Credit Cards KrisFlyer

Credit Card Review: DBS Altitude

Here’s our review of the DBS Altitude credit cards issued in Singapore. It forms part of our series of credit card reviews, which are all summarised on our dedicated Credit Cards page.

Dollar amounts refer to SGD, and ‘miles’ refer to KrisFlyer miles, except where stated. This review was updated on 2nd March 2018.

Key features

Altitude Card.jpg

Annual fee: $192.60/yr
EIR/APR: 25.9%
Sign-up bonus: None
Local earn rate: 1.2 miles per $1
Overseas earn rate: 2.0 miles per $1
Minimum Age: 21
Minimum income: $30,000/yr (Singaporean / PR)
Minimum income: $45,000/yr (Foreigner)

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Foreword

The DBS Altitude comes in two varieties, a Visa and an American Express version. The fees, miles and benefits of the two cards are identical, except where we’ve specified otherwise.

Annual Fee

The annual fee for the DBS Altitude cards is $192.60, though the fee is waived at renewal if you spent at least $25,000 on the card in the last membership year.

If you don’t meet the spend threshold in your membership year however, and therefore have to pay the annual fee, you’ll also receive a 10,000 miles bonus on renewal (i.e. paying 1.93 cents per mile), which is reasonable. You can also voluntarily pay the annual fee, even if you spend over $25,000 in a membership year, and receive the 10,000 miles bonus.

Sign-up bonus

There is currently no sign-up bonus for the DBS Altitude cards.

Previously, bonuses have included 8,000 or 15,000 bonus miles for a small spend of $1,000 in the first two months of card membership, but there have been no recent sign-up promotions. That might make it a good idea to wait and take advantage of a future sign-up offer.

Effectively the annual recurring bonus is 10,000 miles, provided you are either required to pay the annual fee, or choose to pay it voluntarily, however this is not available when first issued the card. As mentioned above, it’s the equivalent of ‘buying’ the miles for 1.93 cents each.

As we value KrisFlyer miles at 2 cents each, those 10,000 miles are worth at least $200 against future redemptions, so the card effectively pays for itself, even if you don’t use it much.

Earning rates

The DBS Altitude cards earn 1.2 miles for every $1 spent locally (i.e. transacted in SGD), and 2.0 miles for every $1 spent overseas (i.e. transacted in foreign currency).

There are some higher earning rates for using the card at certain airline and travel companies, which we’ll look at later on.

A note about Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

Beware the ‘Dynamic Currency Conversion’ (DCC) offer you’ll often experience overseas when paying with your Visa or MasterCard. It’s very common when settling your overseas hotel bill, for example, to be offered to pay in SGD instead of local currency. This is a terrible idea, because:

a) you’ll suffer financially, even after the credit card foreign exchange fee is accounted for. If you remember the SGD amount you were offered to pay, then pay in local currency instead, once the transaction appears on your credit card statement you’ll generally find they were scamming you, you’d have paid at least 2% more using DCC.

b) you will earn credit card miles at the local spend rate if you accept DCC, because the transaction will take place in SGD, not the local currency.

In other words, you’ll pay more, and lose miles. Always insist on paying in the local currency of the country you are in.

Are KrisFlyer miles credited directly?

No, in fact rather than being credited miles directly you’ll accrue ‘DBS Points’ for your regular spending on this card. These transfer to KrisFlyer miles at a 1:2 ratio, so for $10,000 of local spending, you’ll net 6,000 DBS Points, which can be converted to 12,000 KrisFlyer miles.

Do DBS Points expire?

No they don’t, which is great because as you will probably know once transferred into KrisFlyer miles they will then only last for three years. That means there’s no need to keep an eye on the expiration date at the DBS side, just transfer to KrisFlyer when you need to.

What is the transfer cost to KrisFlyer miles?

It’ll cost $26.75 (including GST) each time you transfer DBS Points to KrisFlyer miles.

Is there a minimum transfer amount?

The minimum volume of miles you can transfer into KrisFlyer is 10,000 (i.e. 5,000 DBS Points). Thereafter they must then be transferred in blocks of 10,000.

How long do miles take to credit to KrisFlyer?

The official line is “approximately 10 working days”. In other words, about 2 weeks. That’s a bit on the long side if you’re chasing a currently available redemption ticket.

Luckily the FlyerTalk forum post where KrisFlyer members share the actual number of days taken to transfer miles across from various banks, suggests that 1 to 4 days is more typical from DBS, with some reporting to receive their miles the same day (presumably on a working day with a transfer request submitted in the morning).

That’s much more reasonable.

Which loyalty schemes can I transfer into?

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. The same earning rate, transfer cost, and minimum transfer ‘blocks’ apply if you choose to credit to Asia Miles.

