The DBS Insignia is the crown jewel in DBS’s card portfolio. It’s strictly invite-only, carries a S$3,210 annual fee, and offers up to a S$1 million credit limit. You know, for your regular Friday night out.
The benefits and qualification criteria for these cards are usually shrouded in secrecy, but thanks to the contributions of Milelion readers, we can now take a peek behind the curtain. Are these really worth the jaw-dropping cost of membership?
|The DBS Insignia may not have the best travel benefits (assuming you’re not an Asia Treasures member), but with the lowest annual fee of its segment, 100,000 miles and two free luxury hotel nights a year, could potentially offer the best value.|
|The good||The bad|
|As with every super premium card, there are bound to be some unpublished and ad-hoc benefits. If you’re familiar with these, do share them in the comments below.|
How do you qualify for a DBS Insignia?
To get a DBS Insignia, simply walk into your neighbourhood POSB branch and request one.
You’ll then be told that to qualify for an invitation, you need to earn at least S$500,000 a year or have a Treasures Private Client relationship with DBS (min AUM: S$1.5M).
In the emails I’ve seen from RMs, some additional information is requested to facilitate an “invitation review”. Namely, they want to know:
- Name of Company, Length of service and Designation
- Professional achievements/roles (i.e. Chairman of Singapore Chamber of Commerce etc.)
- Premium credit cards, cars, yacht and country club memberships (i.e. Amex Centurion, Porsche, One15 member, Exotic car club member etc.)
So it’s kind of like cheerleading tryouts, only with more Porsche.
That said, I find it hard to believe they’d turn down someone making S$500,000 a year just because he/she didn’t own an exotic car, so I’m guessing this information is used in cases where the applicant falls short of the income requirement.
DBS Insignia Basics
|Income Req.||Annual Fee||Miles from Annual Fee||FCY Transaction Fee|
|Local Earn||FCY Earn||Special Earn||Points Validity|
|1.6 mpd||2.0 mpd||N/A||No expiry|
The DBS Insignia is a card that literally has your name on it, laser-etched onto the metal cardface. DBS proudly claims this to be the world’s first metal card with a Paywave function- other metal cards (like the AMEX Platinum Charge) “cheat” by gluing on a plastic backing.
Cardholders pay a non-waivable annual fee of S$3,210, and receive 50,000 DBS Points (100,000 miles) for paying the annual fee each year. This yields a CPM figure in between the Citi ULTIMA and the UOB Reserve.
Insignia cardholders earn 1.6 mpd on local spending and 2.0 mpd on overseas spending. The local earn rate is as high as it gets in Singapore, but the overseas rate lags behind. You could do better with the OCBC 90N (2.1 mpd), OCBC VOYAGE (2.3 mpd), UOB PRVI Miles/Reserve (2.4 mpd) and the BOC Elite Miles (3.0 mpd), for example.
Points earned on the DBS Insignia do not expire, and there’s no conversion fee when transferring them to your FFP. DBS Points can be transferred to KrisFlyer, Asia Miles, Qantas Frequent Flyer, and Air Asia BIG.
