3 Ways to Do Singapore on Points
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Singapore is much more than just a little dot on the map. Small as it may be, the Lion City is a modern country featuring a wealth of unique experiences. Whether you’re looking to indulge in the delectable food scene, go on a shopping spree along Orchard Road or simply relive the movie Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore has you covered.
Despite being one of the most luxurious destinations in the world, you can visit this fantastic vacation spot without having to worry about the cost. Here are three ways you can make your trip to the Lion City happen using your hard-earned points and miles.
Even the most economical travelers are in for a luxe experience when visiting Singapore. It’s home to the world’s two cheapest Michelin-star restaurants, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles, where you’ll be enjoying world-class meals for as little as $1.47. Some attractions, such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the outdoor sections of the Gardens by the Bay (including the infamous Supertree Grove), can be accessed sans admission fees. Getting around is easy and cheap thanks to the city’s efficient public transportation system — a Singapore Tourist Pass (STP) will get you unlimited travel and set you back just 10 SGD (~$7.30) for one day, 16 SGD (~$11.60) for two days or 20 SGD (~$14.50) for three days.
While Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Newark (EWR) are the only three US airports with nonstop flights to Singapore, there’s no shortage of ways to get there if you’re willing to have a layover.
The first (and probably most comfortable) option is to fly Singapore’s flag carrier, Singapore Airlines. Its KrisFlyer program will charge you 76,000 miles round-trip for its flights from the West Coast. If you’re flying out of Houston (IAH) or the East Coast or chose to utilize a partner airline, you’ll need to pony up 80,000 miles. Note that although Singapore now offers nonstop flights out of Newark and Los Angeles, the planes that operate those routes don’t have an economy cabin — just premium economy and business — so there’s no budget-friendly way of booking them.
KrisFlyer isn’t the cheapest option for booking your flights (more on that soon), but there are two major perks of booking through the program. Firstly, Singapore Airlines doesn’t levy fuel surcharges, so the majority of these flights will have minimal taxes and fees associated with them. Next, the KrisFlyer program is a 1:1 partner of all the major transferable currencies: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. It’s also possible to transfer your Marriott Rewards points at a 3:1 ratio, and you’ll earn a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer. As a result, it’s very easy to unlock these redemptions if you have a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Premier® Card.
Unless you’re chasing a flight operated by Singapore Airlines, consider booking through and flying ANA. The Japanese carrier serves several major US hubs including Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Houston, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, San Jose (SJC), Seattle (SEA) and Washington, DC (IAD) plus Vancouver (YVR). Awards booked through the ANA Mileage Club program will set you back between 55,000 and 70,000 miles round-trip, depending on the time of year, and these awards incur minimal taxes and fees, so you shouldn’t need to spend a ton of extra cash to book them. The program is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott.
If you’re not fixated on using traditional airline miles, you might be better off purchasing a cheap flight with a card like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. With any of these options, you can redeem your miles at a fixed value for a statement credit toward the expense. We’ve seen some great deals from the US to Singapore in recent years, including fares as low as $325 round-trip on Japan Airlines (JAL). That $325 ticket would amount to just 32,500 miles with the Premium Rewards and Capital One cards or about 31,000 miles with the Arrival Plus (once you factor in the 5% rebate for travel redemptions). If you have the Sapphire Reserve, you could redeem Ultimate Rewards points directly through Chase’s travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece, which would come out to less than 22,000 points total for the round-trip. In these cases, foregoing transferring points and redeeming your points directly is a no-brainer.
Where to Stay
Though Singapore is known for its luxury hotels, there are plenty of comfortable options where both the paid and points rates can be relatively inexpensive.
At the Four Points by Sheraton Singapore, for instance, room rates start at 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night or around 215 SGD (~$150). Marriott Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but as is the case with flights, you’ll sometimes get greater value by redeeming credit card points at a fixed value.
Some much nicer, yet only slightly more expensive, Marriott properties include the new Courtyard Singapore Novena and the distinctive Vagabond Club, which both cost 35,000 points per night. If you’re staying more than four nights, you could score lower rates by leveraging Marriott’s fifth night free benefit on award redemptions.
