Air miles credit cards

Members of airline frequent flyer programs can earn air miles when they purchase flights, redeeming the accumulated miles for future flights or seat upgrades. But it is also possible to earn lots of additional air miles for all your spending with an air miles credit card.

By   |   Verified by Kwok Zhong Li   |   Updated 6th August 2020

Comparing air miles credit cards

HSBC Revolution Credit Card

On HSBC's website

HSBC Revolution Credit Card

Rewards program

HSBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

N/A

Highlights

  • Earn 5 points per $1 spend on online shopping, local dining, and local entertainment
  • All other purchases still earn you 1 point per $1 spend
  • Enough points can get you cash, items, or vouchers for dining, shopping, or travel

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $10 cash upon getting your card, even for existing HSBC cardholders

Bank promo

  • Samsonite T5 68cm Spinner Luggage worth $560 or $150 cashback ($30 cashback for existing HSBC cardholders)
American Express Singapore Airlines Business Credit Card

On American Express' website

Apply by 30 November, 2020.

American Express Singapore Airlines Business Credit Card

Rewards program

HighFlyer

Points per $1 spent

1.8 points

Sign up bonus

30,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 8.5 HighFlyer points on eligible Singapore Airlines Group flights (uncapped) and earn 1.8 HighFlyer points on all other eligible spends (uncapped).
  • Fast track to KrisFlyer Elite Gold status with S$15,000 spend with Singapore Airlines Group in the first 12 months.
  • Enjoy Priority Pass membership with two complimentary visits per year for you and a guest.
  • Complimentary night’s stay every year, and up to 50% dining discounts with Accor Plus across Asia-Pacific.
  • Boost cash flow with up to 51 days interest-free from transaction date and 21 days from statement date, on all purchases.

Bank promo

  • Save S$299 with first-year fee waiver, earn 30,000 bonus HighFlyer points worth S$300 and boost your cash flow with flexible payment options. Offer ends on 30 November 2020.
OCBC Titanium Rewards Credit Card (Blue)

On OCBC's website

OCBC Titanium Rewards Credit Card (Blue)

Rewards program

OCBC$

Points per $1 spent

10 points

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn 50 OCBC$ (worth 20 miles) for every S$5 spent on eligible online and retail purchases
  • Earn 5 OCBC$ on all other spend
  • Additional 2% cash rebate when you spend at BEST Denki

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $10 cash upon getting your card, even for existing OCBC cardholders

Bank promo

  • Redeem $50 Titanium Cash when you earn 18,000 OCBC$
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card

On American Express' website

Apply by 30 November, 2020.

American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card

Rewards program

KrisFlyer

Points per $1 spent

1.2 points

Sign up bonus

56,200 points

Annual fee

$337.50 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 3.2 KrisFlyer miles for every S$1 spent on your everyday spend wth an accelerated upgrade to KrisFlyer Elite Gold membership tier with min. spend of S$15,000 on SIA within 12 months of Card approval.
  • Enjoy annual complimentary night stays at participating Hilton Properties in Asia Pacific, plus lounge access passes to any participating SATS Premier and Plaza Premium Lounge each year.
  • Get Double KrisFlyer Miles Accrual Voucher with min. spend of S$15,000 on SIA from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

Finty Rewards

More info
  • No Finty rewards at the moment

Bank promo

  • New to Bank: Receive a B&O E8 2.0 Wireless Earbuds (u.p. S$399) with a min. spend of S$5,000 in your first 3 months, and an additional 10,000 KrisFlyer miles.
  • Existing CM: Receive B&O E8 2.0 Wireless Earbuds (u.p. S$399) with a min. spend of S$5,000 in your first 3 months.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card

On American Express' website

Apply by 30 November, 2020.

American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card

Rewards program

KrisFlyer

Points per $1 spent

1.1 points

Sign up bonus

29,800 points and more

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 3.1 KrisFlyer miles for every S$1 spent on your everyday spend.
  • Receive S$150 Cashback for use on your next purchase on singaporeair.com when you spend S$12,000 on your Card from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.
  • KrisFlyer Ascend Upgrade Bonus of 12,000 KrisFlyer miles upon meeting Card membership and spend criteria. Click here for more information.
  • First-year fee waiver and hassle-free conversion with no transfer fee.

