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TPG reader Andrew asks:
“In looking at the American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood transfer options, I noticed that Singapore Krisflyer was a transfer partner of both. I have never traveled in Singapore First Class, but would like to. With their 747 being retired, I do not believe they open any first class award seats to partners anymore, just their own Krisflyer members.
Does it make sense to transfer points into the Singapore program to get a First Class seat?”
Have a look at this video I made explaining the ins and outs of booking Singapore awards, the benefits of transferring points from Starwood versus Amex, and just what you might be able to get for doing so, then read on below for more analysis.
Singapore airlines recently announced that they’d be making more Saver level awards available for their premium product aircraft (77w and A380, for example). The hope was that these Saver level awards would be bookable with Star Alliance partner airline miles, but sadly that does not seem to be the case – especially for First Class awards. In most cases, saver level awards that show up on singaporeair.com are not bookable with Star Alliance miles like United and Aeroplan.
The good news is that, as you mentioned, Singapore Krisflyer is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. The transfer ratio with Amex is 1:1 (with no recent transfer bonuses) whereas Starwood gives a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, so essentially a 25% transfer bonus.
Now comes the real question: should you use Starwood points or Amex points? Depends on whether you value Starpoints 25% or higher more than Amex points. If that’s the case, then I’d recommend using Amex points. Generally, if I had equal Membership Rewards and Starwood balances, I’d use the Membership Rewards points over Starwood, since I can usually extract greater value from Starpoints since they have value hotel redemptions, like my favorite Cash & Points, and more airline transfer partners, plus you can still earn elite status on award stays with Starwood.
However, if you are Starpoint-rich, Singapore redemptions, especially in business and first class, are fantastic ways to get huge value from those points. The example I used from San Francisco to Hong Kong would require 140,250 miles (so 116,000 Starpoints with those 25% bonuses on every 20,000 miles you transfer) and $371. That same ticket would cost $12,189 if purchased. That’s a whopping 10 cents per Starpoint! (Granted, most people wouldn’t pay the first class price, so the true value realized may be different, but you get the point).
An additional data point is that Amex to Krisflyer transfers take around 48 hours vs. up to a week for Starpoint transfers, so if you have a fixed itinerary that you need to be on and award availability is disappearing fast, you might miss out by using Starpoints instead of Amex Membership Rewards.
From the US Singapore flies San Francisco to Hong Kong and Seoul, Los Angeles to Tokyo, Houston to Moscow, JFK to Frankfurt and Newark & Los Angeles to Singapore nonstop in all business class configuration (they will soon add Economy to those flights).
To find out how many Krisflyer miles you need to book a flight just go to singaporeair.com and check the “Krisflyer redemption” box. You get a 15% discount for awards booked online. Unfortunately, you have to call in to book partner awards.