Review: Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay King Studio

After seeing the Lamborghini, Ferarri and Rolls Royce parked outside the Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay, I took the elevator up to the 4th floor hotel lobby. In the elevator, I asked the concierge: “Is the ‘1880’ on the 3rd floor a hotel restaurant?”

“No sir, it’s a private club”. That pretty much gave me a good idea of what to expect at this hotel, even before I stepped into the hotel lobby decked with marble floor and walls with glossy black accents. Unlike its sister hotel the heritage-oriented Intercontinental Singapore at Bugis, the IC at Robertson Quay is all about being upscale and classy.

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You’ll see a lot of marble in this hotel

 

Hotel Location

As its name suggests, this Intercontinental is located along Robertson Quay along the Singapore river. Newly opened on 12th October 2017, it is a complete remodel of the previous Gallery Hotel. It’s about a short 10 minute walk from the Fort Canning Station of the newly-opened Downtown Line MRT train line, and pretty inaccessible by bus, though I expect most visitors to this 5-star hotel, in an area with more expatriates than locals, would be taking a taxi/cab (Get some free credits to use for the taxi/cab apps in Singapore here!). Along the quay there are plenty of bars and restaurants, and in the morning you would be spoiled for choices for western-style breakfast and at night, the quay lights up and revs up with the sound of sports matches being shown on the large-screen TVs in the numerous bars.

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The lobby lounge

It’s also a walk away from Fort Canning Park, one of the bigger parks in the downtown of Singapore, and also a walk away from Clarke Quay, where another group of nightlife bars and clubs are located.

 

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You’ll see mirrors everywhere too. Everywhere.

 

Room

20171021_154337.jpgLeather, leather, leather. It was on the handle bars in the elevator, and now it’s everywhere in the room. The lounge chair is leather (there’s no office table/chair), the room service menu is leather-bound, the tissue box is leather-bound, the toiletries drawer is leather-bound, the…. you get the idea. Also, mirrors. Almost every surface in the hotel lobby, corridor and room has either a mirror or a shiny finish on it, probably to make the space look bigger.

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Yes, even the tissue box is leather-bound

The room has a modern elegant interior design, with lots of glossy black panels and wood laminates. As I’ve mentioned there’s no office table or chair, in lieu of a leather bench built into the wall. The sole circular table has a glossy top that unfortunately doesn’t work with laptop mice. Otherwise, it’s a pretty small but cozy room, though the interior designer has managed to squeeze a lot of functionality into the room. The room is definitely smaller than at the Intercontinental Singapore at Bugis, and the toilet and shower are two separate rooms. By the way, the toilet door has no lock, and the shower door is translucent (half-mirrored, I think).

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Mirror, mirror, on my bathroom door…
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IHG Connect is an excellent way of connecting to in-room wifi

The Wifi in the room is very fast at about 25mbps, and has a new design where you only need to enter your email or IHG member number, instead of needing to log in with your room number. Very handy, as it will connect instantly the next visit without having to re-enter login details. The welcome amenity of 600 points posted quickly for me by that night.

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Welcome amenity, and a welcome postcard with scribbly handwriting 🙂

When I arrived my Ambassador amenity was already on the table, a plate of fruits and a tin of Gryphon tea. Speaking of which, the concierge was very keen to highlight to me that they used Gryphon tea unlike the TWG tea used in the other Singapore IHG hotels. Gryphon tea, I was informed, is almost 100 years old (under parent company Lim Lam Thye), unlike TWG which launched in 2008 (even though it seemingly uses the year ‘1837’ in all its branding). The Gryphon tea in the room was of the “Monogram” series, which I can supposedly mix-and-match two different tea bags to make interesting blends. Another interesting addition to this hotel is a cocktail mixer along with ready-made cocktail blends, which I was told is made fresh from the hotel’s Marcello bar.

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Fancy making cocktails in your room? (Yes, again, the box is leather-bound)

The towels, blankets and bedsheets were all very soft and extremely comfortable (maybe it’s because I’m the first one to use them?), and the soundproofing is sufficient except for the occasional time when I could hear the neighbor’s phone ringing. As is becoming standard, the room has a large flat-screen LCD TV, but unfortunately I couldn’t connect my laptop to the LG TV because it didn’t support wireless display and its HDMI port was pretty inaccessible – it’s times like this that I like Hyatt’s Plug Panel. Sound is provided nicely by a Bose soundbar. Shades and blinds are controlled electronically by a switch at the bedside, and there’s a USB (type A) port too. For tourists, there’s also a ‘Handy’ phone which provides information on toursit attractions and has free calls too.

