As the year draws to a close, I’m taking a look back at the 767 articles (and counting!) published this year. I’ve already done a list of the 10 most read Milelion articles for 2020, but while these drew the most traffic, they weren’t necessarily the ones I had the most fun writing (Hotel 81 aside).
So here’s my personal list of favourite articles this year, where I looked at everything from payment processing for porn sites, to exploring the merits of panic buying.
(1) MCC 5967: UOB’s most unexpected bonus category
Do you know what MCC 5967 is? No? Good for you. But if you happen to hold a UOB Preferred Platinum Visa, it’s one of your 10X bonus categories for which you’ll earn 4 mpd on the first S$1,110 spent each month.
It also happens to be the MCC carved out specifically for porn sites.
Yes, MCC 5967, otherwise known by the aggressively bland moniker “Direct Marketing- Inbound Teleservices Merchant”, is how the payment processing industry ringfences smut. Transactions under this MCC see a higher rate of fraud and chargebacks (I wonder why), and merchants correspondingly pay a higher commission on sales.
While it’s obviously more oversight than deliberate, it amuses me to no end that this got past the UOB legal team.
(2) How I just avoided a stay-home notice (or: date night at the airport)
On the night of 15 March 2020, the Singapore government announced that a mandatory 14-day SHN would be imposed on anyone arriving from ASEAN or selected overseas countries, effective 2359 on 16 March 2020.
Guess who just happened to be at the airport at the time.
I was accompanying the Milelioness for a two-day course in Kuala Lumpur, and had just started on my fourth glass of champagne in the excellent Qatar Airways Premium Lounge when the news broke.
The rest of the evening is a blur. I vaguely remember (1) trying to book an immediate turnaround flight back from Kuala Lumpur (2) calling the Westin Kuala Lumpur to find out if our booking could be cancelled and (3) explaining to The Milelioness why world peace would be within our grasp if only like, every woman every man, joined the caravan of love.
Long story short, we went to the ICA checkpoint to explain the situation, and they out-processed us without any drama. As it turns out, we were hardly the only ones to turn around that night. A couple of taxiing aircraft turned back to gate once the new measures were announced, to give passengers the opportunity to offload themselves.
I ended up losing some miles and points (the ticket was booked through Avios, which stubbornly refused to grant any sort of waiver), but I suppose it was the cost of a rather memorable date night.
(3) The idiot’s guide to panic buying
In March, Singapore experienced its first wave of
panic buying emergency preparedness and pantry rightsizing. Responsible citizens emptied the shelves of eggs, toilet paper and masks (not the superhero kind), all in an attempt to bolster the local economy.
While it remains unclear whether stockpiling perishable vegetables was, in fact, an act of unmitigated genius, what is clear is that the right credit cards let you maximize your miles for a future you’re quite certain won’t exist.
Find out how.
(4) Hands on: Singapore Airlines’ radical new Economy Class meal concept
While there’ve been countless refinements made to Business and First Class dining- the introduction of celebrity chefs, wellness menus, farm-to-table cuisine, even a Heston Blumenthal endorsed pre-meal nasal douche regime, the Economy Class meal has remained rather stagnant.
Hence the interest when Singapore Airlines announced a radical overhaul of the short-haul Economy Class meal concept. Gone are the plastic casseroles, aluminum foil, glassware and metal cutlery. In are paper boxes made from Forest Stewardship Council certified paper and bamboo cutlery.
The jury is out on these changes. Some say they’re a much-needed step to bolster the airline’s environmental credentials. Others say they’re greenwashing; an attempt to cut costs under the guise of saving the planet.
I had a chance to try the meals during Inside Singapore Airlines, and while they’re nowhere as pretty as the publicity photos, I enjoyed the new dishes made possible by the packaging (e.g congee).
On the other hand, the boxes just don’t match the premium feel that Singapore Airlines normally provides (they look like take-out containers), and visually speaking, the volume of food looks smaller than before (it’s actually the same). There are also some design issues (lack of a knife, shallow spoon, narrow opening) that keep it from being all it can be, but let’s see how those kinks are ironed out over the next few months.
It’s not like we’ll be getting on a plane anytime soon…
(5) Restaurant A380 @Changi Suites Class Review: The most fun you can have at 25 feet
Restaurant A380 @Changi sold out within minutes of launch, and I managed to snag a Suites ticket for the first seating. While the experience was over way too quickly, it was magical while it lasted. You walked down the jetway, got escorted to your seat, a welcome glass of Krug was poured, and the festivities began.
