet.

2-entrance 2-guest-toilet

The living area was as large as many hotel rooms, sporting a sofa set, a dining table and a work desk.

3-living-rm-a

3-living-rm-b

Welcome amenities comprised some fruits (dragonfruit and oranges), chocolates and some rice crackers.

7-welcome

Interestingly enough, it also came with a PS3 which I fiddled with for a few minutes before figuring that I hadn’t come all the way to Bangkok to play console games.

(Well, not old pixelated console games, anyway – it was hooked up to the TV via old-school RGB cables.)

7-ps3

The bedroom, yet another standard-hotel-sized room, offers a spacious non-claustrophobia-inducing area with a king bed, even more seating options, and yet another TV set. If you so desired, it’s probably possible to stick to this area for the bulk of your stay without really making use of the living area.

4-bedroom-a

4-bedroom-b

As is common in many Conrad properties worldwide, Conrad Bangkok provides guests with a complimentary stuffed animal – an elephant, in this case. There are a number of colour variants, so you can have fun collecting them all if you like (or you can also try requesting for them).

6-elephant-toy(Gryphon not included)

I found it rather interesting to see that other than the standard (for Western hotels) copy of the Bible, the bedside drawer was also stocked with a copy of Conrad Hilton’s Be My Guest. Didn’t really think to take a look, but Amazon reviews are actually pretty good!

7-books

Moving on, you would pass a walk-in closet…

5-closet

…with remarkably thin-soled bedroom slippers. A little disappointing, those.

7-slippers

Next up, the washing area, decked with dual sinks…

5-sinks

…and finally, the bathroom.

6-bathroom

The bathtub is designed such that you can enjoy your bath with full access to a view of the outside world, should you so desire. That’s great on the top floor of a tall building, but I’m not sure how practical that is on lower levels – but hey, whatever floats your boat, yah?

6-bathtub

Yet another Conrad toy – a rubber bath elephant (kinda like a rubber duckie, only elephantine). Again, there’re a few colour variants – gotta catch them all, am I right?

6-elephant-bath

Being on the top (32nd) floor, the view is pretty impressive – although not being particularly familiar with Bangkok, it kinda became a blur of miscellaneous buildings after awhile…

7-room-view

Looking down, you can see a balcony on the floor below. I’m guessing it belongs to one of the terrace suites?

7-room-view-terrace

Breakfast

I opted to have breakfast at Café@2, the restaurant on the second level, rather than the executive lounge. I’d tried breakfast at the lounge the last time round, and (as is typical) the lounge offerings are more limited as compared to the restaurant, though you do get to eat in greater privacy.

9-breakfast-a

The spread’s pretty good, and the fare’s rather tasty, too. I was particularly impressed that they had a carving station (albeit for roast ham, which I’m not really a big fan of).

9-breakfast-b 9-breakfast-c

Suffice to say, there’s enough food to be had so you won’t get sick of it all that quickly.

9-breakfast-d 9-breakfast-e

Executive lounge

The Executive lounge on the 29th floor offered a large pleasant environment to relax and grab some free food.

8-lounge-a

There’s evening cocktail with canapés…

8-lounge-b

…where you can help yourself to hot food, snacks, cheese…

8-snacks-a 8-snacks-b 8-cheese

…which make for a pretty good pre-dinner snack.

8-snacks-c

There’s also afternoon tea…

8-lounge-tea-b

…with more snacks and desserts on offer.

8-lounge-tea-a 8-lounge-tea-c

I actually preferred the view from the lounge over what I saw from my room – I guess it just faces a more interesting direction?

8-lounge-view

I really enjoy the complimentary food offerings at Conrad Bangkok, but I’ve found that a common problem with nice hotel food is that it usually means there’s even nicer food outside the hotel – Bangkok fits this pattern pretty well. It’s possible to subsist on just breakfast, tea and evening canapés, but… why would you want to, really?

Afterthoughts

The Conrad website states the Deluxe Suite as occupying 1127 sq. ft., which is already larger than many residences back in Singapore, so for two nights it kinda felt like I was in a new home. It’s also the second-priciest room available (after the 2561 sq. ft. Presidential Suite), so I definitely lucked out with my 6-level upgrade.

This almost makes me want to go back to try my luck once more with the room upgrade lottery, though even if I don’t manage to score a suite, I’ll still be pretty satisfied with the food, lounge and level of service available at this property.

The Case for Hilton HHonors Gold

Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.


To begin, yet another PSA: The Hilton group is currently having a 40% flash sale across Asia Pacific. The sale ends at the end of 9 Dec 2016 SGT and is valid for stays completed from 8 Dec 2016 to 17 Apr 2017. This represents great value, especially if coupled with ongoing points promotions (currently until 31 Jan 2017). It’s a great time to book some regional travel or staycations!

apac-dec-flash-sale

Anyway – once upon a time, when I was first introduced on the MileLion Facebook page, I was referred to as ‘a Hilton man’. It’s been almost three months since, so I figure it’s about time for me to get to work on bringing balance to the Force coverage of competing hotel loyalty programmes on this site.

