Tag Archives: loyalty

Breaking down the Grab Rewards program

I’ve always considered myself to be more of an Uber man just out of habit, but because of the recent devaluation of their partnership with SPG (1 point per US$2 when not staying in a Starwood hotel, vs US$1 previously, 2 points per US$1 when staying in a Starwood hotel, vs 2/3/4 per US$1 depending on elite status), I feel less obliged to put all my transport spending with them.

In any case, when I’m paying with my own money I’ll always do a quick comparison between Grab and Uber to see who’s cheaper (my biggest annoyance with the Grab app is it forces you to turn on location services, whereas Uber does not).

One big advantage that Grab has over Uber in Singapore is the presence of a rewards program, which I’m going to attempt to explain here.

How Grab Rewards works

For every $1 you spend with Grab, you get 1 point.

However, there are ways of accelerating your earnings. There’s currently a promotion with GrabCar/GrabTaxi where you earn

  • 8X points when you pay with cash (seriously, does anyone who uses this app pay with cash?)
  • 16X points when you pay with your credit card via GrabPay.

For GrabShare/JustGrab, you earn

  • 15X points when you pay with cash
  • 30X points when you pay with Grabpay

Effective rebates

What does that work out to in terms of rebates?

As per the Grab rewards catalogue you need

  • 2,200 points for a $5 Grab voucher
  • 4,200 points for a $10 Grab voucher
  • 6,000 points for a $15 Grab voucher
  • 7,400 points for a $20 Grab voucher
  • 9,000 points for a $25 Grab voucher

(The amount of points needed decreases as your status with Grab increases (see next section). Amounts shown here are for a base-level member)

Assuming the $1= 1 point base rate, the effective rebate is ~0.2-0.3%. But of course the base rate is not meant to be the “regular” rate. I suspect that Grab will have a series of ongoing points promotions, tweaking the bonus points to drive (see what I did there) users to pick one option over another. For example, it’s trying to encourage riders to pick its new JustGrab option, which is why it’s offering higher points earning. As Grab diversifies into new offerings, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the incentive structure shift accordingly.

click to enlarge

Where GrabCar/GrabTaxi is concerned, you earn a rebate of 3.6-4.4% assuming you pay via credit card. For JustGrab/GrabShare, your rebate is 6.8-8.3%. if you pay via credit card.

Based on my inexpert opinion, any rebate >5% is not financially sustainable in the long term. My guess is that Grab is taking a hit on this program to drive adoption and loyalty, and further down the road we’ll see earnings closer to the 3-5% rebate mark. So take advantage while it lasts!

Grab Status

As you take more and more rides with Grab, your status in the Grab Rewards program will increase.

  • At the 3,000 point mark, you hit Silver
  • At the 9,000 point mark, you hit Gold
  • At the 19,000 point mark, you hit Platinum

I believe that both base and bonus points count towards status earning. To me, the main advantage that elite status has is the ability to redeem cash vouchers for fewer points.

If you were a Platinum member, you could redeem a $5 voucher for 1,900 points and $10 for 3,600. This implies a higher rebate.

Points Expiry

Grab splits the year into 2 periods for the purposes of points expiry. The first rewards period runs from 1 Jan to 30 June, and the second from 1 July to 31 Dec.

Any points earned in one rewards period expire at the end of the 2nd. So the 100 points I earn on 1 Jan 2017 and 30 June 2017 will expire on 31 Dec 2017.

I’m guessing this won’t be that big a deal for someone who is using Grab regularly, as I imagine the rewards program is meant to encourage.

Overall thoughts

There really isn’t anything to compare to here, because Uber has no loyalty program (no, I don’t consider Uber VIP to be a loyalty program). Assuming Grab and Uber come out to be about the same price, I’d probably switch over to Grab just to get the points.

EDIT: Actually, come to think of it, there is something to compare this to- CabRewards, the program run by Comfort. You earn 1 Cabpoint for every $1 of spend (5X points during your birthday month), and 1000 cab points get you a $5 voucher. That’s a 0.5% rebate. And you need to wait 14 working days for your voucher to be mailed to you. And they wonder why taxis are dying…

My friend raised a good point in that if your job allows you to expense taxis, you’re better off taking Grab and accumulating the points for your personal use.

Leaders Club takes back free memberships

DARKNESS.

NO PARENTS.

CONTINUED DARKNESS.

The spate of good news just continues. So those of you who signed up for a free membership in the Leaders Club should have received an email this morning that looks something like this.

These things happen. I certainly hope no one was actually planning to stay at an LHW property, but those of you who managed to get Sixt Platinum status through this deal shouldn’t worry too much. I’d be very surprised if the Sixt and LHW systems were integrated enough to result in a cancellation of your Platinum status.