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $10 Finty Rewards to be redeemed within 3 months after applying through Finty

Bank promo

  • New to Bank: Receive a 24" Acer Monitor (u.p. S$349) with a min. spend of S$3,000 in your first 3 months, and an additional 5,000 KrisFlyer miles.
  • Existing CM: Receive a 5,000 KrisFlyer miles with a min. spend of S$3,000 in your first 3 months.
OCBC Platinum Credit Card

On OCBC's website

OCBC Platinum Credit Card

Rewards program

OCBC$

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$160.50 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 5 OCBC$ for every S$5 spent
  • Enjoy discounts and special deals for travel, dining, health, wellness and recreational activities with the family.

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $5 cash upon getting your card, even for existing OCBC cardholders

Bank promo

  • Nothing at the moment
OCBC Titanium Rewards Credit Card (Pink)

On OCBC's website

OCBC Titanium Rewards Credit Card (Pink)

Rewards program

OCBC$

Points per $1 spent

10 points

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn 50 OCBC$ (worth 20 miles) for every S$5 spent on eligible online and retail purchases
  • Earn 5 OCBC$ on all other spend
  • Additional 2% cashback when you spend at BEST Denki.
  • All online purchases on your OCBC Titanium Rewards Card come with e-Commerce Protection, which safeguards you against non-delivery or defective goods or if the seller fails to reimburse you.
  • Waived annual fee for the first 2 years (S$192.60 p.a. thereafter).

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $10 cash upon getting your card, even for existing OCBC cardholders

Bank promo

  • Nothing at the moment.
HSBC Visa Platinum Credit Card

On HSBC's website

HSBC Visa Platinum Credit Card

Rewards program

HSBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

N/A

Highlights

  • 5% rebate local grocers and on your recurring TV, internet, and mobile bills
  • Save 20.2% at Caltex and 18.30% at Shell on petrol
  • 2% rebate at local restaurants
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spend for rewards on top of cash rebate

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $10 cash upon getting your card, even for existing HSBC cardholders

Bank promo

  • Samsonite T5 68cm Spinner Luggage worth $560 or $150 cashback ($30 cashback for existing HSBC cardholders)

Overview

Air miles credit cards in Singapore are linked to airline frequent flyer programs. The most popular type are credit cards that earn KrisFlyer Miles.

Members of airline frequent flyer programs can earn air miles when they purchase flights, redeeming the accumulated miles for future flights or seat upgrades. But it is also possible to earn lots of additional air miles for all your spending with an air miles card.

Some cards which appear to be air miles cards actually earn points in a bank's rewards program (e.g. Citi Miles or DBS Points) rather than directly with an airline (e.g. KrisFlyer Miles). The bank's rewards points then need to be converted to air miles – to, for example, KrisFlyer Miles, Asia Miles, Enrich, Royal Orchid Plus, Garuda Frequent Flyer, and more. This could take time and involve paying a fee (e.g. $25), before they can be redeemed for flights.

Miles credit cards in Singapore earn air miles for spending on eligible purchases

Every eligible purchase that you make with your card, no matter what you are buying, will earn either direct air miles with a specific airline, or rewards points which can be converted to air miles with a number of airlines, depending on which card you choose.

The best miles credit cards in Singapore are loaded with other benefits

The best miles credit card will come with other benefits attached. The higher the miles earning rate and the more extensive the benefits, the higher the annual fee will be, in most cases. It is possible, however, to have an air miles card with no annual fee, or an annual fee waived in the first year only, or in every year when a target spending level is reached.

You can expect your air miles card to come with at least some of the following benefits.

