Asia Miles Credit Cards KrisFlyer

DBS Altitude Review (2020)

Both Cards Cover 3 (Quentin Ray)

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 1st August 2020.

DBS Altitude
Altitude Card Amex.png
1.2 mpd
local

2 mpd
FCY

3 mpd
travel
APPLY HERE
DBS Altitude
Altitude Card Amex.png

1.2 mpd
local

2 mpd
FCY

3 mpd
travel
APPLY HERE

  Mainly Miles Says


A good entry-level option for the miles earner, fee-free in year one with an attractive low income requirement, while still featuring a decent local miles earning rate.

Bonus miles for selected flight and hotel bookings are a plus, and the Visa card comes with two complimentary lounge visits annually, while the Amex has a slightly more competitive foreign transaction fee.

  Two Versions


The DBS Altitude is one of the best-known and most popular miles earning cards on the market in Singapore. It comes in two varieties, a Visa and an American Express version. The fees, miles and benefits of the two cards are almost identical, except where we’ve specified otherwise in this review.

Both Cards

  Eligibility


  • Minimum Age: 21
  • Minimum Income (Singaporean / PR): $30,000/yr
  • Minimum Income (Non-Singaporean): $45,000/yr

Once commanding an $80,000 annual income requirement, the DBS Altitude has come down to earth in recent years and now sits in the (far more accessible) $30k income category for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.

  Annual Fees & Interest Rates


  • Annual Fee (principal): $192.60 (first year free)
  • Annual Fee (supplementary): $96.30 (first year free)
  • Fee waiver: All annual card fees waived with $25,000+ retail spend in the previous membership year

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

That also applies for any supplementary cards, whose $96.30 fee will be waived if the combined primary and supplementary card accounts have met the $25,000+ spend.

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). 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.

We value KrisFlyer miles at 1.9 cents each (our upper limit to buy), so we would try to avoid paying the annual fee where possible, even with 10,000 miles thrown in.

Other fees and interest rates for the DBS Altitude cards include:

  • EIR: 26.8%
  • Interest-free period: 25 days
  • Minimum payment: 3% (capped at $50)
  • Late payment fee: $100
  • Cash advance fee: 8% (capped at $15)
  • Overlimit fee: $40

  Regular earn rates


The DBS Altitude cards earn:

  • 1.2 miles for every $1 spent locally (i.e. transacted in SGD), and
  • 2 miles for every $1 spent overseas (i.e. transacted in foreign currency).

These are relatively average earn rates for general spending with a Singapore credit card. Better cards in the 30k income bracket include the UOB PRVI Miles options, earning 1.4 mpd locally and 2.4 mpd for FCY transactions.

  Bonus earn rates


There are some higher earning rates for using the DBS Altitude card at certain airline and travel companies, as follows:

  • 3 miles per $1 spent on online flight and hotel bookings, including at singaporeair.com, cathaypacific.com, qatarairways.com
  • 6 miles per $1 spent on selected flight and hotel bookings at Expedia
  • 7 miles per $1 spent on hotel bookings at Agoda until 30th September 2020. See our article for full details.
  • 10 miles per $1 spent on local (Singapore) hotel bookings at Agoda until 31st December 2020. See our article for full details.
  • 10 miles per $1 spent on hotel stays with Kaligo.

These bonus rates are collectively capped at $5,000 spend per calendar month, with one ‘shared’ limit for all of them.

In other words you don’t get a $5,000 spend limit at the 3 mpd rate for a Qatar Airways booking and a separate $5,000 spend limit at the 10 mpd rate for Kaligo in the same calendar month.

  Sign-up bonus


There is no current sign-up bonus for the DBS Altitude cards, with the most recent 10,000 miles bonus offer ending on 31st July 2020.

  Eligible transactions


Eligible transactions on the DBS Altitude card for miles earning are all retail purchases including recurring payments, with the exception of the following:

  • Bill payments and all transactions via AXS (except Pay+Earn), SAM, eNETS;
  • Payments to educational institutions;
  • Payment to government institutions and services (court cases, fines, bail and bonds, tax payment, postal services, parking lots and garages, intra-government purchases and any other government services not classified here);
  • Payment to insurance companies (sales, underwriting, and premiums);
  • Payments to financial institutions (including banks and brokerages);
  • Payment to non-profit organisations;
  • Payments to hospitals;
  • Payments on utilities;
  • Betting (including lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, off-track betting, and wagers at race tracks) through any channel;
  • Any top-ups or payment of funds to payment service providers, prepaid cards, any prepaid accounts or purchase of prepaid cards/credits (including but not limited to EZ-Link, GrabPay, NETS FlashPay and Singtel Dash);
  • Instalment payment plan purchases, preferred payment plans, balance transfer, fund transfer, cash advances, annual fees, interest, late payment charges, all fees charged by DBS, miscellaneous charges imposed by DBS (unless otherwise stated in writing by DBS).

