Review: DBS Altitude Card

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Is the DBS Altitude a good choice for the general spending slot in your wallet?

Here’s the Milelion’s review of the DBS Altitude Card, yet another challenger for the general spending slot in your wallet. It certainly comes with some pedigree, having been voted the best travel card by TripZilla in 2019.

Is it though? 

💳 tl;dr: ★★★1/2
The DBS Altitude isn’t the highest earning miles card, but ticks most of the other boxes like lounge access, annual fee miles, and non-expiring points. The 3 mpd for flight and hotel bookings makes it a decent option for those who prefer to use just one card.
The good The bad
  • Bonus miles for flight and hotel bookings
  • Lounge access
  • Non-expiring points
  • Weak travel insurance
  • Fairly uncompetitive miles purchase option
This DBS Altitude review forms part of my collection of credit card reviews. I’m constantly adding new ones, and you can browse the entire collection here.

Overview: DBS Altitude Card

Let’s start this review by looking at the key features of the DBS Altitude Card:

Use Code FLASH200 for S$200 cash (until 19-Jun-20)
dbs altitude amex reviewApply Here
Use Code FLASH200 for S$200 cash (until 19-Jun-20)
dbs altitude visa reviewApply Here
Income Req. S$30,000 p.a  Points Validity No Expiry
Annual Fee S$192.60
(First Year Free)
Min.
Transfer
5,000 DBS Points
(10,000 miles)
Miles with
Annual Fee
10,000 Transfer
Partners
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Air Asia
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas 
FCY Fee 3% (AMEX)
3.25% (Visa)
Transfer Fee S$26.75
Local Earn 1.2 mpd Points Pool? Yes
FCY Earn 2.0 mpd Lounge Access? Yes 
(Visa)
Special Earn 3 mpd on online flight and hotels, 6-10 mpd on Expedia, Agoda, Kaligo Airport Limo? No
Cardholder Terms and Conditions

The DBS Altitude comes in both American Express and Visa versions. Earn rates and product features are generally the same, but there are a handful of differences worth highlighting. I’ll draw attention to these in the review wherever relevant. 

How much must I earn to qualify for a DBS Altitude Card?

dbs altitude income requirement

When first launched, the DBS Altitude had a minimum income requirement of S$80,000 per year, which put it out of reach for most fresh grads, or even some mid-career professionals. Thankfully, the income requirement was lowered, and today it’s accessible to anyone earning at least S$30,000 per year. 

If you don’t meet the income requirement, you can place a S$10,000 fixed deposit with DBS and get a secured version of the card. Visit any DBS branch for further information. 

How much is the DBS Altitude Card’s annual fee?

  Principal Card Supp. Card
First Year Free Free
Subsequent S$192.60 S$96.30

The DBS Altitude Card has an annual fee of S$192.60 for the principal cardholder, and a S$96.30 fee per supplementary card. The first year’s fee is waived, and subsequent year’s fees are automatically waived if you spend at least S$25,000 in a membership year. 

Otherwise, paying the annual fee nets you 10,000 miles in return, which means buying miles at ~1.93 cents each. Depending on how much you value a mile, the card could potentially pay for itself. 

What sign-up bonus or gifts are available?

DBS runs various sign-up promotions for new-to-bank customers, defined as those who do not hold a principal DBS/POSB credit card right now, or in the past 12 months before application. 

Here’s what’s currently on offer:

🎁 Current Sign-Up Bonuses/Gifts

Fill in the following promo codes when you apply to get additional gifts. Only one promo code can be used.

  • DBSFLASH: S$200 cashback with at least one qualifying transaction of any amount within 30 days of approval (T&C) (Expires 6-Aug-20)
  • ALTAF: Spend S$6,000 within 3 months to get a bonus of 10,000 miles, and pay the first year’s S$192.60 fee to get a further 10,000 miles (T&C) (Expires 30-Sep-20)
  • DBSALT: Spend S$6,000 within 3 months to get a bonus of 10,000 miles, with first year fee waived (T&C) (Expires 30-Sep-20)

How many miles do I earn?

🇸🇬 SGD Spending 🌎 FCY Spending ➕ Bonus Spending
1.2 mpd 2.0 mpd 3 mpd on online flight and hotel bookings, 6-10 mpd on Expedia, Agoda and Kaligo

SGD/FCY Spending

DBS Altitude Card members earn 3 DBS Points for every S$5 spent in Singapore Dollars, and 5 DBS Points for every S$5 spent in foreign currency (FCY).

1 DBS Point is worth 2 airline miles, so that’s an equivalent earn rate of 1.2 mpd for local spending, and 2.0 mpd for FCY spending. These may not be the highest miles earning rates on the market, but they’re competitive enough. 