  • Bonus miles for account approval, first spending, target spending and card renewal
  • Higher miles earning rate for a particular area of spending, such as travel or entertainment, or overseas spend
  • Cash or merchandise gift on sign-up or first spend
  • Annual fee waiver for reaching a target spending amount
  • Discounts on petrol purchases
  • Discounts on groceries
  • Discount on online travel bookings
  • Complimentary travel insurance
  • Complimentary airport lounge access
  • Complimentary airport limousine service
  • Complimentary hotel nights
  • Discount on luxury lifestyle perks, e.g. golf, yachts, private jets
  • A concierge or lifestyle butler service

Annual fee on air miles cards

Annual fees for air miles credit cards usually start at around $160 and can be as high as $500 or more, depending on the miles earning rate and other attached benefits. However, it is possible to get a card with no annual fee and a lower air miles rate per dollar spent, or an annual fee waiver in the first year or two, or in subsequent years in return for reaching a target spending amount.

It’s best to avoid a high-fee air miles card if you don’t plan to pay off the balance of your account every month, because the high interest charges will cost more than the value of any miles you could earn.

Learn about air miles credit cards

Tips and guides from our experts so you can earn more air miles with your credit card.

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

  • FAQs

  • Glossary

  • Guides

Air miles can expire

Most air miles have an expiry date, as a result of miles account inactivity and/or time passing since they were earned. Keeping an eye on your miles account and planning the best way to redeem them before they expire can result in a lot of hassle.

Benefits attached to cards

As an air miles cardholder you will typically have access to many complimentary benefits, such as travel-related perks (free travel insurance, airport lounge access, etc.), sign-up bonus miles or a gift, or shopping discounts on groceries or petrol purchases.

Flights are not absolutely free

Although you will be able to exchange your air miles for award flights, you will still be liable for carrier charges and possibly other fees and taxes, including fuel surcharges for some overseas airlines, all of which need to be paid for in cash.

Free flights

In fact, 'almost free' flights. The obvious number-one benefit of an air miles card is the ability to use miles earned to book award flights, while having to pay only a relatively small amount in cash to cover any carrier charges or other fees and taxes associated with the flight. Whichever way you look at it, it's a great saving.

It takes a while for enough miles to accumulate

Unless you're a very big spender on a high income, it can take quite a long time, perhaps several years, to earn enough miles for a long-haul flight.

Limited availability of award flights

It will not always be possible to secure an award seat on the date you want, or at the best time of day. Be prepared to plan ahead (about a year ahead, if possible) and be flexible as regards dates, times, routes and carriers.

No caps on earning

Air miles cards do not normally have any cap on the number of miles you can earn in a month or year, unlike many cashback credit cards and some reward points cards. This makes air miles cards ideal for bigger spenders, or those whose spending fluctuates significantly from one month to another.

No minimum spend

Unlike cashback credit cards, there's no minimum spend or spending tiers to get your head around. Although there can be different miles earning rates for different spending categories, you'll earn miles on all your eligible purchases, no matter how little you spend.

Be prepared to be flexible when booking award flights

Airlines do not typically provide many award flights on the most popular routes at the most popular times, because they know they’ll be able to fill the plane with fee-paying customers rather than air miles redeemers. At the same time, they recognise that their air miles program is a profitable business in its own right as well as a flag-bearer for the airline. So there will always be some award seats available if you are prepared to fly on less popular routes at off-peak times or seasons, especially if you are willing to use more miles to get a Business Class seat.

Note that award flights are typically released more than 350 days ahead of the flight departure date, so plan ahead and get in early to have the best chance of securing a seat. Don't forget to check seat availability with the airline partners of your primary membership airline.

Compare all miles card features, not just the miles earning rate

To make sure you get the best deal on an air miles credit card, you’ll first need to decide whether you want to collect a particular airline's miles directly, or go with a bank’s in-house reward points program and convert your points to air miles for a wider variety of air miles options.

Having established which type of card you want, don’t necessarily go for the one with the best air miles credit card rate. Although this is certainly an important feature, you’ll also want to compare the annual fees and the value to you of any attached complimentary benefits. Air miles credit cards tend to have lots of free benefits aimed at travellers, such as travel insurance, airport lounge access and airport limousine transfers. But no two cards offer identical benefits, so be sure to compare the details.

