Review: AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend

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The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend has solid sign-up bonuses, a free hotel night and airport lounge access, but surprisingly average earn rates for a cobrand card.

Here’s The MileLion’s review of the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card, the posher cousin of the entry-level AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card. In fact, this is the highest-tier Singapore Airlines cobrand card you can obtain as a non-PPS Club member. 

With direct crediting of miles, airport lounge access and a free hotel night every year, there’s certainly a lot of things going for it. On the other hand, it’s got a higher-than-usual annual fee, and miles earning rates that aren’t exactly earth-shattering. 

So is this the card for you? 

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend
★★★1/2
The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend has solid sign-up bonuses, a free hotel night and airport lounge access, but surprisingly average earn rates for a cobrand card.
👍 The good👎 The bad
  • Reliably large sign-up bonuses
  • No transfer fees
  • Airport lounge access
  • Free Hilton night and Hilton Silver status
  • Fast-track to KrisFlyer Elite Gold
  • Bonus FCY earn rate only applies in June & December
  • Relatively weak earn rates for Singapore Airlines spend
  • Hefty annual fee 
💳 Full List of Credit Card Reviews

Overview: AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card

Let’s start this review by looking at the key features of the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card.

Apply Here
Income Req.S$50,000 p.a.Points Validity3 years
Annual FeeS$337.50
Min.
Transfer
N/A
Miles with
Annual Fee
N/ATransfer
Partners
  • SIA
FCY Fee2.95%Transfer FeeN/A
Local Earn1.2 mpdPoints Pool?Yes
FCY Earn1.2 mpd
2.0 mpd (Jun & Dec)
Lounge Access?Yes 
Special Earn2.0 mpd on SIA 
3.2 mpd on Grab
Airport Limo?No
Cardholder Terms and Conditions

Remember that there’s a total of four Singapore Airlines AMEX cobrand cards- we’ll cover the others in separate articles:

 Min. IncomeAnnual Fee
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit CardS$30,000S$176.55
(FYF)
AMEX KrisFlyer AscendS$50,000S$337.05
AMEX PPS Credit Card*S$30,000S$551.05
(FYF)
AMEX Solitaire PPS Credit Card^S$30,000S$551.05
(FYF)
*Only available to PPS Club members
^Only available to Solitaire PPS Club members

How much must I earn to qualify for an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend?

The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend occupies a bit of a strange spot when it comes to income requirements. At S$50,000 per year, it’s not exactly entry-level, nor is it within the ballpark of S$120,000 mass affluent cards.

I’ve made the point that any income requirement above S$30,000 is entirely arbitrary, but American Express does tend to be stricter with enforcement than other card issuers. I’ve heard of people getting approved with incomes just shy of the mark, but otherwise you may have problems. 

If you’re dead set on getting this card but don’t meet the income requirement, American Express offers an “upgrade path” for entry-level AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card cardholders. Customers who hold the card for a minimum of nine months and spend at least S$10,000  within 12 consecutive months can opt to upgrade to an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend. 

American Express will throw in 12,000 bonus miles or a S$150 statement credit as a reward for upgrading and paying the S$337.05 annual fee.

How much is the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend’s annual fee?

 Principal CardSupp. Card
First YearS$337.05First 2 free, S$80.25 for 3rd onwards
SubsequentS$337.05S$80.25

The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend has an annual fee of S$337.05 for the principal cardholder, and a S$80.25 fee per supplementary card. Although the first year’s fee is waived for supplementary cards, there’s no waiver for principal cardholders. 

This is the only Singapore Airlines cobrand card that does not come with a waiver of the first year’s annual fee- all other cards, be it the AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card, AMEX PPS Credit Card, AMEX Solitaire PPS Credit Card or KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card waive their fees for the first year. 

Annual fees can be waived in subsequent years, but this is a YMMV situation. It never hurts to phone up and ask, but unless you’ve been using it regularly over the past year (American Express does not define a minimum spend threshold for a fee waiver), or hold a premium card like the AMEX Platinum Charge or AMEX Centurion, you may not be successful.

If the annual fee is waived, you will not receive the free lounge vouchers or hotel night voucher (see below).

How many miles do I earn?

🇸🇬 SGD Spend🌎 FCY Spend➕ Bonus Spend
1.2 mpd2.0 mpd
(Jun & Dec only,
otherwise 1.2 mpd )
2.0 mpd on SIA and KrisShop, 3.2 mpd for Grab

SGD/FCY Spend

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card members earn 1.2 miles for every S$1 spent in Singapore Dollars and foreign currency (FCY). In June and December, the FCY earn rate is boosted to 2.0 miles for every S$1 spent. 

