MileLion Year 5: Electric Boogaloo

Reflections on five years of full-time MileLioning.

2023 marked five years since I traded in a suit and tie for gimp mask and fetching unitard ( ❤️ full shoot available to the highest tipper on my OF page! ❤️) to fight unannounced devaluations and other injustices full-time as The MileLion.

And even though the outfit’s a little more snug around the midsection these days and the cowl inhibits hair growth, I don’t intend to hang up the cape anytime soon.

So, in case you’re wondering what goes on in the mind of a mysterious vigilante who battles evil in a form-fitting outfit accompanied by an alarmingly-young ward, here’s my thoughts on the year that’s passed.

2023 year in review

At Seedly PFF 2023

2023 had no shortage of stories.

On the credit cards front, we had the highs of the supercharged UOB Lady’s Card (now finally gender-neutral!), and the lows of the OCBC Titanium Rewards nerf. We had some crazy promotions, said goodbye to the StanChart X Card, swapped miles for cashback, and gingerly stepped over the twitching corpse of GrabPay. 

At KrisFlyer Fest 2023

On the airline front, we flirted with paper-based serviceware, enjoyed free Wi-Fi for all, finally got our appetisers and hot towels back, and had the first-ever KrisFlyer Fest (which I found a little underwhelming, truth be told).

For hotels, it seemed like every month brought with it a new opening: Artyzen, COMO, Conrad Orchard, EDITION, Mandarin Oriental, Pan Pac Orchard, and probably more I’ve forgotten. If only the prices weren’t out-of-this-world insane!

The MileLion’s readership continued to grow, with the site hitting 15 million annual pageviews– something I’d never have believed possible when I first hit the publish button in 2015 (and promptly went back to making PowerPoint slides).

🦁 MileLion in Numbers: Posts & Audience
YearPostsPageviews
20158960K
2016268705K
20174092M
20186413.8M
20195155.1M
20207686.2M
20218107.6M
202274212.7M
202370315.4 M

It’s heartening to know that blogs are still seen as viable mediums in this day and age, especially since I have no video-making nor dance talent. Start a YouTube channel, you say? Not until someone hires me a Scorsese (or his non-union Mexican equivalent). Hit up TikTok? No fam that not bussin’ fr.

2023 was also momentous for being the year that things finally returned to normal on a global scale, as China’s reopening marked the end of COVID-related travel restrictions worldwide. And while it didn’t hit the highs of 2022, it was a solid-enough year for trip reports too. 

🦁 MileLion in Numbers: Trip Reports
YearTrip Reports
20162
20175
20183
20192
20201
20214
202213
20234

In 2023, I managed to review Emirates’ “Game Changer” First Class, take my first inflight shower, do a wine safari in Dubai, visit Qatar’s new flagship Al Mourjan Garden Lounge, try SIA’s worst Business Class seat, lay my Qsuites jinx to rest, and sample Qatar’s “not-quite-Qsuites” product. I had some memorable hotel stays too, in particular the Conrad Osaka and Roku Kyoto (even if some commenters inexplicably managed to trigger themselves over the fact that someone would visit Japan and not stay in a ryokan).

I’ll share the usual map of my travels, but I need to divide it into two epochs. Here’s the map pre-July…

…and post-July.

Why July?

Three’s company

In July, The MileLion came under new management, who immediately set about instilling fiscal discipline and putting an end to the free-spending ways of the past.

New management

Abigail, the new CEO, rules with an iron fist. She has round-the-clock demands that make 996 look like a holiday, her roadmap is filled with exacting and precise milestones, and she’s not afraid to raise her voice if you fall short of her expectations (I’ve reported this to HR, but they never step in because she looks adorable).

Her arrival, quite simply, has changed everything- the way I work, the way I live, the way I spend my time. It’s a huge transition from the DINK life, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go into all this with some degree of trepidation. But as someone once told me, it’s very easy to verbalise the costs of raising a child: the hit to your wallet, the forgone hours of sleep, the loss of the freedom to do what you want, when you want it.

It’s much more difficult to describe the joys. Abigail means “my father’s joy”, and unlike SimplyGo, it’s a name that lives up to its billing. When I watch her grow, when I see her doing things that she couldn’t do a few weeks ago — lift her head, touch her toes, roll over, sit up, cram things in her mouth— it fills me with an unspeakable sense of wonder.

It goes beyond just being a proud parent; it’s an opportunity to witness firsthand the intricacies of God’s design- how the body assembles itself, how the brain forms connections, how all this started from a pair of cells you can’t even see with the naked eye.

