With a generous sign-up bonus, four lounge visits, a complimentary Hilton hotel night and Hilton Silver status, the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend isn’t just there to make up the numbers.
However, those perks come with a non-waivable (in the first year, at least) annual fee of S$340.20. Moreover, the earn rates are pedestrian at best, and American Express has been gradually chipping away at some of the things that separated its cards from the pack, such as lower FCY fees and points for charitable donations and education.
So, is the Ascend still in ascendancy? (hey- you write three dozen card reviews and see if you don’t run out of witty puns)
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend|
|🦁 MileLion Verdict|
|☐ Take It|
☑ Take It Or Leave It
☐ Leave It
|What do these ratings mean?|
|The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend can be a great deal in the first year, but its lacklustre earn rates mean its a card you shouldn’t be regularly spending on|
|👍 The good||👎 The bad|
|💳 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.
|Income Req.||S$50,000 p.a.||Points Validity||3 years|
|Annual Fee||S$340.20||Min. |
|Miles with |
|FCY Fee||2.95%||Transfer Fee||N/A|
|Local Earn||1.2 mpd||Points Pool?||Yes|
|FCY Earn||1.2 mpd|
2 mpd (Jun & Dec)
|Lounge Access?||Yes |
|Special Earn||2 mpd on SIA & KrisShop |
3.2 mpd on Grab
|Cardholder Terms and Conditions|
Singapore Airlines has a total of four Singapore Airlines AMEX cobrand cards.
The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend is positioned as the more premium of the two cards available to the general public, the other being the AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card (aka “KrisFlyer Blue”). The AMEX PPS and Solitaire PPS Credit Cards can only be held by PPS and Solitaire PPS members respectively.
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||General public||S$178.20|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||S$340.20|
|AMEX PPS Credit Card||PPS Club||S$556.20|
|AMEX Solitaire PPS Credit Card||Solitaire PPS Club||S$556.20|
How much must I earn to qualify for an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend?
American Express no longer publishes minimum income requirements for any of its cards, saying instead that “card application is subjected to customers meeting the regulatory minimum income requirement and internal assessment”.
Prior to this, however, the AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card had an income requirement of S$50,000 per year, the MAS-mandated minimum. There’s no reason to believe that has changed.
S$50,000 per year is 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 can’t get approved, 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 annual fee.
How much is the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend’s annual fee?
|Principal Card||Supp. Card|
The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend has an annual fee of S$340.20 for the principal cardholder, and S$81 for supplementary cardholders. The first year annual fee is waived for the supplementary card, but cannot be waived for principal cardholders.
That gives the Ascend the distinction of being 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. That said, none of those offer complimentary lounge visits or a free Hilton night, which I suppose is the argument for making the annual fee mandatory.
Annual fees can be waived in subsequent years, but this is a YMMV situation. It never hurts to call 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.
In my experience, AMEX may offer a 50% waiver of the annual fee upon request, without the free lounge or hotel night vouchers.
(first 30 days)
(first 30 days)
(S$1.5K @ 1.2 mpd)
|S$340.20 annual fee must be paid|
This offer is valid for applications submitted by 31 August 2023 and approved by 14 September 2023.
All first-time American Express KrisFlyer cobrand cardholders will enjoy 5,000 miles on their first spend of any amount. This is a once per lifetime bonus; if you’ve held any American Express KrisFlyer cobrand card before, you won’t receive it a second time.
Cardholders will receive 15,300 bonus miles upon paying the mandatory S$340.20 annual fee and spending S$1,000 in the first month of approval (defined as 30 calendar days).
If they spend a further S$500 in the first month of approval (i.e. S$1,500 total), they will receive a further 10,900 bonus miles.
|❓ Who is eligible?|
This offer is open to anyone who:
Do note that there is no timeout period for customers to be considered “new” again after cancelling their last AMEX card, but all applications are subject to internal approval.
To summarise the offer, by spending S$1,500 in the first month of approval, applicants will receive up to 33,000 miles, broken down as follows:
- 5,000 miles (first spend bonus)
- 15,300 miles (regular sign-up bonus)
- 10,900 miles (MileLion bonus)
- 1,800 miles (base miles earned for S$1,500 spend @ 1.2 mpd)
33,000 miles would be sufficient for a round-trip Economy Class ticket to Hong Kong or Taipei.
How many miles do I earn?
|🇸🇬 SGD Spend||🌎 FCY Spend||⭐ Bonus Spend|
|1.2 mpd||2 mpd|
(Jun & Dec only,
otherwise 1.2 mpd )
(SIA and KrisShop)
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card members earn:
- 1.2 miles for every S$1 spent in Singapore Dollars
- 1.2 miles for every S$1 spent in foreign currency (FCY)
In June and December only, the FCY earn rate is boosted to 2 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 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.
|💳 Earn Rates for General Spending Cards|
(income req.: S$30K)
|Cards||Local Spend||FCY 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 (Credit Card) or 1.2 mpd (Ascend)|
All overseas transactions on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend are subject to a 2.95% fee, which will further increase to 3.25% from 1 October 2023.
