Credit Cards That Every Mile-Chaser Should Have, and Then Some in 2019

2018 has been a fairly unexciting year where new hotels and credit cards are concerned (perhaps with the exception of the American Express Platinum Card) and even though the global market is in bear market territory right now, it is important to be forward-looking in the year ahead. For all of us mile-chasers, these are the credit cards that you should be holding for 2019. There are of course some crazy credit cards out there in Singapore (that require an extremely high annual income or AUM) but for the sake of sanity and relevance, I am just limiting this article to credit cards that require up to S$200,000 annual income - all credit cards with a comparatively higher annual income requirement are placed in a separate section.

Must-Have Credit Cards

1. DBS Woman's World Mastercard

Photo Credit: DBS

Photo Credit: DBS

It should not come as a shock that the DBS Woman's World MasterCard tops the list for 2019 (it was also one of the must-have credit cards in 2018 and probably a couple of years before that). There are two versions of this card - one is a Mastercard and another is a World Mastercard (with a slightly higher income requirement) - but you definitely want the latter version since it offers the highest mile-accrual rate.

Pros: The DBS Woman's World Mastercard offers up to 4 miles per dollar on the first S$2,000 that you spend online each month. Outside of the online category, this card earns a miserable 0.4 miles per dollar so make sure you only use it for eligible online transactions (e.g. flights and shopping).

Cons: 4 miles per dollar is capped at first S$2,000 each month and they expire 12 months from the month that they are acquired. This means to say that even though you can earn up to 96,000 miles each year (assuming you spend S$2,000 online each month), you will have to convert them into either KrisFlyer Miles or Asia Miles every 12 months.

Sign-up here: DBS Woman's World Mastercard

2. UOB Preferred Platinum Visa

Photo Credit: UOB

Photo Credit: UOB

With OCBC Titanium Rewards Card out of the picture (and wallet), the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa becomes the next best alternative for contactless transactions (e.g. payWave and Apple Pay). This card will give you 4 miles per dollar (or more accurately, 20 miles per S$5) on contactless transactions (unless the merchant issues SMART$ in which case you should not use this card) and selected online transactions. Apart from these categories, the credit card earns just 0.4 miles (2 miles per S$5) for everything else.

Pros: Most merchants in Singapore offer some kind of contactless POS terminal which means it is possible to get up to 4 miles per dollar on dining and shopping.

Cons: Avoid SMART$ merchants since you do not earn miles from transactions made here. There is also a cap of S$1,000 per month on UNI$ earned from selected online and contactless transactions. My personal recommendation is to stick with just contactless transactions with this card and leave online transactions to the DBS Woman's World Mastercard (since the list of exclusions is quite long).

Sign-up here: UOB Preferred Platinum Visa

3. Citi Rewards Card

Photo Credit: Citibank

Photo Credit: Citibank

There are two versions of the Citi Rewards Card (Mastercard and Visa) and they both give you 4 miles per dollar when you shop for shoes, bags and clothes at online or retail stores, or department stores, locally and overseas. Outside of these bonus categories (classified based on MCC), this card like all other cards mentioned so far, earn a miserable 0.4 miles per dollar in equivalent points. From time to time, cardholders will be able to earn 20X rewards at selected merchants and being able to earn 8 miles per dollar is truly something that does not happen enough in Singapore.

Pros: 4 miles per dollar on eligible shopping (including offline spend). This is also a good fallback card if you have already committed S$2,000 worth of online shopping to the DBS Woman's World Mastercard. The potential to earn 8 miles per dollar during certain promotional windows makes this card a little more attractive as well.

Cons: 10X Points (4 miles per dollar) are capped at 10,000 Points per month - this means that only your first S$1,000 will earn 4 miles per dollar at eligible merchants and the rest of it will only earn 0.4 miles.

Sign-up here: Citi Rewards Card

Good to Have Credit Cards

If you have not already noticed, all of the aforementioned credit cards have a rather extreme earn rate - you would either earn a maximum of 4 miles per dollar or you might end up with 0.4 miles per dollar for transactions that are not made in the right bonus category. Therefore, it is highly crucial for consumers to know exactly which card to use for big ticket items and you can always check around the internet (a lot of this information resides on the forums of HWZ). The following three credit cards complement the ones that have been already listed above - you do not need to apply for all of them since it really depends on your spending pattern at the end of the day.

