Credit Cards

The Best Air Miles Credit Cards in Singapore 2018

best air miles credit cards singapore

Clara Lim

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Air miles credit cards are definitely the most glamorous of all the credit cards. Who wouldn’t want to earn frequent flyer miles (i.e. free flights!) every time they spend money?

I was completely taken in by that glamour when I got my first miles card. I didn’t do one shred of research. My thought process went like this: “Ooh, my colleague talks about air miles all the time. Whatever they are, they must be cool! I’ll sign up for this card.”

Obviously, nothing ever came out of my card. It wasn’t even a good card for earning miles. Please don’t end up like me.

I’ve put together this guide to the best miles credit cards in Singapore plus useful info on how they work. You’ll be a miles expert by the time you’re done reading this.

Contents

  1. What are air miles and how do they work?
  2. What should you look out for in a miles card?
  3. Best air miles cards in Singapore 2018
  4. Premium air miles cards for high earners
  5. A parting note on rewards credit cards

 

What are air miles and how do they work?

Air miles are part of frequent flyer programmes (FFP), the best-known one here being Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer programme. KrisFlyer miles can be used on many partner airlines, including all of Star Alliance.

Technically, you can buy miles with cold hard cash. That’s what some people do – buy KrisFlyer miles because they have nothing better to spend their money on.

But why do that when a credit card will help you earn them for free, right? When you spend on an air miles credit card, you can accumulate frequent flyer miles either directly or by earning points (which you then convert to miles).

Once you’ve got your miles, you can put them towards your next holiday’s airfare. Woohoo!

Here’s a look at the bigger and more well-known FFPs in Singapore:

FFP Airline Notes
KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines Offered by all air miles cards (pay conversion fee)

Possible to earn directly (no conversion fee) with these SQ co-branded cards

KrisFlyer miles can be used with SQ, SilkAir, Scoot, Star Alliance and SQ partner airlines

Asia Miles Cathay Pacific Offered by almost all air miles cards (pay conversion fee)

Asia Miles can be used with CX, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas, Lufthansa, Swiss and many others

Miles & More Lufthansa Europe’s largest FFP, not available through air miles cards in Singapore

But most M&M airlines are under Star Alliance so you can use KrisFlyer miles

KrisFlyer miles: You can earn KrisFlyer miles with any air miles credit card in Singapore, but you’ll usually have to pay a conversion fee (typically $25) each time you change your points to miles. There are also 3 KrisFlyer co-branded cards which let you credit earned miles directly to your account without conversion.

Asia Miles: Almost all air miles credit cards in Singapore will let you change your points to Asia Miles too. The same conversion fee of $25 usually applies. Apart from its parent airline Cathay Pacific, there are many other Asian and European airlines you can use Asia Miles on.

Miles & More: The largest and best-known FFP in Europe, but not available through miles cards in Singapore currently. However, the bulk of Miles & More’s network are Star Alliance airlines, so you can try earning KrisFlyer miles instead.

In addition to these big FFPs which have a lot of airline partners, some banks also allow you to redeem miles with specific airlines’ loyalty programmes, e.g. Emirates Skywards or Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus.

how do air miles work krisflyer asiamiles

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What should you look out for in a miles card?

Knowing about FFPs and how they work is only half the equation. You also need to know how to choose the right air miles card so you can earn frequent flyer miles FAST.

At the heart of it, getting a good dollar-to-mile earn rate is the key to quickly accruing miles. You’ll usually get a lower earn rate on local spend (your day-to-day spending) and a higher one on foreign currency expenditure (what you spend when you’re travelling overseas or shopping online).

But the reality is not that simple. While a few cards do credit your miles directly into an established FFP, most award points in other types of “currency” such as DBS points or Citi Miles. Be prepared to go through some hassle in order to turn those points into an actual air ticket. There’s usually a minimum amount of points you need to accrue first, then there’s a conversion fee, and a lead time of a week or so before you’ll see miles in your FFP account.

Here’s a breakdown of the common terms you need to know, plus guidelines to what counts as “decent” or “good” for that parameter:

Jargon Explanation Benchmark
Earn rate (local) How many miles you earn per $1 spent locally $1 = 1.2 miles
Earn rate (overseas) How many miles you earn per $1 spent in foreign currency $1 = 2 miles
Bonus miles Special earn rate when you spend on specific merchants e.g. Agoda, usually for a limited time only $1 = 3 miles and up (can be as high as 10 miles!)
Welcome miles Some cards give you a bunch of miles when you pay annual fee or meet minimum spend Usually only for more premium cards
Rewards points Though banks advertise “miles”, you actually earn them in the form of “points” (e.g. UNI$ or DBS Points)
Conversion fee The amount you pay each time you change your points to miles $25 per conversion
Expiry How long you have to accumulate miles/points before they expire 1 year (some don’t expire at all)
Cap Limit on how many miles/points you can earn before the bank stops giving them to you Usually a cap for bonus miles in the T&Cs, but no cap for regular spending

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Best air miles cards in Singapore 2018

These cards are for everyday miles collectors, meaning people like you and me who earn $30,000 to $50,000 a year.

