Back in June this year we highlighted to our readers that DBS was rather vaguely flagging “revised card benefits” for its Altitude cardholders from 1st August this year, but at the time no further details of the changes were made available, leaving us waiting with baited breath to find out what was happening.
Well 1st August is here and the details of the changes have now been revealed. As usual with these tweaks, there are winners and losers, depending on what you typically use your Altitude card for.
Oddly, the bank is also making the latest raft of changes effective only for six months – until 31st January 2024 – after which time presumably we get another shake-up to digest!
Why is this necessary? It sure is puzzling, and may put cardholders off taking out an Altitude Card, or even renewing especially if their new membership year comes up before 1st February 2024.
3 mpd for online flight and hotel spend is axed
One of the major benefits of the DBS Altitude cards is that they have offered 3 mpd for online flight and hotel bookings, including at singaporeair.com, cathaypacific.com, and qatarairways.com.
This is offered alongside a 6 mpd rate for selected flight and hotel bookings at Expedia and a 10 mpd rate for hotel stays booked with Kaligo, and collectively these bonus rates are capped at S$5,000 spend per calendar month.
Unfortunately, effective from 1st August 2023, the 3 mpd for online flight and hotel bookings has been axed.
That’s a big shame because this was a useful benefit for these cards. Even though the DBS WWMC offers 4 mpd for all online spend, including flight and hotel bookings, the S$2,000 monthly cap would often get in the way or be exhausted by your other monthly online spend.
There’s also the issue of points expiry – no concerns with the Altitude cards but for the WWMC there’s a one-year expiry window to contend with.
Getting 3 mpd on Singapore Airlines tickets in particular, up to S$5,000 in value, was a great perk we often used. The no-notice removal of this earn rate is also poor form – what if you were planning to use it today (1st August) when a fresh S$5,000 monthly allowance should have kicked in?
While the 6 mpd rate for selected Expedia spend and the 10 mpd rate for Kaligo hotel bookings remain, these are less easy to use and sometimes involve ‘buying’ miles at rates over the odds, compared with direct bookings.
Nonetheless, DBS is promising Altitude cardholders new travel deals, telling customers to “stay tuned for more exclusive travel deals coming your way!”.
Local and FCY earn rates hiked
The DBS Altitude cards used to earn:
- 1.2 mpd for local spend (i.e. transacted in SGD), and
- 2 mpd for overseas spend (i.e. transacted in foreign currency).
The good news side of these latest changes is that earn rates have now been increased, with immediate effect. Here’s how it looks, from 1st August 2023.
- 1.3 mpd for local spend (i.e. transacted in SGD), and
- 2.2 mpd for overseas spend (i.e. transacted in foreign currency).
That’s an 8% increase in miles accrual for local general spend and a 10% hike for FCY spend. There is still no cap on miles earning at these rates.
Here’s how the DBS Altitude now compares to some other general spend cards with similar income requirements on the market in Singapore.
Earn rates (general spend cards)
(Best to worst, August 2023)
|Card||Local Spend||FCY Spend|
|UOB PRVI Miles||1.4 mpd||2.4 mpd|
|OCBC 90oN||1.3 mpd||2.2 mpd|
|DBS Altitude||1.3 mpd||2.2 mpd|
||1.2 mpd||2.4 mpd|
||1.2 mpd||2 mpd|
||1.2 mpd||2 mpd|
|KF Ascend||1.2 mpd||2 mpd*|
|KrisFlyer UOB||1.2 mpd||1.2 mpd|
|KF Blue||1.1 mpd||2 mpd*|
|BOC EM||1 mpd||2 mpd|
* During June and December only, otherwise the local spend rate applies
Higher income requirement cards perform even better than this, for example the DBS Vantage earns 1.5 mpd for local spend and 2.2 mpd for overseas spend.
The increase in general spend earn rate to 1.3 mpd for the DBS Altitude cards means the minimum spend per transaction to earn points locally has reduced from S$1.67 to S$1.54, not a major change but perhaps a slight benefit for smaller purchases.
Other perks remain
DBS has not changed any other benefits of the Altitude cards (not yet anyway…), so you can still benefit from:
- A Priority Pass with two complimentary lounge visits per membership year (Altitude Visa only)
- 6 mpd on selected Expedia bookings (capped at S$5,000 per month)
- 10 mpd on Kaligo bookings (within the same S$5,000 per month cap)
- 10,000 bonus miles on annual fee payment
- Non-expiring points
Occasionally, the Expedia deal is hiked to 8 mpd, like it was in September 2022 and March 2023.
Having axed the 3 mpd earn rate for online flight and hotel spend, overnight and arguably without notice, the DBS Altitude cards have relegated themselves firmly into the general spend bracket, with no decent bonus category to speak of.
That’s disappointing, but the good news is that rates on the general spend side itself have been hiked – to 1.3 mpd / 2.2 mpd for local and FCY spend respectively.
That said, these rates are relatively easy to achieve with other cards on the market, even those with similar income requirements, so we don’t see the DBS Altitude holding much of a value proposition going forward.
Let’s see what DBS comes up with during the card’s next “enhancement” round, in six months’ time.
(Cover Photo: Quentin Ray)