With IHG Rewards, to which you can also transfer points from Chase, you could stay at the Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay for 30,000 points per night. Now I know what you might be thinking when you hear Holiday Inn, but don’t let the name fool you. The ones in Asia (particularly in Singapore) tend to be much nicer than the ones you’ll find in the US. Plus, you’ll always get complimentary breakfast when staying at a Holiday Inn Express — regardless of how you booked your stay.
Other properties the brand offers include the Holiday Inn Express Singapore Orchard Road and Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium, which can both be booked for 35,000 points per night. Holders of the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card could save even more thanks to the card’s fourth night free perk.
A few more points and miles could go a long way when booking your trip to Singapore, both in terms of flights and hotels. Plus, with the money you save by using your points and miles, you might have a little cash left over to shop on Orchard Road.
Although the airline itself will likely never fly anywhere near Singapore, one of the best ways you could book your flights to Singapore is through Alaska’s Mileage Plan program. Alaska has partnerships with a number of highly useful international airlines, unlocking some incredible redemption opportunities. Among the sweet spots in Alaska’s program are Cathay Pacific business class flights to Asia for just 100,000 miles round-trip and premium economy for 70,000 miles round-trip. The only bummer is that Cathay Pacific awards don’t display on Alaska’s website, so use either the Qantas or British Airways search engines to find award space and then call to book. Alternatively, you could fly JAL business class, but that would set you back 130,000 miles round-trip.
Even though Alaska doesn’t partner with any of the three major transferable point currencies, you can transfer Marriott points to your Mileage Plan account. You can also open the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card to earn a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Finally, Alaska routinely puts its miles on sale, allowing you to score miles for as little as 2.11 cents apiece. Pro tip: 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 for no extra cost. Just be aware that you can’t combine partners on award tickets booked with Alaska miles, so keep that in mind as you plan your routing.
In Star Alliance, ANA will charge you 100,000 to 115,000 miles round-trip for business class on its own flights, depending on the time of year, or 136,000 miles for partner flights. While you shouldn’t have much trouble booking United’s nonstop flights from San Francisco (SFO) through ANA, Singapore Airlines typically doesn’t release premium cabin award space to its partners (though it has happened before).
If you’re set on flying Singapore Airlines, you could book premium economy for 130,000 KrisFlyer miles round-trip from the West Coast (140,000 miles from IAH or the East Coast) or business class for 176,000 miles (184,000 miles). The award rates are steep, but Singapore’s top-notch service and the convenience of nonstop flights from select cities could make it worth the splurge. As a reminder, if you don’t find an award seat for your desired flight and award level, you could always get on the waitlist.
Where to Stay
There are many terrific mid-range hotel options in the city. Most of them also feature executive lounges with extensive breakfast buffets and afternoon hors d’oeuvre spreads which could help elite travelers save money on some meals.
Marriott loyalists (or those with a large stash of points from a new card like the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card) have the greatest selection. The Westin Singapore, JW Marriott Singapore South Beach and Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel each start at 50,000 points per night. The JW Marriott is probably the most chic and convenient, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the three. If you’re willing to stay outside of the city center, there are some other Marriott properties like the W Singapore Sentosa Cove which are also available for 50,000 points per night.
If you have World of Hyatt points, another transfer partner of Chase, you can redeem 20,000 points to stay at the Grand Hyatt Singapore located near the Orchard Road shopping district.
Hilton Honors members can stay at the Hilton Singapore, where room awards over the next year range between 46,000 and 60,000 points per night.
If it is that super luxurious, Southeast Asian experience your heart desires, Singapore’s got you covered. Supercars, private planes, and choppers-for-hire are plentiful and you can redeem points from the Premium Rewards card as statement credits against those experiences. Here’s how points and miles can help you get there and stay there in style.
For the ultimate way of rolling into Singapore, look no further than Singapore Airlines First Class. With double beds, a choice between Dom Perignon and Krug champagne and some of the best in-flight service out there, Singapore Airlines is prepared to bring it. It’ll cost you a pretty penny, but when you consider that KrisFlyer is a partner of all of the major transferable points programs, it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem.
