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The tiny island nation of Singapore is known for its luxury hotels, lack of crime and (in the travel world) the city-state’s eponymous airline and its incredible premium class products. It also recently made headlines as the location for the long-anticipated summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the luxurious Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island as the host property. Fortunately, if you’re hoping to visit Singapore in the wake of these historic talks, there’s no shortage of ways to get there with little out-of-pocket expense. Today I want to take you through the best ways to do so using points and miles.
Let’s start with some nuts and bolts. This analysis will focus entirely on flights departing the US, and will be organized by airline program and class of service for each, including the different airline possibilities (where applicable). I’ll also highlight how to accrue points or miles in each of the programs beyond travel, including co-branded credit cards and/or transferable point currencies. Finally, all award rates below are at the saver level and apply to round-trip tickets, though I’ve noted which programs allow for one-way awards and which don’t. As always, award availability can vary significantly, especially when it comes to premium classes. This is where a subscription service like ExpertFlyer can pay enormous dividends, allowing you to set alerts for your desired flights on your ideal dates.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
The first option for getting to Singapore is (naturally) on Singapore Airlines. The carrier increased its redemption rates in March 2017, but there’s still value to be had. Note that the KrisFlyer program has separate award charts for flights on Singapore Airlines versus those of its Star Alliance partners, and it also charges slightly higher rates from Houston (IAH) and the East Coast, so be sure you’re looking at the correct redemption table.
Here are the rates for awards on Singapore metal for flights from the US to Singapore:
- Economy: 76,000 miles (80,000 miles from IAH or the East Coast)
- Premium Economy: 130,000 miles (140,000 miles)
- Business: 176,000 miles (184,000 miles)
- First: 236,000 miles (240,000 miles)
Generally speaking, Singapore’s premium classes are only made available to KrisFlyer members, so even though the award rates seem steep, it’s the only show in town. You also have the ability to waitlist for these saver awards if they aren’t initially available, which is a nice feature that few other airlines offer.
The rates for flights on partner airlines are higher and typically fall above those available through other programs:
- Economy: 110,000 miles
- Business: 195,000 miles
- First: 270,000 miles
The majority of these flights will have minimal taxes and fees associated with them — generally less than $100 per person. In addition, you can book one-way flights for half the mileage amounts listed above across both Singapore Airlines and its Star Alliance partners, giving you added flexibility for your redemptions.
Getting KrisFlyer Miles
Even though Singapore’s partner award chart isn’t as lucrative as some other Star Alliance carriers, it does have one major appealing characteristic. The KrisFlyer program partners with all of the major transferable currencies: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (though note that the latter of the four will have a new transfer scheme once the program is integrated into the new Marriott program this August). As a result, you can transfer points from cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Citi Premier Card directly to Singapore to enable these redemptions.
United Airlines MileagePlus
A second option within the Star Alliance family is United’s MileagePlus program, thanks to its relatively low rates and minimal carrier surcharges on partner award tickets. The program does require a mileage premium for business and first class award tickets on partner airlines, but the rates still fall lower than those charged through the KrisFlyer program.
Here’s how many miles you’d need for round-trip award tickets from the US to Singapore:
- Economy: 80,000 miles
- Business: 150,000 miles (180,000 miles for partner flights)
- First: 190,000 miles (240,000 miles for partner flights)
Keep in mind that United has launched nonstop flights to Singapore from both San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) over the last few years, and economy award availability on these flights is decent (business class is much tougher, though not impossible). You also have partners like EVA through Taipei (TPE) or ANA through Tokyo (NRT), and if you’re feeling adventurous you could even try to build in a free one-way flight using United’s Excursionist Perk. United also allows one-way awards for half the mileage listed above, but as always, be sure to compare the award rates with other partner programs to make sure you’re minimizing the number of miles you’d need for the exact same flights.
Getting United Miles
The MileagePlus program partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards as well as Starwood Preferred Guest, so those transferable point currencies represent one method to boost your balance of United miles. You could also open a co-branded card like the United Explorer Card, which is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $8,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months after your account is open. These cards can also unlock enhanced economy award availability on United-operated flights, expanding your options for getting to Singapore even further.
