In all my time writing The Milelion, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a period as busy as the next 7 days.
There’s going to be some major changes to the miles and points game in Singapore, and with T&C updates, category changes, program devaluations, and soon-to-end promotions, it’s easy to miss something out. So here’s a consolidated list of what’s happening- be sure to swap out saved credit cards, lock in bookings, and frontload spending as needed.
|Deals ending 29 February 2020|
|In addition to the changes below, the following deals and points sales will be ending on 29 Feb 2020. Be sure to check them out:
29 February: Last day for OCBC 90N points bonuses
After an amazing six months, the OCBC 90N’s launch promotions will be drawing to an end. No more 4 mpd on foreign currency spending, air tickets, entertainment subscriptions, and duty-free shopping. No more 8 mpd on hotel and OTA bookings.
Instead, from 1 March 2020, OCBC 90N cardholders will earn a flat 1.2/2.1 mpd on local/foreign currency spending.
It’s not all bad; they’ll still enjoy no conversion fees, a relatively small transfer block of just 1,000 miles and non-expiring points. Still, you’re going to want to swap out your cards in order to optimize your miles collection strategy.
29 February: Last day for UOB PRVI Miles 4.4 mpd on SimplyGo (Extended to 30 June)
|Update: This offer has been extended to 30 June 2020|
UOB has been offering 4.4 mpd on SimplyGo rides (capped at S$80 per month) paid with the UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard and Visa since October 2019. That offer was originally set to end on 31 December 2019, but received an extension to 29 February 2020.
There’s no sign there’ll be a further extension, so assume that from 1 March 2020 the earn rate reverts to 1.4 mpd. That’s not terrible, in and of itself, and is one of the higher general spending rates.
However, you could switch to the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard for 1.5 mpd instead. Alternatively, those with the HSBC Revolution could earn 2 mpd on the first S$200 charged each month to EZ-Reload, the top-up service for EZ-link cards.
Also remember that the 3 mpd on Klook transactions with UOB PRVI Miles cards ends on 29 February 2020.
1 March: AMEX increases FCY Fee to 2.95%
Despite their reputation as a “high fee” platform, AMEX actually has the lowest FCY fee in the market at a mere 2.5%. They even mention this occasionally in their eDMs.
From 1 March 2020, that fee increases to 2.95%– still among the lowest in the market, although obviously not as good as before.
|UOB||3.1% (3.25% from 9 Mar 20)||3.25%||UOB PRVI Miles MC/Visa, UOB Reserve, KrisFlyer UOB: 3.25%|
|AMEX||N/A||2.5% (2.95% from 1 Mar 20)|
1 March: New AMEX rewards exclusion categories: GrabPay top-ups, insurance, SPC
In addition to the increase in FCY fees, AMEX is adding new rewards exclusion categories. From 1 March 2020, you’ll no longer earn points on:
- Bill payments and all transactions via SingPost SAM kiosks and mobile app
- Payments to insurance companies (except payments made for insurance products purchased through American Express authorized channels)
- Payments to SPC service stations
- Payments for the purpose of GrabPay top-ups
You can currently earn 3.2/3.1 mpd with the KrisFlyer Ascend/KrisFlyer Credit Card on the first S$200 of Grab spending each month, including top-ups. So be sure to do one last burst of fire before the door shuts on this for good.
As an aside, AMEX has told me that although spending on these categories will no longer earn points, it will still count towards the minimum spending requirement for the purposes of sign up bonuses.
1 March: Tighter restrictions on Citi Prestige 4th Night Free benefit
The 4th Night Free (4NF) benefit is one of the biggest draws of the Citi Prestige card, and if used diligently, can more than cover the S$535 annual fee.
Unfortunately, Citi is tightening the rules governing the benefit. From 1 March 2020, you won’t be able to use the 4NF benefit on:
- Full and Half board room stays
- Single and multi-room suites
- Home & Farm Stays
- Serviced apartments
- Packaged stay and member rates, such as air and hotel, hotel and car rental, hotel and meals bundled promotions
My main issue with this is how nebulously-defined the terms are. Does it affect “all suite” hotels? What about hotels which have certain rooms categorized as “villas”? Will extended-stay chains like Element run afoul of the “serviced apartments” clause? There’s just way too much ambiguity here, and my fear is that overzealous CSOs will spy trigger words like “villa” or “suite” and refuse to make the booking.
From 1 March 2020, cardholders will also need to fully prepay for the entire stay at the time of booking. I don’t know whether this means only non-refundable rates can be booked, or whether Citi will make arrangements to charge your card ahead of time for a “pay at checkout rate” (no idea how that’s going to work). I imagine we’ll get some data points in the Citi Prestige chat shortly.
2 March: GrabRewards Devaluation
Grab is taking the sword to the GrabRewards program from 2 March 2020, which will see earning rates cut by up to 60%, and award costs increase by up to 40%.
- Burn all your GrabRewards points (assuming you want to redeem GrabFood and Grab ride vouchers)
- Frontload any large GrabPay purchases
- Earn or re-qualify for elite status
Good thing we have Gojek around to keep things in check.
4 March: Marriott category changes
Marriott announced their annual category changes for 2020, which take effect for bookings made from 4 March 2020. This year we’re seeing 29% of properties changing categories; 7% are decreasing in price while 22% are increasing.
That sounds bad on the surface, but the negative impact is mainly confined to properties in the USA. Those travelling in Asia Pacific may even see reductions in prices, as I mentioned in my analysis. For example, the Fairfield and Four Points in Bali drop to Category 2, the St Regis Kuala Lumpur drops to Category 5, and the Taipei Marriott drops to Category 4.
If your property is going up a category, you’ll be able to lock in the current price if you make a booking before 4 March 2020. However, any changes to the reservation (e.g date changes) made on/after 4 March 2020 will attract the new prices. If your property is going down a category, then you can request a refund of the difference in points on/after 4 March 2020.
Remember: this has nothing to do with when you stay, this has all to do with when you book.
Looking slightly further out, UOB will increase the FCY fee on its cards from 3.1% to 3.25% on 9 March 2020. This mainly affects the UOB Visa Signature, UOB Lady’s Card and UOB Preferred Platinum Visa; the UOB PRVI Miles is already charging 3.25%.
Some of these changes may seem grim, but remember, the miles and points game is all about being adaptable. Promotions end, T&Cs change and programs devalue, but stay on your toes and you’ll still be able to get maximum value.