I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

This week I posted that it is cheaper to use Singapore Airlines miles to book United flights to Europe in economy than it is to book the same flights with United miles. Check out that full post.

Yesterday I booked myself an award from Washington DC to Madrid in May with Singapore miles on a United flight.

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Source: gcmap.com

Questions this article will answer:

  • Why did I use Singapore miles?
  • Which points transfer to Singapore miles and how long does the transfer take?
  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I book award space?
  • How did I select seats?

Why Singapore Miles

As explained in “Using Singapore Miles to Europe in Economy is Better Than Using United Miles,” a United economy flight from the United States to Europe costs 30,000 United miles or 27,500 Singapore miles.

My most important priority was booking a direct flight, since they are so much more convenient than connecting itineraries. The only airline that flies from Washington DC to Madrid is United. I would have preferred to book this flight in Business Class on a flat bed, but Business Class award space is not available at the moment as a Saver award. It may open up in the future, but I just wanted to lock this award in, and I can handle seven-and-a-half hours in economy, especially since the flight takes off so early that I wouldn’t have slept any way.

I used Singapore miles to book the economy award because, first, I wanted to save 2,500 miles.

Second, I wanted to use Singapore miles instead of United miles because I have more “potential” Singapore miles (ie transferable points that transfer to Singapore miles) than potential United miles. I’ll discuss this point further in the section on transferring points to Singapore miles.

Searching for Award Space

I searched for award space on united.com before transferring points to Singapore because transfers are irreversible. The flight I wanted had Saver award space in economy. (Here’s how to search united.com.)

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Singapore Airlines only has access to the flights on united.com with a blue button in the Saver award column.

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Which Points Transfer to Singapore Miles?

All major transferable points transfer to Singapore miles including Citi ThankYou Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints. It is all these partners that makes getting Singapore miles so easy, which allows things like: One Person Can Open Four Cards and Fly Six Roundtrips to Hawaii.

If you have all four types of transferable points, which should you transfer to ThankYou Points? The ones that you have the fewest other high value uses for.

For me, I’d transfer ThankYou Points, Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, Starpoints in that order because that is my order from least valuable (1.8 cents each for ThankYou Points) to most valuable (2.5 cents each for Starpoints.)

I already had 12,500 Singapore miles in my account, so I needed to transfer 15,000 points. I transferred 4,000 ThankYou Points to draw down that account (temporarily until I get the 50,000 bonus points on my Citi Prestige.)

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Then I transferred 11,000 Ultimate Rewards.

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Both transfers are performed online inside your credit card account. Both transfers resulted in immediate confirmation emails, though it takes 24-48 hours for the Singapore miles to show up. In this case, I transferred on Thursday at 9:30 AM ET, and the points had arrived by Friday at 3:30 PM ET, or in 30 hours at most.

Re-Running the Search

Once my points posted, I re-ran my search, and my award space was still available.

There is a possibility that you transfer points to Singapore miles, and in the 24-48 hours that the transfer takes, the space disappears. In that case, you’re basically out of luck because transfers are irreversible.

I didn’t worry too much about that possibility because United award space tends to increase not decrease in the last month, and because if I were “stuck” with 27,500 Singapore miles, I’d find a quick use for them to Europe, Hawaii, or South America or booking Singapore Suites.

Booking Award Space

I called Singapore Airlines at 213-404-0301 to book the flight. To book all Singapore partners, you have to call Singapore, but luckily there is no phone fee.

I fed the agent my date, flight number, and cabin, and she quickly found and booked the award space for 27,500 Singapore miles + 31.60 SGD ($23.) The whole call took 13 minutes.
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I paid with my Citi Prestige® Card because it has a $250 airfare credit per calendar year that includes airfare, award taxes, bag fees, upgrades, and more. That means that the $23 will be credited back to my account. This benefit is per calendar year, so in the first 12 months of holding this card, I will get $500 worth of free flights and award taxes. This more than offsets the $450 annual fee, and makes the 50,000 point sign up bonus and free lounge access worldwide even more valuable. All this is Why I Got the Citi Prestige.

How Did I Select Seats?

The general rule is that you must select seats with the operating carrier, in this case United. It is usually important to ask at the time of booking for the confirmation number for each operating carrier, so that you can contact them and quickly select seats.

In this case, the Singapore agent proactively offered me the United confirmation number.

That’s actually not necessary in this case because typing in either the Singapore or United confirmation number on united.com where it says “Change or View Reservations” will allow for seat selection.

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I picked the window seat furthest to the front. I was offered the chance to buy an Economy Plus seat upgrade from $109. Anyone with a ticket, no matter how you got it, always has the chance to buy Economy Plus.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.09.44 PM

Bottom Line

Singapore miles are cheaper than United miles for booking United economy awards to Europe. I used my Singapore miles to book myself a one way flight to Madrid next month to kick off four months in Europe. Transferring ThankYou Points and Ultimate Rewards to Singapore, searching for the space, and booking the award were all seamless.

Right now you can earn oodles of Singapore miles. Start with the Citi Prestige® Card, which comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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You wouldn’t like Hawaii… unless you like pristine beaches, beautiful hikes, and 80 degree weather. I just spent three weeks on Oahu and Maui, which confirmed that Hawaii is my favorite place in the world. (A few of my photos are sprinkled through this post.)

If Hawaii is your favorite place, or if you’ve always wanted to take a family vacation there: one person can easily earn enough miles to book 6 economy roundtrip awards to Hawaii or nearly 4 First Class roundtrip awards.

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There are two basic ideas:

  1. You don’t need many Singapore Airlines miles to get to Hawaii on United flights. You just need 17,500 miles each way in economy between Hawaii and the mainland or 30,000 miles in United First Class–even on the routes with flat beds
  2. You can transfer any type of transferable points to Singapore miles.

You can get the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus from Chase, the Citi Prestige® Card, and the Mercedes-Benz Platinum from American Express, and then transfer all the points you earn to 230,000 Singapore miles.

With a simple five-step process, one person can go from zero miles to booking a party of six their roundtrip flights to Hawaii.
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The steps are:

  1. Open four credit cards
  2. Meet their minimum spending requirements
  3. Find award space on United flights to Hawaii
  4. Transfer your cards’ points to Singapore miles.
  5. Call Singapore to book the awards

1. Open the Cards

The four cards are three personal cards from three different banks plus a business card from one of the same banks. You an get all four on the same day as long as you can meet their combined minimum spending requirements of $15,000 in the first three months. If you can’t meet that high of a combined minimum spending requirement, stagger your sign ups.

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Meeting the cards’ minimum spending requirements will earn a total of 230,000 points, all of which can be transferred to Singapore miles. That’s enough for 6x roundtrips in economy to Hawaii (210k Singapore miles) and almost enough for 4x roundtrips in First Class (240k.)

2. Meet their minimum spending requirements

If $15,000 in three months is more than you normally spend, you can manufacture spending or stagger the applications.

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Your points will post at about the same time that the statement period ends during which you met the minimum spending requirement.

While meeting your minimum spending requirements earn extra points by hitting category bonuses like 3x points for hotels and airfare on the Citi Prestige® Card.

3. Find award space on United flights to Hawaii

I’ve explained in detail steps three through five in my post about how I booked myself a Singapore Airlines award to Hawaii on United flights.

During these steps, you’ll have to decide whether you want to pay 17,500 miles each way in economy or 30,000 miles each way in United First. I’d pretty much always choose First Class for that differential, and I’d also try to find United flights on which First Class features flat beds as explained in this post.

Why United flights? Because Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance with United, so you can use its miles to book all the same Saver award space that United releases to its general members.

