Review: DBS Altitude Card

Once an excellent general spending card, the loss of bonuses on flights & hotels means the DBS Altitude doesn't have a lot to separate it from the pack.

Here’s The MileLion’s review of the DBS Altitude Card, which in many ways pioneered the democratisation of the miles game in Singapore.

Blast from the past: Today, 5 July 2007

It’s hard to believe now, but back in the late noughties, most fresh graduates wouldn’t have been able to get a miles card straight off the bat. The minimum income requirement for any decent miles card was S$80,000, and the DBS Altitude was no exception.

Over the years, however, that S$80,000 became less papal edict and more serving suggestion, and eventually in 2016, DBS became the first bank in Singapore to offer a miles card at the MAS-mandated minimum of S$30,000.

This put pressure on the rest of the market, and eventually the Citi PremierMiles and UOB PRVI Miles Cards reduced their income requirements to S$30,000 as well. Now hardworking Singaporeans could dream of a chicken in every pot, two cars in every garage, and three miles cards in every pocket.

For a long time, the DBS Altitude was one of the most useful general spending cards on the market. While its rates for local and overseas spend were standard fare, its ace in the hole was a 3 mpd bonus on up to S$5,000 of online flight and hotel bookings each month. Even better, unlike its competitors, the Altitude didn’t force you to book on OTA portals with inflated pricing and limited selections. You could book any airline or hotel you wished, via its official website.

Unfortunately, that was all undone in August 2023, when DBS decided to eliminate the bonuses– completely their call, though the way they did so left a lot to be desired.

So where does that leave the DBS Altitude? Drifting at sea, I’m afraid.

DBS Altitude Card
🦁 MileLion Verdict
☐ Take It
☑ Take It Or Leave It
☐ Leave It

What do these ratings mean?
Once an excellent general spending card, the loss of bonuses on flights & hotels means the DBS Altitude doesn’t have a lot to separate it from the pack.
👍 The good👎 The bad
  • 2 free lounge visits (Visa version only)
  • Non-expiring points which pool with other DBS cards
  • Lacks a compelling miles purchase facility
  • Limited frequent flyer transfer partners
  • No more bonuses for flight and hotel bookings
  • Minimum conversion blocks of 10,000 miles
💳 Full List of Credit Card Reviews

Overview: DBS Altitude Card

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

Apply (AMEX)
Apply (Visa)
Income Req.S$30,000 p.a.Points ValidityNo Expiry
Annual FeeS$194.40
(First Year Free)
Min.
Transfer
5,000 DBS Points
(10,000 miles)
Miles with
Annual Fee
10,000Transfer
Partners
  • SIA
  • Air Asia
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas 
FCY Fee3% (AMEX)
3.25% (Visa)
Transfer FeeS$27
Local Earn1.3 mpdPoints Pool?Yes
FCY Earn2.2 mpdLounge Access?Yes 
(Visa)
Special Earn6 mpd on Expedia, 10 mpd on KaligoAirport Limo?No
Cardholder Terms and Conditions

The DBS Altitude comes in two varieties: American Express, and Visa. The fees, earn rates and benefits of the two are almost identical; I’ll draw attention to the differences where relevant. 

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

dbs altitude income requirement

The DBS Altitude has a minimum income requirement of S$30,000 per year.

If you don’t meet the minimum 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 CardSupp. Card
First YearFreeFree
SubsequentS$194.40S$97.20

The DBS Altitude Card has an annual fee of S$194.40 for the principal cardholder, and a S$97.20 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 (based on personal experience, you can get a fee waiver even if you spend much less than this).

Otherwise, paying the principal card’s annual fee nets you 10,000 miles, which means buying miles at ~1.94 cents per mile. You can opt to voluntarily pay the annual fee even if you spend above $25,000 in a membership year, should you wish to buy the miles anyway.

Sign-up bonus

From now till 30 September 2023, the DBS Altitude Cards are offering a sign-up bonus of up to 25,600 bonus miles, depending on which card you apply for and whether you’re a new or existing DBS/POSB customer.