You can also transfer your DBS Points to Air Asia BIG Points, here 500 DBS Points will transfer into 1,500 BIG Points (a 3:1 ratio), though it won’t be much interest to our readers – BIG Points are worth only about $0.0034 each (0.34 cents), or about 6 times less than we value a KrisFlyer mile / Asia Mile.

Auto Miles Conversion (KrisFlyer)

An alternative to converting your DBS Points ‘manually’ to KrisFlyer miles as and when you need to, and paying $26.75 each time, is to enrol in the Auto Conversion Programme. Here you’ll instead pay $42.83 per annum, and your points will automatically be converted at the end of each quarter (i.e. around 10th January, 10th April, 10th July and 10th October each year, for points accrued in the previous calendar quarter).

The minimum transfer amount is also reduced from 10,000 to just 1,000 KrisFlyer miles (500 DBS Points), so if you have only 2,200 DBS Points at the quarterly cutoff date, for example, you’ll have 4,000 KrisFlyer miles credited (with 200 DBS Points carried forward to the next quarter).

Under the normal system, you’d have to wait until you had accrued at least 5,000 DBS Points in order to transfer 10,000 KrisFlyer miles across.

Bear in mind as we mentioned above that DBS Points never expire, but as soon as they are transferred to KrisFlyer miles they will only be valid for 3 years. That means when you use the Auto Conversion Programme, the expiry clock will start ticking sooner.

Whether this scheme works out better for you depends on your usual miles transfer patterns. If you would usually only make one annual transfer to KrisFlyer miles from the card, it’s better to stick with the single payment of $26.75 once per year than use the Auto Conversion Programme. Provided you’d probably transfer twice or more per year, or if you use this card to accrue smaller volumes of miles, you may want to consider enrolling in Auto Conversion.

If you are enrolled for the Auto Conversion scheme, and you wish to make an ad-hoc conversion to KrisFlyer miles in between the regularly quarterly ones (for example following a large purchase), you are free to do this and will not be charged the $26.75 fee which would otherwise apply. The minimum transfer of 10,000 KrisFlyer miles (and 10,000 mile blocks) then applies, however.

Remember this scheme is only available to those converting DBS Points to KrisFlyer, not to Asia Miles or Air Asia.

What else can DBS Points be used for?

There are a variety of rewards other than airline miles you can use your DBS Points for, though as usual they all represent much poorer value.

We know that 1 DBS Point can be converted into 2 KrisFlyer miles, which we value at 2 cents each, so that’s approximately 4 cents value to a DBS Point when used this way.

Other transfer options are largely for shopping and retail vouchers, for example a $10 FairPrice voucher will set you back 690 DBS Points. The same number of points should be getting you 1,380 KrisFlyer miles, worth about $27.60. You should never be using your DBS Points for anything other than KrisFlyer miles or Asia Miles transfers.

DBS Rewards.jpg
This is the section of the DBS Rewards Catalogue you should be focussing on, and only this!

Other benefits

As a relatively low (or no) fee card, DBS Altitude isn’t showered with additional benefits, but some of the key ones which will be of most interest to our readers are:

  • 3 miles per $1 spent* on online flight and hotel bookings, including at singaporeair.com, cathaypacific.com, qatarairways.com, and expedia.com.sg
  • 6 miles per $1 spent* on specific hotel bookings and flights with certain airlines stays on Expedia SG
  • 10 miles per $1 spent* on hotel stays with Kaligo (this can work very well – see our article here)
  • 2 complimentary lounge access visits within each 12-month period of Priority Pass membership (exclusive to DBS Altitude Visa)
  • DBS Altitude Butler Service

* – Capped at $5,000 spend per calendar month.

Recurring promotions

DBS Altitude run occasional miles promotions, most recently a 3 miles per $1 on overseas spending (physical, not online), and a double miles promotion by category for any spending between $2,500 and $5,000 per month.

None of these promos are currently running, but it’s nice that you should expect to take advantage of one or two of these offers per year with this card.

Our summary

The DBS Altitude cards are a good entry-level option for the miles earner, with an attractive low income requirement, but still featuring a decent local miles earning rate.

It has some nice features – especially 3 miles per $1 spent online at Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways. It also has our favourite 10 miles per $1 Kaligo promo, which is also shared with the Citi PremierMiles (review here), Citi Prestige (review here) and UOB PRVI Miles (review here) cards.

For those with sufficient income, we would suggest the Citi PremierMiles or UOB PRVI Miles cards instead, especially Citi for the attractive sign-up bonus currently on offer.

That said, this remains a good card with a few nice perks, occasional miles promotions, and a fee-free option for those spending at least $25,000 per year. The DBS Auto Miles Conversion programme also has the potential to reduce the miles transfer fees for many people.

Altitude Card

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Our recommendations for credit cards and other similar products on this site do not constitute financial advice.

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