Note: As the founders of WhatCard, our users often ask us what credit card we ourselves use. Hence, we decided to start this new weekly credit card feature where we will be taking turns to share about a card that we ourselves own/use and talk about how we use it and potential limitations. Share with us in the comments below which card you would like us to feature for next weeks #WCOTW!
This is not a sponsored post, and all opinions are from the WhatCard team’s personal experiences with the card
DBS Altitude Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $192.60/year, first year automatically waived, typically waivable each year after that
- Local earn rate: 1.2 Mile Per Dollar spent (MPD)
- Overseas earn rate: 2.0 MPD
- Bonus earn rate:
- 3.0 MPD on online flight & hotel bookings
- 4.0 MPD on Singapore Airlines bookings via DBS Travel Marketplace
- 4.0 MPD on public transport, taxi, ride-hailing till 31 December 2019
- Minimum age: 21
- Minimum income: $30,000/year
The DBS Altitude is a basic, all-purpose miles card that competes in a very crowded category that also contains the Citi PremierMiles, Amex Krisflyer, UOB PRVI Miles, amongst others. And if our user are even somewhat representative of overall credit card ownership, the DBS Altitude is by far the most popular amongst all of these cards.
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While it is definitely more popular than its competition, we can also point out that it is really not that fundamentally different, and most of the reasons we will share about why we love/hate the DBS Altitude would similarly apply to many of its competing cards.
Why We Love the DBS Altitude
1. Simple, no-frills card. No minimum spend, no earning cap, miles never expire
Like the other basic miles cards, where the DBS Altitude stands out is in its simplicity - with no minimum spend, no earning cap, and a flat 1.2 MPD across all spending (except its limited bonus categories), a card like this is ideal for those who only want to hold a single credit card and not have to worry about which card to use where, and whether you are hitting your minimum/maximum monthly spend per month. In this sense, the DBS Altitude works very similarly to the ever popular StanChart Unlimited Card, which gives a standard 1.5% cashback on all spend with no minimum spend or cap.
On top of having no monthly minimum spend nor rewards cap, miles collected and stored on the DBS Altitude (as DBS Points) also never expire, which means that this card works even if you do not have a very large monthly spending, as you can simply accumulate your miles over a longer period of time before making a redemption.
2. Two times per year complimentary lounge access via Priority Pass
As a card targeting frequent (or aspiring) travelers, the DBS Altitude also throws in 2 free airport lounge visits per year via Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass membership covers many lounges in Singapore and around the world, and it will give you the chance to have a nice seat and some food while waiting for your next flight.
The Plaza Premium Lounge at T1, image from Plaza Premium official website
3. Points are pooled with the excellent DBS Woman’s World Card (DBS WWMC)
When you spend on it, the DBS Altitude actually awards you DBS Points, which you can then redeem to your favourite frequent flyer program (e.g. Krisflyer), at a rate of 1 DBS Point = 2 miles. These DBS Points are the same rewards currency awarded by the DBS Woman’s World Card (detailed review here), one of our most highly recommended cards for collecting miles for all online spend that both men and women can apply for.
What this means is that DBS Points earned from both DBS Altitude and WWMC are shown as a single number in your DBS online banking account and can be withdrawn together in a single redemption This is especially helpful as the redemption of miles for DBS is in blocks of 5,000 DBS Points (or 10,000 miles), hence being able to combine DBS Points across different cards makes it less likely that you will end up with “orphan miles” - leftover miles of less than 10,000 that can’t be withdrawn because of the minimum withdrawal bucket
Pooling miles will also help you to save on the charges of $26.75 per redemption since you can make a single redemption to withdraw your miles across all DBS cards.
Limitations of the DBS Altitude Card
1. Limited options for bonus earning rate
A good rule of thumb for credit card rewards is that the more conditions you put on it, the higher the rewards it will give - I know, this sounds like something straight out of an anime. The DBS Altitude as well as other competing basic miles cards) definitely suffers from this, offering hassle-free usage but at the cost of giving only 1.2 MPD local earning rate, and its main bonus earning category of 3.0 MPD for travel bookings.
However, you can get much higher MPD earning rates on other cards if you are willing to hold multiple cards and use them for their specific bonus earning categories. For example, if most of your offline spending is on dining and grocery shopping, you can get 4.0 MPD using the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa (UOB PPV) as long as you use contactless payment, and the previously mentioned DBS WWMC’s 4.0 MPD on all online spending is better option to cover all your online travel bookings.
2. Generally poor sign up bonuses
Probably because the DBS brand name is already so well-known in Singapore and hence they do not need to try as hard to sell their cards, DBS generally doesn’t offer as much in the way of sign up bonuses when you get their cards, which is a pity since you can usually get up to $100-200 worth of cash/rewards with minimal conditions when signing up for a new card from the other banks.
The current promotion (till 31 Mar 2020) for the DBS Altitude is 10,000 bonus miles for new-to-bank customers (or 5,000 miles for existing DBS/POSB cardholders) with minimum spend of $6,000 within the first 90 days. As far as credit card sign up promotions go, this is nothing too impressive.
Just drawing from competing miles cards as examples, you can get 5,000 miles on your first transaction (any amount) if you are new to the Amex Krisflyer card, and there is a promotion till 31 Oct 2019 for $100 cash, no minimum spend required, if you sign up for the UOB PRVI Amex, applicable even for existing UOB cardholders - links to our relevant articles on these promos for those who are interested in these other offers.
Image from DBS Altitude promotional page
When you compare the DBS Altitude directly against other miles cards that offer 4.0 MPD (on selected categories), it may not seem like a 1.2 MPD local earning rate is very impressive. However, where it does stand out it’s simplicity of use that makes it an easy go-to card for most people.
For example, even though I personally am holding several other miles cards such as the DBS WWMC, I still carry my DBS Altitude as my “backup card” for transactions that don’t qualify for any bonus miles categories with my other cards, and i know many others who carry 3-4 credit cards daily and somehow DBS Altitude is always in there as the baseline miles card.
Let us know in the comments below which card you would like us to review for our next #WCOTW!
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