First off, a confession: The number one reason I’m currently concentrating on Hilton properties is really to maximise the use of my Diamond status obtained through the insanely generous but now-defunct status match offer. I’ve also not been patronising the other major chains (e.g. SPG) much so I might not actually know what I’m missing!

That said, I was pretty happy back when I was a HHonors Gold member, and still recommend the programme to friends considering pledging their allegiance to a particular hotel chain. For me, it really boils down to three main factors: easy maintenance, decent benefits and generous bonuses.

Easy Maintenance (for VI cardholders)

VI HHonors Gold

I don’t travel for work very often, so I actually find it difficult to earn status with any hotel programme. Thank goodness for fast track / status match options! Aaron’s previously covered various options available for a number of programmes – my favourite remains the 2 stays (or 4 nights) fast track with a Visa Infinite.

The nice thing about this option is that you can trigger it even before your current status expires – for example, if it’s expiring in Mar 2017, it’s possible to kickstart the VI fast track process now such that you have Gold seamlessly extended until Mar 2018.

A VI is not necessarily the easiest card to apply for, but if you value the benefit(s) enough it might be worth considering tying up some assets with the issuing bank in order to get one.

(This is in fact the main reason I keep my CIMB Visa Infinite around. Before 2016 they actually used to grant Gold status instantly without the need for stays – seems like Hilton’s decided they have more than enough status-holding guests now, though!)

Decent Benefits

HHonors tiers
If you compare the fast track options available out there, you might notice that it’s actually easier to attain SPG Gold (and LeClub Gold if you’re willing to pay), but a comparison of these tiers reveals that HHonors Gold is the only one of the lot worth bothering with (to me, at least).

The Points Guy compared different programmes and tiers some time last year and not all that much has changed since then – Hilton and Marriott are often considered to have the best mid-tier programmes. I’ve broken down the key features of the programmes we have accelerated access to below, omitting common features like accelerated point gain and late check-out that they all have:

  Qualification Requirements Express Fast Track Key Benefits
Marriott Rewards Gold 26 stays/50 nights Link existing SPG Gold account
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary lounge access
  • Room upgrade – includes executive level and suites
Hilton HHonors Gold 20 stays/30 nights With Visa Infinite, stay 4n or 2 stays at Hilton properties within 90 days (For Conrad, Hilton & DoubleTree)

  • Complimentary continental breakfast
  • Room upgrade – includes executive level
LeClub AccorHotels Gold 30 nights Pay for ibis Business Card for 90 euros (less VAT)
  • Room upgrade (next best available room)
Starwood Preferred Guest Gold 10 stays/25 nights Payment with World Mastercard, 1 stay in Asian Pacific property
  • Room upgrade – no suites

It’s not quite comparing apples to apples – you can see that it typically takes more stays to qualify for HHonors Gold than SPG Gold, for instance. Still, since these are the membership tiers that are available for fast track, it makes sense to compare these (relatively) easily attained membership tiers and see what nets you the best benefits.

To me, the main differentiator between HHonors and SPG Gold is the confirmed free breakfast, and the possibility of being upgraded to executive levels (with executive lounge access). While the latter is not guaranteed by any chance, a fair number of properties tend to be pretty generous and allow access to Golds as well as Diamonds (it helps to do some research beforehand).

I’ve not really tried Marriott or AccorHotels yet as I’ve found these chains to be have fewer properties in the places I tend to go. Although – with the current option to link your SPG to Marriott accounts, this puts Marriott Gold in relatively easy reach. The listed benefits look great and I’m rather inclined to give the chain a try – it probably makes sense to look at the areas you’re likely to travel to and check the availability of properties in those regions.

Generous Bonuses

jhhonorsdriftwood

HHonors Gold members get an additional 25% HHonors points from room bookings. Assuming you have set your account to the Points + Points earning style, that’s a total of 175% of the usual earning rate, or 17.5 HHonors points per US dollar spent. Using OMAAT’s 0.4¢ valuation of HHonors points, that’s about a 7% return in value on your hotel spend.

Over the past year in particular, HHonors has been running various promotions that accelerate the accrual of HHonors Points. I’ve highlighted some of these before – but right now, some of the ongoing offers (which can be stacked) include:

If all the stars align and you manage to book a stay in the Asia Pacific region on the Hilton app and pay with an eligible Visa card, you’ll net quadruple points on top of what you usually get, or 47.5 points per USD spent. How does a 19% rebate sound to you? Because that’s what it effectively amounts to – and that’s not including the bonus 5000 points (a US$20 value)!

These bonus points really go a long way towards redeeming additional free nights, and I hope these offers continue through 2017…

Conclusion

There are only so many hotel status tiers available for fast track in our local market, and of the lot, I find that Hilton HHonors Gold is a solid choice.

More recently, Marriott Rewards Gold has become a tempting option since it can now effectively be matched from SPG Gold. Perhaps I’ll reevaluate the situation when my Diamond status finally lapses? For now, I’m probably sticking with Hilton.