I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around the June and December restriction. I get that those are peak travel months for Singaporeans, but really, offering 1.2 mpd on FCY spend for 10 out of 12 months a year simply isn’t good enough, when the market rate is at least 2.0 mpd year-round.

I’d have thought that cobrand cards would need to offer higher-than-average earn rates, because the cardholder is being asked to “pledge their loyalty”. Miles earned with the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend can only be transferred to Singapore Airlines, after all, and if I could earn better rates through a non-cobrand card with a wider choice of partners, what appeal is there? 

Here’s how this earn rate compares to other general spending cards.

CardsLocal MPDFCY MPD
UOB PRVI Miles1.42.4
OCBC 90°N Mastercard1.22.1
Citi PremierMiles1.22.0
DBS Altitude1.22.0
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend1.22.0*
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card1.12.0*
OCBC 90°N Visa1.02.0
BOC Elite Miles1.02.0
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card1.21.2
*June and Dec only, otherwise 1.1 mpd

All overseas transactions on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend are subject to a 2.95% fee. Surprisingly, this is one of the lowest FCY fees in the market. 

Using your card overseas therefore means buying miles at 1.48 cents (not bad) or 2.46 cents (very bad), depending on time of year. 

MonthsFCY SpendCost Per Mile
June & December2.0 mpd1.48
Others1.2 mpd2.46

Bonus Spending

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders earn 2.0 mpd on all transactions made with Singapore Airlines and KrisShop, without cap. Unfortunately, there is no bonus for Scoot transactions.

Since it’s possible to earn 4 mpd on Singapore Airlines and KrisShop with the DBS Woman’s World Card or HSBC Revolution, this isn’t a particularly attractive rate. 

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders also receive a bonus 2.0 mpd on all Grab transactions, up to S$200 per calendar month. This means a total of 3.2 mpd on the first S$200 of spend. All Grab services are included, but GrabPay top-ups are excluded. 

Again, you could earn 4 mpd on Grab transactions with the DBS Woman’s World Card, Citi Rewards or HSBC Revolution, so this isn’t that big a deal.

When are KrisFlyer Miles credited?

Miles earned on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend card are batched and credited to your KrisFlyer account once a month. 

You can typically expect to see them credited around the end of your statement period. 

How are KrisFlyer miles calculated?

Here’s how KrisFlyer miles earned on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend are calculated:

Local SpendMultiply transaction by 1.2, then round to the nearest whole number
FCY Spend
Multiply transaction by 2 (in Jun/Dec) or 1.2 (otherwise), then round to the nearest whole number

Notice how the transaction is not rounded down to the nearest S$1; instead, it’s multiplied by 1.2/2 straight away. This means the minimum spend to earn points is S$0.42 (SGD) or S$0.25 (FCY). 

This beneficial rounding policy allows the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend to compete favourably with ostensibly higher-earning cards like the UOB PRVI Miles (1.4 mpd), at least where smaller transactions are concerned:

 AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend
Earn rate: 1.2 mpd
UOB PRVI Miles
Earn rate: 1.4 mpd
S$56 miles6 miles
S$9.9912 miles6 miles
S$1518 miles20 miles
S$19.9924 miles20 miles
S$2530 miles34 miles
S$29.9936 miles34 miles

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

Local Spend=ROUND (X*1.2,0)
FCY Spend
=ROUND (X*2,0)
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 KrisFlyer Miles?

The good news is that American Express has the fewest rewards exclusions of any card issuer in Singapore. A full list of exclusions can be found here, but the main ones to note are:

  • GrabPay top-ups
  • Insurance premiums
  • SPC transactions
  • Utilities

Apart from that, anything goes. You will earn miles for transactions which are commonly excluded by other banks, such as hospitals, government payments (if AMEX is even accepted), membership fees and even charitable donations, as the screenshot below shows:

giving.sg points

What do I need to know about KrisFlyer miles?

The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend credits KrisFlyer miles directly to your account on a monthly basis, with no conversion fees. 

This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you save on the usual ~S$25 conversion fee that most banks charge. On the other, direct crediting means the 3 year expiry countdown for KrisFlyer miles starts immediately. Contrast this to other cards where you enjoy “two validities”- one on the bank side, and one on the airline side. 

In case you were worried, cancelling your AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card has no impact on KrisFlyer miles already in your account. 

