The best ways to get to Singapore using points and miles

Jul 9, 2020

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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

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 products. It’s also home to the best airport in the world according to Skytrax.

If you’re hoping to visit Singapore once it reopens, there is no shortage of ways to get there, including nonstop options from Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA). Fortunately, you can travel to Singapore with little out-of-pocket expense. Today I’ll take you through the best ways to do so using points and miles.

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In This Post

Overview

Let’s start with some nuts and bolts. This analysis will focus entirely on flights departing the U.S., organized by airline program and class of service. 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) can pay enormous dividends, allowing you to set alerts for your desired flights on your ideal dates.

Related: How to book your first award flight using airline miles

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Singapore’s fantastic A380 Suites class is only available through the KrisFlyer program. (Photo by The Points Guy)

The first option for getting to Singapore is on Singapore Airlines. The KrisFlyer program has separate award charts for flights on Singapore Airlines versus those of its Star Alliance partners. Rates from Houston (IAH) and the East Coast are slightly higher, 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 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 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.

Related: Ultimate guide to Singapore KrisFlyer

The round-trip rates for partner awards 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 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.

Note that the airline has been blocking first-class inventory on all of its flights through at least Nov. 30. This affects flights operated by 777-300s and A380s, but hopefully, this is only temporary until demand picks up again.

Related: These airlines have stopped offering first class due to the pandemic

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, 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.

The information for the Citi Premier has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

United Airlines MileagePlus

United flies its 787-9 Dreamliner to Singapore from San Francisco (SFO). (Photo by The Points Guy)

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 recently pulled its Star Alliance partner award chart and now uses dynamic pricing for all award tickets. Nevertheless, if you’re lucky, you may still be able to find awards at the old “saver levels,” and in some cases, those rates can fall 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
  • Business: 150,000 miles (180,000 miles for partner flights)
  • First: 190,000 miles (240,000 miles for partner flights)

United offers nonstop flights to Singapore from San Francisco (SFO), and saver-level award availability on these flights is pretty decent. Aside from Singapore Airlines, you can also fly partners like EVA through Taipei (TPE) or ANA through Tokyo (NRT). 

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 as well as 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 is currently offering 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. These cards can also unlock enhanced economy award availability on United-operated flights, expanding your options for getting to Singapore even further.

Related: 17+ ways to earn miles with the United MileagePlus program

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 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 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
  • 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 from these two programs to unlock the above redemptions. ANA does also have 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

Outside of the Star Alliance, a terrific way to book award flights to Singapore 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.

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 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

In 2019, Alaska added the ability to redeem miles on Singapore Airlines-operated flights. It isn’t as lucrative as booking Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines, since the redemption rates are much higher.

  • Economy: 95,000 miles
  • Business: 200,000 miles
  • First: 260,000 miles

What makes all 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.

Related: Best sweet spots with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Earning Alaska miles

The Mileage Plan program only partners with Marriott Bonvoy, which limits your transfer options. However, you could open the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, which is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles when you make purchases of $2,000 or more 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.

The information for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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, AA offers lots of cobranded cards, which make it easy to quickly boost your balance. 

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.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

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. 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:

  • Economy: 84,000 miles
  • Premium economy: 120,000 miles
  • Business: 170,000 miles
  • First: 250,000 miles

Similar to Alaska, Cathay Pacific lets you add free stopovers on award tickets. Unfortunately, this is only available with round-trip tickets and as of April 2020, the stopover is limited to a maximum of 24 hours for Asia Miles awards and airline partners awards.

Related: The complete guide to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

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.

Delta SkyMiles

For SkyTeam flyers, your best option would be to fly Korean Airlines booked through Delta SkyMiles. While Delta’s award prices vary significantly for its own flights, partner redemptions have a set value and tend to cost less. As you’re going to see, it’s also easy to accumulate Delta SkyMiles.

Here are the award rates for round-trip partner awards to Singapore. Unfortunately, it is not possible to redeem SkyMiles for Korean Airlines first-class.

  • Economy: 70,000 miles
  • Business: 170,000 miles

Related: The best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

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 a number of 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, even if the ANA Mileage Club program charges a lower rate for the award ticket.

Airline Economy Premium Economy Business First
Singapore Airlines Book through Singapore from West Coast;
book through Singapore, United or ANA from other U.S. gateways
Book through Singapore Book through Singapore Book through Singapore
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 Book through Alaska Book through Alaska Book through Alaska
Japan Airlines Book through Alaska Book through Alaska Book through Alaska Book through Alaska
All other Oneworld carriers Book through American Book through American Book through American Book through American
All Skyteam carriers Book through Delta Book through Delta Book through Delta Book through Delta

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 in case anything goes wrong. Some good options include The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Related: The best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets

Bottom line

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 in the next year or two.

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.

Featured image by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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