When I wrote about the OCBC VOYAGE Card last month, I mentioned that cardholders will have access to a dedicated concierge that can assist you in making restaurant reservations, travel itinerary planning and also provide to you a range of other services (so long it is legal!) that cardholders like myself can enjoy. One of the feedback that I have gotten from that article was that the Visa Infinite brand itself has a concierge that cardholders can benefit from - as such, I felt the desperate need to basically compare both the Visa Infinite Concierge and the VOYAGE Exchange (private concierge service for OCBC VOYAGE Card) to find out whether or not the higher annual fee (after factoring in the value of renewal miles) is justified.
As I have already mentioned in my previous article, the OCBC VOYAGE Card is not a standalone card for mile-chasers - it performs well on its own so long you consider and evaluate the potential value that you may get out of the card. While I do chase miles pretty religiously and use them for free First Class and Business class travel, I have found the OCBC VOYAGE Card to be of great value to me - perhaps not so much in earning miles (with the exception of dining and overseas spend) but the VOYAGE Exchange concierge service that comes with the card has been pretty impressive. If you tend to dine out locally a lot, check out the HSBC Advance Visa Platinum Credit Card instead (10X Rewards is valid until 31 March 2017).
In my previous article, I mentioned that I have used the OCBC VOYAGE Card to arrange for airport transfers and getting restaurant reservations. Since then, I have used the very same service a number of times just to plan for some of my upcoming trips. At the same time, I have also gone ahead to email the Visa Infinite Concierge with similar requests to basically pit the two concierge services against each other. As a little background information, the Visa Infinite Concierge is basically a service that all Visa Infinite cardholders can utilise to benefit from flight reservations, event ticket purchases, trip planning and hotel reservations just to name a few.
1. Access to Better Hotel Rates - Visa Infinite Concierge
Visa Infinite Cardholders can potentially benefits from either cheaper hotel rates or a reserved set of privileges when you book the best available rate (or the flexible rate) at participating properties through the Visa Infinite Concierge. Eligible reservations made through the Visa Infinite Concierge will still earn you elite nights and points across the various hotel loyalty programs.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the room rates at Aloft Taipei Zhongshan and the cheapest rate I could find on Starwoodhotels.com is approximately TWD 14,200 (approximately SGD 647) for three nights - if you factor in the approximately FX charge, this transaction will probably post to my account for SGD 667. The Visa Infinite Concierge was however able to quote me a rate of SGD 603 for the very same three nights - the fact that it can quote me in SGD is also a plus since it allows me to know exactly how much the rooms will cost. Another aspect of the service that I really liked was how proactive the concierge was in providing alternative accommodation options - I was also given a quotation on The Westin Taipei, W Taipei and the Hotel Proverbs Taipei in the very same email. Some of these hotels participated in the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and some has Visa Infinite Preferred Hotel Benefits if you booked the best available rate - benefits include things like USD 100 credit, upgrades and complimentary breakfast.
The absolute downside? The Visa Infinite Concierge took 2.5 days to get back to me on this request.
2. Superior Response Time - VOYAGE Exchange
The VOYAGE Exchange has superior response time and I mean they actually strive to respond to you within 60 minutes regardless of the time you contact them (and yes, I even mean 1:00AM on a Public Holiday). Logically, some service requests cannot be completed within 60 minutes (e.g. getting a restaurant reservation at 1:00AM in the morning since the restaurant is closed) but the VOYAGE Exchange team actually replies to you, logs your request and then updates you at the earliest possible timing. After fulfilling at least 10 different requests by the VOYAGE Exchange Team, I dare say that the average time of fulfilment for a typical request (e.g. reservation or limousine booking) is approximately 30-45 minutes which is just outstanding. Instead of having to figure out the reservation booking system on a poorly translated website for a restaurant overseas, I simply have to drop a quick email to the VOYAGE Exchange team with my preferred dates and timing and the magic just happens. In fact, I have also gotten SMS reminders of the reservation on the actual day itself - the only thing I wish they could do is probably to append a .ics calendar file to the confirmation but hey that's just me wanting everything to be in order.
Thumbs up to the VOYAGE Exchange team for being super efficient at replying and fulfilling simple requests.
3. Comprehensiveness of Service - VOYAGE Exchange
Following up on the example of making overseas restaurant reservations, the VOYAGE Exchange Team has also been very proactive at sending me the menus (in .pdf format) whenever they send through the confirmation. I personally love looking at menus (I mentioned that I use Chope very regularly for this same purpose) and it could be an occupational hazard but I really do appreciate them sending these through even without me asking for them.
After holding on to the OCBC VOYAGE Card for slightly over a month, I see tremendous value in this card since I actually dislike making phone calls to restaurants for reservations (I know it's something that you can easily do but I personally not like it). The annual fee of SGD 488 comes with 15,000 renewal VOYAGE Miles (which can be converted into KrisFlyer miles at a 1:1 ratio) and assuming a hypothetical value of S$20 per 1,000 KrisFlyer miles, you are essentially paying SGD 188 for all the added services that come with the OCBC VOYAGE Card - this includes unlimited plaza premium lounge access for you and a guest as well as the VOYAGE Exchange service that I have written about here. Will I pay SGD 0.50 per day to make my life better? Definitely.