The majority of them (except the Amex KrisFlyer Ascend) have first-year fee waivers too. However, should you choose to renew your membership and pay the annual fee, some of them will give you bonus miles or other rewards, so it’s not like you’re paying for nothing.

These credit cards are ranked in order of standard local and overseas miles earn rates (from highest to lowest). But it doesn’t mean you should ignore the cards at the bottom. Even the “worst” cards have some sort of redeeming feature, so be sure to take a look at all the options.

Another thing: Many of these air miles credit cards also have peripheral travel benefits, like airport lounge access and free travel insurance. But in order to compare the cards fairly, we’re only focusing on air miles benefits here.

Credit card Earn rate Bonus & welcome miles
UOB PRVI Miles

Min. income $30,000 p.a.

$1 = 1.4 miles (local)

$1 = 2.4 miles (overseas)

$1 = 6 miles (Agoda, Expedia, UOB Travel)

10,000 welcome miles for new UOB cardmembers with $6,000 spend in 3 months (expires 31 Jul 2018)

Citi PremierMiles

Min. income $50,000 p.a.

$1 = 1.2 miles (local)

$1 = 2 miles (overseas)

$1 = 7 miles (Agoda)

$1 = 10 miles (Kaligo)

10,000 miles when you renew and pay annual fee of $192.60

DBS Altitude

Min. income $30,000 p.a.

$1 = 1.2 miles (local)

$1 = 2 miles (overseas)

$1 = 3 miles (online flight & hotel bookings)

$1 = 6 miles (Expedia)

$1 = 10 miles (Kaligo)

10,000 miles when you renew and pay annual fee of $192.60

American Express KrisFlyer Ascend

Min. income $50,000 p.a.

$1 = 1.2 miles (local)

$1 = 2 miles (overseas in Jun & Dec, SQ purchases)

$1 = 3.2 miles (Grab)

7,000 welcome miles upon first spend (expires 30 Jun 2018)

13,000 miles with $5,000 spend OR 19,000 miles with $10,000 spend in 3 months

Annual fee of $337.05

American Express KrisFlyer

Min. income $30,000 p.a.

$1 = 1.1 miles (local)

$1 = 2 miles (overseas in Jun & Dec, SQ purchases)

$1 = 3.1 miles (Grab)

7,000 welcome miles upon first spend + 6,000 miles with $2,000 spend in 3 months (expires 30 Jun 2018)

Maybank Horizon

Min. income $50,000 p.a.

$1 = 0.4 miles (local)

$1 = 2 miles (overseas, flights, travel packages)

$1 = 3.2 miles (local dining, petrol, taxis, Agoda)

Min. spend $300/month

 

UOB PRVI Miles Card – highest basic earn rates in town

UOB PRVI Miles Card

UOB PRVI Miles Card


Card Benefits

    • S$1 = 1.4 miles (Local spend); S$1 = 2.4 miles (Overseas spend)
    • S$1 = 6 miles for spends on major airlines and hotels booked through Expedia, UOB Travel, and Agoda
    • No minimum spend and no cap on earned miles
    • 20,000 loyalty miles every year with min. spend of S$50,000 in a year; Up to 8 complimentary airport transfers to Changi Airport in a year (Exclusively for UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card)
    • Complimentary travel insurance coverage of up to S$1,000,000. T&Cs apply.

    UOB has recently lowered the annual income requirement for its PRVI Miles card to $30K, which is awesome news for most of us within this income bracket. With its high earn rates for both local and overseas spending, it’s one of the best miles credit cards in Singapore, period.

    That bonus earn rate on Agoda and Expedia and welcome miles promotion (it’s only for the first 1,000 new-to-UOB cardmembers though – check the T&Cs for more info) are but icing on the cake.

    Sign up if: You’re impatient and want to earn miles FAST. Even better if you plan to spend $6,000 in the next 3 months.

