Singapore is reopening: Here’s how to get there using points and miles
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. That said, some of the routes mentioned here are currently suspended.
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 offering incredible premium-class seats and service. It’s also home to the best airport in the world, according to Skytrax.
While entry has mostly been limited to citizens and permanent residents since the start of the pandemic, Singapore will reopen to citizens residents of select countries — including the U.S. — on Oct. 19, 2021. There will be strict vaccination requirements to enter, but granted you meet them, you can enter Singapore and enjoy all the country has to offer without quarantine.
That said, visiting Singapore isn’t cheap. It has a strong local currency and most goods need to be imported, leading to high prices on daily expenses for travelers. On top of that, a limited number of flights in and out of the country mean airline tickets aren’t cheap. But you don’t have to break the bank to visit Singapore — instead, use your points and miles to offset the cost of flights, and you’ll have more funds to spend elsewhere. Here’s how to do it.
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Let’s start with some nuts and bolts. This analysis will focus entirely on flights departing the U.S., organized by airline program and service class. I’ll also highlight how to accrue points or miles beyond travel, including our best credit cards for airlines 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 cabins. This is where a subscription service like ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) comes into play, as it allows you to set alerts for your desired flights on your ideal dates. This means no more endless manual searches as you book your trip.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
The first option for getting to Singapore is on Singapore Airlines. The KrisFlyer program has separate award charts for flights on Singapore Airlines versus its Star Alliance partners. Rates from the East Coast are slightly higher than from the West Coast, so it’s important to make sure you’re looking at the correct redemption table.
Here are the round-trip rates for saver awards from the U.S. to Singapore:
- Economy: 76,000 miles (80,000 miles from Houston (IAH) or the East Coast)
- Premium Economy: 136,000 miles (146,000 miles)
- Business: 190,000 miles (198,000 miles)
- First: 260,000 miles (264,000 miles)
Generally speaking, Singapore’s premium cabins are only made available to KrisFlyer and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members. So even though the award rates may seem steep, it’s one of your only options. 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 round-trip rates for partner awards are higher and typically fall above those available through other programs:
- Economy: 110,000 miles
- Business: 211,000 miles
- First: 297,000 miles
The majority of these flights will carry minimal taxes and fees — generally less than $100 per person. In addition, you can book one-way flights for half the miles listed above on both Singapore Airlines and its Star Alliance partners.
Earning 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, Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. 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
Low carrier surcharges on partner award tickets make United’s MileagePlus program a good option for flying to Singapore within the Star Alliance family. Unfortunately, the program has pulled its Star Alliance partner award chart and now uses somewhat dynamic pricing for award tickets. Nevertheless, if you’re lucky, you may still be able to find awards at rates lower than those charged through the KrisFlyer program.
Here’s the minimum number of miles you should expect to redeem for round-trip award tickets from the U.S. to Singapore based on the now-extinct award charts:
- Economy: 80,000 miles (88,000 miles for partner flights)
- Business: 180,000 miles (198,000 miles for partner flights)
Unfortunately, premium economy awards are pricing out at exorbitant levels of 140,000 miles each way right now, and first-class awards on partners are non-existent through the end of schedule. While you can find partner business-class availability, award tickets in Polaris on United’s own flights are not appearing for the moment, either.
United offers nonstop flights to Singapore from San Francisco (SFO) — resuming in January 2022 according to the current schedule — and saver-level award availability on these flights is pretty decent. Besides Singapore Airlines, you can also fly partners like EVA through Taipei (TPE) or ANA through Tokyo (NRT/HND).
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even try to build in a free one-way flight using United’s Excursionist Perk. But again, given the dynamic pricing scheme, be sure to compare the award rates with other partner programs to make sure you’re not redeeming more miles for the same flights.
Earning United miles
The MileagePlus program partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, so those transferable point currencies represent one method to boost your United miles balance. You could also open a cobranded credit card like the United Explorer Card, which currently offers 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Alternatively, there’s the United Quest Card, which is offering 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months 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
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 partners, it also introduces seasonality into the mix for its own flights. You can get the full scoop on ANA’s international flight awards page.
Here are the award rates for round-trip ANA-operated flights from the U.S. to Singapore, expressed as a range from Low to High season:
- Economy: 55,000-70,000 miles
- Premium economy: 84,000-99,000 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 carriers that fly to Singapore all impose minimal taxes and fees. You won’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.
Earning ANA miles
ANA partners with both Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, so you’re easily able to transfer points to Mileage Club. ANA also has a cobranded credit card in the U.S., the ANA Card U.S.A., but it isn’t particularly useful and has a very low welcome bonus.
Related: Ultimate guide to ANA Mileage Club
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
A terrific way to book award flights to Singapore outside of the Star Alliance is through Alaska’s Mileage Plan program. This currency is always near the top of TPG’s monthly valuations, primarily due to its diverse partners and low award rates. Plus, you get a free stopover on one-way awards, which can help you stretch your miles further.
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: Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Further, not all Singapore award space is bookable with Alaska miles.
Here are the award rates for round-trip flights from the U.S. to Singapore on Cathay Pacific:
- 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 award space on Alaska’s website. I’d recommend using either the American Airlines or Qantas search engines to find award space first and then calling Alaska to book.