Passengers could watch movies, pound the alcohol (the two drink limit per passenger was more serving suggestion than hard rule), and just imagine they were en route to some far flung place (the flight path actually showed Hong Kong).
I get that this won’t become a regular thing, but man, what an afternoon. Be sure to check out the review of the Business Class experience too.
(6) 5 things I’ll miss when Changi Terminal 2 closes
One of the early casualties of COVID-19 was Changi Terminal 2, which suspended operations in May 2020 to consolidate traffic and expedite renovations amidst the downturn.
This was the first time in Changi Airport’s history that a terminal was completely shuttered. Even during previous renovations, work was done in sections with the rest of the terminal remaining open. While the new-and-improved Terminal 2 looks promising, it won’t be on the cards until 2023 at the earliest- and who knows how that timeline might slip with COVID-19?
Despite its age, Terminal 2 really knew how to lay on the charm. Whether it’s the clack-clack-clack flipping of the Solari departures board, plane spotting amidst a sunflower garden, or grabbing a meal at Swensen’s (the original Swensen’s opened with Terminal 1 in 1981, and at the time was as good as Western food got in Singapore), it’s sad to wave goodbye to all of these ahead of schedule.
(7) Review: The Inside Singapore Airlines Experience
During regular times, the Singapore Airlines Training Centre is off-limits to members of the public. But for two weekends in November, the gates were opened to 2,000 lucky people (out of 20,000 applicants), who got a rare behind-the-scenes look at the training that SIA pilots and cabin crew undergo.
Guests received a tour of the facility, dined on SIA’s inflight menu, and shopped to their heart’s content (you could even buy bar carts from the retired 747 jets). There were also opportunities to fly a full-motion flight simulator, attend a make-up class and sample the wines served onboard.
The best part for me, however, was the opportunity to interact with the SIA cabin crew throughout the day. They’ve obviously been through a lot this year, but were visibly energized to be back in their element serving and helping guests.
With so much to do, it’s just a shame that so many people didn’t manage to get tickets.
(8) Want 2 mpd on general spending and 3% cashback? Get this card and pray Man Utd win
As an Arsenal fan, this season has actually gone completely according to expectations.
I’m just glad there isn’t an Arsenal credit card which gives you 2 mpd and 3% cashback every time Arsenal win, or I’d have serious financial issues right now. There is, however, a Manchester United one- the Maybank Manchester United Visa Platinum.
It’s normally a very underwhelming card, with every S$1 earning 1% cashback and 0.4 mpd. But on the days when Manchester United win an EPL match, a bonus 2% cashback and 1.6 mpd is awarded, turning this into the best general spending card on the market.
For context, here’s how many matches Manchester United have been winning each season, ever since Fergie left…
(Alex Ferguson’s last season)
While it’s not the shoo-in it was before, you have a roughly 50% chance of earning the bonus every time Manchester United take to the field.
Anyone feels lucky?
(9) Rumour: Circles.Life planning to launch miles card with up to 3 mpd, no FCY or transfer fees
While this idea never came to fruition (in 2020 at least), the concept at least was intriguing- a subscription-based miles card with no foreign currency transaction fees, instant miles conversions with no minimum required, and 3 mpd on overseas spend.
You’d pay S$30 per month for the card, but the cool thing was that you could only subscribe when you needed it. Think of it like paying S$30 for the chance to earn 3 mpd with a 0% FCY fee- certainly useful in many scenarios.
I do hope it materializes in 2021.
(10) Banyan Tree Habitat Pass: Hotels (including Maldives) for US$250 a night or less
I’m amazed that none of the bloggers in the west picked up on this, because it still sounds like the deal of the decade to me.
Banyan Tree’s Habitat Pass allows you to buy 7-28 nights at Banyan Tree hotels at a nett cost of US$150-250 per night. This includes the Banyan Tree properties in the Maldives, and I don’t need to tell you how expensive those can usually be. All stays include accommodation and breakfast for two adults, plus a certain amount of hotel credits.
The pass is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase, and can be refunded within 90 days of purchase (assuming it’s completely unutilized). The main wild card is when leisure travel will be possible again, but it doesn’t sound like the worst punt ever…
Hopefully this serves as a useful reading list if you want to catch up on some highlights of the year.
If you’re looking for more “best of” lists, be sure to check out the 2019 edition– learn about the Young Explorer Club, the history of KrisFlyer devaluations, what happens when you spin the Chope birthday wheel 2,739 times and more.