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 December 2023.
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 sadly a thing of the past, but the Visa card comes with two complimentary lounge visits annually, while the Amex has a slightly more competitive foreign transaction fee.
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.
- 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): $194.40 (first year free)
- Annual Fee (supplementary): $97.20 (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 $194.40, 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 $97.20 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 1.94 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.
You can always request a fee waiver even if you don’t hit the spend threshold, which may or may not be successful.
Other fees and interest rates for the DBS Altitude cards include:
- EIR: 27.8%
- 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:
- 1.3 mpd for local spend (i.e. transacted in SGD), and
- 2.2 mpd for overseas spend (i.e. transacted in foreign currency).
Here’s how that 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
These earn rates for the DBS Altitude cards were hiked in August 2023 as part of some card changes, but are slated only to be valid until 31st January 2024, after which we’ll have to wait and see what DBS has up its sleeves.
Bonus earn rates
There are some higher earning rates for using the DBS Altitude card at certain airline and travel companies, as follows:
- 6 mpd for selected flight and hotel bookings at Expedia (occasionally, this is hiked to 8 mpd).
Terms and conditions here.
- Up to 10 mpd for hotel stays booked with Kaligo.
Terms and conditions here.
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 6 mpd rate for an eligible Expedia flight booking and a separate $5,000 spend limit at the 10 mpd rate for Kaligo in the same calendar month.
Any spend over and above $5,000 in the bonus categories in a calendar month will revert to the regular earn rates.
Prior to September 2023, the DBS Altitude cards had a very useful 3 mpd earn rate for online flight and hotel bookings, including at singaporeair.com, cathaypacific.com, and qatarairways.com, but this was sadly axed as part of some card tweaks.
Expedia deal explained
To benefit from the 6 mpd earn rate at Expedia using your DBS Altitude card, you’ll have to book through the dedicated microsite at www.expedia.com.sg/dbsmiles.
Eligible hotel bookings are those where you make payment to Expedia at the time of booking (not applicable if you choose a rate to pay later at the hotel).
Eligible flight bookings are those made with one of the following airlines:
- Cambodia Angkor Air
- China Eastern Airlines
- EVA Air
- Garuda Indonesia
- Gulf Air
- Hawaiian Air
- Korean Air
- Myanmar International Airways
- Qatar Airways
- SriLankan Airlines
- Thai Airways International
- Turkish Airlines
- Xiamen Airlines
The list is subject to change, so do check the latest terms before booking.
Obviously some popular carriers including Singapore Airlines are missing from the list, but there are still potentially some useful options including Korean Air, Thai Airways, Finnair (check out the new Business Class!), Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways.
Package bookings comprising an eligible hotel and an eligible flight, as defined individually above, booked in a single transaction on the dedicated microsite, will also be eligible.
It probably goes without saying, but your booking(s) must be charged to your DBS Altitude card for the bonus miles to apply – use of the microsite with payment by any other card will not count!
The DBS Altitude cards currently have a sign-up bonus worth up to 22,600 miles for $2,000 of spend within 30 days of card approval, running for applications until 31st January 2024.
To be eligible, you’ll have to be new to DBS cards as a primary cardholder in the last 12 months, but existing DBS cardholders can earn an 11,600 miles bonus when picking up the Altitude Amex card.
Eligible transactions on the DBS Altitude card for miles earning are all retail purchases including recurring payments, with the exception of the following:
This list is subject to change, so check the DBS Rewards Programme Terms and Conditions (section 2.6) for the latest information.
Note that education, insurance and utilities payments are specifically excluded from miles earning.
Note that Amaze transactions no longer accrue DBS Points.
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 6,500 DBS Points, which can be converted to 13,000 KrisFlyer miles (1.3 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.
For spend in the bonus categories, like Expedia and Kaligo bookings, the additional bonus points over and above the regular 1.3 mpd / 2.2 mpd base earn rate will be credited within 45 days (Expedia) or 60 days (Kaligo) after the end of the calendar quarter of your booking.
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.
DBS Points pool between cards
DBS Points pool together with your other DBS cards for the purposes of redemption, for example if you also hold the DBS WWMC card.
However, if you cancel your Altitude card any DBS Points accrued but not redeemed from that card will be forfeited, they cannot be transferred to your WWMC card in this example.
Points that are expiring first are used first when you redeem, so your non-expiring DBS Points from the Altitude card will be held back till last.
What is the transfer cost to KrisFlyer miles?
It’ll cost $27.00 (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).
In our personal experience, DBS points usually credit into KrisFlyer within 48 hours of initiating the transfer request.
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.
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 cashing out your DBS Points for shopping vouchers!
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 $27 each time, is to enrol in the Auto Conversion Programme.
Here you’ll instead pay $43.20 per annum, and your points will automatically be converted shortly after the 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).
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 still 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 almost as soon as you accrue points.
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 $27 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 $27 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.
While DBS cards like the WWMC and Vantage products are not eligible for the Auto Conversion Programme, if you are also a DBS Altitude, Insignia or Treasures Black Elite cardholder, you are eligible for it if you wish to enrol.
In this case, DBS Points accumulated under all your DBS credit cards (e.g. including the WWMC) will be automatically converted into KrisFlyer miles at the start of every quarter, for an annual fee of $43.20.