Compare miles rates with miles rates, not miles rates with reward points rates

Compare air miles cards by making sure that the earn rates you see are expressed in miles per dollar, not reward points per dollar before conversion to air miles. Where you see a reward points rate for a particular card, you'll need to convert the reward points rate into an air miles rate, using the bank's conversion rate. Finty has done this task for you by adding the air miles rate in parentheses when we list points-earning cards in our comparison. Understanding the effective air miles rate of a points card will allow you to compare points cards with direct air miles cards.

Get the best value for your miles by redeeming them for flights and seat upgrades

Air miles collectors agree that the most cost-effective options for redeeming miles are award flights and seat upgrades. This results in lots of choice, since most airlines are affiliated with a global group such as Star Alliance or OneWorld, giving their air miles members access to award flights with their airline partners. Long-haul flights and Business or First Class seats usually deliver a higher value per air mile than short-haul Economy flights.

However, if you do want to redeem your air miles for other items, it’s possible to do so. Many airlines have an online store where air miles can be exchanged for merchandise and services, hotel accommodation, or spa and dining vouchers. Just be aware that in most cases you'll be getting a lower-value redemption in terms of cents per mile than you would if you used your miles to book an award flight.

Use your card in ways that will maximise miles earning

Some cards offer a higher miles earning rate for particular spending categories, such as overseas spending (including online purchases), or spending at restaurants or partner stores. Make sure you’re aware of the details of your card’s miles earning categories, so that you remember to use it on those occasions when you can earn more miles than usual.

Are there any additional costs for joining a frequent flyer program?

Membership of most airlines’ loyalty programs is free. One major exception is the Australian airline Qantas, which charges a one-off joining fee, currently AUD 99.50. However, some banks may charge an additional program fee (on top of the annual fee) for the privilege of converting their in-house points to air miles.

Are there any credit cards that give air miles when renewing for another year by paying the annual fee?

Yes, there are cards which offer you bonus miles when you pay your annual fee. In this case the bank is paying to retain your custom for another year. If you use your bonus miles wisely by redeeming them for long-haul flights or Business seats whenever you can, you should be able to offset quite a large part of your annual fee cost.

Can I earn both air miles and cashback at the same time?

You definitely can't earn both air miles and cashback on the same purchase transaction. And only very rarely will you find a card that lets you earn reward points or miles on one spending category and cashback on another (e.g. cashback on local spend and miles on overseas spend).

You could earn both air miles and cashback by using separate credit cards for different types of purchases, always using the card that delivers the best air miles credit card rate for the particular type of purchase you are making. However, given that cashback cards tend to have minimum spend tiers, and that air miles can take a long time to accumulate, you will probably be better off concentrating on either air miles or cashback rather than trying to earn both.

Can I redeem my air miles for other items besides flights and seat upgrades?

Yes. There will often be an opportunity to convert your air miles into shopping vouchers or a cashback into your credit card account, or redeem them for merchandise selected from an online catalogue. However, if you are likely to choose any of these three alternatives on a regular basis, having a card which prioritises shopping bonus points, discounts or cashback, rather than air miles, would probably be a cheaper option.

Can I use a personal credit card for business expenses?

Yes you can, but there are lots of advantages to having a separate, dedicated business credit card. Having a dedicated business credit card will make it easier to keep your business and personal expenses quite separate.

If you're an employee, it will make claiming your business expenses refund from your employer a much simpler process. If you're a business owner you'll be glad you have separate cards for business and personal expenses when the time comes to fill in your tax return, and the fees associated with your business credit card will be tax-deductible. Add to this the fact that business credit cards often come with business-oriented perks related to travel and entertaining.

Do air miles credit cards come with other benefits besides air miles?

Yes, most of the time. If you decide that earning air miles is your top priority, you can still find a card tailored to meet your other main requirements, such as having no annual fee, having complimentary travel insurance, giving shopping or petrol discounts, or awarding bonus miles for overseas spending.

Do air miles expire?

KrisFlyer Miles expire if unused 36 months after they were credited to your miles account, unless you fly regularly in Business Class or higher and are therefore a member of the PPS Club or Solitaire PPS Club.