  Local MPD FCY MPD
UOB PRVI Miles 1.4 2.4
OCBC 90°N  1.2 2.1
Citi PremierMiles 1.2 2.0
DBS Altitude 1.2 2.0
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card 1.1 2.0*
BOC Elite Miles 1.0 2.0
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card 1.2 1.2
*June and Dec only, otherwise 1.1 mpd

Do note that DBS Altitude AMEX cards approved by 30 June 2020 will receive 50% bonus miles on all spending in the first 90 days, capped at 10,000 bonus miles. This means they’ll earn:

  • 1.8 mpd on local spending (1.2 base, 0.6 bonus)
  • 3 mpd on FCY spending (2 base, 1 bonus)
  • 4.5 mpd on online flight and hotel spending (3 base, 1.5 bonus)

The bonus could be therefore maxed out by spending:

  • S$16,667 on local spending or
  • S$10,000 on FCY spending or
  • S$6,667 on online flight and hotel spending

All overseas transactions on the DBS Altitude AMEX and Visa Cards are subject to a 3% and 3.25% fee respectively. This means that using your DBS Altitude Card overseas represents buying miles at 1.5 and 1.63 cents each. 

Bonus Spending

dbs altitude airline and hotels

DBS Altitude Card members will earn additional DBS points for online flight and hotel transactions:

  • An Additional 4.5 DBS Points for every S$5 of local spend (i.e 1.8 mpd)
  • An Additional 2.5 DBS Points for every S$5 of FCY spend (i.e 1 mpd)

In other words, you’ll earn a total of 3 mpd for online flight and hotel transactions, regardless of currency. This bonus rate is capped at S$5,000 per calendar month; any expenditure beyond this will be rewarded at the regular earn rate. 

This makes the DBS Altitude Card a good candidate for all your flight ticket purchases (although you could use the DBS Woman’s World Card to earn 4 mpd instead), or to pay for taxes and surcharges on Singapore Airlines award tickets (but make sure to do it over the website, because entering your card details via the IVR phone system doesn’t count as an online transaction). 

While almost every air ticket will be paid for online, you need to be careful with hotels. Entering your credit card number to guarantee your booking is not the same as paying with your card! If your card is subsequently swiped again at check-out to settle the amount outstanding, you won’t earn the 3 mpd rate. If you want to earn the bonus, it’s best to look for rates that are fully prepaid at the time of booking. 

expedia logo

For bookings made through this Expedia link, DBS Altitude Card members will earn 6 mpd with selected hotels or the following airlines:

  • Air Macau 
  • Air Mauritius
  • Air Niugini
  • Cambodia Angkor Air
  • China Eastern 
  • China Southern
  • Finnair
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hawaiian Air
  • Korean Air
  • Lao Airlines
  • Myanmar Intl Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Saudia
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Sichuan Airlines
  • THAI
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines

This applies to bookings made by 31 March 2021, and capped at S$5,000 per month.

The full T&C of this offer can be found here

agoda logo

For bookings made through this Agoda link, DBS Altitude Card members will earn an additional 4 mpd on hotel reservations made and stayed by 30 September 2020. This works out to a total of 7 mpd on the first S$5,000 spent each month, and 6 mpd subsequently (assuming all transactions are in foreign currency).

The full T&C of this offer can be found herekaligo logo

For bookings made through Kaligo, DBS Altitude Card members will earn an additional 7 mpd on hotel reservations made by 31 December 2020. This works out to a total of 10 mpd (assuming all transactions are in foreign currency), and is capped at S$5,000 per month. 

The full T&C of this offer can be found here

On top of this, DBS is currently running a few bonus miles promotions on the Altitude Cards:

Earn double miles on online spend: Earn double miles on all online spending with the DBS Altitude Card, subject to hitting a minimum spend and with a cap that varies from cardholder to cardholder. Registration required (T&C)

When are DBS Points credited?

DBS Points for local and overseas spending will be credited when your transaction posts, which generally takes 1-3 working days. 

The additional DBS Points for airline and hotel spending (i.e 4.5 DBS Points per S$5 for local spend, 2.5 DBS Points per S$5 for FCY spend) will be credited on the 16th day of the next calendar month. If the 16th is not a working day, points will be awarded on the next working day. 

How are DBS Points calculated?

Some people get anxious when they read in the T&Cs that DBS Points are awarded in S$5 blocks. That’s understandable, given how UOB’s S$5 earning blocks result in a lot of lost miles from rounding, especially for small transactions. 