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Food and Facilities

This time, I didn’t opt for club access. However, I did manage to take some photos of the club lounge on the 4th floor, which I’m told has a seating capacity of 70. As usual, there’s tea time, happy hour and breakfast at the lounge. While the Publicio restaurant is not open yet (though it looks almost ready), the Publicio Deli is open for western-style breakfast and deli food (read a review about it here). There’s also a Marcello bar on the first floor, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (which I’ve come to realize is not the same as Wolfgang Puck’s Cut restaurant at Marina Bay Sands – read a review here), Ishi Dining & Bar and Plum & Toro on the second floor.

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Club lounge seats up to 70
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Food during tea time
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Fancy chess board

The pool is located on the 4th floor beside the lounge, and is good for leisurely swims as it’s not that big. However, I personally thought it would have been better as a rooftop pool. Currently, I’m told that there are some renovations planned for the rooftop, and when I went up to take a look, the rooftop offered panoramic views of the Robertson Quay area and I could even see the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands, so it seemed quite a waste that there was nothing on the rooftop for now. I can’t wait to see what they plan to build on top.

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The rather empty rooftop
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Panoramic view from the rooftop

 

Final Impressions

I think the Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay appeals to a very specific type of traveller – someone who values classy and cozy accomodation, excellent service (everyone at the hotel were very courteous and helpful), and an expat-like life along Robertson Quay. It’s great as a home away from home.

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Pool beside the hotel lobby

Traveling/Staying in Singapore? Grab these FREEBIES!

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For taxi / cab in Singapore: $8 Grab credits, $20 Uber credits

The trains in Singapore can take you from Changi Airport to many places, but it’s not the most reliable – the trains break down very often. If you are carrying a lot of luggage, are in a rush, or simply want to travel in comfort, use these apps to get free taxi / cab travel in Singapore! What’s more, with these apps you can use credit cards in-app (physical credit card payment has a 10% surcharge on taxis in Singapore) and various promo codes.

Get FREE $8 in Grab credits!: For new users. Grab is a ride-sharing app in Singapore, allowing you to pay for your private car / taxi ride using your credit cards.

Get free $20 Uber credits: Uber is a similar ride-sharing app with much more international coverage, and also allows you to get taxis / cabs or private cars for transport anywhere in Singapore.

 

Buying stuff online in Singapore: $10 Shopback, $10 TopCashBack, $10 Chope

Singapore is a shopper’s paradise! Whether you’re staying for a short while and looking for food, or staying here for a long time and want to get extra cashback on online shopping, we’ve got you covered!

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$10 off your first-time purchase of $40 at Chope restaurant booking: Chope is a restaurant reservation app in Singapore (in the Singapore slang, “chope” actually means “to reserve”). You can book restaurants in advance, and they also sell digital restaurant gift cards at 10% below price (for example, you can buy a $100 voucher for $90 only, and you can even buy it while at the restaurant and redeem it immediately!)

Cashless Apps Signup Bonus

Sign up for DBS Paylah here and enter Referral Code TRIHFG669 by 13th August to get $5 free! The DBS Paylah app allows you to send money to other DBS users.

 

Extra Credit Card Signup Bonus

18,000 Krisflyer miles signup bonus for AMEX Krisflyer (3000 miles more than usual!): If you’re eligible to get a credit card in Singapore, signup using this link to get 1000 more Krisflyer miles than usual for the American Express Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Credit Card (the usual offer is 8000 miles signup bonus). Receive 10000 bonus miles on your first spend with this card, another 3000 bonus miles after spending $50 within the first 3 months, and another 5000 bonus miles after spending $2500 within the first 3 months! (after 10th April 2017, this offer drops back to 13,000 bonus miles)

 

 

Enjoy your time in Singapore!

 

 

(Some of these links are referral links, but I guarantee that they are the best freebie offers you can get out there!)

Hilton Melbourne South Wharf Rebranding To Pan Pacific after 31 May 2017

According to The Business Times, UOL group through its subsidiary Success Venture Pty Ltd has agreed to buy Hilton Melbourne South Wharf for A$230 million. Following the purchase around 31 May 2017, the property will be rebranded and changed to Pan Pacific Melbourne.

