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Why Credit Cards That Only Reward You With Air Miles Are A Bad Idea In 2020

In the COVID-19 world that we live in right now, accumulating miles that expire may no longer be a good idea.


This article was written in collaboration with Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore). All views expressed in this article are the independent opinion of DollarsAndSense.sg based on our research. DollarsAndSense.sg is not liable for any financial losses that may arise from any transactions and readers are encouraged to do their own due diligence. You can view our full editorial policy here.

For those who love collecting air miles for your overseas travels, 2020 hasn’t been a great year. Not only are we unable to redeem our miles for flights, but we have little visibility of when we can eventually convert our miles for those elusive business class tickets that we have been saving our miles for over the past few years.

Even after air travel safely resumes, it’s likely that some form of safe-distancing measures will continue to be in force. Some of us may prefer to wait a few months, or even 1-2 years before we resume holidaying overseas.

Even for those gearing up to go as soon as we are allowed to travel, flight capacities will not revert to pre-COVID-19 levels immediately and we can expect pent-up demand for overseas trips to make it easy for airlines to sell revenue tickets to travellers. This will make it more difficult for award tickets to get booked on flights.

Given such circumstances, some of us miles enthusiasts might start to question if we should continue accumulating miles, or switch to a cashback card instead.

Cashback Cards Are Great, But Only If You Never Intend To Travel Again

I have nothing against cashback cards. In fact, I use them all the time. The right cashback cards are incredibly useful because they give you great rebates for your monthly expenses such as groceries, dining and petrol.

The problem with cashback cards is that they become less attractive when it comes to making one-off, big-ticket purchases such as a new laptop, getting furniture to improve your work-from-home environment or even paying for your hospital bills. Thus, the better strategy is usually to charge these expenses to an air miles card, which allow you to earn miles that you can redeem for flights in the future.

However, given that we don’t know when exactly we can travel again, does it still make sense to accumulate miles?

The answer is yes. However, we may wish to tweak our air miles earning strategies.

Firstly, Avoid Credit Cards That Credit Miles Directly To Your KrisFlyer Account During This Period

Traditionally, KrisFlyer miles have a validity period of three years before they expire. For example, if we earned our miles in January 2018, we have until January 2021 to use them.

For those who like to use credit cards that credit the miles directly to our KrisFlyer account, redeeming for flights once every three years is usually not a problem. However, given the current situation, many of us who intended to travel in 2020 and 2021 may experience our air miles expiring soon.

While Singapore Airlines has announced that miles which are expiring between September 2020 and December 2020 will automatically be extended for six months, they have not mentioned if miles which are expiring in 2021 will be extended yet. So this creates an element of uncertainty over whether we can use our KrisFlyer miles in time before they expire.

For example, here are the miles which are expiring in my personal KrisFlyer account.

To save you the trouble of doing the math, I have 23,281 miles which are expiring by July 2021, and more to follow if air travel continues to be restricted because of COVID-19.

As someone who is not willing to take the risk of overseas travel until the pandemic is truly over, the current situation highlights an obvious problem with cards that credit miles automatically to your KrisFlyer account – once your miles are earned, you only have three years to use them.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s sensible to stop accumulating miles directly in your KrisFlyer account until international air travel has safely resumed, and you are prepared to travel again.

Use Credit Cards That Allow You To Earn Reward Points That Don’t Expire

It’s safe to assume that the majority of us currently accumulating air miles intend to resume travelling once the pandemic is behind us. This makes 2020 as good as any year to continue accumulating air miles for our future travel – as long as the miles we earn don’t expire.

An example would be the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Card* (“X Card”). Rather than directly crediting miles to our KrisFlyer account, the X Card awards us 360° Rewards Points that never expire. This is useful because these 360° Rewards Points can be used to redeem for air miles, cash rewards, travel credits or other rewards on the Standard Chartered 360° Rewards Programme3Advertisement

For example, every S$1 spent on qualifying transactions in Singapore Dollars earns us three (3) 360° Rewards Points while transactions in foreign currency earn us five (5) 360° Rewards Points4, which converts to 1.2 KrisFlyer Miles and 2 KrisFlyer Miles respectively. This is a miles earn rate that is competitive to most other popular air miles cards in Singapore.

The clear advantage here however is that the 360° Rewards Points never expire. When we eventually want to travel, we only need to convert them to KrisFlyer miles or other airlines partner miles (conversion costs S$26.75).

Flexible Redemption In The Event You Want To Redeem Before Your Next Trip

In the unfortunate event that we are unable (or unwilling) to travel overseas in the next few years, the 360° Rewards Points continue to be useful. This is because the 360° Rewards Points can be redeemed for travel credits, cash rewards or other reward items on the Standard Chartered 360° Rewards Programme.

Travel credits can be used to offset eligible purchases on SC EasyRewards5 such as hotels, boat rentals or tourist attractions. If we are intending to stay in Singapore for a staycation or a day-trip, these travel credits will come in handy. Every 250 360° Rewards Points redeemed would give us $1 worth of travel credits5.

Alternatively, if we do not intend to redeem our 360° Rewards Points for air miles or travel credits, we can redeem them for cash rewards*. Every S$1 spent on qualifying transactions on the X Card will earn you 3 360° Rewards Points, which enables you to redeem for $0.012 (equivalent to 1.2% of every $1 of eligible spend).

For example, if we charge to our X Card, in Singapore Dollars, S$25,000 of qualifying transactions, we will receive 75,000 360° Rewards Points. This is equivalent to 30,000 miles, S$300 of travel credits or S$300 in cash reward. You can also redeem it for other items on the Standard Chartered 360° Rewards programme.

However, if we want to continue accumulating miles in anticipation for future travel while hedging against the possibility that we may not travel very soon, this gives the X Card a vital edge over other miles card, since we have the option of converting it to other types of rewards (or cash) even if we don’t travel.

Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Card Anniversary Promotion

If you are an existing X Cardholder, you will be glad to know that if you spend a minimum of S$4,000 on eligible foreign currency transactions in each Spend Period, you can get up to 50,000 Air Miles or up to S$500 Cash Rewards during the promotional period from 15 July till 31 December 2020 with Standard Chartered X Card Anniversary Spend and Get Promotion4.Advertisement

To celebrate the anniversary of the X Card, Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited will be offering a special Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Card Visa Infinite X Card Anniversary Acquisition Promotion 2 from 15 July 2020 to 30 September 2020 for new Standard Chartered credit card customers.Advertisement

If you apply and activate your X Card within 30 days from card approval date, and pay the annual fee of S$695.50 (non-waivable), you will receive 87,500 360° Rewards Points (equivalent to 35,000 KrisFlyer Miles).

 

Terms and conditions

*Please refer to Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Credit Card Terms and Conditions here

1 Please refer to Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Card Anniversary Spend and Get Promotion Terms and Conditions here

2 Please refer to Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Card Anniversary Acquisition Promotion Terms and Conditions here3 Please refer to Standard Chartered 360° Rewards Programme Terms and Conditions here

4Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Card Anniversary Spend and Get Promotion Terms and Conditions here

5SC EasyRewards Programme Terms and Conditions here