Can you find six award seats on the same flights? That’s not a problem at all, especially during the winter. All the yellow days below have economy award space for six from Los Angeles to Honolulu on one or more United flights.

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4. Transfer your cards’ points to Singapore miles.

This can take about 36 hours, so you have to live with the small chance that award space disappears in the meantime.

5. Call Singapore to book the awards

Easy and explained here.

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The total cost of the awards will be about $11 per person plus the miles.

Bottom Line

One person can open up four credit cards and have enough miles to book six people to Hawaii roundtrip for just the miles earned from the sign up bonuses plus $66 total.

This amazing deal is possible because Singapore miles are a transfer partner of Chase, Citi, and American Express points. Any other use for which Singapore miles are valuable (like United flights to Europe, Singapore Suites, and awards to South America with a few stopovers) can also be leveraged by getting multiple credit cards from all the transferable points programs.

There’s no excuse for not taking your family to Hawaii to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf!

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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It costs fewer Singapore miles to fly United economy flights to Europe than the same flight costs with United miles, and neither award has fuel surcharges.

Conclusion: book United economy awards to Europe with Singapore miles instead of United miles.

From Singapore’s award chart:

  • 27,500 miles one way in economy to Europe (United charges 30k)
  • 65,000 miles one way in Business Class (United charges 57.5k)
  • 80,000 miles one way in First Class (United charges the same)

Singapore does not collect fuel surcharges on awards of United flights, so those economy awards on United flights are just cheaper with Singapore miles, which are so easy to get because Singapore miles are a transfer partner of Chase, AMEX, Citi, and SPG points.

How to Book a Singapore Award on United Flights to Europe

I want to fly from Washington DC to Madrid in May, and though I’d prefer to fly Business Class or First Class, my top priority is getting on United’s direct flight on the route to save time.

I searched united.com for award space and found Saver award space for the day I want. Singapore Airlines will have access to all the Saver award space listed on united.com if you search without logging in. United charges 30,000 miles + $5.60 for the flight.

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I called Singapore at 213-404-0301 and fed the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of the flight I wanted. She found space immediately and priced it at 27,500 Singapore miles + 32 SGD (~$23.50).

Why does Singapore charge about $18 extra in taxes on the one way flight? According to ITA Matrix, the flight I want has three taxes, fees, and charges. United only collects the September 11th Security Fee while Singapore collects that plus the US International Departure Tax. That accounts for the $18 difference, which is well worth paying to save 2,500 miles.

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Note that the United paid flight also has a stiff fuel surcharge of $248. Singapore does not collect fuel surcharges on awards on United flights.

I priced out other Singapore awards using direct United flights like Chicago to London and connecting flights like Tampa to Washington to Madrid.Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.55.18 AM

All these awards were the same 27,500 Singapore miles and $23.50.Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.56.18 AM

What I’m Not Saying

I’m not saying Singapore miles are better than United miles to Europe.

  • Singapore collects fuel surcharges on most other common partners, and United never collects fuel surcharges.
  • For United flights, Singapore charges more miles than United for Business Class awards and the same amount for First Class awards

But for United economy flights to Europe, Singapore miles offer a better deal than United miles.

This is compounded by the fact that Singapore miles are easier to get than United miles.

Getting the Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

Transfers do take about 36 hours from these programs to Singapore miles.

Bottom Line

Pretty soon here I’ll probably book a United economy flight to Europe. Instead of spending 30,000 harder-to-get United miles, I’ll spend 27,500 transfer-partner-of-everyone Singapore miles on the exact same flight.

Both awards are fuel surcharges free, and the Singapore awards to Europe just have about $18 more in taxes. I’ll be flush with ThankYou Points soon to transfer to Singapore miles because I got the Citi Prestige® Card with 50,000 bonus points just a few weeks ago.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I just booked myself a trip to Cuba with miles. One direction I am flying on a single award from the United States to Cuba. On the return, I am flying two awards: Cuba to Colombia and Colombia to the United States.

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I used American Airlines, Asiana, and Lufthansa miles, all of which are easily available to Americans.

Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

Here is the State Department’s page on visiting Cuba.

I am going to travel to Cuba on a general license as a journalist. A “general license” means that I do not have to contact any government agency in advance to receive permission. Here are the 12 categories of general licenses:

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I’ll need a valid passport and a tourist card to enter Cuba. I can buy the latter for $20 in Panama before boarding my flight to Havana.

It is still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for the purpose of tourism. Figure out for yourself whether you can fit one of the 12 general licenses, so you can legally travel to Cuba.

Awards

In a previous post, I ruled out charter flights to Cuba because they’re impossible for folks traveling to Cuba on a general license, and I ruled out paid flights via third countries as very expensive. I was determined to book my trip to Cuba with miles.

But booking a trip to Cuba with miles is not 100% straightforward.

If you go to united.com and type Havana into the search box, you get no results. The US-based airlines are not going to let you use their miles to fly to Cuba for the time being, even if you just want to use the miles to fly from Panama to Cuba.

Any awards you book to Cuba will have to be with foreign miles. There are a lot of options:

  • Avianca LifeMiles, Singapore KrisFlyer miles, Asiana Club miles, Lufthansa Miles & More miles on Avianca or Copa to Cuba
  • Air France Flying Blue miles from Mexico City to Havana, flying AeroMexico

I looked into using Singapore, Asiana, Lufthansa, and Avianca miles. Here was my experience.

Searching for Award Space

I tried to use the miles of four Star Alliance carriers, all of which have equal access to Saver award space released by Avianca and Copa on their flights to Cuba. As I mentioned, not all award search engines will display award space to Cuba, but lifemiles.com will. Search for Star Alliance award space to Cuba on lifemiles.com.

There are several routes to Havana from the Americas on Star Alliance carriers: Copa, Avianca, Air Canada, and Air China.

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There are also routes to Cayo CocoCayo Largo del SurHolguínSanta Clara, and Varadero on Star Alliance carriers.

To search for any of these routes on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

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You may need to log in to a LifeMiles account to search. Sign up for a free account here.

On the search screen, next to “Preferred carrier,” select the carrier that serves the route you’re searching. Not specifying an airline will cause the search engine to miss results.

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My Searches

I was interested in combining Cuba with Colombia. I need to start and end my trip in Washington DC. I searched:

  • Washington-Dulles <-> Havana on Copa
  • Havana <-> Bogota on Avianca
  • Bogota <-> Washington-Dulles on American and Avianca

I searched all three itineraries in both directions because I was willing to visit Bogota and Havana in either order. I let my search results dictate my order.

In the end, I found much better award space on my dates from Havana to Bogota than vice versa, which sealed my plan to fly USA to Cuba to Colombia to USA.

Spending an Afternoon in Panama City

Here are sample results for economy awards from Washington to Havana.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.55 PM

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. I decided to choose a seven hour layover in Panama City. From a quick search, I learned that I can visit the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal with a five hour layover. That sounds fascinating, and I plan to save money by hiring taxis instead of a tour company.

American Airlines Space to the United States

I was hoping to book Avianca’s direct flight from Bogota to Washington-Dulles for my return. There is award space on the flight in economy on many dates (yellow on the calendar below), but I couldn’t make it work for my trip.

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My back up plan was American Airlines miles with one stop in Miami. The benefit is that American Airlines charges only 15,000 miles one way between the United States and Northern South America for much of the year. United would have charged me 20,000 miles one way for the Avianca flight.

American Airlines award space is wide open between Bogota and Miami, and from there to anywhere else in the United States or Canada for the same 15,000 mile price.

