Devaluations Make Korean and Singapore Miles Relatively Better for Premium Awards

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Korean Airlines releases the most First Class award space of any airline for a fantastic First Class product. All five possibilities are fully flat beds. Korean miles are the main way to book Korean First Class. (Delta miles cannot book partner First Class.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.37.36 PM

Singapore Suites is even more luxurious, possibly the most luxurious First Class in the world, and the only one that allows two suites to be combined into a flying double bed. Singapore miles are the only way to book Singapore Suites.

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In my mind, the problem with Korean First Class and Singapore Suites is the cost. Singapore charges for First/Suites Class (one way):

  • San Francisco to Hong Kong: 70,125 miles + $49.60 (15 hours flying)
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore: 91,375 miles + $263.30 (17:45 flying)
  • San Francisco to Seoul: 74,375 miles + $203.30 (12:50 flying)
  • San Francisco to Seoul to Singapore: 91,375 miles + $263.30 (19:20 flying)
  • Houston to Moscow-Domodedovo: 57,375 miles + $211.70 (10 hours flying)
  • Houston to Moscow-Domodedovo to Singapore: 93,500 miles + $271.70 (21:15 flying)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita: 74,375 miles + $113.30 (11:45 flying)
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita to Singapore: 91,375 miles + $275.97 (19:20 flying)
  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt: 57,375 miles + $203.30 (7:35 flying)
  • New York-JFK to Frankfurt to Singapore: 93,500 miles + $285.85 (20:05 flying)

Korean charges in First Class (one way):

  • United States to China, Japan, Korea, Northeast Asia: 80,000 miles
  • United States to Southeast Asia: 95,000 miles
  • United States to the Indian Subcontinent: 105,000 miles.
  • Fuel surcharges vary by destination but from the United States to Korea are usually $80 or less each way. From the United States to Southeast Asia, they can hit about $180 one way.

While a few prices were pretty good, most of those prices seemed high to me because American Airlines and United awards were fewer miles and had no fuel surcharges. Well, United devalued its First Class awards in 2014, and American Airlines devalued its chart on March 22.

Here’s what their charts look like now for First Class awards. Slashes indicate flying on that airline’s metal–cheaper–and flying a partner–more expensive.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 2.16.13 PM

Now, Korean and Singapore awards don’t look expensive; they look downright reasonable.

To Japan:

  • American charges 80k in First Class on American or Japan Airlines
  • United charges 80k in First Class on United
  • United charges 110k in First Class on ANA
  • Korean charges 80k and small fuel surcharges on Korean
  • Singapore charges 74.4k and tiny fuel surcharges on Singapore

At those prices, my top choices are Singapore, Japan Airlines with AA miles, and Korean in that order.

To Singapore:

  • American charges 110k in First Class on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines
  • United charges 80k in First Class on United
  • United charges 130k in First Class on ANA, Asiana, or Thai
  • Korean charges 95k and fuel surcharges on Korean
  • Singapore charges 91.4k or 93.5k and fuel surcharges on Singapore

At those prices, my top choices are Singapore and Korean in that order. Next is probably United First Class or Cathay Pacific, but they are way worse values.

You can find similar values to other places that show that Korean and Singapore awards are about to be as good or better value from the United States in First Class as American Airlines and United awards.

And for awards within Asia, Singapore (from 32,000 miles one way) and Korean (from 45,000 miles one way) offer some exceptional values.

Getting Korean and Singapore Miles

Getting Korean Miles

SPG points transfer 1:1 to Korean miles, and for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred, you get 5,000 extra Korean miles. So to get 80,000 Korean miles, you’d need to transfer 65,000 Starpoints. Starpoints transfers are not instant.

Ultimate Rewards also transfer 1:1 instantly to Korean miles. The best cards to get Ultimate Rewards are the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

Getting Singapore Miles

Every transferable points program transfers 1:1 to Singapore miles.

  • Citi ThankYou Points
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • SPG Starpoints (with the customary 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred)

The first three take about 36 hours to transfer. SPG transfers take about a week or two and seem to post on Tuesdays in Singapore.

That means you can get the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus mentioned above.

Or you can get the Citi Prestige, which offers 40,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Bottom Line

Korean and Singapore haven’t made improvements to their award charts, but as competitors devalue their charts, Korean and Singapore First and Suites Class become a better value.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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