Redeeming Membership Rewards points for travel on Singapore Airlines: everything you need to know

About five years ago Singapore Airlines introduced new first and business class products, which at the time were industry-leading. As a result they didn’t allow saver first and business class award redemptions in those cabins. In March of this year they finally changed the policy, and it’s now once again possible to redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles for first and business class in Singapore’s new cabins, which now serve all of their longhaul routes.

The timing of this is actually pretty convenient, given that the value of Membership Rewards points has plummeted over the past year, given that Continental was discontinued as a transfer partner, not to mention Aeroplan and British Airways devalued their award charts as well.

I don’t think there’s a more “aspirational” award out there for the average consumer than Singapore Airlines first class (they still have the reputation of having the best product in the world, be it for the right or wrong reasons), so I figured I’d cover the basics of redeeming Membership Rewards points for travel on Singapore Airlines.

So before I analyze the best redemption values, let me answer some basic questions:

How long does it take to transfer Membership Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer?

Transfers from Membership Rewards to KrisFlyer take 12-24 hours, in my experience.

How do I search for award availability for travel on Singapore Airlines?

You first need to sign up for a KrisFlyer account, which can be done here. Once you’ve signed up and are logged into your account, go to the main page of singaporeairlines.com and enter your dates, route, and preferred cabin. Make sure you tick “KrisFlyer redemption,” and if you want a stopover be sure you click the button that reads “Add a stopover?”

On the next page you’ll be looking for space in the “Saver” column, and you’ll want it to say “Available” and not “Waitlisted.”

If you don’t seen an option you like you can just click “Change details” at the top of the page and make modifications as you’d like.

Can I redeem miles for first class on the Airbus A380?

No, not really. Singapore Airlines doesn’t have first class on the Airbus A380, but instead has “Suites Class.” This is excluded from the new saver redemption policy. So you’ll pay around a million miles for a roundtrip ticket to Singapore in “Suites Class,” which probably isn’t worth it to just about all of us.

Can I use my KrisFlyer miles for someone else?

Singapore lets you nominate up to five people at a time that you can redeem miles out of your account for. You just have to fill out a simple form online to do so, which can be accessed in your KrisFlyer profile.

What cancellation fees does Singapore charge on award tickets?

If you need to redeposit an entirely unused award ticket, the cost is $30 if done online or $50 if done over the phone. If you cancel within 24 hours of departure the fee is $75.

Does Singapore allow stopovers on award tickets?

For saver awards Singapore allows one stopover on a roundtrip ticket (no stopovers are allowed on a one-way ticket).

How many miles are required for an award ticket?

Singapore has a pretty useful mileage calculator on their website, which will show you the cost of a roundtrip saver award ticket in your preferred cabin. It’s worth noting that you get a 15% discount on award redemptions by booking online, which isn’t factored into the displayed costs.

How far in advance does Singapore open up award space?

They open up their schedule 350 days out, though that doesn’t mean all award space will be released at that point. They typically continue to release space as the departure date approaches.

Does Singapore release the same award space to the Star Alliance?

As a rule they don’t. Occasionally they’ll release some business class award space to Star Alliance partners, though I’ve never seen them release first class award space to their partner airlines. But award availability found on Singapore Airlines’ website is by no means an accurate indicator of award space that Star Alliance partners have access to.

What destinations does Singapore Airlines serve in the US?

Here’s a map of their route network to the US:

 

With that out of the way, I’ve priced out each individual award possibility out of the US, and here are the results (in USD for travel exclusively on Singapore Airlines factoring in the 15% discount for redeeming online):

San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore:
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Hong Kong: 127,500 miles + $371.30
First Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Hong Kong: 140,250 miles + $371.30
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore: 136,000 miles + $696
First Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore: 182,750 miles + $722

San Francisco to Seoul to Singapore:
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Seoul: 131,750 miles + $484.20
First Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Seoul: 148,750 miles + $510.20
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Seoul to Singapore: 136,000 miles + $696
First Class Saver roundtrip cost San Francisco to Seoul to Singapore: 182,750 miles + $722

Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore:
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost Los Angeles to Tokyo: 131,750 miles + $366.50
First Class Saver roundtrip cost Los Angeles to Tokyo: no first class — only suites class
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore: 136,000 miles + $734.20
First Class Saver roundtrip cost Los Angeles to Tokyo to Singapore: no first class — only suites class

Los Angeles to Singapore:
Aircraft: Airbus A340-500
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost Los Angeles to Singapore: 136,000 miles + $696
First Class Saver roundtrip cost Los Angeles to Singapore: no first class — all business class configuration

Newark to Singapore:
Aircraft: Airbus A340-500
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost Newark to Singapore: 144,500 miles + $696
First Class Saver roundtrip cost Newark to Singapore: no first class — all business class configuration