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I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space to Cuba on Copa, to Colombia on Avianca, and to the United States on American Airlines. Now it was time to book.

Booking the Award

I wanted to get all three of my awards or zero. The first step was to put the American Airlines award on a free five day hold while I investigated my booking options with Star Alliance miles for the Star Alliance flights.

Avianca LifeMiles

Selecting the Copa award flights from Washington-Dulles to Havana brings up a price of 17,500 Lifemiles + $31.85. Or you can toggle the “More money” button to book the award for 7,500 Lifemiles and $181.85.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.29.42 PM

The problem is that I don’t have LifeMiles. Getting LifeMiles is a bit of a challenge. You basically need to buy them. They are often on sale for 1.65 cents each, though not currently. Once you have 7,500 LifeMiles, you can book the award for another $181.85.

I would consider buying the 7,500 miles when they are on sale for 1.65 cents each which happens every few months, but right now they cost 3.3 cents each.

The Havana to Bogota award was only 10,000 LifeMiles, but that was 10,000 more than I had.

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I went looking for other foreign Star Alliance options to book the flights.

Lufthansa Miles & More

Lufthansa is also a member of the Star Alliance, so it partners with Copa and Avianca. The Miles & More award chart shows a great price of 17,000 miles one way from the United States to Cuba or Colombia to Cuba.

I called the Miles & More call center for the United States and tried to book Washington to Havana. The agent said he could not book flights to Cuba.

Next I called the British service center at  +44 371 – 945 97 37 for 1 cent per minute via gmail. I fed the agent the Copa flights from Washington to Havana and she priced them at 17,000 Miles & More miles and 4.5 GBP ($7.) These were the same flights that the agent at the US call center couldn’t price.

She priced Bogota to Havana at 17,000 miles + $15.

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Fantastic! I had 18,000 Lufthansa miles, so I could book one of the awards with Lufthansa miles.

I continued my research.

Singapore KrisFlyer

The Singapore award chart shows a price of 17,500 miles from the United States to the Caribbean. Havana to Bogota would be 25,000 miles.

I called KrisFlyer and tried to price my Copa award. Three different agents priced it at 35,000 miles one way. For whatever reason, the computer wanted to collect Washington to Panama and Panama to Havana as two separate awards.

I didn’t bother to price Havana to Bogota because I knew it would be cheaper with Lufthansa miles, but I am confident it would have cost 25,000 Singapore miles.

Asiana Club

The Asiana chart shows Colombia to Cuba costing 17,500 miles and the United States to the Caribbean at 17,500 miles also.

I priced out Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles + $15.

I didn’t bother to price out Washington to Havana because I had all the information I needed.

How I Booked

I had the perfect amount of Lufthansa and Asiana miles to book the two Star Alliance awards. If I hadn’t had those perfect amounts, I would have transferred Starpoints to Lufthansa miles. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Singapore, Lufthansa, and Asiana miles. And every 20,000 points transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus.

When the Asiana agent priced Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles one way, I immediately booked. I got the following email a few minutes later with my confirmation number.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.29 AM Next I called Lufthansa back. Because of the time of day, I called the Australian Miles & More center at +61 1300 – 655 727 for 2 cents a minute through gmail. I booked Washington to Havana for 17,000 miles + $7. My confirmation came quickly via email.Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.42 AM

 

Last I signed into my American Airlines account and ticketed Bogota to Washington, which I had held earlier in the day. It cost 15,000 miles + $95 (though I’ll get about $35 back upon check in.)

Bottom Line

Lufthansa, Avianca, Singapore, and Asiana are all willing to ticket award tickets to Cuba, even if they begin in the United States. Copa has several destinations in America from which you can get to Cuba with only one connection in Panama. If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can connect on United and Copa flights to Panama and then to Havana on your Miles & More award.

Search for the award space on lifemiles.com and call the non-US call center of the airline whose miles you want to use. You can book a roundtrip for as little as 34,000 Lufthansa miles, which is 29,000 Starpoints.

To get Starpoints, open the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Just meeting the minimum spending requirement gives you more than enough points for a roundtrip award to Cuba.

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Earn up to 20 free hotel nights after meeting spending $2,500 in the first 90 days on the Club Carlson Visa.

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Updated March 23, 2015 with the addition of Qantas as a partner

Citi ThankYou Points are now transferable to one hotel and 11 airline programs. Folks who have a Citi ThankYou® Premier, Citi Prestige®, or Citi Chairman card can transfer Citi ThankYou Points at a 1:1 ratio to:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

You can also transfer 1,000 ThankYou Points to 1,500 Hilton HHonors points.

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This is an incredible step forward for Citi ThankYou Points and puts them in the ranks of the big three transferable points programs.

Certainly I would like to see more and better partners added to the transfer possibilities, specifically Citi’s partner American Airlines, but this is a great start and there is value with Citi’s current transfer partners.

  • What are the best Citi ThankYou Points transfer partners?
  • How can you get ThankYou Points?
  • How can you transfer ThankYou Points?
  • What are the other ThankYou Points redemption options?

Best Transfer Partners

Singapore KrisFlyer

The best Citi ThankYou points transfer partner is Singapore KrisFlyer. Singapore was already a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Now it is even easier to get the most useful Star Alliance miles for travel in the Western Hemisphere.

Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so its miles can be used to book flights on any of the 27 member airlines. Singapore miles are also the only miles that can be used to book the ultra-luxurious Singapore Suites.

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Singapore Airlines collects fuel surcharges on most award flights, but not those flown by United, Taca, Avianca, and Copa. Here are some of my favorite Singapore Airlines awards (click the links for full posts on them):

  1. Between the continental United States and Hawaii on United flights for 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles in First with no fuel surcharges. United charges 22,500 and 40,000 miles respectively for the same flights! (Get the flat bed in first!)
  2. Two free one ways to Hawaii plus a roundtrip to South America for 50,000 miles total in economy and 80,000 miles in Business/First with no fuel surcharges. United would charge a ton more miles.
  3. Two free one ways to Hawaii plus a roundtrip to Central America or two free one ways to Central America plus a roundtrip to Hawaii for 35,000 miles total in economy and 60,000 miles in Business/First with no fuel surcharges. United would charge a ton more miles.
  4. Booking Singapore Suites, one of the world’s nicest First Class products on the A380. Singapore miles are the only way to book the award, which is pricey in miles and includes a fuel surcharge, but is worth it for lovers of luxury.

Air France Flying Blue

Flying Blue miles are the key to booking Promo awards: 12,500 mile awards to anywhere in Europe or Israel. Flying Blue miles can be used to book any SkyTeam award space, and Flying Blue has a very cheap award chart to many places including Hawaii (15,000 miles one way.)

Here is my full post on the best options to book with Flying Blue miles.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic miles can book super cheap one way awards to London:

  • 17,500 miles in economy
  • 27,500 miles in Premium Economy
  • 40,000 miles in Upper Class (flat bed Business Class)

These awards have fuel surcharges, but they are so much cheaper in miles than other airlines charge that fuel surcharges may be worth paying.

Virgin Atlantic miles can also be used to book awards on partners like Delta, Virgin America, Virgin Australia, and Hawaiian. You can book a roundtrip to Buenos Aires on Delta for only 45,000 miles and no fuel surcharges!

Here is my full post on the best options to book with Virgin Atlantic miles.