(Apparently the Pan Pacific Hotel group also bought the Hilton Melbourne Airport Hotel in 2010 and renamed it to ParkRoyal Melbourne Airport Hotel)

It is not clear yet whether Hilton Honors elite benefits or points accrural will be honored for bookings made before 31 May 2017 for stays after that (though I think benefits are unlikely to be “Honored”). To be safe, make a refundable booking first and ask the hotel later.

But, if you had wanted to use your Hilton Honors points to book award stays at the hotel, you’d better do it soon!

 

Too bad I never got a chance to stay at this hotel, but I was certainly more than happy at the DoubleTree Melbourne at Flinders Street, where I was upgraded to their best room – the huge Flinders View King Room!

The Problem With Power Banks – Energy Efficiency

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I use power banks (also known as battery packs or portable chargers) to charge my phone and tablets, especially when I’m travelling. Back when I was using my iPhone 6, my battery would die very quickly before the day ended, and if I wasn’t in the office I would have to resort to using a battery pack.

While battery packs bring convenience and can charge our precious smartphones when we most need it (it’s like finding a restroom when you really need to pee), battery packs are a terrible waste of energy and more harmful to the environment than simply getting a phone with a larger battery capacity (seriously, if a 2mm thicker phone can give me hours more battery life, I would gladly accept that). Here’s why battery packs are so bad:

Battery packs result in double-charging, which wastes electricity!

No battery pack is 100% efficient at charging or discharging – that’s why you cannot fully charge one battery pack with another (otherwise it would be equivalent to a perpetual motion machine).

According to Wikipedia, lithium-ion batteries (used in all mobile batteries) are about 80-90% efficient. The best lithium ion batteries like electric cars and the Tesla Powerwall are up to 90% efficient. The small batteries in our phones and battery packs? Probably only about 80%.

To see how much energy is lost using a battery pack, consider the iPhone 7 with a 1960mAh capacity at 3.8V (7.45Wh of energy). Even if there is no energy loss in your wall plug (in reality there is energy loss, because there is an AC/DC converter that converts your wall socket power), you would still need 9.31Wh (7.45/0.8)of energy to charge it fully. If you use a battery pack instead, there is an extra 20% loss from the battery pack discharging and another extra 20% loss from when you had to charge the battery pack! So by using a battery pack, you would need a whopping 14.5Wh (7.45/0.8/0.8/0.8) of energy just to charge the 7.45Wh battery in your iPhone! That’s a nearly 50% total loss of energy!

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This is different from having an extra removable battery in your phone (which old phones used to have) or your camera. If you have an extra removable battery and you charge that, when your phone battery runs out you simply swap it – there is no double-charging here compared to battery packs.

So what’s the solution?

Mobile phones with full-day battery life. Make those phones a few mm thicker, and let them last the whole day, so we don’t have to carry another heavy battery pack along just so our phones can last to the end of the day!

New Year’s Eve at Holiday Inn Old Sydney

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Want a prime rooftop view of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House for the New Year’s Eve fireworks? Want it for a SECRET low price? Most hotels with a view of the fireworks charge at least A$4000 for a minimum 3-night stay over New Year’s Eve (NYE).

But there is a hidden gem at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney, where I stayed for 35000 IHG points per night (unfortunately this increases to 40000 IHG points per night on 15 Jan 2017) per night, so 105000 points for the 3 nights over NYE, when the hotel was charging approximately A$4000 for 3 nights! That’s an incredible 3 US cents/point (cpp) for each IHG point, which is far above the usual average redemption rate of 0.6 cpp for IHG points! That’s incredible value and definitely worth it – you just have to book very early because award availability over NYE runs out very quickly (and award availability opens in February or March).

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This couple paid A$1600 to see fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I used only 105k IHG points for 3 nights at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney for an even better view of the fireworks.

Hotel Location

The Holiday Inn Old Sydney is located at 55 George St, The Rocks, NSW 2000, Australia. It is near to the Circular Quay train station which is directly connected to the Sydney airport. From there, it is near to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney Opera House, and Royal Botanic Gardens. Circular Quay is well-connected via bus to other parts of the city like Darling Harbor and Chinatown, while the ferry services connect to across the Harbor to places like Manly Beach and Taronga Zoo.