Using your card overseas therefore means buying miles at 1.48 cents (1.63 cents from 1 October) or 2.46 cents (2.71 cents from 1 October), depending on time of year.
|Months||FCY Spend||Cost Per Mile|
|June & December||2.0 mpd||1.48 (till 30 Sep 23)|
1.63 (from 1 Oct 23)
|Others||1.2 mpd||2.46 (till 30 Sep 23)|
2.71 (from 1 Oct 23)
2mpd for Singapore Airlines and KrisShop
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders earn an uncapped 2 mpd on all transactions made at:
- Singapore Airlines website
- Singapore Airlines mobile app
- KrisShop purchases onboard Singapore Airlines
- KrisShop purchases at krisshop.com
Tickets must originate from Singapore and be purchased in Singapore dollars. For avoidance of doubt, you’ll also earn 2 mpd if you redeem an award ticket and pay for the taxes and surcharges with the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend, provided the “originate from Singapore” and “purchased in Singapore dollars” conditions are met.
Do note that there is no bonus for Scoot transactions. Moreover, the bonus for KrisShop transactions does not apply if you shop via the Kris+ app.
Considering how you could easily earn 4-6 mpd on these purchases by using other credit cards, there’s nothing to get excited about here.
3.2 mpd for Grab
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders earn 3.2 mpd on the first S$200 spent on Grab per calendar month. All Grab services are included, but GrabPay top-ups are excluded. Any spending beyond this cap earns the usual 1.2 mpd.
Again, you could earn 4-6 mpd on Grab transactions by using other credit cards, so this isn’t that big a deal.
How are KrisFlyer miles calculated?
Here’s how KrisFlyer miles earned on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend are calculated:
|Local Spend||Multiply 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 in June/Dec).
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$5||6 miles||6 miles|
|S$9.99||12 miles||6 miles|
|S$15||18 miles||20 miles|
|S$19.99||24 miles||20 miles|
|S$25||30 miles||34 miles|
|S$29.99||36 miles||34 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 AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend’s full exclusion list can be found below:
a) Charges processed and billed prior to the Enrolment Date or charges prepaid on any Card Account prior to the first billing statement for that Card Account following the Enrolment Date;
b) Cash Advance and other cash services;
c) Express Cash;
d) American Express Travellers Cheque purchases;
e) Charges for dishonoured cheques;
f) Finance charges – including Line of Credit charges and Credit Card interest charges;
g) Late Payment and collection charges;
h) Tax refunds from overseas purchases;
i) Balance Transfers;
j) Instalment plans;
k) Annual Card fees;
l) Amount billed for purchase of KrisFlyer miles to top-up your miles balance;
m) Bill payments and all transactions via SingPost (e.g. SAM kiosks, mobile app, online portal);
n) Payments to insurance companies (except payments made for insurance products purchased through American Express authorized channel);
o) Payments to Singapore Petroleum Company Limited (SPC) service stations;
p) Payments for the purpose of GrabPay top-ups;
q) Payments to utilities merchants (with effect from 12 February 2021);
r) Payments to public/restructured hospitals, polyclinics and other public/restructured healthcare institutions and facilities (with effect from 1 October 2022);
s) Transactions relating to education and other non-profit purposes (including charitable donations) (with effect from 1 October 2023);
t) Charges at merchants or establishments that are excluded by American Express at its
sole discretion and notified by American Express to you from time to time.
Historically speaking, the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend was very liberal with awarding miles- merchant acceptance was a bigger issue than exclusions. However, in recent times the list has been growing (though to be fair, it’s no different from what other banks do). Key exclusions are GrabPay top-ups, insurance premiums, SPC transactions, utilities and public hospitals. Charitable donations and education will be excluded from 1 October 2023.
For avoidance of doubt, private hospitals, CardUp and government organisations still earn miles.
What do I need to know about KrisFlyer miles?
|❌ Expiry||↔️ Pooling||✈️ Transfer Fee|
|⬆️ Min. Transfer||✈️ No. of Partners||⏱️ Transfer Time|
|N/A||1||Miles credited once a month|
KrisFlyer miles earned on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend will expire at the end of the month, three years after they were earned.
For example, KrisFlyer miles credited to an account from 1-31 July 2021 will expire at the end of the day on 31 July 2024.
Cancelling an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend has no impact on the miles already in your KrisFlyer account.