So you'll need to churn through your KrisFlyer Miles fairly regularly, or use one of the miles' life extension options, which include:

  • Paying a fee to extend the life of your miles for six months (12 months for Elite Silver or Elite Gold KrisFlyer members). The fee is payable in US dollars or KrisFlyer Miles
  • Converting into Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points (minimum transfer 20,000 miles), best used for dining redemption options at over 20 bars and restaurants in Singapore
  • Converting into a cashback against a future Singapore Airlines, SilkAir or Scoot flight

Starting 1st January 2020, Asia Miles expire after 18 months, unless there has been some qualifying activity in your miles account to keep them active. The qualifying activity involves either earning or redeeming miles at least once every 18 months, including miles top-up, points exchange and member transfer. (Note that any Asia miles earned before 1st January 2020 will expire 36 months after they were earned, if not used.) Regularly earning Asia Miles via a credit card is obviously a great way to keep all your Asia Miles from expiring.

Do all air miles credit cards earn miles at the same rate?

No. Cards with a higher annual fee usually earn miles at a faster rate than cards with a low or no annual fee. Look at your annual spending amount to decide whether it’s worth paying a higher fee in order to earn miles faster. Above-average spenders can usually justify paying a higher fee because they will quickly recoup the fee in air miles value. Low to moderate spenders will normally be better off with a low-fee or no-fee card.

An individual card may have several different miles earning rates, depending on where you do your spending. Overseas spend may attract a higher rate than domestic purchases, for example. Spending of a specific kind, such as dining, entertainment or online travel bookings, may also be rewarded with a higher earning rate or bonus miles.

Do you earn air miles on cash advances?

No. Cash advances are a type of transaction that does not earn any air miles.

How can I earn bonus miles with my air miles card?

Many air miles cards come with bonus air miles attached, to encourage people to apply for, use and renew the card. You may receive thousands of bonus miles when you apply for the card and are approved, more miles with your first spend, further miles if you meet a specific spending target within the first 2-3 months, and even more miles when you renew for another year. This is a great way to boost your air miles account.

How long does it take to earn enough air miles for a free flight?

It depends on where you want to go, the class in which you want to travel, and how much you spend using your air miles card.

Singapore Airlines award flights start at 7,500 miles for a one-way flight to Malaysia, Indonesia or Brunei in an Economy Saver seat, and rise to 295,000 miles for a one-way flight to USA east coast or Houston in Suites or First Advantage seats.

Asia Miles award flights also start at 7,500 miles for the shortest one-way flights in Economy, rising to 250,000 miles for ultra-long-haul flights in First, with a single carrier. You'll pay more in miles for a mixed-carrier long-haul flight, or for better access to award flights at peak times.

So for the cheapest return trip requiring 15,000 miles, it would take 10 months of spending $1,000 per month, if your spending was split equally between local and overseas merchants and you earned 1.0 miles per dollar for local spending and 2.0 miles per dollar for overseas spending. It would obviously take longer to earn enough miles for longer trips and/or higher class seats. Remember also, that these flights are not absolutely free because there are carrier charges to pay, currently starting at US$24 for the shortest flights in the case of Singapore Airlines.

Is it better to earn air miles or cashback?

It depends on how often you travel, and whether the amount you spend will earn enough air miles for you to be able to redeem them for free flights. Regular travellers – especially those who use long-haul flights and expect to travel in Business Class – are the most likely to benefit from an air miles card. That's because they're likely to be spending enough to earn lots of miles, and when they come to redeem them they'll get better value per mile than someone redeeming them for short-haul or Economy flights.

More modest spenders, who might take years to accumulate enough air miles for a worthwhile redemption, would probably be better served by a cashback card.

Is it worth paying an annual fee for an air miles credit card?

Yes, provided you are sure that you will earn enough in air miles value to more than cover the annual fee. For example, a KrisFlyer Mile is worth at least 1.0 cents for a cash offset as a part-payment for a non-award flight, although you should be able to get a better redemption value even in an Economy seat for a short-haul award flight. In fact, it's possible to extract a value of more than 2.0 cents per air mile in most Premium Economy seats, 2.5 cents to 3.5 cents in Business, and even more in First and Suites.

