Credit Cards KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines

Credit Card Review: Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend (2020)

Cover 2020

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 6th April 2020.

Fast Facts

AscendCC

Annual fee: $337.05/yr
EIR:
26.9%
Sign-up bonus:
21,000 miles*
Local earn rate:
1.2 miles per $1
Overseas earn rate:
1.2 miles per $1**
Foreign transaction fee:
2.95%
Minimum Age:
21
Minimum income:
$50,000/yr (Singaporean / PR)
Minimum income:
$60,000/yr (Foreigner)
* See below for details.
** 2 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.

All 4 Cards

Annual fee

The annual fee for the Amex SIA KF Ascend card is not insignificant at $337.05. No waiver is offered on the primary card, so the fee for year one will be included on your first statement. However, the $80.25 supplementary card fee is waived in the first year.

Sign-up bonus

The current sign-up bonus for the Amex SIA KF Ascend card, which runs until 30th April 2020, is up to 21,000 miles, made up of the following components:

  • 5,000 miles on the first spend.*
  • 16,000 bonus miles if a minimum of $10,000 is spent in the first three months from card approval.

* The 5,000 miles welcome bonus is only applicable to first time applicants for any co-branded American Express Singapore Airlines credit card.

For example if your card is approved on 1st April 2020, you’ll have to achieve $10,000 spend between 1st April and 30th June for the 16,000 bonus miles.

Spend Period

Bonus miles are awarded up to 10 weeks after each spend threshold is reached, so in the above example of a card approved on 1st April the latest you’ll be credited with the bonus is 8th September.

Since we value KrisFlyer miles at 1.9 cents each, the total sign-up bonus is worth at least $400 against future redemptions, so provided you have $10,000 spend to make over the next six months this card is a worth considering. It’s the equivalent of ‘buying’ the miles at 1.61 cents each (based on paying the annual fee in year 1).

Bear in mind there have been better sign-up bonuses for this card in the past, including a 36,000 miles bonus in 2018.

Earning rates

The Amex SIA KF Ascend 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 miles for every $1 spent during the months of June and December.

Eligible transactions

Eligible transactions on the Amex SIA KF Ascend card for miles earning are all retail purchases including recurring payments, with the exception of:

  • Charges processed and billed prior to the Enrolment Date or charges prepaid on any Card Account prior to the first billing statement for that Card Account following the Enrolment Date;
  • Cash Advance and other cash services;
  • Express Cash;
  • American Express Travellers Cheque purchases;
  • Charges for dishonoured cheques;
  • Finance charges – including Line of Credit charges and Credit Card interest charges;
  • Late Payment and collection charges;
  • Tax refunds from overseas purchases;
  • Balance Transfers;
  • Instalment plans;
  • Annual Card fees;
  • Amount billed for purchase of KrisFlyer miles to top-up your miles balance;
  • Purchase and top-up charges for EZ-Link Cards using American Express Cards;
  • Bill payments and all transactions via SingPost SAM kiosks and mobile app;
  • Payments to insurance companies (except payments made for insurance products purchased through American Express authorized channels);
  • Payments to Singapore Petroleum Company Limited (SPC) service stations;
  • Payments for the purpose of GrabPay top-ups;
  • Charges at merchants or establishments that are excluded by American Express at its sole discretion and notified by American Express to you from time to time.

Important exclusions to remember here are bill payments, insurance payments, petrol at SPC stations and GrabPay top-ups.

Note: ipaymy and CardUp payments do earn KrisFlyer miles with this card, at the local earn rate of 1.2 mpd.

You can check the latest updated list of excluded transactions for KrisFlyer miles earning at amex.co/SGexclusions.

Supplementary card bonus

If you successfully apply for a supplementary card before 30th April 2020 you will receive 1,500 bonus KrisFlyer miles for each of the first two approved supplementary cards (i.e. capped at 3,000 bonus KrisFlyer miles for each basic card member).

The supplementary card bonus KrisFlyer miles will be awarded to Basic Card Members within 10 weeks from approval date of each supplementary card.

Each supplementary card has a $80.25 annual fee, however it is waived for the first year.

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.

94A_2
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, because these miles are transferred automatically each month, there is no additional fee involved.

When do miles transfer to KrisFlyer?

Transfers occur on the first day of each statement cycle, for the qualifying spend accrued in the previous period.

