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 28th January 2021.

Fast Facts

AscendCC

Annual fee: $337.05/yr
EIR:
26.9%
Sign-up bonus:
Up to 15,000 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 September 2020, is up to 37,000 miles, made up of the following components:

  • 5,000 miles on the first spend.*
  • 16,000 bonus miles if a minimum of $8,000 is spent in the first three months from card approval.
  • 16,000 bonus miles if a minimum of $8,000 is spent in months 4 to 6 from card approval (new to Amex cardholders).

* 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 September 2020, you’ll have to achieve $8,000 spend between 1st September and 31st November for the first 16,000 bonus miles, then $8,000 spend between 1st December and 28th February 2021 for the next 16,000 bonus miles.

The second tranche of bonus miles is only valid for new to Amex cardholders.

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 September the latest you’ll be credited with the bonus is 8th February 2021.

Since we value KrisFlyer miles at 1.9 cents each, the total sign-up bonus is worth at least $700 against future redemptions, so provided you have $16,000 spend to make over the next six months this card is a worth considering. It’s the equivalent of ‘buying’ the miles at 0.91 cents each (based on paying the annual fee in year 1).

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.

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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, 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)
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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, bas