As an example, let's use a fairly conservative valuation of 1.5 cents per mile, and a card earning 1.0 cents for local spend and 2.0 cents for overseas spend, with an annual fee of $192.60. Assuming your purchases were equally divided between local and overseas spend, you would need to spend $8,560 every year to cover the $192.60 (earning 12,840 miles x 1.5 cents). After that your card is free, as are any further miles you earn from higher spending. Cards with higher earning rates or lower annual fees would require less spending before the break-even point was reached.

What are some of the other benefits attached to air miles credit cards?

You can expect your air miles credit card to come with at least some of the following benefits. Usually, the higher the annual fee, the more benefits you will receive.

  • Bonus miles for card approval, first spending, target spending and card renewal
  • Higher miles earning rate for a particular area of expenditure, such as travel or entertainment, or overseas purchases
  • Cash or merchandise gift on sign-up or first spend
  • Annual fee waiver for reaching a target spending amount
  • Discounts on petrol purchases
  • Discounts on groceries
  • Discount on online travel bookings
  • Complimentary travel insurance
  • Complimentary airport lounge access
  • Complimentary airport limousine service
  • Complimentary hotel nights
  • Discount on luxury lifestyle perks, e.g. golf, yachts, private jets
  • A concierge or lifestyle butler service

What type of person should consider an air miles card?

Air miles credit cards are designed to benefit someone who travels frequently for business or leisure. The miles earned can be used for flights and seat upgrades, thus reducing your business costs or increasing your leisure travel opportunities. At the same time, the cards may offer other benefits which will appeal to regular travellers, such as complimentary travel insurance, airport lounge access, free hotel stays and airport limousine transfers.

Which airlines can I earn miles with by using my air miles card?

Some cards are linked to the loyalty program of a specific airline, such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Other cards may allow you to transfer miles to several airlines, and there are even cards which permit you to transfer miles to over 60 airlines and 8,000 hotels worldwide.

Which air miles credit card is best for travel?

If you're a regular traveller you'll want to choose an air miles card with the best combination of air miles earning rates and complimentary travel benefits for the lowest annual fee. Look for cards that include at least some of the following perks for cardholders:

  • High miles earning rate for overseas spending
  • High miles earning rate for direct purchases from a particular airline
  • High miles earning rate for travel-related expenses, such as flights and hotels
  • Complimentary travel insurance
  • Complimentary airport lounge access
  • Accelerated upgrade to elite airline membership tiers
  • Complimentary airport limousine service
  • Complimentary hotel nights
  • Discount on luxury lifestyle perks, e.g. golf, yachts, private jets
  • A concierge or lifestyle butler service

Which air miles program has the best availability when redeeming miles for flight tickets?

Singapore Airlines has the advantage of being part of the world's largest airline alliance – Star Alliance – which gives you more redemption opportunities with Singapore Airlines (including SilkAir and Scoot) plus 25 other member airlines. Award seats are released 355 days in advance of the flight's departure, so this is a good time to book if you are able to plan ahead. KrisFlyer also offers the ability to put yourself on a waiting list for award flights, if the flight you want is not currently available but may be released for award bookings in the future. Flight redemptions start at 7,500 miles for a one-way flight.

Asia Miles' Cathay Pacific belongs to the smaller OneWorld alliance, which nevertheless boasts big names like British Airways, Japan Airlines, American Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Qantas. Award seats are released 360 days in advance of the flight. Flight redemptions start at 10,500 miles for a one-way flight.

Which credit card earns the most air miles?

It really depends on your spending pattern and lifestyle, because a card which earns the most air miles for one person may not be best for another. Different cards have higher rewards for different spending categories, such as dining, petrol, entertainment, golfing, online or local shopping, and overseas spend. The credit card that will earn the most air miles for you is the one with the best air miles credit card rate for your biggest spending category. Analyse your most recent month's spending (by looking at your current credit card or bank statement, or by keeping a record of your cash outgoings) and then choose a card that rewards your spending pattern best.