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View of Sydney Opera House from Holiday Inn Old Sydney

Room

The rooms are probably not the main reason why you book this hotel (the main reason is the rooftop!), but the rooms are still fine for a Holiday Inn. The hotel has 8 floors and is triangle-shaped with rooms along each side, so only one-third of them will have a view of the harbor. There is also a weighing scale for luggage at the lobby. When I checked in, I was also given a 1-for-1 drinks voucher at their Lobby bar.

They recently upgraded the air-conditioning system so that even in the summer heatwave in Dec 2016, the room was still perfectly cool. There is a touch-screen climate control thermostat and a smart lock that unlocks using your keycard. You can connect your laptop computer to the LCD TV using HDMI cables if you so wish. Note that if you book this standard room using points, it faces the city and there will almost certainly be no complimentary upgrades to harbor views due to the extraordinary demand during that time (when I was there, the hotel was fully booked). If there are available harbor rooms I think you can pay to upgrade to them.

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King room at Holiday Inn Old Sydney

The New Year’s Eve experience

When I came back from breakfast on NYE, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the hotel had left a huge NYE amenity for us. The gift consisted of an artistic photo frame of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, a bag of white chocolate raspberries, a bag of nuts, two bottles of water, and two vouchers for a complimentary glass of wine at the Lobby bar. In addition, the hotel had given me a bottle of red wine, because the toilet button wasn’t working the night before, but someone came to fix it immediately and I was already satisfied – but the red wine certainly made me happier.

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New Year’s Eve gift – photo frame of Sydney Harbor Bridge, nuts, water, and wine

On 31 December 2016, New Year’s Eve in Sydney, it was estimated that there were 1.5 million people around the harbor looking at the fireworks. That’s 1,500,000 people. If you hate squeezing with thousands of other people, you would want to book this hotel. Nearby viewing points such as Observatory Hill Park and the Sydney Opera House steps were all full by 2pm – can you imagine squeezing with so many other people for 10 hours through the hot summer sun and then the cool windy night till midnight? Not me. I just strolled over to the Holiday Inn Old Sydney’s rooftop shortly before the 9pm and 12mn fireworks, and got an even more amazing view of the fireworks than the people down below.

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Trust me, you don’t want to be these people at 3pm under the hot sun on NYE.

 

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Amazing view from the rooftop!
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Fireworks over the Sydney Opera House, seen from the hotel rooftop

BONUS: Another secret way to get up to the Holiday Inn Old Sydney rooftop during NYE

When I was there, I also found out that the hotel had organized a New Year’s Eve dinner at their restaurant (I heard from other guests that it was about A$200 per person), and if you dine there you are allowed on the rooftop (no one else other than hotel guests are allowed on the rooftop).
Overall

This was a great IHG points redemption, and the Holiday Inn Old Sydney is a great hotel for New Year’s Eve. Remember to book for NYE early because availability (both rewards nights and paid nights) run out fast!

Remember to use Shopback cashback portal for an extra 2% cashback! (search for IHG). Don’t have Shopback? Use this link to get an extra $10 cashback!

Register for IHG Accelerate 2017 using this link for extra 2000 points!

While I was staying at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney (read my New Year’s Eve review of this hotel), I came across a poster with a link to get an extra 2000 points for signing up for IHG Accelerate! Too bad I’ve already signed up, but if you haven’t yet, use this link!

http://ihgrewardsclub.com/extra2000

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“Register for Accelerate before you check out to get 2,000 points!” – Just use the link I provided

For those who don’t know, IHG Accelerate runs from 1 January to 15 April 2017 and consists of personalized promotions that give extra points for completing specific tasks. My own tasks could get me up to 65,300 points with just five stays!

For Singapore users, remember to use Shopback cashback portal for up to extra 5% cashback! (search for IHG). Don’t have Shopback? Use this link to get an extra $10 cashback for new users!

Or for USA users, use TopCashBack cashback portal for up to extra 9.5% cashback! Use this link to get an extra $10 cashback for new users!
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Review: DoubleTree Melbourne – Flinders St

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DoubleTree by Hilton Melbourne – Flinders Street

I stayed at the DoubleTree Melbourne by Flinders Street (Victoria, Australia) over Christmas 2016. The hotel totally blew away my expectations with its amazing location, excellent service, and great perks for Hilton Hhonors elite members (I visited this hotel as a Hilton Hhonors Diamond member). Read below to find out more:

Check-in

Reaching the hotel from Melbourne airport was easy, with the Skybus shuttle service going to Southern Cross station and then a free hotel transfer bus shuttle to DoubleTree Melbourne. I had indicated in my reservation that my flight would land early, and I expected to leave my luggage at the hotel and walk around until the official check-in time of 3pm. But to my surprise, the front desk manager told me my room was ready, at 10.30AM! With that, he gave me two warm delicious Doubletree cookies, I thanked him and went up to Room 702 for a rest from my red-eye flight.