(DBS Points: Miles)
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1:2|
Complimentary 2 nights at selected luxury hotels
S$3,210 is a lot of money to pay for a card, but the DBS Insignia offers a recurring gift of two free nights each year at selected luxury hotels around the world. The current list includes:
- Alila Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Alila Anji, Zhejiang, China
- Alila Manggis, Bali
- Alila Seminyak, Bali
- Studios at Alila Seminyak, Bali
- Alila Ubud, Bali
- COMO The Treasury, Perth Australia
- COMO Uma Paro, Bhutan
- COMO Uma Punakha, Bhutan
- COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, Thailand
- COMO Point Yamu Phuket, Thailand
- The Banjaran Hotspring Retreat
- Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, China
- Six Senses Samui, Koh Samui, Thailand
- Six Senses Krabey Island, Cambodia
- Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam
- Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang, Vietnam
- Evason Ana Mandara, Nha Trang, Vietnam
- Signiel Seoul, Korea
- The Reverie Saigon, Vietnam
- The PuXuan Hotel and Spa, Beijing, China
- The PuLi Hotel & Spa, Shanghai, China
- LohKah Hotel & Spa, Xiamen, China
- The Residence, Dhigurah Island, Maldives
- The Residence, Falhumaafushi Island, Maldives
- The Residence Bintan, Indonesia
- Spa Village Resort Tembok, Bali, Indonesia
- Cameron Highlands Resort, Malaysia
- The Majestic Malacca, Malaysia
- Pangkor Laut Resort, Perak, Malaysia
- Tanjong Jara Resort, Terengganu, Malaysia
- Gaya Island Resort, Sabah, Malaysia
- The Gainsborough Bath Spa, United Kingdom
The value of this benefit depends on where you stay, but if redeemed at the right places (ahem Maldives ahem) could be in excess of S$1,000 per night, or S$2,000 total. Additional nights can be added on at 10-15% off the best available rate- not cheap for sure, but if you’re even considering paying for a night at one of these properties then I don’t think price is a factor for you.
Club at the Hyatt membership
Insignia cardholders enjoy a complimentary Club at the Hyatt membership, which grants exclusive dining and accommodation privileges at the Grand Hyatt Singapore and other participating Hyatt properties around the globe.
A Club at the Hyatt membership normally costs S$298 for the card-only version, or S$448 for the card and a pack of dining vouchers worth S$220. The version that Insignia members receive seems to be somewhere in between:
- Up to 50% off dining (depending on the number of guests and excludes beverages)
- High tea for two persons (on weekdays only)
- Dining vouchers valued at S$120
- “The Shop” voucher valued at S$50
- 10% off homemade items & cakes at the mezza9 shop
- Special Club at the Hyatt room rates (excluding Canada, Carribean and USA)
- 30% off dry cleaning, pressing and laundry service with Club at the Hyatt card
- 10% off special events organised by the hotel
Discounts are available at all of the Grand Hyatt Singapore’s restaurants, namely StraitsKitchen, mezza9, Pete’s Place, Oasis, and 10 Scotts. The structure of the dining discounts should be familiar to anyone who’s used the AMEX Love Dining benefit:
- 1 adult diner 15% discount
- 2 adult diners 50% discount
- 3 adult diners 33% discount
- 4 adult diners 25% discount
- 5 adult diners 20% discount
- 6 adult diners and above 15% discount
These discounts can also be enjoyed at participating Hyatt properties outside of Singapore, but the catch is that you have to be staying at the hotel in order to enjoy them.
Club at the Hyatt members also receive discounted accommodation rates at ~80 participating properties, but it’s not clear how big a saving this represents.
Unlimited Priority Pass membership
The DBS Insignia comes with an unlimited-visit Priority Pass membership, but it’s only for the principal cardholder, with no guest privileges.
Although this benefit is on par with the UOB Reserve, it’s still woefully inadequate for a product of this caliber. I mean, there are cards in the S$120K segment which have much better lounge entitlements.
|Cards with Unlimited Lounge Visits (Guest Allowance)|
|Income Req.||Principal Cardholder
|AMEX Centurion||N/A||✔ (2)||✔ (2)|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||S$200K||✔ (1)||✔ (1)|
|Citi ULTIMA||S$500K||✔ (0)||✔ (0)|
|HSBC Visa Infinite||S$120K||✔ (0)||✔ (0)|
|OCBC VOYAGE||S$120K||✔ (0)||✔ (0)|
Four expedited immigration passes per year
The lounge benefits may be mediocre, but on the bright side, you get four free SpeedPasses a year. This lets you access fast track immigration queues at more than 500 participating airports worldwide.
Additional SpeedPasses can be bought at 25% off, but really, you’re better off getting an APEC Business Travel Card.