Which is best – directly-earned air miles, or air miles converted from a bank's reward program points?

You can only answer this question by converting the reward points rate for a particular card into an air miles rate, using the bank's conversion rate. Fortunately, Finty has done the legwork for you by adding the air miles rate in parentheses whenever we list points-earning cards on our air miles credit cards comparison page. Understanding the effective air miles rate of points cards will allow you to easily compare points cards with direct air miles cards.

You'll also need to take into account any fee (e.g. $25) which may be payable when you convert a bank's reward points into air miles. Another factor to consider is the time required for the conversion to be effected, which could delay your travel plans or see you miss out on quickly-disappearing award flights.

Which spending categories earn the most air miles?

One thing to bear in mind when comparing miles earning rates for spending categories is that you need to compare apples with apples, not apples with oranges. That is, if the card you are considering earns switchable points rather than direct air miles, make sure you carry out a notional conversion of the points earning rate into an air miles earning rate. For example, an earning rate of 5.0 reward points per dollar would translate into 2.5 miles per dollar if the exchange rate were 2.0 points = 1.0 air miles.

Many miles credit cards do not have specialised spending categories, beyond separating local spend (typically rewarded at 1.0 to1.4 miles per dollar spent) and overseas spend (usually 2.0 to 2.4 miles per dollar). You could consider the higher rate on overseas spend as a compensation for having to pay a foreign transaction fee.

Air miles cards which select various spending categories for higher miles will often reward travel at the best air miles rate. It's possible to earn as much as 10 miles per dollar for online hotel and flight bookings, while other cards will offer a higher earning rate for direct spending with airlines on flights and other products.

If you regularly spend large amounts on Grab, taxis in general and dining out, it shouldn't be too hard to find a card that rewards these categories at 3.0 to 3.2 miles per dollar.

But don't forget to look beyond the miles earning rate, to compare annual fees and any other attached benefits.

Will I earn air miles on all my transactions?

No. You will only earn air miles on eligible purchases. Cash advances, purchases of foreign currency, gambling transactions and balance transfers are all counted as cash advances rather than purchases, and will not earn air miles.

Will I need to pay income tax on my air miles?

Credit card air miles are not normally regarded as income, so you shouldn't need to declare it for income tax purposes unless you are using the credit card for your business. Check with your tax accountant if you want to be absolutely certain about this.

Air miles

A type of reward points earned in an airline’s loyalty program. Making purchases using a credit card linked to an airline loyalty program (e.g. KrisFlyer) is one way of earning air miles. Alternatively, the card issuer’s own reward program points may be exchanged for air miles. Air miles can be exchanged principally for award flights and seat upgrades, but also for, for example, merchandise from an online catalogue, gift cards, cashback, travel, accommodation and entertainment. 

Annual fee

The amount charged once every 12 months, on the card anniversary, as an account-keeping fee.

Asia Miles

The frequent flyer membership program of Cathay Pacific.

Award flight or Award seat

A flight purchased with air miles, plus cash to cover the taxes and carrier charges component.

Bonus miles

Air miles awarded to an air miles credit card holder for a reason other than making normal eligible purchases. Bonus miles are typically granted as a sign-up incentive, or for reaching a spending target, or for renewing the card for a further year by paying the annual fee.

Cash advance

Withdrawal of cash from a credit card account, either over-the-counter or at an ATM. 

Cashback cap

A limit on the amount of cashback that can be earned from a single cashback credit card in a specified period (e.g. a cashback cap of $80 per month or $250 per quarter or $1,000 per year).

Cashback or cash back

A cash refund or rebate on credit card purchases, calculated as a percentage of the overall purchase amount during a specified period, or as percentage of the purchase amounts in several different spending categories in a specified period. The cashback is normally delivered in the form of a credit to the cardholder’s credit card account, reducing the amount owing on the card.

Complimentary benefits

Benefits provided free of charge to credit card account holders. Examples include travel insurance, airport lounge access, shopping privileges and discounts and a personal concierge service.