ANA Mileage Club
Yet another option for Star Alliance flights to Singapore is to redeem miles through ANA’s Mileage Club program. Unfortunately, this is also the most complicated, since the carrier not only uses different award charts for flights on its own metal versus those on partners, it also introduces seasonality into the mix for its own flights. I won’t even attempt to detail out the dates that are categorized as Low, Regular and High season, but you can see all of these (by region) on ANA’s international flight awards page.
Here are the award rates for ANA-operated flights from the US to Singapore, expressed as a range from Low to High season:
- Economy: 55,000-70,000 miles
- Business: 100,000-115,000 miles
- First: 195,000-210,000 miles
For partner awards, there’s no seasonality but there is a separate award chart:
- Economy: 80,000 miles
- Business: 136,000 miles
- First: 240,000 miles
As noted above, ANA and the other Star Alliance airlines that fly to Singapore all require minimal taxes and fees, so you shouldn’t need to spend a ton of extra cash for these awards. However, the biggest issue with ANA is that you can’t book one-way awards. As a result, you’ll need to find availability on both the outbound and the return to finalize your booking. Otherwise you have to redeem through another program.
Getting ANA Miles
While there’s no US-issued ANA credit card, the airline does partner with both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so you’re easily able to transfer points to Mileage Club from these two programs to unlock the above redemptions.
Star Alliance Summary
Before getting into the final (and only non-Star Alliance) program, I wanted to pause and provide a quick summary table of the best currencies for Star Alliance awards, keeping in mind the aforementioned round-trip restriction of booking through ANA:
|Singapore Airlines||Book through Singapore from West Coast;
book through Singapore, United or ANA from other US gateways
|Book through Singapore
|Book through Singapore
|United Airlines||Book through United or ANA||Book through ANA||Book through United|
|ANA||Book through ANA||Book through ANA||Book through ANA|
|All other Star Alliance carriers||Book through United or ANA||Book through ANA||Book through ANA|
Of course, this chart only applies to the actual award rates. If you’re swimming in Ultimate Rewards points but have zero cards that accrue Membership Rewards points and few SPG points, you’re likely restricted to booking through United or Singapore, even if the ANA Mileage Club program charges a lower rate for the award ticket.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
If you want to head outside of Star Alliance, the fourth (and final) way to book award flights to Singapore is through Alaska’s Mileage Plan program. This currency is always at or near the top of airlines in TPG’s monthly valuations, primarily due to its diverse partners and lucrative award rates. The program is a bit confusing given the separate award charts for each partner, but there are two in particular that offer compelling value propositions if you’re looking to redeem miles to get from the US to Singapore: Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
Here are the award rates for round-trip flights on Cathay:
- Economy: 60,000 miles
- Premium Economy: 70,000 miles
- Business: 100,000 miles
- First: 140,000 miles
Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific is one of the only carriers that doesn’t display on Alaska’s website, so you’ll need to call to book these flights. I’d recommend using either the Qantas or British Airways search engines to find award space first and then call to finalize the award ticket.
Here’s how many miles you’d need for a round-trip award ticket on Japan Airlines, which can be booked online:
- Economy: 80,000 miles
- Business: 130,000 miles
- First: 150,000 miles
What makes these rates especially attractive is that Alaska allows a stopover on one-way, international award tickets, so you could spend some time in Hong Kong or Tokyo en route to and from Singapore. Just bear in mind that you can’t combine partners on a single award ticket — you can only tag-on connecting Alaska flights within the US.
Getting Alaska Miles
The Mileage Plan program (unfortunately) only partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, which limits your ability to transfer points into your account. However, you could open the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, which is currently offering 30,000 bonus miles when you make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. The carrier also is known for frequent bonuses on purchased miles, allowing you to top up your account or even straight-up “purchase” the above redemptions for very reasonable rates.
The Trump-Kim summit in Singapore has (understandably) created massive worldwide interest, though the city-state was already a fantastic destination to visit. As you can see, you have a variety of options for redeeming your hard-earned points and miles to get there for (almost) free. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I hope this analysis has highlighted some possibilities if you’re planning a trip to the island in the next year or two!
Featured image by JKboy Jatenipat / Getty Images.
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