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Delicious cookies given at check-in

Room

I was upgraded to a King Room (Flinders Station View). This room is definitely worth booking, as it is spacious and overlooks Flinders Station and the Yarra River.

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Nice view from the room!

The rooms in the hotel were renovated in 2015 and is very modern. The 40 inch LCD TV has smart features like Screen Mirroring which allowed me to wirelessly mirror my PC screen, iPhone and Samsung phones to it – no more HDMI/VGA cables! The bedside radio has Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream music through it. The bedside power outlet also had my favorite feature – two integrated USB ports: no need to bring your phone charger and travel adapter!

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USB ports for charging

The bathroom has a modern style with a shower area and Hansgrohe faucets, with Aroma Actives Essentials shower amenities.

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Modern toilet with Hansgrohe faucets and Aroma Actives shower amenities

Breakfast

As a Hilton Hhonors Diamond member, I was given free continental breakfast for two every morning. Breakfast had a good range including smoked salmon, bacon and eggs, fruits and drinks, fresh bread and even congee. Diamond members are also able to order additional hot food (fried eggs, poached eggs, pancakes, omelettes). Food quality is definitely better than average. There is a self-serve coffee machine, but you can get a barista to brew coffee for you for an additional $4.50.

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Fresh bread, fruits and hot food like bacon, mushrooms, sausages and eggs.
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Hot eggs and individually-bottled jam with industrial-style ambience

Service

For my room, there was daily evening turndown service, which came with some nice chocolates. I was also pleasantly surprised on Christmas day to get a little gingerbread man on my door.

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Gingerbread man on Christmas – a nice service touch

Location and final impressions

The best thing about this hotel is its location beside Flinders Station. It is near many tourist attractions such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Federation Square, and Christmas Square. The Melbourne Free Tourist Tram, with a stop in front of the hotel, connected me to many other attractions such as the Queen Victoria Market and Chinatown (See the Free Tram map here). If you want to book day tours to Phillip Island (to see the penguins) or the Great Ocean Road, the hotel concierge can also do it for you.

If you want to book this hotel, I would definitely recommend getting Flinders View room at least, as I’ve heard that the other rooms are smaller (though with the same furniture and amenities). I booked this hotel during a Hilton APAC Flash Sale and got a very reasonable price for it, and it is definitely value for money.

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Layout of rooms. The Flinders Station room is bigger and definitely worth paying more for.

 

Remember to use Shopback cashback portal for an extra 3% cashback! (search for Hilton). Don’t have Shopback? Use this link to get an extra $10 cashback!

Deal Alert: Intercontinental Singapore S$146 per night! (Jan 2017)

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I just noticed that the Intercontinental Singapore, a 5-star hotel that is part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), is going for as low as S$146 per night in January 2017! (Usually it hovers about $300) 

This is for a Heritage Twin Room room from 6-7 January 2017, at the “YOUR RATE” advanced purchase price (get this rate by signing in to your free IHG account). The Deluxe King room is also going for only $171.50. At this price, it is even cheaper than all the Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas in Singapore (which are “only” 3-star and 4-star!)

Prices for other neighboring dates:

4-5 Jan: $184.24

5-6 Jan: $147.98 (Heritage Room King, one room left), Deluxe King is $171.50

6-7 Jan: $146.47 (Heritage Room Twin, one room left), Deluxe King is 169.75

7-8 Jan: $169.75

8-9 Jan: $187.18

Remember to use Shopback cashback portal for an extra 2% cashback! (search for IHG). Don’t have Shopback? Use my referral link to get an extra $10 cashback: https://www.shopback.sg/?raf=OuQLjG

If you found this article useful, consider using one of the referral links at the top or right sidebar to get yourself some FREE credits!

About Me

The Alpha Lion – the intersection of finance, tech and life.

 

Alpha – finance term referring to excess returns relative to a benchmark index.

Alpha – first phase of a tech product.

Lion – life in the Lion City (Singapore).