How to Get ThankYou Points

The easiest way to earn a bundle of ThankYou Points is with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

 

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Annual Fee: $125 (fee waived for the first 12 months). On  4/19/2015, this fee will be reduced to $95 on all accounts
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

To get the full 50,000 point bonus, you do have to pay part of one annual fee of $95 (the annual fee is waived the first year, but you have to hold the card a second year.) Those 50,000 points would now transfer to Singapore Airlines and be enough for a roundtrip to South America with two free one ways to Hawaii!

For better perks, check out the Citi Prestige® Card:

  • Sign Up Bonus: 30,000 ThankYou Points after $2,000 in spending
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on air travel and hotels, 2x on restaurants and entertainment
  • Air travel fee credit:  $250 annual credit ($500 first year of cardmembership)
  • Lounge access: Admirals Clubs lounges and Priority Pass lounges worldwide
  • Free hotel nights: Get your 4th night free on all paid hotel stays (no blackout dates)
  • Global Entry: $100 application fee credit
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $450 not waived, well worth it for some

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

How to Transfer

From thankyou.com, look for the Points Transfer on the Do More tab.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.33.25 AM

You’ll see the redemption options. I initiated a transfer to Singapore Airlines to see how the process works.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.59.25 AM

As with Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards transfers, you must send increments of 1,000. Interestingly the name on the Singapore Airlines account is already pre-set to the cardholder’s name, so it doesn’t look like you can transfer to anyone else’s account. (Of course, I can book anyone an award from my Singapore Airlines account.)

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.35.07 AM

Other Redemption Options

Before the transfer option to airlines, the best redemption option for Citi ThankYou Points was to redeem for any flight on any airline for 1.25 cents of value per point. Most flights could be booked on thankyou.com and other flights by calling 800-THANKYOU.

That option is still around, but I don’t plan on taking advantage because I know I can get far more than 1.25 cents of value from the points as Singapore miles.

For free economy flights, I’ll continue to use my Arrival miles, since the 40,000 bonus miles earned on the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® can also be used for free flights on any airline but cannot be transferred to any airlines.

There are other redemption options for ThankYou Points, like merchandise. Avoid these options like the plague for their low return on ThankYou Points.

Two Final Thoughts

1. This transferability is really nice if you ever want to close the ThankYou card.

With cards that earn bank points, those points disappear when you close the card. (Not so for cards that earn airline miles or points.)

It would have been tough to redeem your balance close to zero before closing the card with the prior redemption options. Now you can always transfer out points until your balance is under 1,000.

2. I really, really hope Citi adds American Airlines as a transfer partner.

Citi has purchased billions of American Airlines miles as part of their partnership with the co-branded American Airlines cards, so it is strange that American Airlines isn’t on the transfer list. Making it stranger: it’s not as if the only way to earn American Airlines miles from a credit card is with the co-branded American Airlines cards. American Airlines miles are a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest points, which you can get from the SPG credit cards.

Bottom Line

Citi added 11 airlines as 1:1 transfer partners of ThankYou Points over the last few months. This is a huge addition to the program, but I really want to see American Airlines added also.

You can get over 50,000 ThankYou Points from the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card, which has a huge sign up bonus and big category bonuses.

The best transfer partner for those ThankYou points is Singapore KrisFlyer. The Singapore Airlines program allows redemption on all 27 Star Alliance airlines including United flights with no fuel surcharges.

There are some amazing gems on the Singapore Airlines award chart, and Singapore miles are the only way to book Singapore Suites, one of the world’s nicest First Class products.

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It is cheaper to book the exact same United flights to Hawaii with Singapore KrisFlyer miles than with United miles.

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 United miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 70,000 Singapore miles. Instead of paying 160,000 United miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 120,000 Singapore miles–even occasionally for flat beds!

To reiterate, these are the exact same flights with vastly different prices depending on which miles you use. Singapore even has access to all the same Saver award space United releases to people with United miles (except for some space set aside only for United elites and credit card holders.)

What’s the catch? For bookings to Hawaii, there really isn’t one.

  • Singapore awards cost fewer miles than United awards
  • Singapore awards are way cheaper to change or cancel than United awards if your plans change
  • Singapore awards do not have a fee for booking within three weeks of departure like United awards do
  • Singapore awards on United flights within the United States (including Hawaii) do not have fuel surcharges, so both types of awards will just have identical taxes of around $11 roundtrip.
  • Singapore miles are easier to get than United miles, and even share a key transfer partner.

Getting Singapore Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of the four major transferable points program:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1
  2. Citi ThankYou Points, 1:1
  3. American Express Membership Rewards, 1:1
  4. SPG Starpoints, 1:1 with a bonus. Every 20,000 Starpoints transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus, so the ideal transfers are in exact increments of 20,000 Starpoints to 25,000 Singapore miles.

. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

  • Citi ThankYou® Premier Card50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also earns 3x points on travel and has
  • Citi Prestige® Card: 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.
  • Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. 2x on dining and travel.
  • Ink Plus (business card): 50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. 5x on office supplies and telecom bills.
  • Whichever Membership Rewards card (Platinum or Gold, personal or business) is offering a big 50,000, 75,000, or 100,000 point sign up bonus

To compare this to earning United miles, United has its own co-branded personal and business cards plus is a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards but not any of the other three transferable points programs.

Searching for Award Space, Transferring Miles, and Booking the Awards

You will have to search for award space on the United flights on united.com; then you will call Singapore Airlines at 213-404-0301 to book the awards.

Here’s how to search united.com. Make sure that you do NOT sign into united.com when searching for award space that you plan to book with another type of miles because signing in can cause award space set aside for elites or credit card holders to appear, and that space is not bookable with other types of miles like Singapore miles.

How to Interpret the Calendar

The first thing you’ll notice when you search for award space to Hawaii on united.com is that it’s widely available for much of the year. Here’s a calendar of the next month and a half. Yellow days have Saver economy award space; blue days have Saver First Class space; green days have Saver space in both cabins. Singapore miles can book all the Saver space that is depicted on these calendars.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.00.29 PM

How to Interpret the Itineraries

Once you select a date, the itineraries will be displayed from shortest travel time to longest travel time. Most results will have four columns of award space. You can ignore the Economy Standard Award and First / BusinessFirst Standard Award columns. Singapore miles cannot book that space.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.00.50 PM

We’re looking for a blue button in one of the Saver columns.Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.01.08 PM

The “First / BusinessFirst” column is especially interesting and potentially confusing to people unfamiliar with award terminology.

Two vs. Three Cabin First Class

The vast majority of United’s domestic flights have two cabins that are sold as Economy and First. Internationally, United’s two cabin flights are sold as Economy and BusinessFirst. Whenever United operates a two-cabin plane, the premium cabin’s awards are priced at the Business Class award price by United and by Singapore.

Extremely rarely, you will encounter a plane on a domestic route with three cabins: Economy, Business, and First. Whenever any itinerary is available with any flight with three cabins, the four columns you’re used to seeing on the search results turn into six columns.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.05.34 PM

United charges 50,000 miles if any of the segments is in First Class on a three cabin plane. Singapore would charge 40,000 miles. But again, these flights are rare, and you can get flat beds in two cabin planes for 30,000 Singapore miles.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.05.53 PM

Flat Beds

Both Business and First Class on three cabin planes have flat beds.

On two cabin planes, you can occasionally find flat beds in First Class. To find out if your plane has flat beds, click View Seats on the itinerary. Regular seats look like squares with rounded edges.
Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.01.21 PM

Beds look like little beds.Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.02.26 PM

Some 777-200s feature flat beds, and all 767-400ERs feature flat beds. Flights from Newark and Washington-Dulles to Honolulu all feature flat beds, and some San Francisco and Houston flights feature flat beds.