In theory this offer was open to holders of Diners Club cards, and if you’re a bona fide member I suppose you might be able to make a case if you really wanted to. That said, it could be that the offer was only open to US-based holders of Diners cards or some other segmentation, so don’t expect too much.

Well, easy come easy go.

Plaza Premium launches loyalty program, Citi Prestige and HSBC VI holders take note

Plaza Premium is a contract lounge operator that has more than 140 lounges across 35 airports in 16 countries. The quality of contract lounges can vary greatly, but Plaza Premium is generally one of the better ones- their new lounge in Hong Kong, for example, wouldn’t look out of place for a top tier airline.

Plaza Premium has partnered with Arrture to start its own free-to-join loyalty program where you earn points every time you visit a Plaza Premium lounge. Note that although there are 140+ Plaza Premium lounges, not all are currently participating in this loyalty program. 37 currently are (including, importantly, the one in Singapore) and you can see the full list here.

The program is still in its infancy, but right now the deal is that you earn 100 points every time you visit a Plaza Premium Lounge, and once you hit 2,000 points you can redeem a free Plaza Premium Lounge coupon.  As per their website, they plan to offer other redemption options in the future. At the very worst you could gift that coupon to someone else. You can’t sign up for Arrture online, unfortunately, as you need to pick up a physical form from a participating Plaza Premium lounge.

Why is this interesting? Because Plaza Premium lounges can be accessed through the Priority Pass program, and a lot of miles earning credit cards in Singapore will offer a handful of free visits a year.

Not too long ago I did an article on credit card lounge access. Here’s a recap of who gives you what

Card No of Free Visits Subsequent Visit Guest Visit
Citibank Prestige Unlimited N/A Free
Citibank Premiermiles 2 per annum US$27 US$27, however 2 free visits can be shared between guest and cardholder
DBS Altitude (Visa only) 2 per 12 month membership period US$27 US$27, however the 2 free visits can be shared between guest and cardholder
CIMB Visa Infinite 3 per year US$27 US$27
ANZ Travel Card 2 per quarter with S$10,000 spend N/A N/A
ANZ Signature Priority Banking Visa Infinite 2 lounge passes with min S$5,000 spend in a month N/A N/A
Standard Chartered Visa Infinite 6 per year

(Unlimited if you have the Priority Banking version of the SCB VI)

S$38 S$38

(US$27 if you have the Priority Banking version of the SCB VI)

HSBC Visa Infinite Unlimited N/A S$35
OCBC Voyage 2 per 12 month membership period, unlimited visits to Plaza Premium Lounges till 30 Sept 16  (Thanks Jey for pointing this out!) US$27 US$27
OCBC Elite World 2 per 12 month membership period US$27 US$27
Diners Cards 1 free visit to Diners Club partnered airport lounges from Apr-March Fees apply Guest fees apply
Krisflyer Ascend 4 vouchers for selected SATS and Plaza Prem. Lounges per membership year N/A Voucher can be used for a guest as well
UOB JCB Card Unlimited access to JCB-partnered airport lounges till 31 Mar 17 except in Singapore N/A Guest fees chargeable
Maybank Horizon Platinum Visa 1x Access available with min S$400 spend on airtickets within 3 months of charge. Lounges in SG, JB, KL and HK S$42 Guest fees chargeable @ 20% discount to S$42

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Image result for hsbc visa infiniteImage result for citibank prestige singapore

If you hold a HSBC Visa Infinite or Citibank Prestige card, you get unlimited visits to Priority Pass lounges. Therefore, even if you already have lounge access elsewhere, it might be worth the 5 minutes dropping by the Plaza Premium lounge in T1 every time you depart SIN just to register a visit (as per the T&C, both paid visits and complimentary visits via your credit card issuer count towards points earning).

I personally don’t think the current reward (20 visits= 1 free visit) is that exciting, but I’m keen to see what additional rewards they add to this program. So I would start building my points balance regardless, if I had a card with unlimited lounge access. Obviously, if your credit card only comes with limited visits per year you might be wiser to save those visits for when you really need them.

I see what Plaza Premium is doing here and it’s really quite clever. They know that credit cards which come with unlimited lounge access tend to be top tier ones, owned by people who probably have lounge access of their own already (through flying premium cabins or airline loyalty programs). Since Plaza Premium earns a fee every time someone Priority Passes their way into the lounge, it would make sense for them to encourage such individuals to start utilizing the visits they would otherwise not bother to make.

Too bad I can’t justify paying the annual fees for either the Citibank Prestige or HSBC VI, or I’d be making a lot of trips to Terminal 1…

(HT: Head for Points)

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.