As with business class, Singapore Airlines will only let you book its first class award tickets on long-haul routes through its own KrisFlyer program. You’ll need to fork over 236,000 miles round-trip if you’re flying from the West Coast or 240,000 if out of Houston or the East Coast. Note, the airline doesn’t offer first class on any of its nonstop flights from the US to Singapore, so you’ll need to connect to experience the luxury:
- In Hong Kong (HKG) out of San Francisco
- In either Tokyo-Narita (NRT) or Seoul-Incheon (ICN) out of Los Angeles
- In Frankfurt (FRA) out of New York-JFK
A much more economical yet arguably just as comfortable option would be Cathay Pacific first class booked through Alaska Mileage Plan. A round-trip award costs a mere 140,000 miles and still comes with all of the trappings, including caviar and Krug champagne. Again, Cathay Pacific awards don’t display on Alaska’s website, so you’ll need to call to book.
You could also book JAL first class for 150,000 Alaska miles round-trip. JAL’s flagship first-class seats are only found aboard its fleet of 13 Boeing 777-300ERs; these aircraft typically fly from Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles, New York-JFK and San Francisco. While the hard product is beginning to feel dated, it’s still among the best ways to fly to Asia in first class.
Where to Stay
If you were hoping to relive Crazy Rich Asians entirely, you can’t (at least for the time being). The Raffles hotel Nick Young and Rachel Chu snuggled up in is closed for renovations through the middle of 2019 and isn’t a part of any of the major hotel programs. Fortunately though Singapore has no shortage of other luxury properties which will put your points to good use.
In the Marriott family, there’s the St. Regis Singapore and the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore. That said, this Ritz-Carlton is one of the few Ritz-Carlton properties that don’t participate in the Marriott Rewards program, so the St. Regis is the only one that can be booked with points. A stay at the St. Regis will cost you 60,000 points per night. In addition to beautifully-appointed rooms and the signature St. Regis butler service, guests have access to a fleet of Bentleys to chauffeur them around the city.
If it’s a Hilton property you’re after, you could stay at the Conrad Centennial Singapore located at the famous Marina Bay Sands. Award stays here typically cost 60,000 points per night, but can dip as low as 50,000 points.
Hyatt’s top property is the new Andaz Singapore, which can be booked for 25,000 points per night. It’s a modern place with a fun local vibe and is just a short walk from Marina Bay.
For those with IHG Rewards points, you could stay at the InterContinental Singapore or InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay. The InterContinental Singapore has a slightly preferable location, but both hotels are top-notch and both cost 50,000 points per night.
When there’s a luxury hotel you can’t stay at with points, consider booking through Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts collection or Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection program. By doing so, cardholders of premium Amex credit cards (like the Amex Platinum and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express) and premium Chase cards (like the Sapphire Reserve and United Club Card) can enjoy valuable on-property perks like room upgrades, free daily breakfast, late check-out, credits for spa or dining and more.
The eight participating FHR hotels in Singapore include the Mandarin Oriental, Raffles (once it reopens), Shangri-La hotel, Fullerton Bay Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel and points properties like the St. Regis (and yes, you can typically earn hotel loyalty points when booking through these programs). The LHRC has six participating hotels, four overlapping with FHR and the other two being the Andaz and Fairmont.
If you do intend to pay cash for your hotel stay, you’ll also want to consider using your Citi Prestige Card to get your fourth night free (though this perk will be limited to twice per year starting in 2019) or your Capital One Venture card to get 10x miles by booking and paying for your hotel through Hotels.com Venture (offer ends Jan. 31, 2020). The latter of these two options gives you an effective 20% rebate when you combine the earning rate with the Hotels.com Rewards program.
A trip to Singapore is no longer that jaunt into glossy purgatory it may have once been. As you can see, the island city-state offers activities to excite just about anyone and is surprisingly accessible thanks to points and miles. Now, excuse me while I scour for more sign-up bonuses so that I can splurge on my trip.
Featured photo by DoctorEgg / Getty Images.
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