Mixed Cabin Awards

Many awards on united.com in the premium cabin columns say “Mixed Cabin.” Holding your cursor over “Mixed Cabin” launches a pop up that says which cabin is available on each flight.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.04.19 PM

You always have to pay the full price of the premium cabin award even though part of the award is an inferior cabin.

Singapore Airlines also lets you book mixed cabin awards for the full Business Class price.

Whether you want to book a mixed cabin is up to you. I just booked myself one because my first flight is about 2 hours in economy, and the next is 8.5 hours in a flat bed. That seemed worth paying 30,000 Singapore miles.

Transferring Miles

Transfers from Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points to Singapore miles all take about 36 hours. SPG transfers take at least that long.

Once I find award space, I initiate the transfer.

Award space changes all the time, so in a worst case scenario, your award space could disappear before your miles posted. If you can’t handle this outcome, transfer Ultimate Rewards to United miles instantly instead, and pay the extra miles.

I can handle the small chance that my award space will disappear. Maybe it will reappear later. If not, I can always use Singapore miles in the future for a different high value award.

How to Book Singapore Awards

Once your miles post, you have to call Singapore Airlines to book the award. Call 213-404-0301 and be ready with your Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer account number and six digit PIN.

Feed the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of each flight you want.

For cabin, call United First Class on its two cabin planes “Business Class” because that is what the agent needs to search for.

The agent will charge you taxes denominated in Singapore dollars. If you convert that price to US dollars, it should be about $5.60 per person per direction, the standard taxes on domestic awards.

Within a few minutes, you should get an email from Singapore Airlines with an attachment like this.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.13.16 AM

Picking Seats

To pick your seats and confirm that your reservation was ticketed correctly, head to united.com and input the Singapore Airlines confirmation number on the home page. The Singapore Airlines confirmation number is the six letter/number code listed on your email attachment next to “Booking Reference.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.16.56 AM

United.com will recognize the Singapore Airlines confirmation number. You can select your seats and note your United confirmation number, which will be a different six letter/number code.

Other Benefits of Singapore Airlines Awards Over United Awards

  1. United charges $75 to book an award within 21 days of departure. Singapore charges no fee for such bookings.
  2. United charges $200 to cancel an award booking and get your miles back. Singapore charges $30.
  3. United charges $75 to $100 to change an award booking. Singapore charges $20.

My Experience Booking United to Hawaii with Singapore Miles

Today, I found out that I don’t need to go to New York this week, so I’ll start my trip to Hawaii a bit early. Booking so late in the game is no problem because United offers excellent last minute award space to Hawaii.

I needed to book an award from Atlanta to Honolulu, so I searched united.com and found a mixed-cabin award with Atlanta to Houston in economy and Houston to Honolulu in a flat bed in United First Class on a two cabin plane.

A short hop in the back before a long flight in a bed
A short hop in the back before a long flight in a bed

The award would have cost 40,000 United miles and $80.60 to book including United’s $75 fee for booking within 21 days of departure. I noted the flight number, dates, and cabins plus my KrisFlyer number and PIN.

I already had 30,000 Singapore miles in my account because I transferred Citi ThankYou points and Chase Ultimate Rewards weeks ago in anticipation of booking an award to Hawaii in First Class when I knew what date I wanted to fly.

I called Singapore Airlines and fed the agent the information and called the First Class cabin on my United flight “Business Class.”

He priced the award at 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + 7.8 Singapore dollars ($5.66.) I booked the ticket with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card because it has no foreign transaction fees and earns bonus points for airfare purchases and got an email confirmation a few minutes later. I input the Singapore confirmation code into the United app on my phone and selected my seat and bed.

Bottom Line

Use Singapore miles instead of United miles to book economy and First Class awards to Hawaii on United flights. You’ll pay fewer miles, lower fees, and be able to book the exact same seats. Plus Singapore miles are so easy to get as a transfer partner of pretty much everyone.

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Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

2

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Singapore Airlines has lowered the fuel surcharges on its flights, which means your Singapore Suites Class bookings are now cheaper. You know Singapore Suites Class as the only cabin that offers a double bed on an airplane (besides the three-room suite on Etihad’s A380.)

Singapore Suites is the First Class cabin on the Singapore Airlines A380. The only way to book Singapore Suites or First Class on the Singapore 777 is with Singapore miles. Luckily Singapore miles are super easy to get as Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase, American Express, Citi, and Starpoints. (Transfers from the first three programs take less than 48 hours.)

Singapore collects fuel surcharges on awards when the underlying cash ticket would have a fuel surcharge. That means that every dollar Singapore dropped its fuel surcharges today is a dollar you save next time you book Singapore Suites Class.

  • What is the Singapore Suites product?
  • What are the fuel surcharges on Singapore Suites awards?

Product

Singapore Suites Class is a fully enclosed suite with over the top service, fancy alcohol, and delicious food.

The cabin is laid out 1-2-1 and is most famous because the two suites in the middle can be combined into one double bed. If the cabin isn’t full, sometimes they even offer the double bed to a solo traveler!

 

This is one of the best, if not the best, product in the world.

 

Award Pricing

There are no nonstop flights from the United States to Singapore. Singapore Airlines serves New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, all with a stop somewhere en route to Singapore. For instance, Houston to Singapore stops in Moscow. You can book Houston to Moscow, Moscow to Singapore, or Houston to Singapore.

Singapore Suites and First Class awards have an eye-popping headline miles price, but you get an automatic 15% discount for booking online, so the prices become a lot more palatable.

  • Los Angeles or San Francisco to Singapore: 91,375 miles one way in Suites/First Class
  • Houston or New York to Singapore: 93,500 miles one way in Suites/First Class
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo and San Francisco to Seoul: 74,375 miles one way in Suites/First Class
  • Houston to Moscow and New York to Frankfurt: 57,375 miles one way in Suites/First Class

New York to Frankfurt to Singapore

New York to Singapore costs 93,500 mile s+ $286.70 when booked online.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.42.24 PM

That’s a drop of about $70 from last week.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.43.15 PM

New York to Frankfurt

Just the New York to Frankfurt leg is 57,375 miles + $203.30. That’s a $15 break from last week.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.51.26 PM

Los Angeles to Tokyo

Los Angeles to Tokyo now goes for 74,375 miles +$183.60.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.52.35 PM

That’s actually $11 more than it was last week!Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.52.39 PM

 

Singapore to London

This is the route I booked for myself in Singapore Suites two years ago. It now costs 91,375 miles + 278.9 SGD ($223.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.53.42 PM

When I booked the route, I paid 315 SGD, about $30 more.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.53.48 PM

Award Space

In a word: pitiful. You can search award space on singaporeair.com as explained in Booking Singapore Suites. I didn’t find any Saver award space on a Singapore A380 in Suites Class from the United States on my searches. I didn’t search every day on every route, but I searched some off peak times for a few weeks at a time. There’s probably some space out there, but not much.

Singapore Suites Class is not a product you can easily fit into a schedule. It’s a product that you schedule around.

Bottom Line

Singapore Suites Class is fantastic. Awards to get into Singapore Suites Class got cheaper today as Singapore Airlines dropped fuel surcharges. None of it matters if you can’t actually book the Saver awards, which at the moment are very rare to/from the United States. Check between Singapore and Europe for better space.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

I’m intrigued by flights and awards that don’t involve America. If there’s a cool award to get from Australia to SE Asia, that can be integral to a longer, better, and cheaper trip.