 
 DBS Altitude AMEXDBS Altitude Visa
New Customers25,600 bonus miles
(+10,000 miles with AF payment)
22,600 bonus miles
(+10,000 miles with AF payment)
Existing Customers11,600 bonus miles
(+10,000 miles with AF payment)
N/A
❓ New-to-bank

DBS defines “new-to-bank” as customers who do not:

  • currently hold a principal DBS or POSB credit card, and
  • have not cancelled a principal DBS or POSB credit card in the past 12 months

On top of the bonus miles, an additional 10,000 miles will be granted if you choose to pay the first year’s S$194.40 annual fee.

Refer to the tables below for the promo code you’ll need to enter to enjoy these offers.

New-to-bank customers
DBS Altitude AMEX
Apply
Promo Code ALTMEX  ALTMEXW 
Bonus Miles25,60025,600
Base Miles From S$2,000 Spend (@ 1.3 mpd)2,6002,600
Miles From S$194.40 Annual Fee10,000Fee waived
Total Miles38,20028,200
New-to-bank customers
DBS Altitude Visa
Apply
Promo Code ALTVIS  ALTVISW 
Bonus Miles22,60022,600
Base Miles From S$2,000 Spend (@ 1.3 mpd)2,6002,600
Miles From S$194.40 Annual Fee10,000Fee waived
Total Miles35,20025,200
Existing customers
DBS Altitude AMEX
Apply
Promo Code ALTMEXA  ALTMEXAW 
Bonus Miles11,60011,600
Base Miles From S$2,000 Spend (@1.3 mpd)2,6002,600
Miles From S$194.40 Annual Fee10,000Fee waived
Total Miles24,20014,200

How many miles do I earn?

🇸🇬 SGD Spend🌎 FCY Spend⭐ Bonus Spend
1.3 mpd2.2 mpd6 mpd on Expedia, 10 mpd on Kaligo

SGD/FCY Spend

DBS Altitude Card members earn:

  • 3.25 DBS Points for every S$5 spent in Singapore Dollars (SGD)
  • 5.5 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 1.3 mpd for SGD spending, and 2.2 mpd for FCY spending. These are competitive rates for a general spending card, as the table below shows. 

💳 Earn Rates for General Spending Cards
(income req.: S$30K)
CardsLocal SpendFCY Spend
UOB PRVI Miles 1.4 mpd  2.4 mpd 
HSBC TravelOne Card 1.2 mpd  2.4 mpd 
DBS Altitude 1.3 mpd  2.2 mpd 
OCBC 90°N Card 1.3 mpd  2.1 mpd 
Citi PremierMiles 1.2 mpd  2 mpd 
StanChart Journey 1.2 mpd  2 mpd 
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend 1.2 mpd  2 mpd* 
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card 1.1 mpd  2 mpd* 
BOC Elite Miles 1 mpd  2 mpd 
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card 1.2 mpd  1.2 mpd 
*In June and Dec only, otherwise 1.1 mpd

All overseas transactions on the DBS Altitude AMEX and Visa Cards are subject to a 3% and 3.25% FCY fee respectively. This means that using your DBS Altitude Card overseas represents buying miles at 1.36 cents (AMEX) and 1.48 cents (Visa).

Expedia

expedia logo

For bookings made through this Expedia link, DBS Altitude Card members will earn 6 mpd on hotel bookings where payment is made to Expedia at the time of booking, and the following airlines: 

  • Cambodia Airways
  • China Eastern 
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Gulf Air
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Myanmar Intl Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Srilankan Airlines
  • THAI
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines
The above list is subject to change, so be sure to confirm it with the latest T&Cs before booking. 

This applies to bookings made by 31 March 2024, and capped at S$5,000 per month. Bonus miles will be accumulated and awarded to the cardholder within 45 days after the end of each spend period:

  • 1 April to 30 June 2023
  • 1 July to 30 September 2023
  •  1 October to 31 December 2023
  • 1 January to 31 March 2024

The full T&Cs of this offer can be found here.

Kaligo

kaligo logo

For bookings made through Kaligo, DBS Altitude Card members will earn an additional 7 mpd on hotel reservations made by 31 March 2024. 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&Cs of this offer can be found here.

Do note that the S$5,000 monthly cap on online flight and hotels, Expedia and Kaligo is shared.

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. 

