Fly Free on Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is one of the world’s great carriers, and it has accumulated more accolades than almost any other airline. In this year’s Skytrax list of the 100 best airlines, Singapore was listed at #2. They won a number of World’s Best categories (cabin crew, First Class and First Class seat) as well as Best in Asia (airline, First Class lounge, Business Class seat and Premium Economy class). They were also named World’s Best International Airline for the 24th year in a row by Travel & Leisure magazine. The list goes on and on.

In addition to extremely comfortable seats and a superlative cabin crew, the airline is also known for its food. They’re famous for their Book the Cook program, which allows passengers in premium cabins to pre-order meals from a menu containing dozens of choices (Lobster Thermidor, anyone?). Dishes are designed by a culinary panel of eight celebrated chefs from around the world.

It’s little wonder, then, that booking Singapore’s Business, First or Suites class with frequent flyer miles is a redemption that travel junkies dream about. A round-trip, First Class flight between the U.S. and Singapore costs well over $10,000, and their luxurious Suites class can be twice as much.

The good news: Singapore is a member of the Star Alliance, a robust coalition of 27 member airlines, and has three dozen codeshare partners as well. The bad news is that Singapore is stingy with award space on partner airlines, particularly in premium cabins. Booking the flight of your dreams can easily turn into a time-consuming nightmare.

Fortunately, there’s a way to work around this. Singapore is much more generous with award space for members of Krisflyer, their frequent flyer program. The first thing you need to do is go on their website and sign up. However, if you don’t fly frequently in Asia or other routes where Singapore concentrates, don’t despair.

The best news of all is that four different point currencies transfer to KrisFlyer: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy points. The first three transfer at a 1:1 ratio; transactions usually must be in 1,000-point increments. In most cases the transfer occurs the same day, or within 1-2 days at the most. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio—but you receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Here are some important things to bear in mind:

Make sure you find the award space first before initiating the transfer, since all transactions are final.

Whenever possible, try to find a Saver rather than a Standard award. The difference can be significant: a one-way flight in Business class from Los Angeles to Singapore costs 125,000 miles for a Standard award, but only 95,000 for the Saver version.

Remember that all points are not created equal. If you redeem points for flights through credit card travel portals, Amex and Citi points would be worthless (one cent per point) than Chase points (1.25 to 1.5 cents, depending on which card you have). In this scenario, it makes sense to use your less valuable points first, since they all translate to miles at the same rate.

Once you do find and book award space, Singapore’s taxes and fees are negligible compared to outfits such as British Airways. It’s not completely free, but it’s pretty close.

The moral of this story, once again:

Transferable points are the most valuable reward currency you can have.

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