Free Flights with Miles
Everyone loves a freebie. Almost everyone loves to travel (if they
can afford it). Add this two together and one can understand how
an attention grabbing headline like "How to book Singapore Airlines
First Class Suites for under $500" can attract or even inspire others
to try to spend and collect enough air miles on their mileage credit
cards to earn that illusive free flight for their dream holiday.
However, is it really so easy to redeem the free flight? How much
does one actually has to spend on credit cards in order to redeem
the free flight? Are there any hidden costs involved?
How to Redeem Free Flights?
The first step to embark on your quest to redeeming a free flight
is to lay your hands on one of these Credit
Cards for Miles. Choose mileage credit card(s) that earn some
decent miles per dollar (see Best
Credit Card for Air Miles) and/or credit card(s) that are giving
out free miles for signup promotion (see Miles
Signup Promotion Comparison).
The next step is to spend on the card(s) and wait for the points
or miles to be credited into your credit card account. Transfer
the points or miles in your credit card account to your Krisflyer
account (equating air miles to Krisflyer miles as that is the most
popular mileage redemption for Singaporeans) and you will be able
to redeem your flight using miles either on SIA website/App or by
SIA reservation hotline.
So How Much Exactly do I Have to Spend?
With the easy stuff out of the way, lets get down to the technical
At Least $3,750 for Nearby Getaway
A quick look at the SIA
redemption chart above (One-way) shows that it takes a minimum
15,000 Krisflyer miles to redeem a return economy ticket to the
cheapest Singapore Airlines redemption destination (Zone 2 Malaysia,
Indonesia & Brunei on SIA redemption chart). Using a generous
high earn rate of 4 mpd (miles per dollar) spend for everyday spend
Credit Cards for Air Miles), one would be looking at spending
at least around $3,750 (15,000 miles / 4 mpd) before he or she can
even think about checking out potential holiday destinations.
At Least $7,500 for Better Value for Miles
Any self-proclaimed miles collecting expert will let you know that
short haul flights for nearby getaways provide poor value for your
miles and if you really want to get more value out of your miles,
one will need to look at long haul flights. Definition of long haul
flights differ but lets just use flights flying to Zone 4 and above
(Anywhere outside South-East Asia) since redemptions on Zone 2 and
3 (South-East Asia) are dominated by Silk Air, a regional associate
of Singapore Airlines. Redemptions for Zone 4 start at 30,000 Krisflyer
miles for a return economy ticket which means spending at least
around $7,500 (30,000 miles / 4mpd) if we use the same generous
high earn rate of 4 mpd.
Business and First Class Redemptions
If your aim is to maximise value out of your miles, than you will
be looking at business or first class flight ticket redemptions.
Business class tickets normally cost more than 5x economy class
tickets if you were to pay for it but will only require around 2.5x
the miles needed for economy class tickets if you were to redeem
miles. Likewise, first class tickets normally cost more than 14x
economy class tickets if you were to pay for it but will only require
around 3.5x the miles needed for economy class tickets if you were
to redeem miles. From the figures above, it can be concluded that
miles are more valuable than cash when it comes to redeeming / purchasing
business or first class air tickets.
At Least $8,750 for Business Class Flight and $12,500 for Business
Redeeming the cheapest business class return ticket (Zone 2) will
require 38,000 Krisflyer miles. Using the same formula as previously,
this equates to spending at least around $9,500 (38,000 miles /
4mpd). Similarly, redeeming the prestigious first class return ticket
(Zone 2 again) will require at least 55,000 Krisflyer miles or $13,750
in spending (55,000 miles / 4mpd). Its a huge amount to spend considering
the fact that you might not get much time to enjoy your short flight
(at most around 2 hours) but considering a first class return ticket
to Jakarta (Zone 2) cost $2,400++, its actually considered a pretty
sweet deal in terms of rebate ($2,400 / $13,750 = ~18%).
