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Credit cards go the distance

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 18, 2013

As people take to the skies more often, demand for credit cards targeting travellers has surged accordingly.

Many people are drawn to these cards by the various perks dangled by banks and credit card firms to entice those bitten by the travel bug. These cards are also targeted at different customer segments.

For instance, the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card, which was launched last Tuesday, targets regular fliers on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir.

Cardholders can earn one KrisFlyer mile for every $1.20 spent on eligible purchases. KrisFlyer miles can be redeemed for free tickets or free upgrades on the two carriers and their partner airlines.

Some banks target their credit cards at travellers who are looking to maximise their travel rewards from both overseas and local transactions.

One such card is the OCBC Titanium MasterCard, launched in 2004, which has one of the most generous air miles schemes.

OCBC Bank's head of core cards and unsecured lending, Ms Wong Chung Yee, said the card caters to the "increasing number of people opting for free and easy travel" and who tend to do their own online hotel bookings.

Besides earning 2.5 miles for every foreign dollar spent, Titanium cardholders can earn 2.5 miles for every $1 spent at popular local nightspots such as Mink and Butter Factory.

Also competing in the air miles department is the UOB PRVI Miles Platinum American Express Card, which offers 2.5 miles for every $1 spent. As an added incentive, cardholders who accumulate their purchases on the card can earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles if they spend more than $50,000 per year, said United Overseas Bank's Gan Ai Im, managing director of cards and payments.

Maybank adopts a different approach, aiming to help cardholders save on administrative charges.

Its Horizon Platinum Visa Card lets cardholders enrol for free in the Maybank Frequent Flyer Programme, and enjoy fee waiver for conversion of points to air miles.

Frequent travellers to Australia and New Zealand can consider the ANZ Travel Visa Signature Card.

ANZ launched a promotion for the card in April whereby every $1 spent on direct flight bookings with airlines or purchases in Australia and New Zealand can earn cardholders 2.8 miles.

ANZ Singapore's head of retail banking Philip Lim said: "As air travel becomes increasingly affordable and accessible in recent years, we notice that Singaporeans are travelling overseas more frequently for both leisure and business... a significant portion of Singaporean travellers begin to value air miles and travel-related privileges and rewards."

One common gripe of travellers with air miles on their credit cards is that these miles expire after a certain period of time, but there are several cards that are more generous in this area.

Among them are the DBS Altitude American Express Card and the DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card, which have no expiry for points accumulated and, as an added incentive, 10,000 bonus miles are awarded when the annual fee is paid.

Similarly, there are no expiry and no cap on miles earned on the Citi PremierMiles card, which awards 1.2 miles for every $1 spent.

The number of Citi PremierMiles card members has grown 20 per cent year-on-year since its launch in July 2007, said Ms Jacquelyn Tan, Citibank Singapore's head of credit payment products.

rachaelb@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 18, 2013To subscribe to The Straits Times, please go to http://www.sphsubscription.com.sg/eshop/