Damai Spa access
Insignia cardholders get complimentary access to the Damai Spa at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, which includes gym facilities, a swimming pool, plus tennis and badminton courts. The website notes that tennis and badminton courts are bookable for a “nominal fee” of S$25 + GST an hour. As an avid tennis player, I can tell you S$25 is not a “nominal fee”. That’s an extremely steep price to pay for courts, even if they’re within the relatively nice confines of a hotel.
Cardholders also enjoy 20% off all spa treatments, and can participate in yoga, pilates, Zumba, and circuit training classes free of charge.
Avis President’s Club Membership
As a DBS Insignia cardholder, you receive instant Avis President’s Club status, the second highest tier in the program.
- Avis Preferred
- Avis Preferred Plus
- Avis President’s Club
- Avis Chariman’s Club
This tier doesn’t have a published qualification threshold, and is an invitation-only level. Benefits include two-class upgrades, along with guaranteed availability even without a reservation. There’s also a rental discount of up to 30%.
I used to have President’s Club status, and I do remember getting some very nice vehicles when I rented in the States. I once booked the cheapest car and got assigned to an Infiniti QX60 SUV. The high seating position and large chassis compensated for my overwhelming sense of smallness.
Insignia cardholders enjoy special discounted yacht charter rates on a 51-foot catamaran. The weekday (Mon-Thur) rate is S$700+ per 4 hours, and the weekend rate (Fri-Sun & even of PH) is S$1,000+ per 4 hours.
The boat’s name? “Charter Me too”. No, really.
Hey, when you buy a multi-million dollar boat, you can name it whatever you want.
There are a few assorted spa discounts as well, like 25% off at Spa Rael, 30% off at The Ultimate, and 15% off at Auriga Spa.
How does the DBS Insignia compare to other S$500K cards?
The DBS Insignia arguably offers the best “value” of all the S$500K cards. I know it’s strange to talk about value in a segment like this, but assuming you valued the 100,000 miles at 1.8 cents each and the two free hotel nights at cost, you’d more than cover the annual fee with these perks alone. Of course, you can only take the hotel nights at face value assuming you’d have paid for them out of pocket otherwise, a generous assumption in itself.
It’s a shame that the DBS Insignia’s airport privileges are decidedly underwhelming. There’s only a single Priority Pass, a limited number of fast-track arrival services and no limo benefit.
I can’t help but think this is a deliberate decision, in order to push cardholders towards Treasures Private Client (TPC). TPC clients receive exclusive airport privileges under the Asia Treasures program, including:
- Unlimited airport transfers in Singapore, Indonesia or Taiwan
- Priority check-in at Terminal 1 and 2
- Access to the DBS Asia Treasures Lounge at Changi T2 and T3
- Expedited immigration clearance at Jakarta and Surabaya airport
- Access to the Sapphire Lounge in Jakarta Terminal 2, or selected restaurants in Terminal 3
I also wish that DBS had some sort of cost-effective miles purchase program for its elite customers. The UOB Reserve lets you buy all the miles you want for 1.9 cents each, and the Citi ULTIMA paired with PayAll can generate a limited number of miles at 1.25 cents apiece, but all DBS customers have is a very overpriced tax payment facility. With a processing fee of 3% and an earn rate of 1.6 mpd, you’re able to buy a limited number of miles at 1.88 cents each, which isn’t particularly attractive.
If you offered me the UOB Reserve, Citi ULTIMA and DBS Insignia and told me that I had to pick one, I’d probably take the DBS Insignia. There’s no doubt value to be had in the other two (the ULTIMA more than the Reserve), but with the lower upfront cost and 100,000 miles + 2 luxury hotel nights already in the bag, it represents the clearest route to recovering your annual fee.
There’s one wild card still left in this equation- the enigmatic AMEX Centurion. With an annual fee of S$7,490 (and a further S$7,490 initiation fee), it’s hard to make a fair comparison, but at the end of the day it’s still competing for the same clientele as the other S$500K cards.
We’ll cover that within the next couple of weeks, and then have a S$500K card showdown. Stay tuned!