Testing, Vaccinations, Travel Insurance and Credit Cards: Your Year-End Travel Checklist

Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong

Last updated 23 November, 2022

Packing your bags for a year-end getaway? Here’s what you need to know before you fly - including the credit cards that let you get the most out of your spending.

If 2021 was the year when COVID-weary Singaporeans started dipping their toes in the overseas waters once more, 2022 is the year they’re plunging straight in.

Gone are the Vaccinated Travel Lanes, complicated testing regimes and bureaucracy-filled tourist pass registrations. Instead, in the vast majority of cases, travel is as simple as it was before the pandemic - buy your air tickets, book your flights and go.

For those planning to join the multitudes seeking a year-end escape, here’s what you need to know.


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What must I do before travelling?

The good news is that the travel landscape now is vastly different compared to one year ago. Virtually all major economies have dropped pre-departure and on-arrival testing, with vaccinations not even a requirement for some.

Mandatory pre-trip registration and travel insurance requirements have more or less disappeared, and you won’t even need to wear a mask on the plane to certain destinations. In other words, travel is almost back to the good old days!

Still, it’s a good idea to confirm the exact regulations for the country you plan to visit, since these can vary depending on your country of residence and vaccination status. Fortunately, there are tools out there that make this simple.

For example, Singapore Airlines’ Travel Advisory Portal shows you at a glance the relevant testing, visa, health insurance and quarantine requirements, based on your itinerary, nationality and vaccination status.

Milelion Travel RequirementsSource: SIA

Each section can be further expanded to see the relevant details, such as Japan’s pre-trip Fast-Track registration requirement.

Forms & ApplicationsSource: SIA

Another useful tool is Sherpa, which shows at a glance the countries open to you based on your nationality and vaccination status.

SherpaSource: Sherpa

Fully-vaccinated Singaporeans can currently visit 174 countries and territories with no testing or quarantine necessary, including:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vietnam

As a side note: even though many countries have scrapped mandatory travel insurance requirements, it’s still a good idea to cover yourself before travelling. Medical bills aside, travel insurance will also help cover any disruptions to your trip, such as a pre-departure COVID diagnosis, lost or delayed luggage, missed flight connections and rental car damage.

Just this summer we saw travel chaos across Australia and Europe, as surging travel demand outstripped capacity. It remains to be seen if airports have been able to ramp up their staffing in the months that have followed, but one thing’s for sure - you don’t want to travel unprotected.


Read these next:
Best Travel Insurance Plans And Promotions In Singapore
Best Travel Insurance Plans With COVID-19 Coverage
Revenge Travel 2022: Get Even With These 16 Smart Travel Tips

 

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What about returning to Singapore?

If you’re fully vaccinated, the only paperwork you need to do before returning to Singapore is to complete the SG Arrival Card. This can be submitted within three days before arrival in Singapore. If you forget, you can even do it on arrival in Singapore before you pass through immigration.

The SG Arrival Card takes no more than five minutes to complete and includes a mandatory health declaration. Submissions via the official portal are free of charge; beware of lookalike websites which levy a fee!

Unvaccinated travellers must take a pre-departure COVID-19 ART or PCR test within two calendar days of departure. Children aged 12 and below are exempt from this requirement. Unvaccinated travellers must also complete the SG Arrival Card, just like for fully vaccinated travellers.


Dust off the credit cards

For those heading overseas, a natural question is what card you should pack along for the ride.

The first decision you’ll need to make is whether to use a multi-currency debit card like Revolut or YouTrip, or a traditional credit card.

While there’s no doubt that Revolut and YouTrip will offer cheaper rates than credit cards, this comes at the expense of rewards.

For example, if you’re going to Japan you can either top-up your Japanese Yen (JPY) wallet on Revolut and spend the funds through your Revolut Card, or spend via your credit card.

Revolut allows you to lock in the current rates ahead of your trip. If you like the rate now, you can buy JPY and spend it further down the road, with no foreign currency transaction fees.

In contrast, a credit card will charge you based on the spot rates, together with a spread and foreign currency transaction fee. If the JPY/SGD rate becomes more unfavourable by the time you travel, you lose out by using a credit card (of course, the reverse is also true).

However, topping up your Revolut card does not earn any rewards. Therefore, the key question to ask is whether the credit card rewards more than justify the spread and foreign currency conversion fee involved.

So what kind of fees and rewards are you looking at? Here’s a breakdown by issuer and card network.

💳 FCY Fees by Issuer and Card Network

Issuer

Visa & Mastercard

AMEX

Standard Chartered

3.5%

N/A

Citibank

3.25%

3.3%

DBS

3.25%

3%

Maybank

3.25%

N/A

OCBC

3.25%

N/A

UOB

3.25%

3.25%

BOC

3%

N/A

CIMB

3%

N/A

American Express

N/A

2.95%

HSBC

2.8%

N/A

If you make an overseas payment on a DBS Visa card, for example, the amount will first be converted into local currency at Visa’s prevailing rates before a 3.25% fee is applied.

Ignoring the spread inherent in Visa’s rates, here’s an idea of how much it costs to use your card overseas, based on fees and miles earned.