All miles earned on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend will be credited directly to your KrisFlyer account, where they will pool with miles earned from all other sources (be it other credit cards, flights etc.).
Transfer Partners & Fees
At the risk of stating the obvious, the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend is a cobrand card which does not give you a choice of where to credit your points. If you want to earn points that can be converted into a range of frequent flyer partners, pick a non-cobrand card instead.
No conversion fees are applicable.
Miles earned on the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend 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.
While direct crediting avoids conversion fees, it does mean the three year expiry countdown for KrisFlyer miles starts immediately.
Contrast this to other non-cobrand cards where you pay conversion fees, but enjoy “two validities”- one on the bank side, and one on the airline side. For example, if I had a UOB PRVI Miles Card:
- My UNI$ are valid for 2 years
- Once I convert UNI$ to KrisFlyer miles, they’re valid for 3 years
- In total I get 5 years of validity
Other card perks
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.
This is a nice feature to have and can result in some savings, but it’s not unique to the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend.
Four free lounge visits
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:
- Other general spending cards still enjoy complimentary lounge visits with an annual fee waiver, but AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend cardholders generally do not (with some very limited exceptions, no renewal vouchers are awarded when the annual fee is not paid in full)
- Other general spending cards offer Priority Pass or Dragon Pass memberships, with access to more than 1,000 lounges worldwide. AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend lounge vouchers use the much smaller Plaza Premium network
|Card||Network||Free Lounge Visits|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||Plaza Premium||4X|
|HSBC TravelOne Card||DragonPass||4X|
|Citi PremierMiles||Priority Pass||2X|
|DBS Altitude||Priority Pass||2X|
(Visa Version Only)
|StanChart Journey Card||Priority Pass||2X|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||N/A||N/A|
|BOC Elite Miles||N/A||N/A|
|KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card||N/A||N/A|
|OCBC 90°N Card||N/A||N/A|
|UOB PRVI Miles||N/A||N/A|
Free Hilton Night
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card members receive a free one-night stay at selected Hilton properties every year (room only, no breakfast). This is a crucial benefit, because your ability to recover the annual fee depends on how smartly you use it.
There are currently 75 properties where this voucher is accepted, all within Asia Pacific. This includes the Conrad Bangkok, Conrad Manila, Conrad Bali and Conrad Pune.
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
You will not enjoy elite benefits on stays redeemed with this voucher. Certain properties may grant this on a goodwill basis, but it’s not to be expected.
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 upgrade to Silver status in 2023, it’ll be valid until the end of 2024. Subsequently, I’ll need to requalify via the usual criteria. To stretch your validity, apply for the upgrade as early in the year as possible.
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.
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
Cardholders who spend at least S$15,000 on Singapore Airlines ticket purchases made at singaporeair.com or the SingaporeAir mobile app within the first 12 months of card approval will receive an automatic upgrade to KrisFlyer Elite Gold.
All tickets must be for travel originating from Singapore, and purchased in Singapore Dollars. This benefit is only valid for one 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.
Double KrisFlyer miles accrual voucher
Cardholders who spend at least S$15,000 on Singapore Airlines ticket purchases made at singaporeair.com or the SingaporeAir mobile app between 1 July and 30 June of the following year will receive a double KrisFlyer miles accrual voucher.
All tickets must be for travel originating from Singapore, and purchased in Singapore Dollars.
As the name suggests, the voucher 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:
For the avoidance of doubt, only the base miles are doubled. You do not earn any bonus on the 25% elite tier bonus, Elite miles or PPS Value.
Given the low cap, I wouldn’t value this benefit very highly.
Complimentary travel insurance
AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Cardholders who charge their airfares to the card will receive automatic travel insurance coverage, underwritten by Chubb. For avoidance of doubt, this applies both to cash tickets, as well as award tickets where the taxes and fees are paid for with the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend.
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.
Terms and Conditions
Summary Review: AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card
|🦁 MileLion Verdict|
|☐ Take It|
☑ Take It Or Leave It
☐ Leave It
The AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend card can certainly be a good deal in the first year, since its three main benefits will easily cover the S$340.20 annual fee.
- 31,200 bonus miles (S$468 at a value of 1.5 cents per mile)
- 4 lounge vouchers (S$30 each, based on Carousell prices)
- Hilton voucher (conservatively valued at S$200, though you can certainly get more depending on which property you choose)
But outside the sign-up bonus, this isn’t really a card to put your day-to-day spending on. Its earn rates are mediocre, even for Singapore Airlines spending- a category you’d think this card would excel at!
All things considered, I still believe the KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card is the superior cobrand option, given its uncapped 3 mpd on dining, food delivery, online shopping & travel and transport (not to mention its waivable annual fee).
So that’s my review of the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend. What do you think?