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When to Use Singapore KrisFlyer Vs. United MileagePlus

by on May 22, 2014 · 40 comments

in Uncategorized

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Yesterday we got the great news that Chase added an 11th transfer partner of the Ultimate Rewards program: Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Singapore Airlines is known for top-notch service and they’re a member of Star Alliance, which opens up a lot of other booking options as well. However, United MileagePlus is also a Star Alliance member, so I wanted to take a look at redeeming with KrisFlyer vs. MileagePlus and why you’d want to consider Singapore, even though they generally have higher taxes/fees. A year ago it would have been harder to justify choosing Singapore vs. United, but after United’s massive February 1 devaluation, there are now a lot more reasons to consider using KrisFlyer. Note: You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer, but those transfers may take up to 48 hours versus near instant transfers with Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

KrisFlyer Registration
KrisFlyer Award Chart

KrisFlyer Award Calculator
Singapore KrisFlyer Service Center: 213-404-0301
United Award Charts

Key Differences Between KrisFlyer and MileagePlus
1)  Singapore releases exponentially more Saver award availability to their own frequent flyer program members than the rest of Star Alliance. So, many Singapore awards are simply not bookable using MileagePlus miles. The same is not true for United- generally all Saver availability is bookable using other Star Alliance currencies, like Krisflyer.
2) KrisFlyer discounts awards booked online by 15%. Granted, you can only book Singapore operated flights, but this discount can offset the additional fees you might incur by helping you save many thousands of miles on the redemption.
3) KrisFlyer does not charge last minute ticketing fees, whereas MileagePlus tacks on a $75 fee for all awards booked within 21 days (waived for elite members).
4) KrisFlyer has 6 key non-Star Alliance partners: Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Virgin America, US Airways, TAM and Air India.
5) Change fees are lower with KrisFlyer vs. United for non-elites. For example, KrisFlyer charges just $30 to redeposit an unused award ticket vs $200 with United. To change routes on partner awards with KrisFlyer you’re looking at $20 vs $75 on United ($100 within 21 days of departure).

Krisflyer: Other Airline Partners

Krisflyer: Other Airline Partners

When Transferring to KrisFlyer May Make More Sense Than To United

1) Round The World Awards
Perhaps the biggest advantage to KrisFlyer vs. United is their generous Round The World awards. Singapore offers a Star Alliance Round The World Award which allows you to build in seven stopovers for just 180/240/360k miles in economy/business/first . United allows RTW awards with 5 stopovers (16 segments) for a whopping 200/350/450k miles in economy/business/first. I haven’t seen much written about this and finding information on rules is difficult, so I’m going to plan and book my own Singapore RTW trip soon and report back on my experience. Stay tuned, but I still thought I’d highlight what is possibly an incredibly good deal.

2) Flying to Europe on Singapore/ Star Alliance partners. 
Let’s say you want to fly JFK to Frankfurt. The major options are Lufthansa and Singapore. For Economy/Business/First United charges 30/70/110k miles each way for partner awards and $2.50 (plus $75 if booked 21 days or closer to departure). Singapore charges 20/57.5/67.5k for economy/business/first and if you book on Sinagpore airlines online, those numbers drop to 17/48.9/57.4k miles and $181.50 in taxes/fees for economy and $218.50 in business/first.

Pre-departure pic of my Newark-Singapore nonstop flight before the route was axed

Pre-departure pic of my Newark-Singapore nonstop flight before the route was axed

Let’s take Business Class on Lufthansa using United miles vs. Business Class on Singapore using KrisFlyer one-way JFK to Frankfurt. United charges 70,000 miles and $77.50 for a flight leaving next week. KrisFlyer charges 48,875 miles and $208.50. So, by paying $131 in extra fees, you save 21,125 miles and get to fly in a much better seat. Even if you avoided the $75 late ticketing fee (which is hard to do these days since many premium awards are being released within 2 weeks of departure), you’re paying $206 to save 21,125 miles, which is valuing Chase points at about 1 cent a piece, which is a terrible value to “redeem” for Chase points.

United- less fees, but way more miles

United- less fees, but way more miles

Booking Singapore flights online can be a great deal

Booking Singapore flights online can be a great deal

The value proposition drops for economy awards: United charges 60,000 miles and $131.40 roundtrip vs. 34,000 and $489 for Singapore awards booked online using KrisFlyer miles. So you pay $358 more with KrisFlyer to save 26,000 Chase points,  just under 1.4 cents each, which is still a pretty low redemption though not terrible. If you’re flush with Chase points and low on cash, I’d consider going via United, but if you want to maximize your Chase points, Singapore redemptions may make more sense on these routes.