This list is subject to change, so check the DBS Rewards Programme Terms and Conditions (section 2.6) for the latest information.

  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 (1.2 mpd).

  When do DBS Points credit?


DBS Points should reflect in your account once the transaction posts, which takes anywhere between one and three days.

You won’t have to wait until your monthly statement for the points to be added, so if you’re making a purchase to achieve a short-term top-up they should be available to you within a few days.

  Do DBS Points expire?


Some do and some don’t! The important thing about DBS Points accrued on the Altitude card is that they never expire. That’s 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 miles.

  How long do miles take to credit to KrisFlyer?


The official line is “approximately 7 working days”. In other words, about a week and a half. That’s a bit on the long side if you’re chasing a currently available redemption ticket, or booking a short-term award.

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?


You can transfer DBS Points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Qantas Frequent Flyer Points.

The same earning rate, transfer cost, and minimum transfer ‘blocks’ apply if you choose to credit to Asia Miles or Qantas.

Transfer Partners

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 a fifth of the value of a KrisFlyer mile / Asia Mile.

Since Air Asia BIG Points is effectively a cashback programme, this is even worse value than using your DBS Points to obtain shopping vouchers!

Currently DBS is offering fee-free transfers to Air Asia BIG Points until 31st December 2020, though that still shouldn’t sway you to explore this terrible value option.

Points / miles transfer times into non-KrisFlyer programmes are quoted as:

  • Air Asia: 10 working days
  • Asia Miles: 10 working days
  • Qantas: 7 working days

Our personal experience of transferring DBS Points into Asia Miles in 2019 was a transfer time of almost exactly one week.

  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 shortly after 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).

Transfer time of 1 to 4 days must still be accounted for.

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

SQ 77W Takeoff 2 Wide (Julian Herzog)
The Auto Miles Conversion option allows you to have your DBS Points automatically transferred into your KrisFlyer account four times per year, for an annual fee. (Photo: Julian Herzog)

Whether this scheme works out better for you depends on your usual miles transfer patterns. If you would typically make only 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 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 to transfer accrued points from a large purchase), you are free to do this and will not be charged the $26.75 fee which would otherwise apply. However, the usual minimum transfer of 10,000 KrisFlyer miles (and 10,000 mile blocks thereafter) then applies in this case.

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

  Instant free transfer to KrisFlyer miles via KrisPay


You can also link your DBS Points and KrisPay account and instantly transfer as little as 100 points into KrisPay miles.

The transfer ratio is 1:1.7 (e.g. 100 DBS Points = 170 KrisPay miles)

You won’t want to be using them there due to the awful value against purchases of 0.67 cents per mile, but you can immediately transfer them 1:1 into your KrisFlyer account as KrisFlyer miles.

DBS-KP

As you’ll notice this is a 15% ‘hit’ on the usual DBS Points to KrisFlyer transaction rate, so it’s only of interest if you need a small amount to meet a specific redemption threshold, or have a small balance ‘stuck’ in DBS Points (less than 5,000), which you aren’t going to be adding to in future.

You shouldn’t be using this as your regular DBS Points to KrisFlyer transfer method, as it effectively devalues your miles earning rate to 1 mpd locally and 1.7 mpd for FCY purchases.

There are two golden rules to be aware of, firstly you’ll have to move any points transferred from DBS to KrisPay into KrisFlyer miles within seven days, otherwise they are stuck in KrisPay (where you definitely don’t want them).

The second is just as important, you cannot use any of the KrisPay miles you have earned from your DBS Points transfer for any KrisPay purchase, no matter how small, as that automatically renders the entire transfer stuck in KrisPay forever.

The golden rule therefore is to transfer in to KrisPay, then transfer straight out to KrisFlyer. Even with that seven-day window available, our advice is don’t wait.

  Points rounding


DBS doesn’t have the simplest rounding policy for issuance of its DBS Points when you make a purchase using the Altitude cards.