Meanwhile, you can book Japan Airlines awards online. The rates for flights to Singapore on JAL are higher than on Cathay Pacific:
- Economy: 80,000 miles
- Business: 130,000 miles
- First: 150,000 miles
Although Alaska is now a part of the Oneworld alliance, you still have the ability to redeem miles on Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines flights. The redemption rates are much higher than with Cathay Pacific and JAL, though.
- Economy: 95,000 miles
- Business: 200,000 miles
- First: 260,000 miles
What makes most of these rates more 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 U.S.
Earning Alaska miles
The Mileage Plan program only partners with Marriott Bonvoy for transfers, which limits your options. However, you could open the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, which is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. 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.
American Airlines AAdvantage
Another way to book Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines awards to Singapore is through the American Airlines AAdvantage program. Flights for both airlines can be booked online and come with low taxes and fees.
Here are the award rates for round-trip awards operated by Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines:
- Economy: 75,000 miles
- Premium economy: 100,000 miles
- Business: 140,000 miles
- First: 220,000 miles
Earning American miles
Like Alaska, American only partners with Marriott Bonvoy. However, American Airlines offers lots of cobranded cards, which make it easy to boost your balance quickly.
For example, the mid-tier Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® is currently offering a welcome bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $2,500 on purchases the first three months of account opening. There are also lots of opportunities to buy miles for cheap.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
If you want to book Cathay Pacific using your Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One or Citi ThankYou points, you could do so directly through the airline’s own Asia Miles program. The program prices awards based on distance and whether you’re flying only on Cathay Pacific, one partner or multiple partner airlines.
Here’s an estimate of how much a round-trip award only on Cathay Pacific could cost you from New York-JFK:
- Economy: 84,000 miles
- Premium economy: 120,000 miles
- Business: 170,000 miles
- First: 250,000 miles
Earning Cathay Pacific miles
As mentioned above, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy. As a result, you can transfer points from many different travel credit cards to unlock these redemptions.
For SkyTeam flyers, the easiest option would be to fly Korean Air booked through Delta SkyMiles. While Delta’s award prices vary significantly for its own flights, partner redemptions have a relatively fixed rate and tend to cost less. As you’re going to see, it’s also easy to accumulate Delta SkyMiles. The only downside is that Delta significantly increased partner award rates in early 2021.
Here are the award rates for round-trip partner awards to Singapore. Unfortunately, it is not possible to redeem SkyMiles for Korean Air first-class. Here are rates we’ve been seeing lately.
- Economy: 135,000 miles
- Business: 330,000 miles
Also, keep in mind that Delta began upcharging partner awards booked closer to departure. On some dates, you may find cheaper itineraries when the transpacific segment is operated by Delta, or you could find higher ones depending on the availability of connecting domestic awards on Delta.
Earning Delta miles
There are a variety of ways to earn Delta miles. You could pick up an American Express Membership Rewards-earning card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card and transfer points to Delta instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
Delta also offers several cobranded credit cards that make it easy to boost your SkyMiles balance, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
The best currencies to use
Here’s a quick summary table of the best currencies for booking award flights to Singapore, keeping in mind the aforementioned round-trip restriction of booking through ANA. Of course, this chart only applies to the actual award rates. For instance, if you’re swimming in Ultimate Rewards points but have zero cards that accrue Membership Rewards points and few Marriott Bonvoy points, you’re likely restricted to booking through United or Singapore Airlines, even if the ANA Mileage Club program charges a lower rate for the award ticket.
|Singapore Airlines||Book through Singapore KrisFlyer from West Coast;
book through Singapore KrisFlyer, United or ANA from other U.S. gateways
|Book through Singapore KrisFlyer||Book through Singapore KrisFlyer||Book through Singapore KrisFlyer|
|United Airlines||Book through United or ANA||Book through United||Book through ANA||N/A|
|ANA||Book through ANA||Book through ANA||Book through ANA||Book through ANA|
|All other Star Alliance carriers||Book through United or ANA||N/A||Book through ANA||Book through ANA|
|Cathay Pacific||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan|
|Japan Airlines||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan||Book through Alaska Mileage Plan|
|All other Oneworld carriers||Book through American AAdvantage||Book through American AAdvantage||Book through American AAdvantage||Book through American AAdvantage|
|All Skyteam carriers||Book through Delta SkyMiles||Book through Delta SkyMiles||Book through Delta SkyMiles||Book through Delta SkyMiles|
Maximize your purchase
When paying the taxes and fees on your award ticket, be sure to use a credit card that earns bonus points on airfare purchases and offers travel protections if anything goes wrong. Some good options include the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which both earn bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all travel expenses.
The Singapore-based movie Crazy Rich Asians boosted worldwide interest in Singapore, 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. There are also lots of points-friendly hotels you could stay at for little to nothing out of pocket, such as the Andaz Singapore and the St. Regis Singapore.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I hope this analysis has highlighted some possibilities if you’re planning a trip to the island once it reopens.
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen and Andrew Kunesh.
Featured image by Agent Wolf/Shutterstock.com.
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