3) Domestic US Business Class Awards

40,000 miles roundtrip for Intra-US business class awards

40,000 miles roundtrip for Intra-US business class awards

United charges 50,000 miles and $5 (plus $75 last minute ticketed fee for flights within 21 days) for domestic US awards, like Newark-Los Angeles. Singapore only charges 40,000 miles and $5. Remember: Singapore is also a partner with Virgin America, so when you call, always check to see if those awards are available as well.

4) US to Hawaii
United charges 45/80k miles for economy/business roundtrip to Hawaii versus 35/60k miles with KrisFlyer (and no last minute ticketing fees).

5) LA/ San Francisco to Hong Kong/Seoul/ Tokyo
Singapore flies from San Francisco to Hong Kong and Seoul and Los Angeles to Tokyo (then continuing on to Singapore, but you can book just book the flights to northern Asia separately.)

First Class (Suites) San Francisco to Hong Kong is only 140,250 miles and $290.28 roundtrip. To fly United’s old 747 you’d pay 160,000 miles and $35.50. More miles to fly a dumpier product with no premium champagne? No thanks! I could easily make up the $260 difference in fees via Dom Perignon consumption.

$15k ticket for $140k miles? Sign me up!

$15k ticket for $140k miles? Sign me up!

Los Angeles to Tokyo roundtrip business class is 131,750 miles and $386.31 roundtrip. United on that route is 130,000 and $35.50, but Saver availability on United metal is nearly nonexistent and if booked on ANA the award jumps to 150,000 miles with similar fees.

Los Angeles to Narita business class on Singapore- with way more saver availability and a better product than United

Los Angeles to Narita business class on Singapore- with way more saver availability and a better product than United

The bottom line is that Singapore KrisFlyer can be a smart option even if the fees are higher than United on certain awards. It takes a little time to get used to their website (United’s is far superior, especially for partner awards), but you can alway search for Star Alliance partner award availability using sites like United.com and Aeroplan.com and then call Singapore to book them- with no phone booking fee.

It’s also important to take into account KrisFlyer’s reasonable fee schedule, having the flexibility to cancel an award and get all of your miles back for just $30 is an awesome insurance policy. Plus, flying on Singapore is an experience unto itself, though be warned- once you start flying top-notch carriers like Singapore, you won’t want to go back to US/European carriers!

To boost your Ultimate Rewards account, the current sign-up bonuses on the three main cards are: 60,000 points after $5,000 spent within 3 months on the Ink Plus and Ink Bold products and 40,000 points after $3,000 spent within three months on the Sapphire Preferred. All cards have a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. 

 

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • JD

    You neglect to mention that Krisflyer miles expire 3 years after earned (or, presumably, transferred into your account), regardless of account activity. Please confirm

  • Ed

    Regarding the Hong Kong to San Francisco flight, would it be possible to book HKG-SFO-BOS on SQ+VX or SQ+UA using Krisflyer miles?

  • Chris

    Great rundown! Are there any fuel surcharges/fees for a standard domestic award on United using KrisFlyer points? Just $2.50 a segment?

  • thepointsguy

    Confirmed, but 3 years should be long enough to book an award- I never recommend transferring miles without having a plan in place

  • thepointsguy

    No extra charges- should just be the $2.50 per segment

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t believe so- each Other Partner Airline has their own separate award chart- it may be possible with TAM and US because they still go by the Star Alliance chart, but let me double check (or someone chime in if you have any experience)

  • Matt

    “…you can alway search for Star Alliance partner award availability using sites like United.com and Aeroplan.com and then call Singapore to book them- with no phone booking fee.”

    Yeah no booking fee, however, you won’t get the 15% online redemption discount this way.

  • thepointsguy

    Correct, but even the regular chart is decently competitive on most routes- the 15% is an extra edge for Singapore operated flights.

  • Vinny

    good post

  • Angel

    If you book a trip to Hawaii in Economy, you should book it as 2 one-ways since they only charge 17K each way basically saving you 1,000 miles per ticket :)

  • Steven Slade

    I have more than 50k in expiring miles with Krisflyer. When I went to book a flight from Detroit to San Fransisco on United using my Krisflyer miles, I found there were no seats available on any day for the next year! Seriously, I had them check every day of every month. While United.com showed there were seats available, Krisflyer told me they could not be used by Krisflyer members. I therefore think the statement “you can alway search for Star Alliance partner award availability using sites like United.com and Aeroplan.com and then call Singapore to book them” is not correct.

  • thepointsguy

    Were the United flights Saver awards? If so, you should have been able to book w Krisflyer miles. Also, United may make more awards available to elite members/credit card holders so that may have been the issue as well.

  • Andy Baez

    I tried looking up a one way flight from ATL to SYD next year and I selected Krisflyer miles but it only shows me pricing in cash.