“DBS Points shall be awarded to the Principal Cardmember based on the amount of retail purchases charged to the Card Account on a per transaction basis, rounded down to the nearest whole number.”

DBS Rewards Terms and Conditions

That means each transaction you make, whether in SGD or foreign currency, will first be rounded down to the next whole dollar (in SGD equivalent if required) before DBS Points earning is assessed (e.g. $57.99 is rounded down to 57).

Now for the trickier part.

“DBS Altitude Cardmembers earn 5 DBS Points for every S$5 equivalent in foreign currency purchase and 3 DBS Points for every S$5 local currency purchase. Cardmembers earn an additional 2.5 DBS Points for every S$5 equivalent in foreign currency online flight & hotel purchase and an additional 4.5 DBS Points for every S$5 local currency online flight & hotel purchase, capped at S$5,000 spend on online flight & hotel purchases per calendar month.”

DBS Rewards Terms and Conditions

That suggests points will only be awarded in $5 spend blocks, however it’s not quite that simple.

Your rounded down transaction (57 in the $57.99 example above) is then divided by 5 before being multiplied by the appropriate number of DBS Points.

While DBS does not then mention it specifically, only whole DBS Points can be awarded for your transaction so it’s another ’round down’ at the end to the next whole point.

For example, assuming a $57.99 local transaction:

  • $57.99 rounds down to 57
  • 57 / 5 = 11.4 x 3 (local purchase) = 34.2
  • 34.2 rounds down to 34
  • 34 DBS Points awarded (equivalent to 68 miles, so you’re getting 1.17 mpd)

Here’s how it works for a $57.99 foreign currency transaction (after conversion from the relevant FCY amount):

  • $57.99 rounds down to 57
  • 57 / 5 = 11.4 x 5 (FCY purchase) = 57
  • 57 rounds down to 57
  • 57 DBS Points awarded (equivalent to 114 miles, so you’re getting 1.97 mpd)

↥  Minimum spend to earn points


Since you’ll need to accrue at least 1 DBS Point to earn miles for your transaction (0.99 DBS Points rounds down to zero), the minimum spend in SGD on the DBS Altitude card to earn points is:

  • Local transactions: $1.67
  • FCY transactions: $1.00 (after conversion)
  • Online flight / hotel transactions: $0.67

These are quite reasonable levels, with some credit cards including UOB and OCBC products awarding no miles for transactions of less than $5.

  FCY fee / cpm overseas


DBS imposes a 3.25% fee on transactions made in foreign currency on the Altitude Visa card, however the Amex version benefits from a slightly lower 3% fee.

  •   FCY fee: 3.25%
  •   FCY fee: 3%

With a 2 cents per mile overseas earn rate that makes it one of the less competitive cards to use for these transactions, with an effective cost per mile of 1.71 cents using the DBS Altitude Visa card and 1.6 cents per mile with the Amex card.

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

Card Fee Miles per $ Cost per mile
image_standard-chartered-visa-infinite@2x02.pngSCVI 3.5% 3.0* 1.22¢*
HSBCviNEW2HSBC VI
(Step up rate)
2.8% 2.25** 1.33¢**
AscendCC.pngKF Ascend
(Jun & Dec)
2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
Card.jpgOCBC Voyage 3.0% 2.2 1.45¢
Card Trans.pngUOB PRVI Miles 3.25% 2.4 1.43¢
Card.pngMaybank Horizon Visa 2.75% 2.0 1.48¢
HSBCviNEW2HSBC VI
(Regular rate)
2.8% 2.0 1.50¢
CardOCBC 90°N
3.0% 2.1 1.52¢
Card.pngBOC EM 3.0% 2.0 1.60¢
Altitude Card AmexDBS Altitude Amex 3.0% 2.0 1.60¢
Altitude Card.jpgDBS Altitude Visa 3.25% 2.0 1.71¢
Card2019.pngCiti PM 3.25% 2.0 1.71¢
CardX Card 3.5% 2.0 1.83¢
Card 2KrisFlyer UOB 3.25% 1.2 2.86¢

* 3 mpd earn rate for the SCVI card is subject to a minimum spend of $2,000 (any currency) in the same statement cycle.
** Step up earn rate for HSBC VI is only applicable from year 2 of card membership onwards, provided you spent at least $50,000 in the previous year.

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.