My two favorite continents to explore are South America and Europe. Although I’ve never flown directly between the two continents, there are some intriguing options (all of which are fuel surcharge-free):

  • Singapore First Class for only 59,000 miles one way
  • Avianca Dreamliner direct from second-tier cities
  • Swiss Business Class
  • British Airways First Class, super-duper cheap on the US Airways award chart
  • Economy class for only 20,000 miles one way

Obviously you won’t be very interested in flights like these for a weeklong vacation, but if you have a month free or a year when you’re traveling around the world, there are great reasons to fly from South America to Europe or vice versa.

The Brazil Effect

It is illegal to add fuel surcharges to flights in Brazil. In practice, this means that international airlines don’t add fuel surcharges to their flights out of Brazil but do add fuel surcharges on their flights to Brazil.

(Weirdly the only exception I know is that British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Avios awards out of Brazil. American Airlines does NOT collect fuel surcharges on the same British Airways flights out of Brazil as I’ll show below.)

That means that, while it is the same number of miles in either direction between Europe and South America, it will often be hundreds of dollars cheaper to fly from South America to Europe instead of vice versa.

Several of the deals in this post have fuel surcharges unless you fly from South America to Europe via Brazil.

Avianca Dreamliner from Second Tier Cities

I wrote about Avianca’s brand new Dreamliner the other day. I didn’t mention the European routes:

  • Bogota to London starting July 2, 2015
  • Bogota to Madrid starting July 31
  • Cali to Madrid starting October 20
  • Medellin to Madrid starting December 19

I’m most intrigued by the Cali and Medellin flights. How often to you get to fly 10 hours from a country’s second-tier cities without having to connect through the big hub airport? (This is a reason to love the 787 Dreamliner; theoretically it should make more of these routes possible.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 11.58.34 AM
Avianca Dreamliner Bed

Award space is sparse on the Medellin and Cali flights to Madrid for one person in Business Class once they appear on the schedule partly because neither is a daily flight. But the space does exist, and I will assume if you are flying from South America to Europe that you have a pretty flexible schedule.

Medellin

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.42.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.42.03 PM

CaliScreen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.41.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.58 PM

Bogota

Bogota-to-Madrid space, by contrast is wide open. Note that not all flights are operated by the fully flat beds of the 787. Some are on the pretty comfortable, but not fully flat, beds of the A330.Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.40.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.39.51 PM

United charges 80,000 miles one way from Northern South America to Europe in Business Class on the Avianca Dreamliner, which is steep. Lufthansa charges only 67,000 miles one way in Business Class from South America to Europe. Singapore charges 78,000 miles one way.

Swiss Business Class

I wrote about Swiss Business Class today because it looks fantastic and United is discounting it through Saturday from the United States to Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.24.41 AM

Swiss flies from Sao Paulo to Zurich with Business Class award space that will initially look familiar to anyone who read today’s post on Swiss’ award space from the United States. There is good award space for the next month.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.45.50 AM

What might surprise, though, is that there is also good award space in July and August. From the United States, Swiss is very stingy with award space more than a few weeks out.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.46.42 AM

United charges 87,500 miles one way from Southern South America to Europe in Business Class, which is steep. Lufthansa charges only 67,000 miles one way in Business Class from South America to Europe. Singapore charges 78,000 miles one way.

Singapore First Class

Singapore Airlines flies a route from Sao Paulo to Barcelona to Singapore and vice versa. Just like its New York to Frankfurt to Singapore leg, you can book any single part as an award.

And Sao Paulo to Barcelona is way underpriced at 58,225 Singapore miles + $37 one way for 10.5 hours in Singapore First Class–one of the nicest in the world.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 4.24.00 PM

The only way this could be better is if the route were operated by an A380 instead of a 777-300ER, but the service and food will still be the same. I flew the Singapore 777-300ER in First Class, and the bed is very comfortable.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.02.39 PM
New Singapore First Class

 

British Airways First Class

British Airways flies from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to London. You normally can’t get onto British Airways award flights without fuel surcharges, but because of the Brazil departure, American Airlines just collects miles and taxes.

American charges a rather pricey 70k miles each way in Business and 90k miles each way in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 4.26.41 PM

On the bright side, taxes are only $37.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 4.27.43 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 4.27.47 PM

You can get on these flights much more cheaply as part of a roundtrip US Airways award.

  • 70k US Airways miles roundtrip in economy from South America to Europe
  • 100k miles roundtrip in Business Class
  • 130k miles roundtrip in First Class

It is harder to think of reasons an American would want to book a roundtrip award from South America to Europe, but you can always return from Europe to South America via North America and simply not fly the North America to South America leg(s.)

I actually once booked myself a roundtrip Business Class award from South America to Europe with US Airways miles and did exactly that–I skipped my Chicago to Buenos Aires flights.

You could book:

  • Rio de Janeiro to London (British Airways First Class)
  • open jaw
  • Berlin to London to Los Angeles (American Airlines First Class on its best plane)
  • Los Angeles to Dallas to Rio de Janeiro (within 24 hours of landing in Los Angeles, in any cabin, collect bags in LA and go home without flying)

This would cost only 130,000 US Airways miles.

Flying Blue Promo Awards

You know those posts I write every month about Flying Blue Promo awards? Promo awards allow you to fly from the United States to Europe or Israel for as little as 12,500 miles one way. The fuel surcharges in economy are bearable, and the fuel surcharges out of Brazil are even better: zero as usual.

Here’s a full post on Promo awards out of Brazil.

Promo awards can cost as little as 20,000 miles one way in economy and 40,000 in Premium economy between Brazil and anywhere in Europe.

Here are the current Promo awards.

Bottom Line

There are some cheap, interesting, and luxurious award possibilities between South America and Europe. Flying from South America to Europe will often be cheaper because award flights out of Brazil do not have fuel surcharges in almost all programs.

Check out Singapore First Class, an underpriced US Airways award, or an economy flight for only 20,000 miles. as part of your big trip around the world.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Singapore miles are fantastic for booking domestic awards on United flights. Singapore has access to all the exact same Saver award space on United flights that United miles have access to (except extra space set aside for elites), and Singapore charges fewer miles on some routes.

Singapore miles are also easier to get than United miles. Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, AMEX Membership Rewards, and SPG Starpoints. (And 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 Singapore miles automatically as with all 1:1 SPG partners.)

Last week I needed to book myself a one way ticket from Washington-Dulles to Houston, and Singapore miles were perfect for the task.

Why Singapore Miles?

I have to fly from Washington-Dulles to Houston on a Sunday in April. I have no date flexibility. Because that’s two United hubs, and they are the only carrier with a direct flight, the convenient direct flights are very expensive at $277. Even one-stop flights are $174, and I hate to connect when I don’t have to.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 1.57.49 PM

United and Singapore charge the same amount for an economy award within the continental United States: 12,500 miles each way. Singapore is much cheaper on other awards.

  • 20,000 Singapore miles vs. 25,000 United for a one way in First Class within continental US
  • 17,500 Singapore miles vs. 22,500 United for a one way in economy to Hawaii
  • 30,000 Singapore miles vs. 40,000 United for a one way in First Class to Hawaii

But for the award I had in mind, Singapore miles and United miles were the same price. I chose to use Singapore miles instead of United miles to use some orphan miles balances and because United miles are more versatile overall, so I’d rather save them.

I had 625 Singapore miles, 7,200 ThankYou Points, and plenty Ultimate Rewards. I was able to use almost all my Singapore miles, almost all my ThankYou Points, and just 5,000 Ultimate Rewards for the ticket.

