Earning airmiles from credit cards

Earning airmiles from credit cards

Singapore is blessed with an amazing airport and one of the best airlines in the world in Singapore Airlines (SQ). As well our local flag carrier almost every major airline in the world, and a host of local budgets, fly into SIN giving us amazing choice when it comes to choosing flights. It is possible to get cheap(ish) economy flights almost anywhere, but our aim here is to collect airmiles to redeem for Business (J class) or First/Suites (F/R) on SQ.

SQ has one of the finest Business Class products in the world. From the free flow champagne, fine foods and massive seat that converts into a flat bed its an experience that everyone should try at least once. Unfortunately, because it is so good, its a bit expensive when paid for with cash. However, using airmiles in the KrisFlyer scheme its really quite attainable for anyone on an average salary.

Airmiles

Lets step back and just explain how airmiles work, and how you can collect them.

  • You can fly on an airline and earn miles from paid tickets. These are paid directly into your airline loyalty scheme, which in the case of SQ is called KrisFlyer. These miles are classed as ‘Elite’ and count towards status and the number earnt depends on the class of ticket bought. 50,000 miles per year are needed for KF Gold status which gives some of the benefits of Business class when you buy Economy tickets, such as more luggage and lounge access.
  • Partner Airlines. SQ is a member of Star Alliance with other major carriers, like United and EVA, and you can earn KF elite miles flying on these partners. You can also spend KF miles on these partners, which may come in handy in a pinch. The same principles apply for Malaysian Airlines and Cathay which are part of the OneWorld Alliance.
  • Unless you do a lot of flying most of your miles will come from spending on credit cards, which award them directly into your Krisflyer account, or more likely in batches via points conversion. Almost all the banks in Singapore have them and we’ll cover this in more detail below.
  • Conversion from other loyalty schemes. The major hotel chains award points for stay and these can often be converted into KF miles, sometimes at quite a good rate.
  • Other random opportunities, such as KrisflyerSpree, taking an Economist subscription, or buying F1 tickets.

Before you do anything else go and sign up for a Krisflyer account (its free), and use it for any flight on a Star Alliance airline. You could credit your flights to another carrier, and that might be a good choice, but as we are focused on flying on SQ, KF is the best choice for discounts and seat availability.

Choose your destination

Within Business class SQ actually has two levels – regional and long haul. Regional is fine, but long haul comes with a much bigger seat and the opportunity to convert into a flat bed. Due to the way SQ prices flights you get more value from your miles flying long haul (maybe 8c per mile) compared to short haul (4c per mile), that despite the high cost we need to look for routes with the long haul seat – and are places you actually want to go to!

A quick note on airmile redemptions, SQ offers them at Saver, Standard and Full prices. Saver is the only one ‘affordable’, but of course it has the least availability. Redemptions booked online receive a 15% discount, so don’t phone in unless you have to!

Some possible Saver redemptions, with online discount, for return plus surcharges include:

  • Hong Kong, 4 hours (on SQ2 & SQ1). 46,750 miles + $64.10
  • Sydney, 8 hours. 93,500 miles + $481
  • London, 13 hours. 136,000 miles + $859 (heavy UK airport taxes)

The full award chart is here, but lets target one return to Hong Kong. 47K miles is attainable, the taxes are low, and four hours is just about long enough to watch a movie and have a nice meal. If you plan to travel with a partner then double the miles, or have them copy this strategy!

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Select your credit cards

To earn 47K miles in a reasonable amount of time we need to get smart and sign up for multiple specialist cards with sign up bonuses. Sign-up bonuses come and go, so if the ones listed here have expired check this site for the latest deals. As sign up bonuses normally require minimum spend don’t go and sign up for these all at once or you might miss the bonus. But whatever you do don’t go forcing expenditure that you wouldn’t normally make, and always pay off your cards in full every month! Credit card interest or forced spending will wipe out the airmiles benefit before you know it.

Here is a list of cards with sign-up bonuses you can work through with a $30K minimum salary (for Singaporeans, foreigners will be $40K+). In the business this is known as card churning.

Name Normal earn rate Min spend Bonus miles Miles from bonus spend Fees
DBS Altitude Visa 1.2miles/$ $2K over 2 months 8K 2.4K $42.80 annual conversion to miles fee. Shared across all DBS cards.
DBS Altitude AMEX 1.2miles/$ $800 in one month 3K 960
American Express Rewards 0.4miles/$ $1500 over 3 months 13,333 1666 $53

These three cards should get you to around 29,000 miles over the course of around 4 months, but only if you can put most of your regular discretionary spend through them. You’ll need to visit places that take AMEX and avoid NETs. Start with the Visa as this can be your fallback for places that don’t take AMEX.

If you qualify with a higher salary there are more cards with larger sign up bonuses, though they often charge their first year’s fee for the miles. Examples include Citi Prestige and Standard Chartered VI.

While working through the bonus schemes you also need to look for specialist cards that earn around 4miles/$ for various categories. UOB is the master of specialist cards and I suggest you take a look at their Preferred Platinum Visa for online spend, as reviewed here. If you qualify you also need the DBS Woman’s World Mastercard for maximum online flexibility.

With a mixture of online and offline spend $1500 of monthly spend could easily earn 3000 miles, meaning it would only take another 6 months to reach your 47K mile target. I know that sounds like a long time, but once you get a system going you can easily earn enough miles for a Business class flight every year!

Once your mile earning system is running smoothly we need to talk about redemptions and waitlists. Come back soon for the next instalment…

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