But DBS’s calculations aren’t nearly as penalizing. Here’s how DBS points on your DBS Altitude Card are calculated:

Local Spend Divide transaction by 5 and multiply by 3. Round down to the nearest whole number
FCY Spend
Divide transaction by 5 and multiply by 5. Round down to the nearest whole number

Notice how the transaction is not rounded down to the nearest S$5- instead, it’s divided by 5 straight away. This means the minimum spend to earn points is S$1.67, not S$5 as some may think (if you spend in FCY, the minimum spend is the equivalent of S$1). 

To illustrate the point, here’s how the DBS Altitude compares to the UOB PRVI Miles. Note how it outperforms the ostensibly higher-earning PRVI Miles (1.4 mpd) on certain transaction sizes. 

  DBS Altitude UOB PRVI Miles
$5 6 miles 6 miles
$9.99 10 miles 6 miles
$15 18 miles 20 miles
$19.99 22 miles 20 miles
$25 30 miles 34 miles
$29.99 34 miles 34 miles

If you’re an excel geek, here’s the formulas you need to calculate points: 

Local Spend =ROUNDDOWN ((X/5)*3,0)
FCY Spend
=ROUNDDOWN ((X/5)*5,0)
Where X= Amount Spent

For the full list of formulas that banks use to calculate credit card points, do refer to these articles:

What transactions aren’t eligible for DBS Points?

A full list of transactions that do not earn DBS Points can be found in the T&C. I’ve highlighted a few noteworthy categories below:

  • Education
  • Government Institutions
  • Insurance
  • Non-Profits
  • Hospitals
  • Utilities
  • Gambling
  • Top-ups of prepaid accounts

Despite the last point, the DBS Altitude Visa still earns points on GrabPay top-ups, for the moment at least. This is probably because the Visa MCC for GrabPay top-ups is still 7399 (Business Services Not Elsewhere Classified). AMEX and Mastercard have switched the MCC to 6540 (Stored Value Card Purchase/Load), which precludes the earning of points on most cards. 

CardUp, ipaymy and RentHero transactions will all earn points as per normal with the DBS Altitude Card. 

What do I need to know about DBS Points?

DBS Points normally expire after 1 year, but those earned on the DBS Altitude card never expire. 

DBS Points pool across cards for the purposes of redemption. If you have 10,000 DBS Points on the DBS Altitude and 5,000 DBS Points on the DBS Woman’s World Card, you can redeem 15,000 DBS Points at one shot and pay a single conversion fee.

However, DBS Points are not pooled when it comes to card cancellations. If I have a DBS Altitude and DBS Woman’s World Card and decide to cancel the former, I’ll need to transfer my points out before cancelling or forfeit them. 

DBS partners with the following frequent flyer programs:

Frequent Flyer Program Conversion Ratio
(DBS Points: Miles)
5,000: 10,000
5,000: 10,000
5,000: 10,000
500: 1,500

Transfers cost S$26.75 per program, regardless of how many points are transferred.

For KrisFlyer miles specifically, DBS offers an alternative “auto conversion program”, available to DBS Insignia, DBS Black Treasures Elite and DBS Altitude cardholders. This charges a flat fee of S$42.80 per membership year, and automatically converts DBS Points to KrisFlyer miles each calendar quarter in blocks of 500 points. 

DBS tells customers to expect points to be credited in 1-2 weeks, but in reality it usually takes about 3-4 working days at the very most. If you need your points credited instantly, you can do so via KrisPay.

dbs points to krispay miles transfer

100 DBS Points can be transferred to 170 KrisPay miles, which can then be transferred to KrisFlyer miles at a 1:1 ratio. Transfers are immediate, but those 100 DBS Points would normally have earned you 200 KrisFlyer miles, so you effectively take a 15% haircut. 

Other card perks

Buy additional miles at 2 cents each

DBS Altitude Card members who wish to buy additional miles can do so at a rather unattractive rate of 2 cents each through the “Miles Accelerator Promotion”. This is kind of like DBS’s version of a miles purchase facility, with no limit on the miles you can buy. 

Cardholders need to register and consent to be charged an additional 2% on all their transactions, for which they’ll receive an additional 1 mile per S$1 spent. Do note that your registration lasts indefinitely, until you choose to withdraw via this link. All withdrawals take effect from the following calendar month. 

For example, if John spends S$2,000 in local currency, he will earn 2,400 base miles (@ 1.2 mpd) and an additional 2,000 “accelerated” miles, for which he’ll pay S$40. 

2 cents per mile is, quite frankly, more than you should be paying. There are numerous ways to generate miles at lower prices, assuming you’ve got a tax, rental, education or MCST bill to pay. 