New York to Frankfurt to Singapore:
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost New York to Frankfurt: 97,750 miles + $563.20
First Class Saver roundtrip cost New York to Frankfurt: no first class — only suites class
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost New York to Frankfurt to Singapore: 144,500 miles + $696
First Class Saver roundtrip cost New York to Frankfurt to Singapore: no first class — only suites class

Houston to Moscow to Singapore:
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost Houston to Moscow: 97,750 miles + $482.50
First Class Saver roundtrip cost Houston to Moscow: 114,750 miles + $434.50
Business Class Saver roundtrip cost Houston to Moscow to Singapore: 144,500 miles + $712.80
First Class Saver roundtrip cost Houston to Moscow to Singapore: 187,000 miles + $738.80

My thoughts:

No, you’re not crazy, the above makes no sense. I’m sure a few of the above amounts make you scratch your head, and don’t worry, you’re not alone. As usual, airline pricing isn’t totally rational. For example, why are the mileage costs and fuel surcharges substantially higher for San Francisco to Seoul than San Francisco to Hong Kong, given that it’s actually a shorter flight? Along the same lines, why are the taxes and surcharges higher for business class than first class for Houston to Moscow? Yeah, it makes no sense.

The premium for first class is minimal (and well worth it). Many argue that Singapore Airlines shot themselves in the foot with their new business class product, given that the seat itself is almost as good as the first class seat (I reviewed the business class seat here). That being said, Singapore Airlines is all about the service and food, and that’s substantially better in first class. For the best redemptions on the chart, the premium really is minimal. For example, between San Francisco and Hong Kong, first class is only an extra 6,375 miles over business class per direction. In instances like that it’s a no brainer.

The best redemption values. San Francisco to Hong Kong and Houston to Moscow are both by far the best redemption values, in my opinion, and well worth the cost for first class. ‘Nuff said.

For the time being I actually consider these awards to be among the best uses of Membership Rewards points. As a reminder, as discussed in yesterday’s post, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card is by far the best card for accruing Membership Rewards points.

Any questions?

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve had SQ miles take 48 hours to post when transferring from Amex, so YMMV on 12-24.

    “why are the mileage costs and fuel surcharges substantially higher for San Francisco to Seoul than San Francisco to Hong Kong, given that it’s actually a shorter flight?”

    HKG is a relatively low fuel surcharge market. SQ fuel surcharges to HKG are lower because their competitors’ are lower. Even BA’s are lower to HKG than other similar-distance destinations in Asia.

  2. Chin says

    lucky, can you combine SQ with other *A? for example: BOS-EWR-SIN? if yes, how would they charge the miles?

  3. nelumbo says

    lucky, are you able to see business class award available for long-haul flights on 388/77W on .bomb since this march, even for close-in dates?

  4. Robert Hanson says

    “they still have the reputation of having the best product in the world, be it for the right or wrong reasons”

    So how about it, having just flown them, do YOU consider them the best FC product in the world? Or after your Wong Chin experience, are you even an objective judge of such matters?

  5. lucky says

    @ Gary — Good point, though can you explain higher fees/taxes for business vs. first between Houston and Moscow? :D

    @ Chin — You can, though then it’s charged from the Star Alliance award chart, which is substantially more expensive. Trust me, not worthwhile.

    @ nelumbo — On united.com you can only see the space they’re releasing to their Star Alliance partners, which is virtually non-existent (while space through KrisFlyer is excellent).

    @ Robert — Singapore is no doubt among the best airlines out there. Are they *the* best? I think at a certain point there are airlines that are in the top league, and which one is the best varies based on individual experiences. I will say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of their hard product, though I do think the food and entertainment can’t be beat, and service ranges from very good to excellent (depending on whether it’s robotic or sincere).

  6. lucky says

    @ Chin — To clarify further, it would cost 195,000 miles for business class from the US to Singapore with a segment on United.

  7. lucky says

    @ David — Surprisingly good. I had no issue finding two seats even on Houston to Moscow and San Francisco to Hong Kong.

  8. chris says

    Lucky – glad SQ is treating you well.
    You can redeem suites now and not for 1,000,000 miles!
    Assume it’s because suites aren’t all that amazing. OK the double bed in the sky is great but it still is first class F&B, PJ’s, Toiletry bag, etc…
    Sadly their frequent flyer program has been gutted, ravaged …
    Enjoy SQ.
    PS: Sad you didn’t the have the chance to fly the Sky Suites. Prefer those to the Suites or new first class any day!
    Keep the great work

  9. Chris G says

    FYI, under your mileage requirements for EWR-SIN, you still have “Los Angeles to Singapore” there from your C V.