For example if your billing period is 19/02/2020 to 18/03/2020, miles earned during that period will be credited to your KrisFlyer account on 19/03/2020.

Intermediate transfers are not supported, so for example trying to top up your balance quickly using the miles from a large purchase won’t necessarily work if you’ve just missed the end of a statement period – you’ll have to wait around a month for them to post in that case.

Miles rounding

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:

  • $12 local purchase x 1.2 = 14.4 miles (rounded down to 14 miles)
  • $14 local purchase x 1.2 = 16.8 miles (rounded up to 17 miles)

Minimum spend to earn miles

Due to the rounding policy, the minimum spend to earn miles using this card is:

  • $0.42 at the 1.2 mpd earn rate (rounds up to 1 mile)
  • $0.25 at the 2 mpd earn rate (rounds up to 1 mile)

Forex fee / cpm overseas

The Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer card has a 2.95% foreign currency transaction fee, an increase on the 2.5% rate which applied until March 2020.

With a relatively mundane bonus overseas earn rate of 2 miles per dollar, it’s certainly not the best card to use as it means paying 1.57 cents per mile when spending in foreign currency during the months of June and December.

Worse still, if you use the card for overseas spend during the other 10 months of the year when a 1.2 cents per mile rate applies you’re effectively paying an eye-watering 2.62 cents per mile for the privilege – way over the odds and therefore to be strictly avoided.

There are better cards for overseas spend even at the bonus rate, and you should be looking at the BOC Elite Miles or Standard Chartered Visa Infinite for much better value, not just in cost per mile terms but miles per dollar too.

That said during June and December the bonus rate does mean this card gives you a better cost per mile than the popular Citi PremierMiles and DBS Altitude cards.

Cost per mile on overseas credit card transactions by card
(Best to worst, March 2020)

Card Fee Miles per $ Cost per mile
Card.pngBOC EM 3.0% 3.0 1.06¢
image_standard-chartered-visa-infinite@2x02.pngSCVI 3.5% 3.0* 1.22¢*
Card Trans.pngUOB PRVI Miles 3.25% 2.4 1.43¢
Card.pngMaybank Horizon Visa 2.75% 2.0 1.48¢
Card.jpgOCBC Voyage 3.25% 2.3 1.49¢
AMEXKFbluelargeKF Blue
(Jun & Dec)
2.95% 2.0 1.57¢
AscendCC.pngKF Ascend
(Jun & Dec)
2.95% 2.0 1.57¢
Altitude Card.jpgDBS Altitude Amex 3.0% 2.0 1.60¢
CardOCBC 90°N
3.25% 2.1 1.63¢
CardMC2019Citi PM 3.25% 2.0 1.71¢
Altitude Card.jpgDBS Altitude Visa 3.25% 2.0 1.71¢
CardX Card 3.5% 2.0 1.83¢
AscendCC.pngKF Ascend
(rest of year)
2.95% 1.2 2.62¢
AMEXKFbluelargeKF Blue
(rest of year)
2.95% 1.1 2.86¢
Card 2KrisFlyer UOB 3.25% 1.2 2.86¢

* For the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite card, a minimum of $2,000 spend in any currency during the same statement period is required to earn 3 miles per dollar on all FCY spend that month.

Cost per mile also accounts for an additional 0.3% ‘spread’ over money changer currency rates, though this doesn’t apply to all banks and all foreign currencies, so is a worst-case scenario.

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.

That’s a drawback because with the exception of OCBC and Standard Chartered, all other card providers in Singapore allow transfer into Asia Miles opening up a host of oneworld partner redemptions.

See our guide to where you can transfer your Singapore credit card points here

It certainly doesn’t come close to the range of FFP partners linked to Citi cards, with 11 airline and one hotel loyalty scheme offered as transfer options.

How much is a KrisFlyer mile worth?

In our latest analysis, we value KrisFlyer miles at 1.9 Singapore cents each. That’s our upper limit to buy, based on our typical redemption profile (First and Business Class saver award seats throughout the year).

Even then, this is a pessimistic level. We actually achieve an average of 2.4 cents per mile value when redeeming, against some fairly strict valuation criteria.

For example we don’t value 94,000 KrisFlyer miles on a return flight from Singapore to Tokyo in Business Class at the price Singapore Airlines is charging for those flights ($3,100, i.e. 3.3 cents per mile) because Malaysia Airlines is offering a Business Class option via Kuala Lumpur for $2,300.