Two free lounge visits (Visa version only)

Plaza Premium Lounge Singapore Changi
Plaza Premium Lounge Singapore Changi

The Visa version of the DBS Altitude comes with two free lounge visits per year, via Priority Pass

  Lounge Access?
BOC Elite Miles
UOB PRVI Miles
OCBC 90°N 
Citi PremierMiles
(2 per year)
DBS Altitude
(2 per year,
Visa version only)
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card

Cardholders need to apply for their Priority Pass via this link, and will receive their membership card within 2-3 weeks of application. Their two visit allowance is tracked by membership year, based on when they applied for their Priority Pass

Only the principal cardholder is entitled to this benefit. Lounge entitlements can be shared with a guest, but once you exhaust your free visits you’ll be charged US$32 per additional visit. 

Poor complimentary travel insurance

Accidental Death Medical Benefits Travel Inconvenience
S$1,000,000 None None

Many cards offer complimentary travel insurance, but not all policies are made equal. Unfortunately, the coverage provided by the DBS Altitude Card is woefully inadequate. 

Cardholders receive S$1,000,000 coverage for accidental death or permanent disability while traveling on a public conveyance. That’s it. There’s no coverage for medical evacuation, medical expenses, or travel inconvenience. You won’t be able to make any claims for lost or damaged luggage, flight delays, or any other potential travel hiccups. 

In case you were wondering: coverage does not kick in if you redeem a ticket with your miles and use the DBS Altitude Card to pay for taxes and surcharges. 

You’ll certainly want to get separate insurance coverage.

Summary Review: DBS Altitude Card

Use Code FLASH200 for S$200 cash (until 19-Jun-20)
Apply Here
Use Code FLASH200 for S$200 cash (until 19-Jun-20)
Apply Here

The DBS Altitude Card is a good general spending card to have, especially if you’re already using the DBS Woman’s World Card. These two form a good pairing (since DBS Points pool), and spending will contribute towards bonus interest on the DBS Multiplier Account. 

However, while it doesn’t have any dealbreaking flaws per se, I’d still lean towards the Citi PremierMiles Card because of its better travel insurance, wider variety of transfer partners, and cheaper miles purchasing opportunities (it doesn’t pool points though, sadly).

That said, there’s no reason why you can’t have both, and with very generous acquisition offers for new-to-bank customers (S$200 cash for the DBS Altitude and S$200 cash for the Citi PremierMiles), why not? 

So that’s my review of the DBS Altitude Card. What do you think?

Overall Score
★★★1/2
Ratings Guide
5 Stars
★★★★★
An essential card for miles chasers, with few viable alternatives 
4 Stars
★★★★
A very good card, although other equally good alternatives may exist
3 Stars
★★★
A decent card to round out your collection, but not absolutely essential
2 Stars
★★
Very limited use cases, and outperformed by most other cards
1 Star

Paperweight. Use for picking teeth or ninja stars
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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TesQ

Thank you, especially for the bit on crabhey bobups. Hope it stays that way. Could you kindly include in your reviews how these cards function for transport e.g. special rates, total transport fare pools for the month or not etc.

Adam

Reading all these reviews makes me wonder: what card are you going to use for your general spending once the AMEX Plat Charge and BOC EM offers end? It seems like you’ve gravitated towards the Citi PM.

Brian

1k limit of CRV you mean?

Adam

Makes sense. Make hay while the sun shines.

Ryry

On the bonus miles for hotel, noted that providing card details doesnt count towards the bonus miles. I have a booking which I reserved refundable online but subsequently emailed the hotel to switch to DBS altitude card and provided my card details. Really hoping this still works but need your advice!

Zezima

The DBS Priority Pass link is not dead. Just don’t put a slash “/” behind.

https://www.prioritypass.com/altitudevisa
https://www.prioritypass.com/altitudevisacard

Jason

On the point that DBS points are not pooled when it comes to card cancellation, may I ask if this is also applicable to OCBC Titanium cards? If I’m holding on to both the blue and pink, will I forfeit the OCBC$ earned on the blue in the event I decide to cancel it? Thanks

Jason

Thanks

Joshosaurus Rex

Hi, Aaron,

I have just been informed by DBS (confirmed twice with different customer services staff) that MCC 7399 will not be considered eligible spend for miles rewards. That includes anything from GrabPay top ups to ipaymy tax payments. If true, that’s a real nasty piece of work by them.

It’s really odd, because as far as I can see anywhere, it doesn’t explicitly exclude this code nor mention GrabPay in their exclusions.

In the meantime, I will try to post a small amount to test it out.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joshosaurus Rex
Phil

Hi Aaron, I have a question. Alt’s DBS Points doesn’t expire whereas WWMC’s DBS Points does after 1 year. DBS Points are pooled together. Therefore if I have both cards, does it mean that Points earned through WWMC will not expire after pooling with Alt’s points? If not, does the monthly bank statement state the expiry of certain amount of points like how UOB does it?

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