uberPOOL was just launched last week in Singapore and unlike GrabHitch, the new carpooling service by Uber allows you to elect the option to carpool when using the uberX service. I decided to put it to the test the last weekend and perhaps it could be that the system is relatively new but it was an absolute disaster - my ride took way longer than it should even though Uber claims that it doesn't matter whether 'you’re first or second into the car, Uber ensures that you’re never taken more than a few minutes out of your way'.
As I was heading down to One Fullerton on the weekend, I decided to open up my Uber app and select the uberX option. Upon entering my destination, I was given the option to choose between uberPOOL or uberX at S$11.50 or S$15.28 (and up) respectively. Since I thought I was slightly early and I really wanted to try out the new feature, I decided to go for the former option which saves me at least S$3.78 (almost 25% off!).
Once I have been assigned a car, the app says that I would be carpooling with Gerry and I was actually able to see that the vehicle was actually picking her up (do note that the screen grab says S$12 instead of the previous S$11.50 - similar to uberX prices, uberPOOL prices are also subjected to price surges). Upon entering the vehicle, I met Gerry (who turned out to be a really friendly lady) and my uberPOOL driver who was brilliant as well. However, it was then that I realised that Gerry was not actually headed towards the same direction as me.
A ride that would generally take me 20 minutes to get to now showed me 42 minutes - this is more than DOUBLE of what it should generally take. The red spot that you see on the map is where Gerry was actually headed - it was then that all three of us realised how poor the planning actually is. Instead of going straight to One Fullerton, the poor uberPOOL driver has to make a detour to Serangoon before taking a traffic-heavy route to my destination.
In fact, once Gerry got off the vehicle, Uber actively searches for another rider along the way (or so they claim) to share the ride (as shown in the screen grab above). In my case, I was lucky enough to not have encountered another uberPOOL rider but if for example, someone else have requested for a ride from Serangoon to One Fullerton (or nearby), the uberPOOL driver would have had to make yet another detour to pick the second passenger up.
uberPOOL is a great idea but the implementation is definitely far from perfect. I understand that I am indeed getting a discount (almost 25% as mentioned earlier) with the service but the ride durations fall way off Uber's estimates of '[not] more than a few minutes'. Will I pay S$3.78 to save at least 22 minutes of my journey time? Absolutely yes.
I think it fairly clear by now that I favour earning miles over cash back on any given that. Do not get me wrong though - ultimately, cash is king and if you were to offer me a million dollars or a million miles, I would simply go for the former (I think!). The only reason I pick miles over cash back is simple - there isn't a cash back in Singapore (or perhaps anywhere in the world) that offers as much value as what a miles card can give. I tend to take Uber (or Grab) quite a bit in Singapore as well as overseas and one of the questions that I often get from friends is which credit card to use for these rides. Assuming you already have an Uber (click HERE to register otherwise) and Grab account, these are the credit cards that you should probably use for the most bang for your buck (in order of recommendation).
Following the amazing opportunity to purchase 31,200 Citi Miles for S$238, Citibank is now offering Citi PremierMiles Visa Cardholders the opportunity to earn up to 3.5 Citi Miles per dollar (S$1) on all eligible foreign currency transactions charged to this card between 01 December 2017 and 31 January 2018. Registration is absolutely necessary and enrollment needs to be done before you charge the minimum sum to your credit card.
As you may already know, there is currently the opportunity to purchase Starpoints at a 35% discount. Transactions must be completed before the end of 29 December 2017 in order for SPG members to be eligible for this discount. I must have mentioned the way to get to Japan in Business Class using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles a million times but now there is actually the opportunity to get that same flight for even lesser (provided you are traveling alone).
The OCBC VOYAGE Card will be reducing the Voyage Miles (VMs) accrual rate on dining spend from 2.3 VMs per dollar to 1.6 VMs per dollar effective 01 January 2018. Cardmembers will however be able to benefit from a boost in the base earn rate - you will soon be able to earn 1.2 VMs (instead of 1.0 VMs) per dollar on all local retail transactions. Transactions charged in foreign currency will continue to earn 2.3 VMs per dollar (in equivalent SGD).
As far as the hotel industry is concerned, 2017 has been an exciting year with plenty of new hotels that has opened in Singapore over the last eleven months or so. Unfortunately, in the new couple of years ahead, this is expected to slow down even though we will probably be seeing a number of hotels going through refurbishments. The Conrad Centennial Singapore for example, is nearing the end of its refurbishment period and the new rooms are beautiful! This is my list of new hotels in Singapore that will be opening in 2018 (as well as some notable mentions for the future).
About a week ago, I saw the new Bank of China (BOC) Zaobao Credit Card and I almost choked on the water that I was drinking. This sounds almost as ludicrous as the co-branded card with Secret Recipe and Diners Club (there's one for Long Beach too!) and upon further investigation the new BOC Zaobao (which is essentially a Chinese newspaper in Singapore in case anyone was wondering) Credit Card apparently offers up to 20% cash rebates!
No one needs further introduction to one of the most iconic landmarks in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands. The property is the largest hotel in Singapore (with 2,561 rooms and suites) and it occupies a position within the 'World’s 100 Largest Hotels' list. What a lot of people do not realise however is the existence of the Sands Rewards LifeStyle membership program which not only allows you to earn up to 9% Destination Dollars (which can be used across all participating stores) but also gives you a plethora of benefits that range from complimentary parking to free museum passes at the higher tier.
Using Chope is a great way to secure restaurant reservations in Singapore as well as major cities nearby like Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Phuket and Shanghai. I have written about the opportunity to stack promotions on Mileslife and eligible credit cards previously and even though Chope has always allowed you to redeem Chope-Dollars for free restaurant vouchers or Chope Gift Cards, it has only added the option to redeem your Chope-Dollars for KrisFlyer miles from 10 November 2017.
While the ongoing mile accrual rate for most American Express credit cards in Singapore is not something to get excited about, they do have some of the best promotions that are run quite regularly. The American Express Singapore Airlines credit cards were introduced sometime in May 2016 and ever since then, multiple improvements have been made - you can earn up to 5.3 miles per dollar on mobile payments made on Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay, you get double miles on Mileslife and now, there is the opportunity to earn up to 3.3 miles per dollar on all Uber and Grab rides with one of the American Express Singapore Airlines credit cards.
With a spectrum of Visa credit cards on offer in Singapore, one of the most elusive one at the highest end is the Visa Infinite. Commonly associated with a minimum annual income requirement of S$120,000 or higher (even though there is apparently an unbranded one that you can get in Singapore for just S$80,000), the Visa Infinite credit card is the most exclusive one you can get amongst the trio of Visa Infinite, Visa Platinum and Visa Signature credit cards.