1. DBS Altitude Card

Photo Credit: DBS

Photo Credit: DBS

One of the best cards to hold alongside the DBS Woman's World Mastercard (as mentioned above) is the DBS Altitude Card. While online travel transactions are typically covered by the DBS Woman's World Mastercard, the DBS Altitude Card offers a much more generous limit each month (great for people who spend more on travel). The base earn rate for this card is 1.2 and 2.0 miles per dollar for SGD and non-SGD transactions respectively. The Altitude Card offers 3 miles per dollar on all online hotel and travel transactions and the bonus miles are capped at S$5,000 each month. This is a great card to have if you typically spend a lot on Business Class flights (which can easily cost above S$2,000 for a return trip) or if you do plenty of staycations like I do. To put things into perspective, consider a S$5,000 Business Class flight - this transaction can potentially earn you 9,200 Miles on the DBS Woman World Mastercard (since the 4 miles per dollar is capped at S$2,000 each month) but you can get up to 15,000 Miles on the DBS Altitude Card.

Pros: Miles (DBS Points) do not expire on the DBS Altitude Card so you can accumulate them slowly for future usage. The points earned on this card also pool with the DBS Woman's World Mastercard so it is cheaper and easier to redeem. Additionally, the higher monthly cap enables a cardholder to earn more bonus miles in a given period. Cardholders will also be able to benefit from complimentary travel insurance (even though you should always have proper coverage) and two complimentary visits to any Priority Pass airport lounge each year. Cardholders will also have the option to pay the annual fee of S$192.60 for 10,000 miles each year (which is one of the best ways to purchase miles in Singapore).

Cons: Online travel transactions are not always correctly captured so there is always a need to reconcile your points at the end of each statement period to make sure that the right bonus points are posted.

Sign-up here: DBS Altitude Card

2. Citibank PremierMiles

Photo Credit: Citibank

Photo Credit: Citibank

If you already have the DBS Altitude Card, you probably do not need the Citibank PremierMiles card since it earns only 1.2 miles and 2.0 miles for SGD and non-SGD transactions respectively (same as the former card). Since the DBS Altitude Card also gives 3 miles per dollar on online hotel and flight transactions, it is a more superior card in terms of mileage accrual. However, with that being said, Citi Miles convert to way more Frequent Flyer Programs (instead of just KrisFlyer and Asia Miles) so they are actually worth more on a currency basis. The Citibank PremierMiles also offer 10,000 Citi Miles each year for cardholders who choose to pay their annual fees (S192.60). There is also an American Express version of this card that offers a slightly higher mileage accrual rate (1.3 miles per dollar for SGD transactions) as well as a bigger renewal bonus (15,000 Citi Miles for S$267.50). Citi PremierMiles Visa Cardmembers currently receive 2.4 Citi Miles for every S$1 spent in foreign currency on retail purchases - this promotion will end on 31 December 2018 and it unclear whether it will be extended at this point.

Pros: Citi Miles are worth the most on a point/mile basis since they convert into a wide range of FFPs that go beyond Asia Miles and KrisFlyer - this opens up a lot more redemption options for travellers who are looking at more unique destinations. Cardholders also receive two complimentary visits to Priority Pass lounges each year. Similar to the DBS Altitude Card, Citi Miles earned on the Citi PremierMiles cards do not expire.

Cons: Citi Miles do not pool with Reward Points (e.g. those earned ok the Citi Rewards Card). Earning them separately means having to meet threshold numbers separately and having to pay multiple times for point transfers.

Sign-up here: Citibank PremierMiles

3. BOC Elite Miles Card

Photo Credit: Bank of China

Photo Credit: Bank of China

The BOC Elite Miles Card is a general spend card that offers 1.5 miles and 3.0 miles for SGD and non-SGD transactions respectively on a regular basis. Cardholders currently enjoy an accelerated earning of 2.0 miles and 5.0 miles until 31 December 2018 but it seems unlikely that this promotion will be extended (since it costs the bank plenty of money to do so). Still, this card is a great general spend credit card for those expenses that do not fit into one of the bonus categories that earn you 4.0 miles per dollar. I am personally not holding this credit card since I am not a huge fan of BOC (or its non-existent online banking system).

Pros: High mileage accrual rate for a general spend card without having to hit a minimum spend threshold each month. Cardholders will also be able to access Plaza Premium Lounges worldwide four times a year.

Cons: BOC Rewards Points expire within 12-18 months so cardholders have to plan for this. Apparently no landing page for this card online and application needs to be done via SMS or an actual (physical) application form.