Transferring, Searching, Booking, Timing

The timing of the aspects of a Singapore award are very important and are dictated by the fact that transfers into Singapore miles take about 36 hours. Here are the steps:

  1. Search for Saver space on united.com
  2. If found, transfer points to Singapore miles.
  3. Wait 24-48 hours and hope space doesn’t disappear.
  4. Book your award with Singapore miles.
1. Searching on United.com

I headed to united.com to search from Dulles to Houston. I selected “Nonstop Flights Only” because that was my strong preference. (Don’t sign in before searching. Signing in may show you extra award space Singapore miles can’t access.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.29 PM

Despite sky-high cash fares, the award availability on direct flights between the two hubs is wide open. There is economy award space every day and First Class space around half the days.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.43 PM

Here are the results for a typical day. I’ve highlighted the Saver Award column because that is the only space that Singapore miles can access.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.31.58 PM

Ignore the miles prices listed. Since we’ll use Singapore miles, we pay the prices on Singapore’s chart. In this case, that would be 12,500 miles in economy and 20,000 in First Class. Even that modest premium is not worth paying for a three-hour flight in my estimation. (The one exception is that I might pay it for First Class on the 5 PM flight. It is operated by a 767-300 with fully flat beds in First Class. You can check that out by clicking View Seats and seeing the bed icon.)

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.32.56 PM

The perfect flight time had economy award space, so I noted the date, cabin, and flight number.

2. Transferring the Points

Since award space existed on my preferred flight, it was time for me to transfer my points. Transfers from all the transferable points programs take about 24-48 hours.

There is nothing you can do in the interim except hope space doesn’t disappear. I was never worried because my route has so much award space.

On some routes, during some transfers, space will disappear. That stinks, but the good news is that Singapore miles are pretty valuable and have a decent number of uses, so even if your plan falls through in one instance, you can still use the Singapore miles later.

I went into my thankyou.com account and transferred 7,000 ThankYou Points to Singapore miles. ThanYou requires transfers in multiples of 1,000, so that was the most I could transfer from my account which had 7,200 points. I quickly got a confirmation email of my transfer.

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.36.01 PM

Then I went to ultimaterewards.com and transferred 5,000 Ultimate Rewards to my Singapore account. I got another confirmation email.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.35.39 PM

Both of the transfers posted about 36 hours later on January 18. The date in my Singapore account reflects the transfer date, not when they actually posted.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.37.03 PM

3. Hoping Space Stays

Once the points transfers posted, I checked united.com, and Saver space was still present on the flight I wanted.

4. Booking the Ticket

I called Singapore at (213) 404-0301 to book the award. I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the flight I wanted. He priced it at 12,500 miles and 7.5 Singapore dollars ($5.60.)

I ticketed the award.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.37.40 PM

I went to united.com and typed in my confirmation number from Singapore, and I was able to get my United confirmation number and select a seat on the flight.

Getting Singapore Miles

Getting Singapore miles is extremely easy now.

Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 in 22-36 hours to Singapore miles. If I had all four types of points in this section, transferring ThankYou Points would be my first choice. This is the best ThankYou Points transfer partner, and the other options like redeeming the points for 1.25 cents each toward any flight aren’t nearly as valuable.

To get 55,000 ThankYou Points after spending $5,000 over 15 months, start with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card.

My Review of the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

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  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember
  • Annual Fee: $125 (fee waived for the first 12 months). On  4/19/2015, this fee will be reduced to $95 on all accounts
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

The card also offers 3x points on dining and entertainment and 2x points on travel. (These categories flip flop on April 19.)

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Singapore miles in about a week. Like all SPG 1:1 transfer partners, for every 20,000 points transferred, you’ll get 5,000 bonus miles. Try to transfer in exact 20,000 Starpoint increments to maximize this 20,000:25,000 transfer ratio.

You can earn Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express.

Chase Ultimate Rewards earned from the Ink Plus and Sapphire Preferred transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer miles in a day or two. Points from the Freedom can transfer to any of those three cards‘ accounts and from there on to Singapore.

Ultimate Rewards are the only one of the four points that also transfer 1:1 to United miles, so people with Ultimate Rewards should definitely bookmark this post that compares awards using United and Singapore miles.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer miles in a day or two. Any Gold, Platinum, Green, EveryDay, or corporate card will earn Membership Rewards.

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My friend just booked a Singapore Airlines award with two stopovers, one destination, and one open jaw. He’ll be hopping through the Americas for six weeks for 60,000 miles and $123.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.12.41 AM

I’m especially keen to highlight this award because:

  • it’s interesting
  • easy to copy
  • similar to awards I’ve written about theoretically
  • Singapore miles are the easiest to amass. Singapore KrisFlyer is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express, Chase, and Citi points. SPG points transfer 20,000 points to 25,000 Singapore miles.

Singapore Routing Rules

The type of miles you use determine the rules your award has to follow. He chose to use Singapore miles because of their great stopover rules. Unfortunately, it meant he was limited to six segments total.

Full Singapore Award Routing Rules

Relevant rules:

  • Singapore Airlines allows six segments per award.
  • Singapore allows one free stopover per roundtrip award and up to three additional stopovers for $100 each.
  • Singapore does not allow a stopover on one way awards.
  • Singapore allows one open jaw per roundtrip award.
  • Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance with access to Saver award space on all 27 airlines.

The Plan

My friend spends the South American summers in Buenos Aires. He wanted to visit family in Los Angeles over Christmas. He briefly toyed with heading to Hawaii, which is very possible on an award like this, and it even drops the price, but decided instead to focus on breaking up his journey with a stopover in each direction.

Since you probably don’t live in Buenos Aires, just imagine he lives in Los Angeles and wants to go to Buenos Aires with a stopover in each direction to make this more analogous to an award most Americans would want to book.

This award between the United States and South America costs 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 100,000 in business according to the Singapore award chart. United charges the same 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy, but 110,000 roundtrip in business.

In addition to the destination Los Angeles, my friend wanted a stopover in each direction. The first one is free, the second is $100 on a Singapore award. United would just allow one stopover.

Singapore awards usually include fuel surcharges, but none of Singapore’s partners to South America–United, TACA, Avianca, or Copa–have fuel surcharges on their award flights booked with Singapore miles.

Routing

Copa Airlines offers a ton of award space from its hub in Panama City to 10 American cities and throughout Central and South America.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 11.29.30 AM

My friend decided to stopover in Panama City in one direction.

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For the other direction, he got even more creative, checking all the direct flights out of Los Angeles on Star Alliance carriers on Wikipedia.

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One that caught his eye was United’s flight to Cancun.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 12.45.06 AM

Unfortunately because of the six-segment limit on roundtrip Singapore awards, he’d probably need a direct flight on Copa from Cancun to Panama City to keep his segments total low. Wikipedia confirms there is such a flight.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 12.45.20 AM

Finally, he decided to return to Montevideo instead of Buenos Aires. Montevideo is just a short ferry ride away from Buenos Aires.

That left his routing like this with the minimum segments possible in parentheses:

  • Buenos Aires to Panama City (1 segment) stopover 1
  • Panama City to Los Angeles (1 segment) destination
  • Los Angeles to Cancun (1 segment) stopover 2
  • Cancun to Montevideo (2 segments) open jaw between origin and destination

This award is valid with one segment to spare (that he’d end up using because of less than ideal search results.) It should cost 60,000 Singapore miles total in economy plus government taxes plus $100 for the second stopover in Cancun.

The Execution

All the Star Alliance partners that fly in the Americas are searchable on united.com. Here’s how to search united.com.

The idea is to search all four “parts” of the award–separated by bullet points above–separately. If he found Saver economy award space, he would note the date and flight number, and later feed that to a Singapore phone agent. Singapore Airlines can book all the Saver award space of Star Alliance carriers found on united.com.