Moreover, there’s something about parenting that causes a lot of things in the Christian life to suddenly snap into place. For example, you really start to understand the heart of a father, like how keeping your kids safe invariably comes off as trying to spoil their fun. No, don’t pull those wires! No, batteries aren’t part of a complete and healthy diet! No, my phone is for browsing memes on the toilet, not licking!

I know, as Abigail’s father, that the things she wants to do are going to make her sick or put her in danger. But in her limited understanding, all she sees is “this is the most awesome thing in the whole world right now and you’re telling me I can’t have it wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” Then I shake my head in bewilderment, before remembering that God probably does the same when He gets accused of being a killjoy. 

And finally, when I see how helpless and utterly dependent she is, it makes me marvel that God would enter the world in the form of a baby. A baby who needed to be nursed and fed, clothed and bathed, who had to learn to walk and talk, who despite being in the very nature God, was willing to take on flesh and experience the full limitations of a human body: hunger, sorrow, weariness, pain, the whole package.

Abigail has been the source of so much joy, laughter and illumination, not just for The MileLioness and I, but our extended family as well. It’s the kind of thing I could never understand before. 

So yes, becoming a parent entails many lifestyle changes. But through God’s grace, none of those have ever been a cause for regret, because my life is much richer for having Abigail in it.

Work. Life. Balance

What Abigail’s arrival has forced me to do is confront the question of work life balance at an even more fundamental level.

I always hate it when work keeps me from spending time with The MileLioness, but if push comes to shove, we can always reschedule. There’ll be other nights for dinners, for movies, for highly-experimental variants of Monopoly Deal.

When it comes to Abigail it’s a different matter entirely, because the kinds of experiences we’re talking about are the ones where you miss it and it’s over. I don’t want to be typing away at my computer when Abigail is doing her first crawl, or taking her first steps, or performing her first open heart surgery (“Six months old and not doctor yet? Great shame on dynasty!”). I don’t want her formative memories to be  filled with declined invitations to play, lest Harry Chapin requests a word.

At the same time, running a blog, especially one that’s personality-driven, has certain demands of its own. The miles and points game doesn’t really have an “off season”. There’s always stuff going on: enhancements, nerfs, banks doing stupid things, and since I can’t control the news cycle (I’m not Elliot Carver; not yet anyway), it can sometimes feel like being on call 24/7.

That’s obviously not sustainable, but it comes with the territory. I’m just going to have to try and manage it as best I can, and one of the ways is to have a greater emphasis on reviews. 

Unlike news, which is unscheduled and unpredictable, reviews are things I can write at my own pace and publish when I’m good and ready. In fact, what struck me when putting together my post on 2023’s biggest stories was how well-received reviews (and guides) are.

🦁 MileLion in Numbers: Top 10 Posts for 2023
1Review: UOB Lady’s Card191K views
2Review: HSBC Revolution188K views
3Review: Citi Rewards Card125K views
4Review: DBS Woman’s World Card119K views
5Review: UOB Preferred Platinum Visa117K views
6The MileLion’s 2023 Card Strategy116K views
7What’s the best card for insurance premiums?69K views
8What’s the best card to use with Amaze?68K views
9Review: ZipAir B787-8 Full Flat NRT-SIN 66K views 
10Ranked: My favourite SIA Business Class seats 66K views 

I did a lot of work on these last year (hopefully you’ll have noticed the tidied-up format and new grading scale, though unfortunately licensing issues have delayed the introduction of PoopScoreSM , the new CEO’s pet project), and The MileLion’s Credit Card Reviews now cover more than 80% of all miles and points earning cards on the market. 

Likewise, the “What Card?” guides are crowd pleasers, and I’ll be keeping these up to date throughout 2024, possibly adding a few new ones (suggestions?).

💳 What’s the Best Card for…
❓ Overall Guide
✈️ Air Tickets
🌎 Amaze 💗 Charity
🍽️ Dining
🏫 Education🥡 Food Delivery
🏨 Hotels☂️ Insurance
📱 Kris+
⚕️ MedicalPetrol🚍 Public Transport
🛒 Supermarkets🚰 Utilities 

Other guides I’m glad to have published last year include a first-timer’s guide to Singapore Airlines First and Business Class, how the UOB Visa Signature’s minimum spend works, and how to get around the UOB$ problem, to name a few.

What I like the most about these is that unlike news, I don’t feel pressured to hammer something out and smash the publish button (one of my pet peeves is when a website publishes a “breaking news story” that’s just a couple of lines with more to come appended at the end, which tells me the writer was more interested in getting my click than informing me about anything useful).