  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 1.9 cents each, so that’s approximately 3.8 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 $26.20. You should never be using your DBS Points for anything other than KrisFlyer miles, Asia Miles or Qantas Points transfers.

FFP options
These are the only three redemption options in the DBS Rewards Catalogue you should be redeeming

  Miles accelerator (+1 mpd)


DBS offers you the option to ‘buy’ additional miles at a cost of 2 cents each by increasing each of the earn rates applicable to your purchases by 1 mpd, for a 2% administrative fee.

That means instead of the usual earning levels you’ll instead be entitled to:

  • 1.2 miles 2.2 miles for every $1 spent locally (i.e. transacted in SGD)
  • 2 miles 3 miles for every $1 spent overseas (i.e. transacted in foreign currency)
  • 3 miles 4 miles per $1 spent on online flight and hotel bookings

Here’s the bank’s worked example of how you can pay $140 for 7,000 extra miles with this promotion:

Miles Accelerator Example

Don’t get carried away by the “20,900 miles” alongside the $140 (that really would be a good deal!). What you’re actually earning here for the $140 fee is the additional miles in the fourth column, which total 7,000 in this example.

Our regular readers will know we don’t endorse ‘buying’ KrisFlyer miles at anything above our upper limit of 1.9 cents each.

In our opinion – 2 cents per mile is too high a price to pay for KrisFlyer miles and as we often shown there are a raft of cheaper options out there.

This is an ‘opt-in’ then ‘opt-out’ programme, however you must sign up for at least a month. Full terms and conditions for the DBS Altitude Miles accelerator programme are available here, with a series of FAQs also available here.

  Lounge Access


One additional and useful benefit of the DBS Altitude Visa card is a Priority Pass membership giving you access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.

Priority Pass Cover (PP)
The DBS Altitude Visa card includes two complimentary lounge visits. (Photo: Priority Pass)

There are two free lounge visits within each 12-month period of your card membership. These visits must be utilised by the principal cardholder. It’s also possible to use them at the same time with one guest, which would use up both free visits at once.

Subsequent lounge visits are charged at a preferential rate of US$32 each, automatically charged to your card account.

Seating Booth
The Plaza Premium Lounge at Changi T1 is included in the Priority Pass programme. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

You must apply for the Priority Pass membership and the two free lounge visits in a 12-month period are based on your application date for the programme, not your credit card anniversary year. Full FAQs are available here.

Unfortunately this benefit is not included with the American Express version.

  Other benefits


  • You can tap your DBS Altitude Visa for bus or train rides and earn 1.2 mpd using SimplyGo, provided your your fare is $1.67 or more. Fares are charged directly to your card upon usage. No miles are awarded for fares less than $1.67, or for the Amex version.
  • Altitude Visa cardholders also get Golf Club Privileges with 30% off green fees in Asia-Pacific, among other Visa Infinite card benefits.
  • DBS Altitude Butler Service (both cards)

  Recurring promotions


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

Those promos aren’t currently running, but it’s nice that you should perhaps 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.

Points rounding is reasonably fair and the minimum spend to earn miles shouldn’t be an issue for your transactions at no more than $1.67, with competing UOB and OCBC cards both now requiring a $5 minimum.

It has some nice features – especially 3 miles per $1 spent online at Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways. It also boasts the year-round 10 miles per $1 Kaligo promo, which can be very useful.

Occasional miles promotions and a fee-free renewal option for those spending at least $25,000 per year are nice to have, plus both cards occasionally enjoy a 10,000 miles sign-up bonus (that’s the best time to apply), and are fee-free for the first year.

Our Rating
3.5 / 5
among entry-level general spend cards

DBS Altitude
Altitude Card

APPLY HERE

Best in class: A must-have for the miles earner in Singapore
Excellent: A leader in its category with few if any downsides
Very good: Drawbacks largely outweighed by the positive aspects
Good: Useful benefits despite some poor features vs. other cards
Average: Worth considering but not an essential addition to your wallet
Conflicted: Some benefits but much better cards exist in the same category
Poor: Few benefits worth having
Very poor: Almost no benefits, not recommended
Awful: Not worth considering

Links on Mainly Miles may pay us an affiliate commission.

(Cover Photo: Quentin Ray)

One comment

  1. Minimum payment (capped at $50) and Cash advance fee: 8% (capped at $15)… technically that’s the minimum amounts levied, and not capped at those amounts. Please look into this.

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