I’d strongly recommend performing these searches one way at a time instead of trying to save time by cramming them into a multi-city award search on united.com. You will just get error messages at worst and see fewer search results at best.

Searching one way at a time several months ago, he had success finding economy award space on all legs. His only hiccup was that he didn’t find direct award space from Panama City to Los Angeles, instead he’s connecting in Las Vegas on a combination of Copa and United flights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 12.44.50 AM

I just did a quick award search of the four parts of his award, and you can see there is excellent Business Class award space and good economy award space.

Buenos Aires to Panama

I limited the search to direct flights. Business Class award space (blue days) is widely available, while only February 23 has economy award space. My friend found economy award space when he searched, so the pattern of availability may have changed, or he may have been lucky.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 11.51.42 AM

Panama to Los Angeles

This is the calendar for Copa’s three direct flights only. There is plenty of space in both cabins. Possibly because this leg is on Christmas Eve, he didn’t find economy award space on the direct flight. There are connections available in El Salvador and Guatemala plus the one he chose in Las Vegas.Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 11.53.01 AM

Los Angeles to Cancun

Los Angeles to Cancun has a lot of award space in both cabins on the direct United flight if you fly Friday to Monday.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 11.53.54 AM

Cancun to Montevideo

These results are mostly with one stop in Panama. For whatever reason, February only has Business Class award space, while March has plenty Business and economy. He booked economy.Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 11.54.27 AM

After finding the award space, he called Singapore Airlines at (213) 404-0301. He fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment he had noted from united.com. The agent quickly pieced together the award.

This is the confirmation email that Singapore sent him.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 12.33.38 AM

He is spending:

  • 6 days in Panama
  • a month in Los Angeles including Christmas and New Year
  • 9 days in Cancun
  • returning to Montevideo instead of Buenos Aires

The award priced at 60,000 miles + 154 Singapore dollars ($123).

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 12.34.39 AM

That is all taxes. He was not charged $100 for his second stopover in accordance with the written rules of the KrisFlyer program. Sweet! Maybe you’ll get lucky too.

I’m not sure which points he transferred to his Singapore account, but in my experience Ultimate Rewards and ThankYou Points both post in 24-48 hours.

Getting the Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer to Singapore:

Bottom Line

My friend booked an incredible award with two stopovers, an open jaw, and a destination for only 60,000 miles and $123 in taxes. He’ll get to spend Christmas with his family, explore Panama and Cancun en route, and end up in a different city than where he started.

Singapore miles’ fantastic stopover rules and access to award space on all 27 Star Alliance carriers make this award possible. The best place to book an award like this is to South America because Singapore doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Copa, TACA, Avianca, or United award space, and the carriers have great award space throughout the Americas.

Singapore miles are easy to get because they are a transfer partner of every transferable points program!

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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I’ve covered what I think are the underpriced awards on the United (6) and American Airlines (5) award charts. But I also keep a keen eye on foreign, obscure programs for gems on their award charts.

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on other award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

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Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

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Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

Everyone disparages Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers.
Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.02 PM

There are fuel surcharges, but I think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europe or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class.

 

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It charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.01.45 PM

Hong Kong to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

You can also fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell me about it in the comments.
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If you THINK BIG, and take an amazing multi-destination trip, you’ll need to book several tickets to hop between destinations.

In the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia, flights are fairly cheap because of the many competing airlines, including low cost carriers. In other regions, like Africa and South America, short flights can be exorbitantly expensive as a lack of competition drives up prices.

When ticket prices are expensive, that’s the time to use miles. I’ve already laid out the cheapest intra-region bargain awards with American Airlines and United miles. There are also some excellent deals within a single region on the American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways award charts.

Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)
Hop Around My Favorite Continent for 12,500 of Which Miles? (from google.com)

The key to finding great miles uses within a single region is finding award charts with big regions.

For instance, Singapore Airlines categorizes all of South America as one region and charges only 12,500 miles each way in economy within the region. One route I’m looking at for a big trip in December is from Medellin, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ticket would cost $755 or 12,500 Singapore miles + $75. That’s over 5 cents of value per mile on an economy ticket!

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With the demise of American Airlines Explorer Awards, big trips will require many awards. Choosing the right miles for each of the small awards will really add up, so make sure you know the top intra-region awards.

  • What are the top intra-region awards with American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines, and US Airways miles?
  • What about British Airways Avios?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

This is the twentieth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics of several international airline programs which are transfer partners of one or more of the following types of points:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints
  • Citi ThankYou Points

I think of these international airlines programs as niche programs. Most of their redemption options are terrible because of fuel surcharges, but a few redemptions with each program are great because of no fuel surcharges or a super cheap miles price.

Know the great options in each program to save yourself miles and cash by maximizing these programs:

  • Singapore KrisFlyer (UR, MR, SPG, and TY)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (MR, SPG)
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (SPG, also the only one of these programs that offers a big 50k sign up bonus on an American credit card every few months)
  • ANA Mileage Club (MR, SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (MR, SPG)
  • Korean SkyPass (UR, SPG)

Why Collect These Miles?

Most of these programs have a sweet spot that lets you book the same flights for fewer miles than if you used United or Delta miles. For instance, pay 30,000 Singapore miles each way in First Class between the continental United States and Hawaii instead of 40,000 United miles.

Korean, Singapore, and Lufthansa miles allow the booking of mind-blowing First Class products you can’t book with Delta and United miles.

  • What airlines can you fly with these miles?
  • What are the routing rules for these awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special deals in each program?
  • What about fuel surcharges?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Last year I wrote “How to Book Multiple Awards from Different Accounts on the Same Flights.”

The idea is that you can never transfer miles from one airline to another, even if they are airline partners, but you can book two seats on the exact same flights with two different types of miles.

Last week I used 30,000 Singapore miles and 35,000 Lufthansa miles to book myself and a friend one way First Class flights on United from Honolulu to San Francisco.

United flies one flight a day from Honolulu to San Francisco on a 767-400ER with fully flat beds in First Class (in addition to the flights to Newark and Washington-Dulles which are always on 767-400ERs.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.02.03 AM
Sleeping in a flat bed on a previous United flight to Hawaii

Since my friend had never flown in First Class, since I really wanted to sleep the entire flight, and since Lufthansa and Singapore have reasonable miles prices for the flight, I decided to book us two First Class tickets.

I booked one ticket for 30,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles + $5.68 and the other for 35,000 Lufthansa Miles & More miles + $5.60.

This guide will be useful whenever you want to book two or more seats on the same flight with two or more types of miles from airline partners. One common situation is to book the same oneworld flights with American Airlines, US Airways, and/or British Airways miles.

  • How did I search for the award space?
  • How did I book the awards?
  • What big risk did I take?
  • What other types of miles work together like this?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Lufthansa First Class is no longer bookable using LifeMiles.

For the past few years, Lufthansa has only released first class award space to its Star Alliance partners 15 days before flight departure. LifeMiles, which is in the Star Alliance, used to be an excellent program with which to book these last-minute luxury flights.

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Recently, however, Lufthansa first class award seats have not been showing availability on lifemiles.com. When I called and talked an LifeMiles agent, he was also unable to find any Lufthansa first class availability.

This is another significant blow to the value of LifeMiles. Lufthansa first class is a great product, and enjoying the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt is on many frequent travelers’ bucket lists.

  • What’s so great about Lufthansa First Class?
  • Why is losing the ability to book Lufthansa First with LifeMiles such a big deal?
  • What other mileage programs can be used to book Lufthansa First?

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