All above calculations is based on the assumption that one can
actually get 4 mpd spend using Mileage
Credit Cards for everyday spend. However, the reality is that
most mileage credit cards only award around 1.4 mpd for local everyday
spend. Credit cards which can earn as high as 4 mpd usually requires
specific payment methods such as PayWave, Mobile payments, etc.
(our best bet since increasingly larger number of merchants accept
contactless payments) or only award the miles based on spending
for specific categories such as for shopping, online, overseas transactions,
etc. The number of miles earned per month or year is also likely
to be limited to a reasonable number (industry norm of 4,000 to
8,000 miles per month) subject to a minimum spend. Hence, it is
very likely one will spend more than the amount quoted for the various
redemption scenarios before he or she can get the required miles
for free flight redemption.
There are plenty of hidden costs involved when it comes to flight
redemptions and passengers often have to cough out some money in
order to get the "Free" flight redemption.
Banks usually require a conversion cost to convert your points
or miles in your credit card account into Krisflyer miles in your
Krisflyer account. Typical fees are $25 to $40++ for each conversion
meaning it will make more sense for you to accumulate enough points
or miles before transferring to your Krisflyer account. Some banks
have an annual fee in place instead which allows cardholders to
convert from points to miles as many times as they want in a year
subject to the minimum number of points required.
Points or miles in your credit card account are also subjected
to minimum conversion amount and can only be converted in blocks
of that amount (meaning only can convert 10,000 miles or 20,000
miles or 30,000 miles, etc. See Credit
Card Air Miles Redemption Rates). This system often leads to
orphaned miles which are miles in your account that do not meet
the minimum conversion amount and are wasted if left to expire or
used to redeem less attractive rewards. Similarly, Krisflyer miles
have a validity of 3 years and orphaned Krisflyer miles that do
not get redeemed for flights will also suffer the same fate.
Airlines also require passengers making flight redemptions to pay
for airport and government taxes for their flights. The taxes can
differ for each destination and airlines. Fortunately, taxes for
Singapore Airlines flights are usually quite reasonable and usually
cost below $100 for short haul flights and below $200 for long haul
Card users are forgoing potential cash back they would have
gotten if they were to use Cash
Back Credit Cards instead and this translates to an opportunity
cost. The opportunity cost (cash back) can be from 0.5% to 5% of
spending if using a cash back credit card for general everyday spend
but can be as high as 10% of spending if using a category-based
cash back credit card for spending on specific categories such as
for travel, dining, online transactions, etc.
Mileage Credit Cards Promotion
We won't blame you if you are discouraged from accumulating miles
after reading about the costs and effort needed to make a flight
redemption. However, the beauty about Mileage
Credit Cards is that a lot of them regularly have various one-off
promotions this can help you reach your mileage goals earlier. For
example Citibank had a limited-time 8 mpd spend promotion when using
Card with ApplePay in 2018 which was unheard of previously.
Another more relevant example is Amex
SIA KrisFlyer Ascend Card which
is currently offering new Amex SIA credit card holders 59,000 Krisflyer
air miles for spending $20,000 within 6 months of card approval.
One can use 56,00 Krisflyer miles for a Zone 9 flight redemption
(New Zealand or Australia) or combine the miles from other mileage
credit card promotions (see Miles
Signup Promotions) for better value flight redemptions such
as business or even first class flight tickets.
Mileage Redemption Promotion
Singapore Airlines lends a hand for those seeking mileage redemptions
by regularly offer 30% miles redemption discount for the following
month's selected flights under KrisFlyer
Spontaneous Escapes. They also sometimes offer 50% miles redemption
discount for all flights but it is extremely rare (Last happened
in May 2015) ever since they hold regular monthly redemption promotion
Spontaneous Escapes. Nevertheless 30% miles redemption discount
is equavilant to spending 30% less on your credit card to get the
required miles and is probably the only scenario where redemption
for short haul flights actually provide decent value.