I’m not going to abandon news coverage altogether, of course. If there’s a new offer or promotion, I’m still going to write about it because the process helps me digest the details, and figure out if it’s something I personally want to take advantage of. But achieving 100% coverage is neither desirable nor realistic (I don’t know how other bloggers do it, really), and moreover, not everything needs to be blogged about right away. Unless we’re talking about a time-sensitive offer or error fare, waiting a few hours or even a day won’t be the end of the world.

What about airline and hotel reviews? Well, my initial plan was to nip away now and then for short trips whenever there’s some new airline, hotel or lounge that catches my eye, and while that’s still the idea, it’s not nearly as straightforward as it sounded in my head. It’s not that we don’t have help. We have excellent help, but I find it difficult to to be away from Abigail for prolonged periods (babies are incredibly gifted in the art of mind control; it’s their only survival mechanic). 

Conrad Singapore Orchard

A good compromise, at least on the hotels front, might be to look local. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s been a bumper crop of new hotel openings in 2023, with more to come this year (Grand Hyatt, Raffles Sentosa, The Standard, Banyan Tree Mandai).

I’ve already reviewed the new Conrad Singapore Orchard, but there’s many others I’d like to try- if I can find a way to do so without breaking the bank.

Emirates A380 Business Class | Photo: TPG

As for airlines, the only thing on the docket at the moment is Emirates Business Class on the A380 in March, and even then I feel like it’s more for me because there’s so many reviews out there already. I’m also keeping an eye out for award space on JAL’s new A350, though it’s going to be near impossible to find, and as much as I’d love to do the STARLUX A350, those cash and miles prices are somewhat unpalatable.

So the slate’s pretty clear for airline reviews in 2024 as of now, and I’d welcome some suggestions (plus ways those suggestions can actually be done through miles!).

Man, Singapore Airlines’ new Boeing 777-9 can’t come fast enough…

Shining light on shenanigans

I don’t know whether it’s just me, but 2023 felt like a year where we saw an unhealthy number of attempts by banks to play fast and loose with T&Cs. 

Some examples that come to mind (and I’m sure there’s more):

  • In May 2023, OCBC quietly updated the T&Cs for its 90°N welcome offer to retroactively add a first 500 cap
  • In August 2023, DBS decided to nerf the Altitude Card’s 3 mpd bonus for online flight and hotel bookings. While they ostensibly provided the requisite one month’s notice, all that was communicated was a vague “changes are coming” message with no details on what the changes actually were
  • In September 2023, StanChart launched an excellent welcome offer for its Simply Cash Card: S$500 cashback with S$599 spend. This, understandably, received a voracious response, but one week later the T&Cs were retroactively modified to put a “first 500” cap on eligibility- backdated to the start of the promotion

It’s a reminder that banks often need their feet held to the fire, something I’m proud that The MileLion and its community does. In all three cases, the banks eventually made things right after getting called out- OCBC and StanChart removed their retroactive caps, DBS extended the 3 mpd bonus for one further month. 

2024 isn’t even a month old and we’ve already seen OCBC launch a 6 mpd promotion for the Titanium Rewards Card, then bury in the T&Cs a clause that allows them to claw back the bonus miles if customers cancel their card within six months of the promotion’s end date (something you’d expect to see in an offer for new cardholders, but never for existing). That was called out and corrected too, a reminder that the fight’s never over. 

So let’s keep doing this. You guys spot the shenanigans, I put the problem into words, and together we get them to make it right.

Funny emails I get

And finally, this year’s “funny emails I get” section focuses on the sheer number of people who believe The MileLion operates airlines, runs hotels, issues credit cards and offers PCR testing. 

It’s equal parts amusing and concerning, the idea that someone comes across The MileLion on Google and despite all signs to the contrary, assume it’s an official airline/hotel/bank website. Come to think of it, that might explain why we have a scamdemic in Singapore…

🦁 MileLion in Numbers: Migraines from emails asking for PCR tests
Abundant.

So, my sincere apologies, I am not able to rebook your flight, forward your bank statement, arrange a pre-departure swab or find your missing loafers. 

And if you send me your PNR and last name, all you’re going to get is a middle seat and vegan meal.

In summary

That’s five years of full-time MileLioning done and dusted! Thank you once again for your continued support of this website, whether it’s through card applications, recommendations to friends and family, or simply inserting random MileLion references into your day-to-day life (“hey baby, I’m so good at Monopoly Deal I game in 30 seconds”).

It’s encouraging to hear about all the great memories you’ve been able to make thanks to the miles game, and the crazy loopholes or tricks that hadn’t even crossed my mind. And it’s always fun (plus a reminder I’m no longer able to pick my nose in public) to run into readers in random places like an airport lounge, a hotel buffet line, or a Hotel 81 which we’re both visiting ironically so it’s OK.