Card

FCY Earn Rate

Fee

CPM
(Earn Rate/Fee)

UOB Visa Signature

4.01

3.25%

0.81

SCB Rewards+

4.02

3.5%

0.88 

SCB Visa Infinite

3.03

3.5%

1.17

HSBC Visa Infinite

2.254

2.8%

1.24

UOB PRVI Miles

2.4

3.25%

1.35

OCBC Premier Visa Infinite

2.24

3.25%

1.45

OCBC VOYAGE

2.2

3.25%

1.48

AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend

2.05

2.95%

1.48

AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card

2.05

2.95%

1.48


OCBC 90N Mastercard

2.1

3.25%

1.55

DBS Altitude Visa

2.0

3.25%

1.63

Citi PremierMiles

2.0

3.25%

1.63

Citi Prestige

2.0

3.25%

1.63

UOB Visa Infinite Metal

2.0

3.25%

1.63

SCB X Card

2.0

3.5%

1.75

  1. Min. spend S$1,000 per statement month, cap at S$2,000 per statement month
  2. Cap at S$2,222 per membership year, must have SCB Visa Infinite or SCB X Card otherwise 2.9 mpd
  3. Min. spend S$2,000 per statement month, otherwise 1 mpd
  4. Min. spend S$50,000 in previous membership year, otherwise 2 mpd
  5. Only in June and December, otherwise 1.1 (Blue) or 1.2 (Ascend)

You want to keep your CPM figure as low as possible, since the higher the number, the more you’re paying for those miles.

The cards above are what we call “general spending” cards, in that they earn the same rate for all foreign currency spend, regardless of category. If you’re planning to spend on particular categories, the cards below may be better options.

Card

Earn Rate

Fee

CPM
(Earn Rate/Fee)

Citi Rewards

4.01

3.25%

0.81

DBS Woman's World Card

4.02

3.25%

0.81

OCBC Titanium Rewards

4.03

3.25%

0.81

UOB Preferred Platinum Visa

4.04

3.25%

0.81

UOB Lady's Card

4.05

3.25%

0.81

HSBC Revolution

4.06

2.8%

0.7

  1. Department store, apparel, or online transactions (excluding travel). First S$1K per statement month. 
  2. Online transactions. First S$2K per calendar month.
  3. Department stores, apparel, electronics. Full list here. First S$13.3K per membership year.
  4. Apparel, electronics, dining, food delivery, entertainment. Also applies to overseas mobile payments. Full list here. First S$1.1K per calendar month.
  5. Depends on your selected bonus category. Full list here. First S$1K (Lady's) or S$3K (Lady's Solitaire) per calendar month.
  6. Airlines, hotels, department stores, apparel, supermarkets, transport. Must be online or via contactless payments. Full list here. First S$1K per calendar month.

How much should you pay for miles? I personally value a mile at 1.5 cents each, which means any CPM below that is worth it to me, but mileage valuation is a highly personal matter. Yours may be higher or lower than mine, depending on your personal travel preferences and redemption patterns.

Now, in the above analysis I’ve been making it sound like rewards and zero foreign currency transaction fees are an either/or situation. Either you take the better rates and zero fees of Revolut and YouTrip, or you take the worse rates of credit cards but earn rewards in the process.

However, there’s currently an opportunity to get the best of both worlds. If you use an Amaze Card (issued by Instarem), you can pair it with a credit card and enjoy competitive exchange rates, plus zero foreign currency transaction fees. For example, if I spend US$100 overseas on my Amaze Card, Instarem will convert this into SGD and charge my linked credit card. My linked credit card will continue to earn rewards as per normal.

So my personal preference is to pair Amaze with the Citi Rewards Mastercard, since Amaze transactions are processed online, thereby triggering the 4 mpd earn rate while earning miles for free (or almost for free - Amaze does have its own spread to factor in, but it’s definitely lower than what you’d pay via a traditional credit card).


Conclusion

With countries easing border measures and eliminating COVID-era restrictions, year-end travel is shaping up to look very much like December 2019. It’s great news for those who wanted to venture overseas, but were intimidated by the many rules and procedures.

Even though the COVID risk has waned, it’s still a smart idea to protect yourself with travel insurance - holidays have a way of throwing up unexpected problems!

Remember also to pack the right credit cards in order to make the most of your overseas spending.

HSBC_FORTUNELUCKYDRAW_BLOGARTICLE-2

SingSaver Exclusive Promotion: Apply for select HSBC credit cards, savings accounts and investment deals to stand a chance to win over S$18,000 worth of prizes in our Fortune Lucky Draw!

Prizes include a pair of round-trip tickets to Seoul (worth S$2,400), 1x Xiaomi TV P1E 65" (worth S$1,299), 1x PlayStation®5 (worth S$799), 5x Dyson Airwrap™ styler (worth S$4,245), 20x Nintendo Switch (worth S$9,380), and other awesome gifts!

Valid till 31 January 2023. T&Cs apply.


Read these next:
How To Prevent Travel Inflation From Ruining Your Trip
Best Credit Cards For Booking Flights And Hotels
Best Credit Card Combinations for Post-Covid Travel
6 Credit Cards Which Give Free Access to Airport Lounges
Best 6 Credit Cards For Overseas Spending

Aaron founded The Milelion to teach people how to travel better for less, with credit cards, airline and hotel loyalty programmes. With 500,000 miles flown and counting, he’s keen to debunk the myth that you can’t travel in style without breaking the bank.