    • Singaporean Minimum Income: S$30,000
    • Non-Singaporean Minimum Income: S$40,000
    • Principal Annual Fee: S$256.80 per year
    • Supplementary Annual Fee: S$128.40
    • Fee Waiver: 1 year fee waiver, free first 2 supplementary cards
    • Annual Interest Rate: 25.9%

     

    Citi PremierMiles – for slow & steady miles collectors

    Citi PremierMiles Visa Card

    Citi PremierMiles Visa Card


    Card Benefits

    • Get S$120 Cashback
    • S$1 = 1.2 Citi Miles (Local spend)
    • S$1 = 2 Citi Miles (Overseas spend)
    • Earn up to 7 Citi Miles per S$1 spent on Agoda.com/bonusmiles and 3 Citi Miles per S$1 spent on expedia.com.sg/bonusrewards
    • Citi Miles never expire
    • Priority Pass™ membership gives you access to more than 600 airport lounges twice a year
    • Receive 10,000 Citi Miles upon membership renewal and payment of annual fee
    • Complimentary Travel Accident Insurance up to S$1,000,000 coverage, Medical Assistance Programme and Travel Inconvenience Coverage

    In terms of basic earn rates, unfortunately no other card seems to come close to the UOB PRVI Miles. So it’s a tie for 2nd place between Citi PremierMiles and DBS Altitude.

    The Citi PremierMiles card’s earn rates are nothing to shout about, but there are very generous bonus miles for Agoda and Kaligo hotel bookings which is great for frequent travellers. Also, Citi Miles don’t expire, so you can keep collecting miles without worrying about them expiring on you.

    Sign up if: You’re slow and steady. You don’t plan to spend a ton on this card, and want to take your time collecting miles.

    • Minimum Income: S$50,000
    • Principal Annual Fee: $192.60 per year
    • Supplementary Annual Fee: Free
    • Fee Waiver: 1 year fee waiver
    • Annual Interest Rate: 26.9%

     

    DBS Altitude – for slow & steady miles collectors (too)

    DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card

    DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card


    Card Benefits

      • S$1 = 1.2 miles (Local spend)
      • S$1 = 2 miles (Overseas spend)
      • S$1 = 3 miles (Online flight & Hotel transactions)
      • 6 miles/S$1 spend at Expedia; 10 miles/S$1 spend at Kaligo
      • Get 10,000 Bonus Miles when you renew your annual membership
      • Enjoy 2 Complimentary Global Airport Lounge Access visits and get up to S$1 million travel accident insurance coverage for you and your family members

      The DBS Altitude is almost the same as the Citi PremierMiles, right down to the bonus miles and welcome miles with annual fee renewal. Its miles also don’t expire.

      However, the DBS Altitude has a lower minimum income requirement and is thus more accessible. It’s slightly more versatile for travel bookings too, because you can still earn a decent rate on your online flight and hotel bookings (including aggregators, airlines, hotels, Airbnb, etc.)

      You can still shop around for the best deal online, but just note the T&Cs – bonus miles are capped at $5,000/month.

      Sign up if: You’re really loyal to DBS (or just really want a DBS card to maximise your DBS Multiplier interest rate).

      • Singaporean Minimum Income: S$30,000
      • Non-Singaporean Minimum Income: S$45,000
      • Principal Annual Fee: $192.60 per year
      • Supplementary Annual Fee: $96.30 per year
      • Fee Waiver: 1 year fee waiver
      • Annual Interest Rate: 25.9%

       

      American Express KrisFlyer Ascend – welcome miles for $5,000/10,000 spend

      American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card

      American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card


      Card Benefits

        • Apply through MoneySmart from 22 Mar - 19 Apr 2018 to get S$100 worth of Grab OR NTUC Vouchers. Application must be approved by 3 May 2018. Submit your (i)Contact Details and (ii)14-digit Reference Number on the Thank You Page upon completion at this link before 19 April 2018. T&Cs
        • 1.2 KrisFlyer Miles = S$1
        • 2 KrisFlyer Miles = S$1 in foreign currency spent overseas on eligible purchases in June & Dec
        • 3.2 KrisFlyer Miles = S$1 for Grab and Uber rides, capped at S$200 per month
        • Spend above S$15,000 on eligible purchases on singaporeair.com within first 12 months of Card approval and get upgraded to KrisFlyer Elite Gold Membership
        • Four complimentary lounge access to participating SATS Premier and Plaza Premium Lounge each year
        • Complimentary night's stay each year at one of over 90 participating Millennium Hotels and Resorts properties worldwide
        • Up to $1 million travel insurance coverage

        For people who don’t want the hassle of accumulating points and converting them to miles, the two Amex KrisFlyer credit cards are ideal because they’re just SO easy to use.