Do KrisFlyer miles expire?

Yes, and that’s a drawback of any co-brand credit card like this one where your accrued miles will be transferred into your KrisFlyer account each month.

KrisFlyer miles expire three years after the month in which they were earned, so for example miles credited to your account from this credit card in April 2020 will expire at midnight on 30th April 2023. Miles credited in May 2020 will expire at midnight on 31st May 2020, and so on.

With many credit cards there is the option to keep your points accumulated at the bank side for at least two years before they expire, then transfer into KrisFlyer for a further three years validity.

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 2019 – 30th June 2020 (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. The Elite Gold status is valid for one year from date of upgrade only, with requalification based on standard terms under the KrisFlyer programme.
  • Note that for both offers eligible ticket purchases are for travel originating from Singapore only and must be purchased in Singapore Dollars.
KF Gold Lounge (Singapore Airlines)
(Photo: Singapore Airlines)

In 2019 American Express ran an enhanced offer for accelerated upgrade to KrisFlyer Elite Gold status with the Ascend card, requiring only $3,000 of the $15,000 spend from 1st March 2019 to 1st June 2019 to be made at Singapore Airlines, while the remaining $12,000 could be from any card spend.

That offer hasn’t been repeated to date, but would certainly be one to watch out for if you’re not already an Elite Gold member.

KrisFlyer Elite Gold benefits

  • 25% tier bonus on actual miles flown with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir
  • Complimentary ‘Forward Zone’ and ‘Standard’ seat selection when you fly in Economy Class on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir
  • 15% discount on other seat selection fees
  • Priority reservation waitlist
  • Airport lounge access (KrisFlyer Gold Lounge at Changi Airport, SilverKris lounges outside Singapore and Star Alliance Gold Lounges worldwide)
  • Priority airport check-in
  • Priority security and immigration at selected airports
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Priority airport standby
  • Additional 20kg baggage allowance
  • Priority boarding for Economy Class
  • Waived or discounted KrisFlyer service fees

0% interest instalments on SIA tickets

American Express offers its ‘Pay Small’ program with a variety of merchants, allowing you to break down larger transactions into 6, 12 or 24-month payments at 0% interest but forgoing any rewards (i.e. KrisFlyer miles with this card) in the process.

Pay Small Logo

That’s not really of interest to most of our readers who will be using this card to help maximise their annual KrisFlyer miles accrual.

Pay Small can be used however to purchase Singapore Airlines tickets and still earn 0.5 KrisFlyer miles per $1 spent, with no cap. The following rules apply:

  • Only applicable under the 6-month instalment option
  • Charge of $250 or more
  • Purchase must be made at singaporeair.com
  • Travel must originate in Singapore and payment must be made in Singapore dollars.

To use Pay Small at singaporeair.com, you must select the option ‘American Express: 0% interest* 6-month instalment plan with Pay Small’ during the checkout process.

For example, a $4,926.80 Business Class return ticket to London can be converted into six interest-free instalments of $821.13.

Pay Small

You must pay your card account in full each month to use the Pay Small 0% interest option.

Remember of course that this card usually earns 2 miles per dollar on transactions at singaporeair.com, so you are forfeiting the majority of your miles earning potential by using the Pay Small facility.

In the above example you’ll accrue 2,463 miles instead of the usual 9,852 miles paying upfront.

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.
  • 3.2 miles per S$1 spent on your ‘daily essentials’ at the following participating merchants: Deliveroo, foodpanda, McDonald’s, SISTIC, Starbucks, Subway, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Unity and Watsons, up to S$200 spend in each calendar month. Details here.
  • 3.2 miles per $1 spent on Grab rides, capped at $200 spend each calendar month. Details here.
  • 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 have at least one lounge 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.
  • 7% discount on ChangiWiFi overseas Wi-Fi router rental (see T&Cs page 15 for discount codes).
  • American Express Selects travel, shopping, dining and entertainment discounts.
  • Card promotions including discounts at booking.com, Expedia etc…
Hilton Garden Inn Singapore
The Hilton Garden Inn Serangoon is the only free night option available to Ascend cardholders in Singapore itself. (Photo: Hilton)

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 a reasonable sign-up bonus and moderate income requirement. The overseas miles bonus earn rate is strangely 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, with regular sign-up bonuses on offer for those cards.

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 and the sign-up bonus is credited, it’s hard to justify the $337 fee for this card.

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