Credit Card Application: SMS BOCCARDEMSTNAME to 79777
Sign-up here: BOC Elite Miles Card

Great to Have Credit Cards (Higher Income Requirements)

1. American Express Platinum Card

Photo Credit: American Express

Photo Credit: American Express

If I had to pick my favourite card right now, it would definitely have to be the American Express Platinum Card - this charge card (which is not to be confused with the credit card version) offers an impressive list of benefits that fully justify it's S$1,712 annual feeeach year. Strictly speaking, the American Express Platinum Card is not exactly a card for mile-chasers (unless you tend to spend plenty of money on luxury watches and goods each year). The base earn rate on this card is truly unimpressive (at just 0.78 miles per dollar) but if you do spend at one of the EXTRA Partners, you can earn up to 7.8 miles per dollar for the first S$16,000 each calendar year. As a simple example, spending S$16,000 at say The Hour Glass will earn you 200,000 Membership Rewards Points which will translate into approximately 125,000 Miles (sufficient for a free First Class flight from Singapore to the US).

Pros: Unrivaled perks in the luxury lifestyle space. The opportunity to earn up to 7.8 miles per dollar is also extremely generous in Singapore.

Cons: High annual income requirement of S$200,000 but I personally know a couple of people who have been approved for less. The annual fee is also non-waivable so you need to make sure that the perks are relevant to you (e.g. no points having great benefits at the Mandarin Oriental when you are unwilling to spend money on luxury hotels). Low mileage earn rate also puts people off but this is really more of a lifestyle card.

Sign-up here: American Express Platinum Card

2. OCBC VOYAGE Card

Photo Credit: OCBC

Photo Credit: OCBC

The OCBC VOYAGE Card offers a base earn rate of 1.2 miles and 2.3 miles for SGD and non-SGD transactions respectively. On top of that, it also awards 1.6 miles per SGD for dining spend (based on MCC). There are also alternative versions of this credit card that offers a base earn rate of 1.6 miles per SGD but that requires a person to park some money with the bank. To be honest, the BOC Elite Miles Card offers a much more attractive earn rate for SGD and foreign transactions but one thing that I really like about the OCBC VOYAGE Card is the unlimited plaza premium lounge (+1 guest) access that comes with it (until 31 December 2019). This a great benefit especially when you do not have the American Express Platinum Card (which offers the main cardholder unlimited Priority Pass access). Additionally, the card also offers up to 2 complimentary limousine transfers per month for every S$3,000 spent.

Pros: Up to 24 complimentary limousine transfers per year and unlimited plaza premium lounge access makes this card a fairly attractive one for road warriors. VOYAGE Miles do not expire and they can be utilised for any revenue flight (that earns miles) albeit at a fairly unattractive rate in most instances.

Cons: Higher income requirement (S$120,000) may put this card out of reach for some. The physical card does not support contactless transactions but you can add it into your mobile wallet (e.g. Apple Pay) to enable it via a proxy.

Sign up here: OCBC VOYAGE Card

3. Citi Prestige

Photo Credit: Citibank

Photo Credit: Citibank

The Citi Prestige card is very much like the Citi PremierMiles card in many ways - the real difference in mileage accrual rate is 0.1 since this card earns 1.3 miles per SGD which the Citi PremierMiles Visa Credit Card earns 1.2 miles per SGD (the American Express version however is on par at 1.3). The greatest benefit with the Citi Prestige card is the complimentary fourth night stay program that is unique to this card. There are various terms and conditions that revolve around this benefit but what you will have to do is to simply book a consecutive four-night stay with the Citi Prestige Concierge, fully pay for the stay with the card and stay there fore the entire duration of the reservation - the credit will be based on the average nightly rate of the first four-night stay (taxes will not be credited). It does not include back-to-back stays in the same city.

Pros: The four night stay program offers immense value since it allows a cardholder to earn points and nights for the whole duration - this unique benefit for Citi Prestige primary cardholders is also unrivaled but the American Express Platinum Card does offer 3rd/4th/5th night free with selected properties that also offer FHR Benefits. Cardholders also benefit from unlimited Priority Pass membership (+1 guest) as well as complimentary limousine rides (up to 8 each year). Similar to other Citibank credit cards, points earned on this card also convert into a wide range of FFPs for flexibility and creative routing.

Cons: Renewal miles of 25,000 at S$535 is not the cheapest way of acquiring miles in Singapore.

Sign up here: Citi Prestige Card