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 penalising. Here’s how DBS points on your DBS Altitude Card are calculated:

Local SpendDivide transaction by 5 and multiply by 3.25. Round down to the nearest whole number
FCY Spend
Divide transaction by 5 and multiply by 5.5. 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 not S$5, but rather:

  • SGD spend: S$1.54
  • FCY spend: S$0.91

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
Earn rate: 1.3 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$2532 miles34 miles
S$29.9938 miles34 miles

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

Local Spend=ROUNDDOWN ((X/5)*3.25,0)
FCY Spend
=ROUNDDOWN ((X/5)*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?

DBS Points will not be awarded for the following transactions:

  • Bill payments and all transactions via AXS (except Pay+Earn), SAM, eNETS;
  • Payments to educational institutions;
  • Payment to government institutions and services (court cases, fines, bail and bonds, tax payment, postal services, parking lots and garages, intra-government purchases and any other government services not classified here);
  • Payment to insurance companies (sales, underwriting, and premiums);
  • Payments to financial institutions (including banks and brokerages);
  • Payment to non-profit organisations;
  • Payments to hospitals;
  • Payments on utilities;
  • Betting (including lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, off-track betting, and wagers at race tracks) through any channel;
  • Any top-ups or payment of funds to payment service providers, prepaid cards, any prepaid accounts or purchase of prepaid cards/credits (including but not limited to EZ-Link, GrabPay, NETS FlashPay, Razer Pay, ShopeePay and Singtel Dash);
  • Any transaction with transaction description “AMAZE*”
  • Instalment payment plan purchases, preferred payment plans, balance transfer, fund transfer, cash advances, annual fees, interest, late payment charges, all fees charged by DBS, miscellaneous charges imposed by DBS (unless otherwise stated in writing by DBS)

It’s pretty much what you’d expect: education, government institutions, insurance, non-profits, hospitals, utilities, and top-ups of prepaid accounts like GrabPay and YouTrip.

For avoidance of doubt, CardUp and RentHero transactions do earn DBS Points. 

What do I need to know about DBS Points?

❌ Expiry↔️ Pooling💰 Transfer Fee
No expiryYesS$27 (per conversion) or
S$43.20 (per year)
⬆️ Min. Transfer✈️ No. of Partners⏱️ Transfer Time
5,000 DBS Points
(10,000 miles)
41-3 working days
(for KF)

Expiry

DBS Points normally expire after one year, but points earned on the DBS Altitude card never expire.

Pooling

DBS Points earned on different cards pool together for the purposes of redemption. If I have a 12,000 points on the DBS Altitude and 8,000 points on the DBS Woman’s World Card, I’ll be able to redeem 20,000 points at one shot, paying 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 else forfeit them. 

Partners and Transfer Fee

DBS partners with the following frequent flyer programmes, and a minimum conversion block of 5,000 points is required (let’s ignore AirAsia, because converting points there is like throwing them away):

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

Transfers cost S$27 per programme, regardless of how many points are transferred.

For KrisFlyer specifically, DBS offers an alternative “Auto Conversion programme”. This charges a flat fee of S$43.20 per membership year, and automatically converts DBS Points to KrisFlyer miles each calendar quarter in blocks of 500 DBS Points. 

How does the DBS KrisFlyer Miles Auto Conversion Programme work?

This reduces the minimum transfer block from 10,000 miles to 1,000 miles, but has the downside of starting the three-year expiry on your KrisFlyer miles early. 

Whether the Auto Conversion programme makes sense depends on your miles transfer patterns. If you make only one transfer to KrisFlyer per year, the “per transfer” model of S$27 would make more sense. However, if you find yourself making two or more transfers, the Auto Conversion programme may have some utility. 

Cardholders enrolled in the Auto Conversion scheme can make ad-hoc conversions from DBS Points to KrisFlyer miles without paying the usual S$27 fee, but the usual minimum block of 5,000 DBS Points applies.

Transfer Times

DBS tells customers to expect points to be credited in 1-2 weeks, but in reality it usually takes about 1-3 working days at the very most (at least for KrisFlyer, transfer times to other programmes can be longer)

If you need your points credited instantly, you can do so via Kris+. 100 DBS Points can be transferred to 170 KrisPay miles, which can then be transferred to KrisFlyer miles at a 1:1 ratio. 