Concierge service

Personal lifestyle assistance, available by phone or online, for travel, dining and entertainment recommendations and bookings, party and gift planning, etc.

Eligible purchases

The type of credit card transaction which qualifies for earning rewards points, air miles or cashback. Most cards exclude from points, miles or cashback earning all cash and cash equivalent transactions (cash advances, balance transfers, purchases of traveller’s cheques and foreign currency, card interest charges and fees, and transfers from a credit card account to another bank account). Many exclude payments to the government and similar organisations.

Flight redemption

The use of air miles to pay for an award flight. 

Foreign transaction fee

A fee charged by most credit cards for a card purchase made in a foreign currency and/or with a merchant whose transaction processing centre is located outside Singapore. A typical fee would be 2.5-3.25% of the transaction amount.

KrisFlyer

The frequent flyer membership program of Singapore Airlines.

KrisFlyer Elite Silver and KrisFlyer Elite Gold

Higher KrisFlyer membership tiers, achieved by earning target quantities of Elite Miles when making eligible flights with Singapore Airlines or one of its program partners.

Local spend

Spending made with merchants located in Singapore, therefore excluding online purchases from merchants whose processing centre is located overseas (even if you paid in Singapore dollars). Local spend and overseas spend (online or in person) are typical air miles spending categories with separate miles earning rates.

Miles earning rate

The number of air miles earned per dollar spent in a particular category, when paying with an air miles credit card (e.g. 1.0 points per dollar for local spending, 2.0 points per dollar for overseas spending).

Miles redemption

The use of air miles, rather than cash, to purchase award flights, seat upgrades, cash offsets against the price of non-award flights, or other merchandise and services.

Miles top-up

The use of cash to pay for additional air miles, when there are insufficient air miles in your miles account to cover a desired award flight redemption. Miles top-up can also be used to extend the life of Asia Miles.

Minimum spend

For a cashback card, this can be either:

  • The minimum amount to be spent or minimum number of purchase transactions to be made in a month before any cashback at all is earned

Or

  • The minimum amount to be spent in order to reach a higher spending tier with a higher cashback rebate percentage

Overseas spend

Purchases made (in person or online) with merchants whose processing centre is located overseas (even if you paid in Singapore dollars). Overseas spend and local spend are typical air miles spending categories with separate miles earning rates.

PPS Club

An elite KrisFlyer membership tier for members who have accumulated S$25,000 worth of PPS (Priority Passenger Service) Value within a year. PPS Value is acquired while flying Singapore Airlines Suites, First Class or Business Class on Singapore Airlines, or Business Class on SilkAir.

Reward points

Loyalty points earned on credit card purchases if the card is eligible for the card issuer’s rewards program. Points can be exchanged for, for example, merchandise from an online catalogue, gift cards, cashback, air miles, travel and accommodation, and entertainment experiences. Some reward points come directly in the form of air miles.

Seat upgrade

The conversion of an airfare to a higher class of seating (e.g. converting an Economy fare to a Business fare), usually by paying with cash or air miles or a combination of both (although passengers are occasionally upgraded free of charge).

Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points

Loyalty points in the Shangri-La hotel group membership benefits program.

Solitaire PPS Club

The highest KrisFlyer membership tier for members who have accumulated S$50,000 worth of PPS (Priority Passenger Service) Value within a year. PPS Value is acquired while flying Singapore Airlines Suites, First Class or Business Class on Singapore Airlines, or Business Class on SilkAir.

Spending category

A classification of spending types on a credit card, for the purpose of allocating varying rebate percentages. For example, a cashback card might offer 6% cashback on dining, 3% cashback on groceries, 2% cashback on travel and accommodation, and 0.3% on everything else.

Spending tier

A minimum spend which must be reached on a tiered cashback credit card in a specified period (e.g. in one month, or in three consecutive months) in order to qualify for a particular cashback percentage. For example, a card might offer 5% cashback on all spending if the total card spending reached $2,000 per month. But for card spending between $1,000 and $1,999 in a month, the rate might be only 3.3% on all spending. For spending of between $500 and $999 the rate might fall to 2.5%, while for total spending under $500 the rate might be zero.