My heartfelt thanks to the The MileLioness and family for their unwavering support, to the Telegram admins for agreeing not to unionise (how curious that one guy who suggested it was later found dead with 50 self-inflicted stab wounds?), and to everyone who sends in story tips and/or terribly written fan fic.

Here’s to an amazing 2024!

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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Tony

Congratulations Aaron. Job well done. Many Thanks to your sweat and toll to bring benefits to us. I have derived benefits from it.

Beverly

Here’s an idea for an article – etiquette when travelling premium class the first time. I recently observed an enthusiastic family where the father not only rang the call bell every 20 minutes to request a drink but also walked to and from the galley multiple times with multiple snacks to distribute to his teenage children. They also incessantly played with the seat lights and must have taken an entire phone memory’s worth of selfies and tik tok monologues.
I get it. It’s their first time. But no need to put on it display

Last edited 2 months ago by Beverly
Cat

The sort of person who needs that article is probably not the sort of person who will ever read it tbh

David

You probably also like that on your first time travelling on First/Business 😁
Other people excited and happy why you must feel so upset about it?

Patrick

You have the best blog in town. Period. Love it since day 1.

lifeonthego

Have loved your blog since I started reading it in 2015 and recommend it to everyone in Singapore who’s interested in the miles game and asks me for advice on award tickets, credit cards, etc. A suggestion to add to your weekly round up of offers – I know you do highlight some airline miles and hotel points sales, but perhaps a more exhaustive list will add value to readers? Buying miles on the cheap is also a great way to unlock a business/first class experience, especially if one’s miles balance is running low. In Dec, I helped my in-laws… Read more »

Jarnytha

I started with only holding a Citi premier miles card when I started reading milelion. Today i only hold 4mpd cards and also enjoy the full benefits of Amex Plat Charge. Thank you.

Jeff

Started to follow you and the miles game after the DBS altitude card’s removal of 3mpd bonus (I used the card for 9 years before saying goodbye now)

Your articles’ subjectivity and clarity of thought are much appreciated.

Dave

Finding your blog in ca late 2018 after having used Citi Premiermiles as my everything card for years was the best thing that ever happened to my travels.

Flying economy (outside of SEA) has been the exception ever since. Thank you for doing what you are doing.

And do bring back classroom courses, my alternate FFP knowledge needs a refresher!

Cornelia

Thank you Aaron. Your blog is on my favourites and I check in every week to see what new articles you have for us. Really appreciate your clear writing style and objectivity. Happy 5th anniversary!

Lifshitz

Looks like you’re not short of ideas, but if you need inspiration:
– Reviews of Skyteam airlines using flyingblue (the one program that gets you child discounts on miles)
– how to enjoyable travel with infants / toddlers in the region. Eg there is a Hyatt cat 1 in Kuantan that is killer value on purchased points (suite for 9k miles per night), but researching how to best get there (and finding drivers with any, let alone rear facing, car seats) was a nightmare. Might be a new demographic to the blog tho.

Kwang Zhee

Can’t unsee the 4 fingers of the right hand of the cover image… Might wanna just have a disclaimer that it’s AI generated.

Kai

Thank you boss – what a ride this has been!

JR.

Thank you Aaron! Following your blog since the amazing uncapped 8mpd Citibank Apple Pay Promo! My life has changed since then. I’ve been able try out SQ Suite and First Class + even able to bring my mom with me on Biz Class to Europe.

Would never thought it was even possible! Thanks for making an impact! Keep going Aaron and to many more years of Milelion!

Biz travel for life

It has been an awesome ride.
Keep it up. Need to plan something big for the 10th anniversary next year… looking forward to it.

Alian

Congrats on a wonderful and successful year. Wishing you many more great years ahead. Your success makes us in this community a success as well and we will feedback generously.

Understand corporate hostile takeovers can be nasty and bring new challenges but blood runs deep n with 2 wonderful parents genes the new CEO will sure be a success.

All the best to new year abs new management

Mich

Almost teared reading abt the miracle of life; my sentiments exactly. Love your blog and TG group, God bless you and the fam!

Z L

I’m just curious, do you actually reply personally to every one of those funny emails?

Ceelo

Congrats on the five year mark! Keep up the good work!

Wordsworth

yes, indeed the addition of a kid puts everything else into clearer perspective. Enjoy the ride bro!

Joshosaurus Rex

There’s a reason why this blog is the only one I follow for miles. All style, all substance in equal measure. Well done, Aaron! Avid reader since 2017.

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