S$5 for new Kris+ Users
Get S$5 (in the form of 750 KrisPay miles) when you sign-up with code W644363 and make your first transaction

Transfers are immediate, but those 100 DBS Points would normally have earned you 200 KrisFlyer miles, so you effectively take a 15% haircut. 

Therefore I wouldn’t recommend taking this option, unless you need a small top-up to redeem a flight, or have an orphan DBS Points balance (<5,000 points). 

Other card perks

Income tax facility

DBS Altitude cardholders can pay their income tax via DBS’s My Preferred Payment Plan with a 2.5% fee, while earning 1.5 mpd (instead of the usual 1.2 mpd rate)

This works out to 1.67 cents per mile; decent, but you could derive a lower cost per mile by using a payment service like CardUp.

If you’re thinking of paying taxes with your DBS Altitude Card, do refer to the article below for the latest promotions.

2023 Edition: Earning credit card miles on IRAS income tax

Two free lounge visits (Visa version only)

Registration

The DBS Altitude Visa comes with two free lounge visits per membership year, via Priority Pass. 

The 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. 

Here’s how this compares to other cards in its segment.

CardNetworkFree Lounge Visits
(per year)
AMEX KrisFlyer AscendPlaza Premium4X
HSBC TravelOne CardDragonPass4X
Citi PremierMilesPriority Pass2X
DBS AltitudePriority Pass2X
(Visa Version Only)
StanChart Journey CardPriority Pass2X
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit CardN/AN/A
BOC Elite MilesN/AN/A
KrisFlyer UOB Credit CardN/AN/A
OCBC 90°N CardN/AN/A
UOB PRVI MilesN/AN/A

Terms and Conditions

Summary Review: DBS Altitude Card

Apply (AMEX)
Apply (Visa)
🦁 MileLion Verdict
☐ Take It
☑ Take It Or Leave It
☐ Leave It

Prior to August 2023, I’d heartily recommend the DBS Altitude Card to anyone looking for an entry-level general spending card. Its local and overseas spending rates were decent, and it had the added bonus of 3 mpd on flights & hotels with a generous monthly cap of S$5,000.

Now, it’s not so clear. While the local and overseas spending rates have been buffed slightly,  losing the bonuses for flights & hotels is a bitter pill to swallow. The way I see it, there’s not much to separate the Altitude from the rest of the competition. 

To add to the murkiness, we don’t even know if this will be the Altitude’s final form. DBS has already highlighted that further changes will come in February 2024- what exactly those are, they won’t say!

Until we have more clarity on the long-term value proposition of this card, you might be better off looking elsewhere instead.

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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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 years 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?

shannelka

does airbnb count as online hotel transaction?

Tillyson

Hi guys, got a question:

I have a big family of 6-9 pax (parents/inlaws) and each time my air travel expenses for a holiday can rack up to ~$10k since I am offering to purchase the tickets on their behalf.

does it then make sense for me to get and utilize both dbs attitude visa and amex cards as each card bonus spend is limited to $5k only?

theo

hi all! would anyone know if installment plan (of eligible category) will be eligible for the miles? or are they treated differently? thanks!

Grace

Does anyone know if we get more miles for booking cruises? Does that fall into hotel spend category?

Zezima

Nope it doesn’t. It is still 1.2mpd. The MCC is coded as 4411 Cruise Lines.
I previously used it before on Royal Caribbean and Genting Dream / World Dream last time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Zezima
CCW

Prices on the DBS Expedia link are much higher, no wonder they are giving 6mpd

Peter

What cards are good for GrabPay top-ups then?

Shaun

My DBS points have not being credited in more than 4 working days after transactions done. Does it happen to anyone?

Newbie

anyone knows if the priority pass membership have an expiry?

rockhaus

“Cardholders need to apply for their Priority Pass via this link. Their two visit allowance is tracked by membership year, based on when they applied for their Priority Pass.”

Hitesh

Hi, does Airbnb count under the bonus 3 MPD for DBS Altitude card for online hotel spend?

Miles

I think they also started S$5 earning blocks

Bryant

If i link DBS Altitude Amex to Atome pay for gym fee. Is this eligible for the 2k spending?

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