Credit Cards KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines

Credit Card Review: Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend

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Here’s our review of the Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend (Amex SIA KF Ascend) credit card 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 July 2018.

Key features

AscendCC

Annual fee: $337.05/yr
EIR/APR: 25.9%
Sign-up bonus: 36,000 miles*
Local earn rate: 1.2 miles per $1
Overseas earn rate: 1.2miles per $1**
Minimum Age: 21
Minimum income: $50,000/yr (Singaporean / PR)
Minimum income: $60,000/yr (Foreigner)
* – Includes online sign-up bonus and requires $10,000 spend in the first three months, a lower bonus of 20,000 miles applies for spending $5,000 in the first three months.
** – 2.0 miles per $1 spend during the months of June and December

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Foreword

The Amex Singapore Airlines suite of credit cards come in several varieties, this article is only looking at the Amex SIA KF Ascend (brown) card. We’ve also reviewed the entry-level (blue) card here, which is free in year one.

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Annual fee

The annual fee for the Amex SIA KF card is quite high at $337.05. No waiver is offered on the primary card although the $80.25 supplementary card fee is waived in the first year, and the first two supplementary cards get you an extra 1,500 KrisFlyer miles each.

Sign-up bonus

The current sign-up bonus for the Amex SIA KF Ascend card is up to 36,000 miles, made up of the following components:

  • 7,000 miles on the first spend (if you apply online before 30th September).
  • 13,000 bonus miles if a minimum of $5,000 is spent in the first three months from card approval.
  • 16,000 bonus miles on the subsequent $5,000 spend in the same first three months from card approval (i.e. $10,000 total spend in the first three months).

As we value KrisFlyer miles at 2 cents each, the total sign-up bonus is worth at least $720 against future redemptions, so provided you have $10,000 spend to make over the next three months this card a is a worthwhile addition. It’s the equivalent of ‘buying the miles at 0.94 cents each (based on paying the annual fee in year 1).

Just be prepared to cancel before the end of the first year – otherwise the annual fee is recharged with no recurring bonus.

If you will only achieve a more realistic $5,000 total spend in the first three months, the sign-up bonus is worth 20,000 miles (about $400 value), which still makes paying the card fee worthwhile as you are ‘buying’ the miles in this case at 1.69 cents each.

Overall the bonus represents good value for money whether you meet the lower or higher spending threshold – just make sure you’ll reach either $5,000 or $10,000 in three months.

Earning rates

The Amex SIA KF earns 1.2 miles for every $1 spent both locally (i.e. transacted in SGD) and overseas (i.e. transacted in foreign currency). The overseas earning rate is boosted to 2.0 miles for every $1 spent during the months of June and December.

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?

Yes. As these are Singapore Airlines’ own branded cards the miles accrued are automatically transferred to your KrisFlyer account at each monthly statement.

Remember that KrisFlyer miles expire three years after they are earned, and with this card, you don’t have the added protection of keeping them ‘alive’ for longer in a credit card points scheme before transferring into your KrisFlyer account.

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The latest business class on the A380 Version 3 is currently achievable with 27,500 KrisFlyer miles between Singapore and Hong Kong. See our full review of the new seat. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Is there a transfer cost to KrisFlyer miles?

No. Unlike most other credit cards in Singapore as these miles are transferred automatically each month there is no additional fee involved. Transfers are effectively instant.

The downside is the KrisFlyer miles 3-year validity period from the month they are earned (i.e. deposited into your account).

How are points rounded?

Only full miles are awarded, so a fraction of a mile is rounded up from (and including) 0.5 miles and rounded down if it is less than 0.5 miles. For example:

  • $13 local purchase x 1.1 = 14.3 miles (rounded down to 14 miles)
  • $15 local purchase x 1.1 = 16.5 miles (rounded up to 17 miles)

Can I transfer miles into other loyalty schemes?

No. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is the sole partner with this card and you can only accrue miles in this scheme.

Singapore Airlines benefits

As a co-brand card, the Amex SIA KF Ascend comes with a couple of Singapore Airlines related perks:

  • Double KrisFlyer Miles Accrual Voucher when you spend $15,000 or more on eligible purchases with your card on singaporeair.com from 1st July 2018 – 30th June 2019 (capped at 5,000 bonus KrisFlyer miles).
  • Accelerated upgrade to KrisFlyer Elite Gold membership tier when you spend above $15,000 on eligible purchases made at singaporeair.com within the first 12 months of card approval.
  • Note that for both offers eligible ticket purchases are for travel originating from Singapore only and must be purchased in Singapore Dollars.

Other benefits

The Amex SIA KF Ascend has a number of additional benefits – some of the key ones which will be of most interest to our readers are:

  • 2.0 miles per $1 spent on ticket purchases made on singaporeair.com, SingaporeAir mobile app or silkair.com and general purchases at KrisShop (in-flight and online), with no cap. Note that eligible ticket purchases are for travel originating from Singapore only and must be purchased in Singapore Dollars.
  • 3.1 miles per $1 spent on Grab and Uber rides, capped at $200 spend each calendar month.
  • 500 miles for your first Grab booking (new customers only).
  • 4 complimentary lounge access vouchers to any participating SATS Premier or Plaza Premium Lounge each membership year. A full list of locations is available in the terms and conditions document, but all the Singapore terminals are included.
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty programme benefits – see here.
  • Complimentary Hilton Honours Silver membership.
  • Complimentary 1 night stay at one of 110 Hilton hotels in Asia Pacific. The full list is rather limited though and in Singapore includes only the Hilton Garden Inn in Little India.

Our summary

The Amex SIA KF Ascend card doesn’t have the best miles earning rate for a card with a high annual fee, but does feature an attractive sign-up bonus and moderate income requirement. The overseas miles bonus earn rate is needlessly complicated as it only applies two months of the year.

While 2 miles per $1 spent at Singapore Airlines is a nice addition, the DBS Altitude (review here) boasts 3 miles per $1 in this category, and also includes a few other useful airlines like Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.

In this income category we would suggest the Citi PremierMiles (review here) or UOB PRVI Miles (review herecards instead, however currently there are no attractive sign-up bonuses on offer for those cards so you may want to hold out for one.

The lounge access vouchers should come in useful and for regular Grab users the higher miles rate on the card for those transactions will be welcome. The automatic miles conversion into KrisFlyer each month also makes this a simple card for many people who don’t want to keep on top of the transfer process.

Overall though once the first year is over it’s hard to justify the $340 fee for this 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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