Instant free transfer to KrisFlyer miles via Kris+
You can also link your DBS Points and KrisPay account and instantly transfer as little as 100 points into KrisPay miles via the Kris+ app.
The transfer ratio is 1:1.7 (e.g. 100 DBS Points = 170 KrisPay miles)
You won’t want to be using the KrisPay miles against Kris+ merchant purchases, due to the awful value of 0.67 cents per mile, but you can immediately transfer them 1:1 into your KrisFlyer account as KrisFlyer miles.
As you’ll notice the ratio means taking a 15% ‘hit’ on the usual DBS Points to KrisFlyer transfer 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 1.1 mpd for general transactions and 1.9 mpd for FCY purchases.
There are important factors 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 Kris+ purchase, no matter how small, as that automatically renders the entire transfer stuck in Kris+ until expiry, six months later.
The golden rule therefore is to transfer in to KrisPay miles via Kris+, then transfer straight out to KrisFlyer. Even with that seven-day window available, our advice is don’t wait.
DBS doesn’t have the simplest rounding policy for issuance of its DBS Points when you make a purchase using the Altitude cards.
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.
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 3.25 (local purchase) = 37.1
- 37.1 rounds down to 37
- 37 DBS Points awarded (equivalent to 74 miles, so you’re getting 1.28 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 5.5 (FCY purchase) = 62.7
- 62.7 rounds down to 62
- 62 DBS Points awarded (equivalent to 124 miles, so you’re getting 2.14 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: $1.54
- FCY transactions: $1.00 (after conversion)
These are quite reasonable levels, with some credit cards including UOB, Maybank and OCBC products awarding no miles whatsoever 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 2.2 cents per mile overseas earn rate that makes it one of the more decent cards to use for these transactions, with an effective cost per mile of 1.56 cents using the DBS Altitude Visa card and 1.45 cents per mile with the Amex card.
Cost per mile on overseas transactions (general spend cards)
(Best to worst, August 2023)
(Step up rate)
|UOB PRVI Miles||3.25%||2.4||1.43¢|
|DBS Altitude Amex||3.0%||2.2||1.45¢|
|Maybank Horizon Visa||2.75%||2.0||1.48¢|
|DBS Altitude Visa||3.25%||2.2||1.56¢|
(Jun & Dec)
* 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.
If you’re holding a specialised 4 mpd card, like the DBS WWMC, you will of course be able to achieve much better cost per mile for transactions in foreign currency, provided you are spending within the card’s eligible categories and monthly spend cap.
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 per 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. You should never be using your DBS Points for anything other than KrisFlyer miles, Asia Miles or Qantas Points transfers.
Income tax payment
DBS Altitude cardholders can opt to pay their income tax bill over 12 months using the DBS My Preferred Payment Plan.
This involves paying a 2.5% fee, but earns 1.5 mpd, not the card’s regular 1.3 mpd rate.
It means buying miles at 1.67 cents each, which is a reasonable rate in our opinion, but there are usually cheaper options during income tax season with the likes of CardUp and ipaymy, with typical offer rates of around 1.75% allowing you to buy miles at 1.32 cents each with a 1.3 mpd card like this one.
One additional and useful benefit of the DBS Altitude Visa card is a Priority Pass membership giving you access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide.
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.
You must apply for the Priority Pass membership yourself after receiving your Altitude card, 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 (see pages 4 to 8).
Unfortunately this benefit is not included with the American Express version of the DBS Altitude card.
- You can tap your DBS Altitude Visa for bus or train rides and earn 1.3 mpd using SimplyGo, provided your your fare is $1.54 or more. Fares are charged directly to your card upon usage. No miles are awarded for fares less than $1.54, or for the Amex version.
- Altitude Visa cardholders also get 10% cashback at Booking.com, 7% off Agoda.com hotel bookings and Golf Club Privileges with 50% off green fees in Asia-Pacific, among other Visa Infinite card benefits.
Those promos aren’t currently running at the time of writing, but it’s nice that you should perhaps expect to take advantage of one or two of these offers per year with this card, and we always keep our readers updated whenever a new deal is launched.
Terms and conditions
Here are links to the full terms and conditions applicable to the DBS Altitude Card and the DBS Rewards programme.
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, now towards the higher end among general spend cards in Singapore at 1.3 mpd locally and 2.2 mpd for FCY.
Points rounding is reasonably fair and the minimum spend to earn miles shouldn’t be an issue for your transactions at no more than $1.54, with competing UOB, Maybank and OCBC cards now requiring a $5 minimum.
Unfortunately the card loses one nice feature from 1st September 2023, the ability to earn 3 mpd for online flight and hotel spend with the likes of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.
Nonetheless, it still boasts the year-round 6 mpd at Expedia and 10 mpd Kaligo promo, which can be very useful, plus there’s two complimentary lounge visits per year thrown in with the Visa card.
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 regularly enjoy a generous miles sign-up bonus (that’s the best time to apply), and are fee-free for the first year.
Unfortunately DBS is now apparently confirming the card benefits only for six months at a time, with the next announcement in January 2024, for terms applicable from February 2024 onwards, making it very uncertain what the long-term benefits of the card will be.
| 3 / 5
among entry-level general spend cards
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