        The miles you earn are credited directly into your KrisFlyer account, ready to deploy anytime – no restrictions, lead time or pesky conversion fees.

        The Amex KrisFlyer Ascend is the higher tier card of the two ($50,000 p.a. income and up) and has slightly better earn rates. But the best way to earn miles is by spending either $5,000 or $10,000 in the first 3 months to get the generous welcome miles.

        Unfortunately, this card has a major drawback – its annual fee of $337.05 is not automatically waived, and American Express is well known for not easily waiving its fees. That said, paying the annual fee gives you a couple of nice perks including 4 x airport lounge access and 1 night’s stay at a Hilton hotel in Asia Pacific.

        Sign up if: You don’t mind paying the annual fee. And you plan to spend $5,000 or $10,000 in the next 3 months.

        • Singaporean Minimum Income: S$50,000
        • Non-Singaporean Minimum Income: S$60,000
        • Principal Annual Fee: $337.05 per year
        • Supplementary Annual Fee: $80.25
        • Fee Waiver: 1 year fee waiver for supplementary card only
        • Annual Interest Rate: 25.9%

         

        American Express KrisFlyer – welcome miles for $2,000 spend

        American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card

        American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card


        Card Benefits

        • Get S$150 cashback at Singapore Airlines
        • Apply through MoneySmart from 22 Mar - 19 Apr 2018 to get S$100 worth of Grab OR NTUC Vouchers. Application must be approved by 3 May 2018. Submit your (i)Contact Details and (ii)14-digit Reference Number on the Thank You Page upon completion at this link before 19 April 2018. T&Cs
        • S$1 = 1.1 KrisFlyer miles (Local)
        • S$1 = 2 KrisFlyer miles (foreign currency spent Overseas) during June and December and for purchases made at singaporeair.com, silkair.com KrisShop and SilkAir SkyShop, both in-flight and online
        • S$1 = 3.1 KrisFlyer miles for Grab and Uber rides, capped at S$200 per month
        • Receive bonus 7,000 bonus KrisFlyer miles when you first charge to your card
        • Get an additional 7,500 bonus KrisFlyer miles when you spend S$2,500 within 3 months of card approval
        • Get S$150 cashback for use on your next purchase on singaporeair.com when you spend S$12,000 on your Card from now till 30 June 2018
        • Enjoy free Travel Inconvenience & Travel Accident Benefits of up to S$350,000 when you purchase your travel tickets with you card

        The Ascend’s baby sister, the Amex KrisFlyer Credit Card, is great for fresh grads and entry-level miles chasers because of its low salary requirement ($30,000 p.a.), first year annual fee waiver and ease of use.

        It also has the most attainable welcome bonus of the entry-level cards. You just need to spend $2,000 in the first 3 months and you’ll tally up at least 15,200 miles.

        The trade-off is that its earn rates are really quite poor compared to the others, so you really have to max out on bonuses to earn miles efficiently with this card.

        Sign up if: You’re too lazy to deal with conversions. And you plan to spend $2,000 in the next 3 months.

        • Singaporean Minimum Income: S$30,000
        • Non-Singaporean Minimum Income: S$60,000
        • Principal Annual Fee: $176.55 per year
        • Supplementary Annual Fee: $53.50
        • Fee Waiver: 1 year fee waiver
        • Annual Interest Rate: 25.9%

         

        Maybank Horizon – miles card for infrequent flyers

        Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card

        Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card


        Card Benefits

        • Get a Samsonite Orfeo 69cm Spinner (worth S$420)
        • Earn 3.2 air miles (8X TREATS Points) for every S$1 spent on dining, petrol, taxi fares and hotel bookings at Agoda.com/horizon
        • Earn 2 air miles (5X TREATS Points) for every S$1 spent on air tickets, travel packages and foreign currency transactions
        • Minimum spend: S$300/month
        • Capped at 30,000 Bonus TREATS Points per month
        • Earn 0.4 air miles (1X TREAT Point) with no minimum spend amount
        • Complimentary lounge access with minimum spend of S$400
        • Complimentary Travel Insurance up to S$1,000,000

        Maybank’s air miles card is quite different from the other cards on this list, especially because it has rather low base earn rates. But I just had to include it for the fantastic bonus miles centred around local spending.

        How much? We’re talking about $1 = 3.2 miles on local dining, petrol, taxis and Agoda hotel bookings. If local spending on these categories form the bulk of your expenses, then it’s a no-brainer to sign up for this card.

