I am a noob when it comes to credit cards – I was using the Amex rewards card for the longest time because some telemarketer recommended it to me.
It was until I came across MileLion.com that I realised I could have gotten more mileage from my expenses, just by using the right credit cards.
That was where I learn about combining the DBS Altitude for offline purchases and DBS Woman’s for online spending (yes, a guy can apply for woman’s card). Now, I probably earn an airline ticket at least 3 times faster than I would previously been able to.
I know not everyone is keen to spend time to read fine prints and compare credit card deals. MileLion covers this space – the site analyses the deals and makes it easier for you to make a decision. Just read their articles and make your decision. The effort is well worth the potential rewards – don’t let your expenses go to waste.
That said, MileLion covers more than credit cards.
Its true value is in travel hacking – how regular folks can fly first class and stay in luxury hotels without having to pay cash upfront…if you know how to optimise your credit card strategy and loyalty programs with airlines and hotels.
I got the privilege to speak to Aaron Wong, the founder of MileLion, in this episode of Bid and Ask.
It was particularly interesting to have him share his thoughts about the travel industry after Covid-19 dealt a heavy blow to it.
Here’s the full interview, I share my biggest takeaways below too:
Continue with your miles strategy even if you can’t travel now
I belong to the miles camp but lately I find myself leaning towards the use of my cashback credit card. I just wasn’t sure if it still makes sense to collect miles now, since I can’t travel in the near future.
Aaron is confident that the travel industry will return and he expects it to be around mid-2021. His argument was that the travel industry can’t survive beyond that, especially for countries that rely heavily on tourism. Airlines are big employers who need to earn revenue and pay their staff. In fact, if travel cannot resume by mid-2021, he believes airlines may have to shut down.
We will get to use the miles for travel eventually and it makes sense to optimise our expenses by accumulating miles in the meantime.
You might want to use credit cards that rewards online spending
The only change to Aaron’s miles strategy is to use focus on cards that rewards more for online spending. This is valid if you find yourself buying things online more often than you did before Covid-19.
Personally, I use the DBS Woman’s card exclusively for online purchases. Aaron also suggested Citi Rewards and HSBC Revolution cards which offer 4 miles per dollar for the first S$1,000 spend per month. Compared this to other cards that typically offer 1.2 miles per dollar, you will be wasting 2.8 miles per dollar!
But… what if the airlines don’t survive?
You may be concerned about airlines going bust or the miles expiring before you get to use them or even face miles devaluation.
Aaron is confident that some airlines would be able to tide through this period. He cited Singapore Airlines (SIA) as an example. He was reassured when the Singapore government had the resolve to rescue the national airline and believed it would be one of the survivors in the airline industry. However, he wasn’t sure about other airlines such as Virgin Atlantic.
To reduce the risk of losing miles, Aaron also prefers to look at cards with more transfer partners. An example would be Citibank which has 11 different airlines to transfer to, this option would come in handy in case any airlines go under.
He also quoted KrisFlyer as an example whereby expiring miles were renewed for another 6 months because SIA understands that it is not possible to redeem them for any flights at this point in time. I shouldn’t worry as a KrisFlyer member! He added that you can have the option to use cards that offer longer points validity such as Citibank with 5 years or HSBC with 37 months. Unfortunately DBS Woman’s card only has 1 year of points validity.
On possible miles devaluation, Aaron acknowledges that is a fact of life. But he is optimistic that it wouldn’t happen soon because of the lack of demand for seats.
In the current situation, the ‘miles seats’ are no longer competing with the ‘revenue seats’ and hence airlines are not desperately thinking of ways to devalue the miles.
You can still do staycations!
It was good to see MileLion switching its focus to cover staycations since we can’t travel out of the country. Aaron has been reviewing his stays in a handful hotels of various tiers. A member in the audience even recommended reading his review on Hotel 81 for entertainment.
When asked for recommendations on where could I bring my kids for staycation, he suggested Shangri-La which has kidzone facilities, The Fullerton Hotel which provides a tent for kids or Yotel (Orchard) where kids can interact with robots.
Travel has halted for the time being but it’ll be back eventually. Miles strategy is still pretty much valid today as much as it was pre-Covid. You can consider staycations if you need to get out of the house badly.
MileLion is a wonderful resource I refer to when I need to find out which credit cards I should use and how to maximise my airline loyalty program. Now, I would use MileLion’s recommendation to find my ideal staycation.