  10. lucky says

    @ chris — Since when? Can you give an example? I’d be on it in a heartbeat.

    @ Chris G — Fixed, thanks!

  11. IEB says

    Is it still the case that SQ won’t hold a reservation while you wait for miles to transfer from MR?

  12. Phil says

    Ben – have you found a way to do a mixed cabin booking online so you can get the benefit of the online booking discount? Trying to do something like IAH-SIN-MLE with the IAH-SIN via Moscow leg in F and the SIN-MLE in J, which is all that is offered. I can’t find a way to get the engine to offer me the J when I select First/Suites as class of service

  13. Tao says

    Does SQ treat stopover as more than 24hrs for US domestic awards? I see they define stopover as connections more than 24hrs, but wasn’t clear if it was for domestic or international.

  14. lucky says

    @ Vard — You can book one way for half the miles. Space doesn’t show up online because you have to call for Star Alliance award space.

  15. Alex says

    Lucky, when I try to price out an award online, I can’t get the 15% discount to show up. I’m looking at IAH – DME and its telling me I need 135k miles for F (After clicking the “Display Total Cost” button).

    Is the discount gone?

  16. Alex says

    When I click to the next page, which is the “Review Itinerary” page, it says the total cost is still the undiscounted amount of miles (135k).

    It also says I have insufficient miles in my account and need another 135k miles to proceed (and not a discounted 115k). At this point I still haven’t transferred any membership rewards points yet and have 0 miles. I wonder if the discount doesn’t show up if you have 0 miles? Does it show up for you?

  17. lucky says

    @ Alex — I suspect it’s a glitch. I just did a search and it reflected the discount, though I have enough miles in my account. Maybe that’s the issue?

  18. lucky says

    Okay, I figured this out. I have two accounts — one with enough miles and one without enough miles. The discount showed for the one with enough miles and didn’t show for the one without miles. So I suspect that’s the issue.

  19. Chris says

    Waitlist for Singapore award seats–what does that mean? Any experience with that? Does it mean if an award seat opens up between now and the flight, I can have it? Or any seat opens up and I can use my award on it? Do I have to book another class while I’m on the waitlist? Thanks

  20. Joey Wong says

    Hi, you seem to be very knowledgeable about flying so I am asking you this qn.

    I have purchased an air ticket for myself on SIA from JFK to SIN and return. I added my krisflyer #. Now I am trying to purchase 2 air tickets for my parents but they don’t let me use my krisflyer numbers to gain points.

    How should I go about this?? Your advice is much appreciated.

    Frustrated

  21. lucky says

    @ Joey Wong — Unfortunately only the member traveling can collect points for themselves. You can’t collect points for a family member’s flights unfortunately.

  22. ron says

    So there’s no way to use Aadvantage miles to book these, true? I’ve got 330K Aadvantage miles but the AA site doesn’t show any availability. Trying to get a trip for me+fiancee to Singapore, next week. Yeah, I know, nothing like last-minute :-)

  23. lucky says

    @ ron — You can’t redeem American miles for travel on Singapore Airlines, though you can redeem them for travel on Cathay Pacific. While the American website doesn’t show Cathay Pacific award availability, if you call or use the British Airways website you can search space, and they actually release a good amount of first and business class award space last minute.

    If you still have issues I have an award booking business that can help — pointspros.com.

  24. ron says

    wow, thanks for the lightning-fast response! :-)
    Shall poke around BA and you/pointspros may be hearing from me too!

  25. says

    Great post! Really informative.

    I’m curious. I was offered a 100k rewards points through American Express Platinum card, which I was planning to transfer to ANA (and use either through Cathway / Singapore) for a flight from SFO to CNX/BKK. The points cover the flight, and the annual fee of the card is ~450 (it’s prorated), but I’m curious if there’s still value based on your assessment of the taxes ~1400k (flight) – $450 (annual fee) -$taxes = ??

    Any suggestions or thoughts? Any way to figure out what the fees would be to Thailand?

    Best,

    David

  26. Ray Woodbury says

    Do they generally release waitlisted suites class seats well in advance? We are considering transferring our mileage from Amex to Singapore, and are wondering if there’s a good chance we’ll get the seats or a good chance that our miles (lots of them) will be in SQ mileage plan without us being able to use them?

  27. says

    @ Ray Woodbury — Is it a route to/from the US? If so, it’s unlikely they’ll open up a second seat/clear the waitlist.

  28. sean says

    I was thinking about transferring from Chase to SQ to book a NRT-USM flight. When I tried to look for availability the message “There is no ZONE info defined for this itinerary.” came up. I assume this means it cannot be booked with krismiles? Which is weird given you can pay for this itinerary with cold hard cash.

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