Other card perks

AMEX Offers

amex krisflyer ascend offers

AMEX Offers are targeted deals pushed to your AMEX app, which can range from small savings like getting a few dollars back on contactless transactions, to much more substantial offers like S$75 off a S$300 Hilton transaction. They can also take the form of bonus miles promotions, like a bonus 2.0 mpd on Deliveroo and foodpanda. 

Four free lounge visits 

Plaza Premium Lounge Siem Reap
Plaza Premium Lounge Siem Reap

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card members receive four complimentary airport lounge vouchers each year. Each voucher grants access for one person at participating SATS and Plaza Premium Lounges worldwide.

Four visits is more generous than what other general spending cards offer, although it should be noted that:

  • Citi PremierMiles and DBS Altitude cardholders still enjoy complimentary lounge visits with an annual fee waiver, but AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders will not receive lounge vouchers should they get a fee waiver
  • Lounge access with the Citi PremierMiles and DBS Altitude is provided via Priority Pass, with more than 1,000 locations worldwide. AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend lounge vouchers can only be used at ~70 lounges worldwide
CardLounge Access?
BOC Elite Miles
UOB PRVI Miles
OCBC 90°N Mastercard
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend
(4 per year)
Citi PremierMiles
(2 per year)
DBS Altitude
(2 per year,
Visa version only)
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card
OCBC 90°N Visa
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card

Free Hilton Night

krisflyer ascend hilton voucher

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card members receive a free one-night stay at selected Hilton properties every year. This is a crucial benefit, because your ability to recover the annual fee depends on how smartly you use it. 

There are currently 253 properties where this voucher is accepted, all within Asia Pacific. More than 150 of these are in China, but there’s also options in places like Bangkok,  Bali, Hanoi, Melbourne, and Phuket too. 

Conrad Bangkok
Conrad Bangkok

Obviously, not all hotels represent equal value so you’ll want to choose wisely. As a general guideline, when it comes to brand positioning:

Conrad > Hilton > Doubletree > Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Silver status

hilton silver status

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card members receive complimentary Hilton Silver status, which is valid until the end of the calendar year after it was received. For example, if I receive Silver status in 2020, it’ll be valid until the end of 2021. Subsequently, I’ll need to requalify via the usual criteria.

Hilton Silver status, in and of itself, isn’t fantastic. It’s just one rung above the entry-level, with no free breakfast, lounge access or room upgrade perks.

hilton elite benefits

But why it matters is because Silver members get the 5th night free on all award redemptions. Hilton sells points several times a year, with prices as low as 0.5 US cents each. You could buy points and redeem them for Hilton’s top-tier properties, saving hundreds of dollars over retail value. 

Take for example the Conrad Maldives, where rooms cost 120,000 points per night. If you bought those points at 0.5 US cents each, you’d pay just US$600, significantly less than the asking price. If you’re a Silver member and redeem five consecutive nights, you’d only need to pay 4 x 120,000=480,000 points, or an average of just 96,000 points (US$480) per night!

Fast track to KrisFlyer Elite Gold

amex krisflyer ascend elite gold fast track

Cardholders who spend at least S$15,000 on Singaporeair.com purchases within the first 12 months of card approval will receive an automatic upgrade to KrisFlyer Elite Gold.

This benefit is only valid for the first year; subsequently, you’ll have to requalify by flying at least 50,000 elite miles in a 12-month membership period.

KrisFlyer Elite Gold confers additional benefits when flying on Singapore Airlines or Star Alliance carriers, such as:

  • A 25% bonus on KrisFlyer miles
  • Lounge access
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority boarding
  • Priority luggage handling and additional 20kg allowance

S$15,000 is indeed a lot to spend, but think about the scenario of someone who often buys air tickets for his entire family. He can’t accrue the elite miles on their tickets (only the person whose name is on the ticket can), but can nonetheless achieve KrisFlyer Elite Gold through his total card spending. 

For more details on KrisFlyer Elite Gold benefits, refer to the post below.

Your complete guide to KrisFlyer Elite Gold benefits

Double KrisFlyer miles accrual voucher

Cardholders who spend at least S$15,000 on Singaporeair.com purchases between 1 July and 30 June of the following year will receive a double KrisFlyer miles accrual voucher.

As the name suggests, this allows you to earn double the miles normally accrued. This sounds great, but it’s capped at a measly 5,000 miles. Here’s an illustration of how it works:

amex krisflyer ascend double miles voucher

Given the low cap, I wouldn’t value this benefit very highly.

Complimentary travel insurance

Accidental DeathS$1,000,000
Medical ExpensesN/A
Travel InconvenienceMissed connection: S$400
Baggage Delay: S$400
Extended Baggage Delay: S$1,000
Flight Delay: S$400

Many cards offer complimentary travel insurance, but not all policies are made equal. The Chubb coverage provided by the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend ranks somewhere in the middle- not bare bones, but not comprehensive either. 