  • Stone

    Anyone else get a headache from the permutations? I think is rather pay more point just to jot have to think of all the pros and cons. Those fuel surcharges are not negligible. I see your point Brian, but saying you’ll just drink $200 in champagne sounds like such an ass thing to say. Along those lines could you comment on how hard or easy it is to redeem for the suites?

  • thepointsguy

    The math can get confusing, but the bottom line is that you can fly on nicer planes with a wayyyyy better experience for less miles and (sometimes) nominal difference in fees. It isn’t for everyone, but it is worth it for some people to pay a little more for a vastly better experience

  • thepointsguy

    Go back and click award ticket- not Pay With KrisFlyer miles

  • singapore

    Brian – with this development, for someone who frequently travels JFK/EWR to SIN – what airline would you suggest is the best option for both econ & biz travel? I can accrue points into Chase, but what airline would you suggest is the best to transfer to—United or Singapore? OR would you suggest I go with a non Star Alliance carrier altogether? thanks

  • Andy Baez

    Did that and it still quoted cash only.

  • Karen

    Does kris flyer allow me to book a flight for my dad using my miles?

  • tridentnyc

    Brian, I don’t believe your links to the Kris Flyer award charts or calculator are working. Had the same issue on yesterday’s Singapore’s post. Tried two different browsers and two different computers. Just a heads up.

  • shay peleg

    Drink 400$ in champagne then

  • tim

    i would like to fly jfk to frankfurt, but i live in los angeles. can i tag on lax to jfk on te same award?

  • TJ

    I’d love to use Singapore’s First Suites on the JFK-FRA route, but I’m based in RIC which doesn’t show up in their list. Open to driving to DCA/IAD as well as I often do that to catch non-stops to Europe anyways, but was wondering if there is a way to book a DCA/IAD-FRA that includes a SQ operated JFK-FRA leg? Or would the best option be to book JFK-FRA and just pay the $200 for a DCA-JFK RT?

  • Chris

    You can book that, but it can’t be done online. You will have to call them (and not get the 15% online discount for the JFK-FRA leg)

  • tisha

    great post!

  • Tony

    You need miles in your Krisflyer account to look up awards.

  • Clivus

    I took Singapore from SFO to SEAsia in January and biz class was POOR!

    Their flights used to show up united award charts, what happened?

    But some good uses for Kris flyer points, thx

  • RK

    United does not allow booking SQ awards online anymore – you have to call…
    I’m surprised to hear you say SQ Biz is poor – it’s probably the best business class I’ve flown, especially compared to UA. Their hard product is great and onboard service is impeccable! I’ve flown SQ a lot and not once had any onboard service issue. The web site and mobile app are bad, and their ground staff is not very flexible, but that’s the only complaints I had…

  • tls62pa

    Silly Question: Why cannot I not figure out how to look up Star Alliance flights through KrisMiles on the Singapre website? All I can try to book are Singapore flights

  • tls62pa

    Like, I can only search where Singapore flies to and from. I can’t search flights to DLM, but I know Star Alliance carriers fly to DLM.

  • thepointsguy

    Because you need to call to book partner award tickets

  • thepointsguy

    Yes you can book partner segments but you need to call and will forego the 15% discount

  • philly

    u must add him first in your profile as a redemption nominee

  • MJens

    Has anyone tried transferring miles from Chase Ultimate rewards to Krisflyer? Is it a near-instant transfer?

  • Bill

    Do I understand KrisFlyer miles that they do expire in three years without extensions that US carriers provide with some sort of activity? I guess I am wondering if I should transfer almost 200K miles from my Chase Preferred into KrisFlyer even though I have no specific plans to use them at least for one year.

  • lodr

    thank you for this amazing

  • lodr

    thank you for this amazing post.
    I have been looking for best ways to spend points to get first class flights from LA to Asia (HK/Tokyo/Seoul) using Chase Ultimate rewards.
    Looks like this is it!!! (what do you think?)

  • Ted B

    I called for a one-way from Lihue, HI to Newark, NJ and was told there was fuel surcharge of SG$161 per passenger. Did I miss something? Is it different flying from Hawaii to the mainland?

  • Zach

    Hi Brian, I am wondering if you have had a chance to look into your KrisFlyer RTW ticket yet. In particular, I am wondering what the surcharges and fees will look like for such a redemption.

    As a disgruntled MileagePlus member, KrisFlyer is starting to look very attractive—it seems that in addition to Ultimate and Membership Rewards Points, you can now transfer ThankYou Points and Starpoints to KrisFlyer at 1:1, as well. With that many options, it should be easy to churn up a business class RTW in no time!

  • Kristin

    I just got the United Mileage Plus card in Aug because of the bonus offer. What other card has a great bonus offer that transfers points 1:1 to United Mileage Plus? I’m desperate to build up my points to cover airfare for 3 to Panama this winter. Thanks!!!

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