        There’s a minimum spend requirement of $300, which is low, but it also means you need to remember to use this card quite consistently. Which shouldn’t be a problem, given its rewards categories.

        Sign up if: You don’t travel much and want to earn miles with your local spending.

        • Singaporean & Malaysian Minimum Income: S$50,000
        • Non-Singaporean Minimum Income: S$60,000
        • Principal Annual Fee: $180 per year
        • Supplementary Annual Fee: Free
        • Fee Waiver: 3 years fee waiver
        • Annual Interest Rate: 25.9%

         

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        Premium air miles credit cards in Singapore

        Just for fun (and for the sake of completeness), I’m going to touch on the premium air miles credit cards for rich people, i.e. those who’re earning $120,000 p.a. and up.

        Credit card Miles earn rate Other things to note
        Standard Chartered Visa Infinite Credit Card

        Min. income $150,000

        $1 = 1.4 miles (local)

        $1 = 3 miles (overseas)

        Min. spend $2,000/month, otherwise $1 = 1 mile

        35,000 welcome miles with payment of $588.50 annual fee
        Citi Prestige Card

        Min. income $120,000

        $1 = 1.3 miles (local)

        $1 = 2 miles (overseas)

        25,000 welcome miles with payment of $535 annual fee
        OCBC Voyage Card $1 = 1.2 miles (local)

        $1 = 1.6 miles (local dining)

        $1 = 2.3 miles (overseas)

        15,000 welcome miles with payment of $488 annual fee

        Min. income $120,000

        HSBC Visa Infinite $1 = 1 mile / 1.25 miles (local)

        $1 = 2 miles / 2.25 miles (overseas)

        Higher tier applies only to 2nd year onwards

        35,000 welcome miles with payment of $650 annual fee ($488 for HSBC Premier customers)

        Min. income $120,000

         

        HSBC Visa Infinite Credit Card

        HSBC Visa Infinite Credit Card


        Card Benefits

          • $1 = Up to 1.25 air miles (Local)
          • $1 = Up to 2.25 air miles (Overseas)
          • Priority Pass™ Membership card will be automatically issued to the primary Cardholder and the supplementary Cardholder(s) - Unlimited access to over 700 VIP airport lounges worldwide
          • Access to HSBC’s Infinite Travel & Lifestyle Concierge service for personalised assistance, 24/7
          • Automatic travel insurance coverage of up to US$2,000,000 (annual value worth S$988)
          • Complimentary limousine transfer and expedited immigration clearance at key airports in Asia

          These cards usually require you to pay an annual fee – no waivers! – but they will give you bonus miles. Some miles chasers actually do think it’s a good deal though. For example, if you’re an HSBC Premier customer and you pay your annual fee for the HSBC VI, your 35,000 miles work out to less than 1.4 cents per mile.

          One thing you might find surprising is that the miles earn rates are, frankly, not THAT spectacular even though they’re for premium clientele. I mean, the entry-level UOB PRVI Miles card’s earn rates beat most of them.

          However, owning one of these credit cards goes beyond just the miles. It’s like having VIP club membership. They really open doors to perks like unlimited airport lounge access, limousine transfers, free entry to spas and golf courses, and so on.

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          A parting note on rewards credit cards

          Before you rush to sign up for an air miles card, you should also know that rewards credit cards are a viable alternative to air miles cards.

          So what’s the secret? I’ve talked about how you actually earn rewards points (rather than miles) with many air miles cards. You can earn those same points with a rewards card as well, and later convert them to miles. In fact, you can think of air miles cards as simply a subset of rewards cards as the points-collecting mechanism is usually the same.

          Broadly speaking, air miles cards reward travel-related spending, while rewards cards reward general local spending e.g. shopping and dining.

          Good rewards credit cards offer REALLY high bonus points for the latter, making it possible to earn air miles more quickly – for example, $1 = 4 miles on your online shopping spending. However there are usually caps on these. The best card (or combo of cards) really depends on your actual spending habits.

          So if you want to be REALLY thorough, check out some of the best rewards credit cards in Singapore as well.

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          Best Air Miles card Singapore 2018

          Related articles:

          The Best Rewards Credit Cards in Singapore 2018

          The Best Credit Cards in Singapore for Free Airport Lounge Access (2018)

          Travel Insurance Promotions & Other Money-Saving Hacks (2018)

           

          Keep updated with all the news!

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          Clara Lim

          I used to be MoneyDumb. I hung out at H&M every day and thought that a $50 lunch set was a good deal. These days, I spend my time researching the crap out of life and trying to maximise utility on micro-decisions. I'm not sure if that's an improvement.