Cardholders receive S$1,000,000 coverage for accidental death or permanent disability while traveling on a public conveyance. There’s also coverage for travel inconveniences like missed connections and bag delays. 

However, there is no coverage for medical expenses, nor medical evacuation. This is something you can’t afford to miss, so a separate travel insurance policy is almost mandatory. 

On the bright side, Chubb has confirmed that insurance coverage also applies to award tickets, so long as you use your AMEX credit card to pay the taxes and surcharges. 

Summary Review: AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card

Apply Here

The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend card can certainly pull its weight in the first year, should you apply when there’s a lucrative sign-up bonus. The bonus miles, together with the free Hilton night and lounge vouchers can more than cover the S$337.05 annual fee.

From the second year onwards, you’re relying on the free Hilton night and lounge vouchers to help cover the bulk of the annual fee. It’s certainly possible, but more marginal than the first year.

So that’s my review of the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend. 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 Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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YX

Hi Aaron, just a data point, I applied for a fee waiver and also received my lounge vouchers and hotel voucher too. Just FYI!

Kster

I also got the fee waiver with vouchers sent

jorge

how much did you guys spend? I didn’t get anything

Jason

I got fee waiver with 8,000 miles but no vouchers 🙁

chk

If they include donation to charities under exclusion, I might cancel the card. The good thing is no need for KF miles transfer fees.
For many years, every annual family holiday includes 1 lounge access with the 4 vouchers. But the fee is higher now. Not sure if I will call to cancel in few months time when renewal rolls round.

Salmon Lee

I’ve been a loyal member for many years now. But the benefits for existing card holders are measly. I’ve mentioned this to their customer service before, but seems like the benefits and attractions come at the beginning when you apply for the card. SO I’m thinking cancelling the card, and then re-apply a year later.

K H Ho

Hi Aaron, would you be reviewing the AMEX Platinum Reserve Card any time soon?

anon

For the first year free waiver, do i get the benefits too?

Allan

Hi Aaron, you state the list of exclusions has utilities. In the next paragraph, you say utility transactions can earn miles. Could you reconfirm which type of utilities can earn miles?

Thank you.

N g

Hi Aaron, there is an option for “consent for direct marketing” when applying for the card. If I do not want to consent for marketing, do I get all the benefits and bonus miles as stated?

HHX

Hi Aaron, can i use ascend to pay for cardup? Does it count towards the 3K spend?

ac.c

Will amex give silver status to an existing standard Hilton member and if so, how do you get that applied to your account?

Bon

Question: Is the Hilton 1 night voucher only awarded upon paying the annual fee? Does that mean I cannot apply for the card today and use it for a Hilton stay a few months down the road?

Bon

Thanks Aaron.

Bon

One more questiom, is there a way to check for blackout dates for this particular voucher or should I email the hotel?

Ivan

hey Aaron, I think there’s a slight error in your mile table calculation compared to PRVI miles. In Amex TNCs it states miles are awarded in whole and are rounded up if the resulting calculation is 0.50 miles and down if 0.49 miles and below.

which means a $9.99 transaction would accrue 11.98≈12 miles, $19.99 would be 28.78≈29 miles, $29.99 would be 35.98≈36 miles and so on.

chk

2021 I got Platinum concierge to waive fee and no vouchers or even renewal letter received. That’s ok.

2022 I was too busy and paid the fee without checking the card statement details. 3 months later (yes, 3 mths later) got the envelop this week with useless lounge vouchers + 1 hilton voucher.
And…bummer: http://apac.hilton.com/amexkrisflyer validates my card and voucher number and Singapore only has 1 hotel for selection (even before inputing arrival date): Hilton Garden Inn.
Unbelievable…..

Aaron….pls spread the word

Rob

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders earn 2.0 mpd on all transactions made with Singapore Airlines and KrisShop, without cap.

Not exactly, only for flights originating from Singapore and paid in SGD. It is in TnC.

W L

For anyone else who, like me, was curious to see how you could see miles earned for individual transactions, I found the answer in another blog (https://trevallog.com/amex-krisflyer-review/):

Later, I found that I can actually see the miles earned in each transaction via mobile app. To do that, I need to open my Amex SG mobile app, select AMEX KrisFlyer Card, tap the Membership tab at the bottom of the screen, then tap View Activity button. Here, I can see my recent transactions and the number of points earned on each transaction.

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