2020 has been a trying year for miles and points collectors everywhere, with restrictions on travel leading even the most devout to question whether the game is still worth it.
But it’s been an equally interesting year for someone who blogs about the topic, and I think the top 10 Milelion posts really captures the zeitgeist of the year (I’ve been waiting five years to use “zeitgeist” in a Milelion post).
Here’s what people were reading in 2020.
(1) I paid $608 for a Singapore Airlines home delivery meal so you don’t have to (145K views)
In the surest sign the world’s gone mad, the highlight for Singapore Airlines this year wasn’t a new cabin product, new flagship lounge or new route, but rather a series of ground experiences called Discover Your Singapore Airlines.
I tried all of them- dined onboard a parked A380 (in both Suites and Business), visited SIA’s training centre, and yes, ordered a S$608 First Class meal at home. While some may call it foodpanda with extra steps, it was, all things considered, pretty fun.
Put it another way: you’re not just paying for the food itself, but the novelty of preparing and plating an airline meal in the comfort of your own home. Whether that novelty is worth the cost of entry is of course debatable, but hey, don’t kinkshame.
While there were certainly naysayers when the prices of meals were leaked ahead of time, perhaps SIA will have the last laugh- I understand the sales were decent enough, so decent that the airline launched a series of festive menus too.
(2) What I learned from my Hotel 81 staycation (94K views)
Man goes to Hotel 81. Man discovers that all the stories about Hotel 81 are absolutely true. Man writes 3,500 word article and gets backlinks from forums with boys named sammy.
(3) Grab announces major GrabRewards devaluation (76K views)
Say what you will about Grab, but they sure knew how to set the tone for 2020.
Towards the end of January, Grab announced that they were gutting the GrabRewards program, and I really mean gutting. Earn rates were cut by up to 60%, while the cost of awards increased almost 40%. Mileage transfers to KrisFlyer were devalued, and the program became one big smoldering crater.
|Points per S$1|
|Prior to July 2018*||July 2018- Feb 2020||From Mar 2020|
|*Ignoring promo rate of 30 points/S$1|
It was goodbye to the days of 10 points per S$1 for Platinum members and hello to a new scheme where 1 point commanded roughly 0.2 cents in value.
This, coupled with Citi’s decision to nerf points on GrabPay top-ups in July, meant the GrabPay Mastercard lost a whole lot of its appeal in 2020. It still has use cases for sure, but it’s far from the asset it was in days of yore.
(4) The GrabRewards mega devaluation takes place in 7 days- here’s what you need to do now (44K views)
More of the same here, but the fact that the GrabRewards devaluation gets two mentions in the top 10 shows what big news this was.
My advice to everyone was to burn all their GrabRewards points, frontload any large GrabPay purchases, and quickly requalify for GrabRewards elite status. All of these became much less rewarding from 2 March 2020, and frankly speaking, GrabRewards no longer influences my purchase decisions in any meaningful way.
(5) Which bank branches will still be open during the circuit breaker? (44K views)
Not the sexiest of articles, but the circuit breaker was not a sexy time (except perhaps for all those couples stuck at home 😉). Banking was classified as an essential service and continued during the circuit breaker, but many banks scaled down their branch operations.
A total of 115 branches were closed across various banks during the circuit breaker. Someone emailed me to request that I reopen the DBS Serangoon Gardens Branch. I said I’d do what I could, and requested he send me his ibanking details to expedite the process.
(6) Here’s the first 5 hotels approved for staycation guests (38K views)
It speaks volumes about how thirsty Singaporeans were for staycations after the circuit breaker that even though the first batch of approved hotels numbered only five, everyone wanted to know who they were.
For the record:
- lyf Funan Singapore
- W Singapore Sentosa Cove
- Crockfords Tower
- Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa
- ONE15 Marina Club
Four out of five properties were on Sentosa, and lyf was less hotel and more serviced residence. But no one really cared; staycations were on the cards once more, and it was a chance to get out of the house.
I visited the W Sentosa Cove early on, and although this brave new world entails many social restrictions, none of them significantly detracted from the staycation experience. In the months that followed, the list of staycation-approved hotels has crept steadily upwards, and now more than 250 of Singapore’s 400 or so hotels are green-lit for staycations.
(7) Need a place to serve your SHN? These hotels are offering deep discount rates (37K views)
Another acronym was added to the already-crowded Singaporean lexicon this year: SHN.
This program proved to be the lifeline for many hotels during the circuit breaker, and indeed long after. While SHNs could initially be served at home, it soon became mandatory to stay at designated hotels. For awhile, travelers were allowed to choose where they stayed (hence the article), but it eventually became a lottery system where everyone paid the same price (S$2,000) and was assigned to wherever happened to be available the day they arrived.
It’s a fascinating study in luck, because you might get 14 days at the Ritz-Carlton Singapore (back when it hosted SHN guests), or you might get 14 days in a windowless room at the Value Hotel Balestier.
I heard that the bus drivers aren’t even allowed to tell passengers where they’re going, for fear of a mutiny. One wonders how many hearts are in mouths when the bus exits the PIE at Balestier…
(8) COVID-19: Singapore Airlines announces almost 700 flight cancellations (30K views)
If we had to pinpoint the moment when COVID-19 got real for Singapore Airlines, it’d probably be in mid-February, when the first set of major flight cancellations was announced.
Almost 700 flights were cancelled, a number that seemed dramatic at the time, but sadly was nothing compared to the thousands that happened soon after. By the time April rolled around, the airline was operating an average of just five, five flights out of Changi per day, connecting Singapore to a mere 13 cities worldwide.
When Singapore Airlines announced its first tranche of COVID-19 flight cancellations, the accompanying attachments listed the cancelled flights. By April, it was simpler just to list the flights still operating.
That’s a harrowing thought.
(9) Get up to S$50 from Google Pay Singapore just by making PayNow transfers (28K views)
You know who’s really been splashing the cash this year? Google. I will never know how they can afford to give away up to S$10 for every P2P transfer made, but I’m not about to start questioning things.
Google Pay launched P2P payments in April this year with OCBC, and has been aggressively pushing for market share in the mobile wallet space ever since. Its weapon of choice? Scratch cards. I swear, these things are addictive like crack, and there’s nothing more thrilling than scratching away the virtual foil to find a big money reward lying underneath.
Even better, Google has upped the ante- while scratch cards earlier this year were typically yielding less than S$1 each, in recent times I’ve been getting much more than that. My personal record is S$7.45 on a S$10 GrabPay top-up.
For the latest Google scratch card promotions (earn up to 11 scratch cards each week!), refer to the updated article here.
(10) 51% off KrisFlyer Spontaneous Escapes for February 2020 (24K views)
Is it just a cruel coincidence that Singapore Airlines’ largest-ever Spontaneous Escapes was on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic? Of course not. It’s a conspiracy, underwritten by Bill Gates and propagated by a 5G cell tower near you.
In any case, in January KrisFlyer launched a 51% discount for flights in February to celebrate its 21st birthday (30% regular discount + 21% bonus discount). You could fly in Business Class from Singapore to Europe for just 45,080 miles, to Japan for 23,030 miles, to Brisbane for 30,380 miles and much more. That was incredible value, and with so many destinations to choose from, February looked set to be a bumper month for travel.
Of course, we all know what happened after that. Spontaneous Escapes were suspended from March, and I have my doubts as to whether they’ll appear in 2021 at all.
So that’s the top 10 Milelion articles for 2020, and I’ll be sure to share some additional stats and thoughts in my upcoming reflections post.
What a year, eh?