So you applied for a credit card and got it in the mail the next few days. You feel powerful, and that nothing is going to stop you from wielding it with reckless abandon in shopping outlets and fine dining restaurants. Since you are going to be spending anyway, why not collect a bunch of air mile reward points so you can travel for free while you are at it? With a host of travel-themed cards out there, we handpicked four first class options that will help you accomplish just that, with an express treatment.
1. Citibank PremierMiles Visa: Most versatile air miles card
It’s obvious that you need to charge a fair bit to your card to accumulate air miles for free travels. Now, how about getting some money back while you’re at it? For that reason, we’re tagging Citibank’s PremierMiles Visa card as the most versatile piece of plastic that complements your lifestyle needs.
The card grants first-time members 10,000 Citi miles immediately upon payment of the S$192.80 annual fee, and an additional 5,000 Citi miles if you charge to the card within the first three months. Throw in another 15,000 miles if you chalk up at least S$10,000 worth of spending within the same period. At 1.2 miles per S$1, that works out to a total of:
10000 + 5000 + 15000 + [10000 x 1.2] = 42,000 air miles
That can almost buy you a free one-way passage to the likes of Tokyo and Seoul just within three months. For this year of 2016, Citibank is offering to accelerate your gains with 3 miles per dollar spent overseas on gazetted long weekends. Those are just travel benefits alone; don’t even get us started on the Gourmet Pleasures dining discounts and Zouk 1-for-1 promotions. Yes, you can literally eat, drink and party your way to said free travels.
2. HSBC Visa Infinite: Best dollar to air mile rates (overseas spending)
The HSBC Visa Infinite is the hidden gem of all frequent flyer cards. Arguably the star attraction of the card, you can earn up to 2.5 miles per dollar spent overseas. Notice we said ‘up to’, because as you would have probably expected, there is a catch. And that catch is you need to exercise patience for at least a year to enjoy those stellar rates; provided that you spend more than S$75,000 within year 1, each dollar spent overseas from year 2 onwards can earn you 2.5 miles. We understand that waiting for a year doesn’t exactly qualify as fast, but hey, good things are worth waiting for right?
Assuming you have cleared the expenditure pre-requisites and made it into year 2, charging S$7,500 to both local and overseas spending will net you:
[7500 x 1.5] + [7500 x 2.5] = 30,000 air miles
That can take you on a free one-way trip to Hong Kong to stuff yourself with har gow and siew mai, compared to the S$10,000 you have to charge both locally and internationally in year 1. Speaking of 30,000 air miles, you will receive exactly that as a bonus welcome gift if you decide to fly with HSBC.
3. Standard Chartered Visa Infinite: Fastest air mile accumulation
It’s a super uber card to supercharge your air miles. Just by settling the S$588.50 annual fee, you pocket 35,000 air miles straight up. That’s more than enough to jet off to Phuket on a whim, so feel free to make your booking as soon as you get your card. You can opt for either that or 25,000 air miles plus S$100 worth of Uber credits broken down into four complimentary rides of S$25 each.
Need more points to make up the shortfall for more exotic destinations? Take advantage of Standard Chartered’s competitive conversion rates: every dollar earns 1.4 miles for local spending and 3 miles for overseas ones.
Long, uncomfortable layovers are also a thing of the past; you get VIP access to airport lounges for a round of pre-flight pampering. But hold your horses -- the super uber annual fee aside, priority and non-priority banking members have to be earning an annual income of at least S$30,000 and S$150,000 respectively to be eligible. Unlike what financial product marketing collaterals love to preach, the best things in life don’t come cheap.
4. UOB PRVI Miles Platinum: Best dollars to air miles rates (local spending)
While the HSBC Visa Infinite reigns in the overseas spending department, UOB PRVI Miles Platinum bosses the local scene at 1.4 miles for every S$1 spent. The overseas rates are at 2.4 miles per S$1, a negligible difference compared to HSBC. Considering that you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time to earn those rates, this card would put you on a fast track to that free flight you’ve been swiping hard for. If you were to charge ticket bookings on participating airlines through Expedia or UOB Travel, you earn a whopping 6 miles per dollar. Forget the Mile High Club; this card is bound to give you smooth, easy access to the High Miles Club instead.
Here’s the zinger: with air miles rates like that, we figured it only makes sense for this card to charge one of the highest annual fees on this list, at S$256.80 per annum.
PS: We just have to put a caveat forward: only spend if you can afford to. Spending money you don’t have just to redeem a FOC air ticket is an asinine financial move that just doesn’t, well, fly with us.