Which Credit Cards Offer The Most Transfer Partners?

Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong

Last updated 04 September, 2023

It’s time to start using all those credit card points you’ve racked up, but be warned: not all air miles credit cards are equal when it comes to transfer partners!

As every good miles collector knows, earning credit card points is just half the story. The real fun comes when you redeem them for flights.

But depending on which bank issues your card, you might either have access to just a couple of airline transfer partners or almost one dozen. And that in turn affects your options, whether it’s finding award flights during peak travel periods, getting to a hard-to-reach destination, or simply getting the most value out of your hard-earned points.

Table of contents


How many partners does each bank have?

Here’s a chart that summarises the points transfer partners available to each bank, whether airline or hotels. 

British Airways & Qatar Airways: two sides of the same coin
Back in February 2022, Qatar Airways announced its plans to drop its own Qmiles currency and adopt British Airways’ Avios instead. The integration is now complete, and members balances are now interchangeable- if I have 60,000 Avios in my British Airways Executive Club account, I will also see 60,000 Avios in my Qatar Airways Privilege Club account (assuming the two are linked).
 
What this means is that American Express, HSBC TravelOne and OCBC cardholders effectively have access to Qatar Privilege Club via British Airways, while Standard Chartered cardholders effectively have access to British Airways Executive Club via Qatar Airways.

You’ll probably notice that every bank supports KrisFlyer miles transfers, and almost every bank (except Standard Chartered) supports Asia Miles. These are pretty much table stakes in the Singapore credit card scene; I don’t think you could launch a credit card here and not offer them!

But there’s much more to life than just those two programmes, and the universe has been expanding rapidly, with the launch of the HSBC TravelOne Card and the expansion of OCBC’s STACK Rewards platform.

As you survey the options, here are a few things you should know. 

Exclusive Offer
Best Value
Featured

HSBC TravelOne Credit Card

HSBC TravelOne Credit Card

Min. Annual Income

S$
30,000

Local Spending

1.2
Miles Per Dollar

Overseas Spending

2.4
Miles Per Dollar
See more
See less

Exclusive SingSaver Promo

Receive a S$150 eCapitaVoucher when you apply and get approved for select HSBC credit cards. Existing HSBC cardmembers will receive S$50 eCapitaVoucher. Valid till 8 Nov 2023. T&Cs apply.

Get 20,000 miles (equal to a round trip air ticket to Bali) when you spend a min. of S$1,000 within the qualifying spend period, pay the annual fee (S$194.40 incl. GST) and provide marketing consent when you apply. Alternatively, get a first year annual fee waiver (S$194.40 incl. GST) when you apply (offer does not include air miles). Valid till 31 Dec 2023. T&Cs apply.

Plus, get 2x chances to win your share of up to S$200,000 in prizes in our epic 101! Milestone Giveaway, including S$5,000 bonus cash each week on top of ongoing promotions!

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Read more:
7 Common Mistakes People Make When Redeeming Miles
HSBC TravelOne: Best Miles Card to Earn Revenge Travel Stripes
3 Travel Hacks to Maximise Your HSBC TravelOne Card


#1: Airline alliances open more possibilities

You might be aware of the concept of an “airline alliance”, such as Star Alliance (which Singapore Airlines is part of), oneworld or SkyTeam.  

Frequent flyer members within a given alliance can redeem miles for flights on other partner airlines. For example, a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer member could redeem his or her miles for flights on ANA, Egypt Air, or SWISS, subject to award availability. Likewise, a SWISS Miles & More member could redeem his or her miles for flights on Singapore Airlines. 

Here’s a rundown of the three major alliances. 


Star Alliance

Aegean
Air Canada
Air China
Air India
Air New Zealand
ANA
Asiana Airlines
Austrian
Avianca
Brussels Airlines
Copa Airlines
Croatia Airlines
Egypt Air
Ethiopian
EVA Air
LOT Polish Airlines
Lufthansa
SAS
Shenzhen Airlines
Singapore Airlines
South African Airways
SWISS
TAP Air Portugal
Thai Airways
Turkish Airlines
United Airlines
oneworld
Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
British Airways
Cathay Pacific
Finnair
Iberia
Japan Airlines
Malaysia Airlines
Qantas
Qatar Airways
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Jordanian
SriLankan Airlines
SkyTeam
Aerolineas Argentinas
Aeromexico
Air Europa
Air France
China Airlines
China Eastern
Czech Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Garuda Indonesia
ITA Airways
Kenya Airways
KLM
Korean Air
Middle East Airlines
Saudia
TAROM
Vietnam Airlines
Virgin Atlantic
XiamenAir

Alliances mean more redemption possibilities, and to illustrate, suppose I want to redeem a flight to Bangkok. Unfortunately, Singapore Airlines has close to zero award space available for the dates I’m looking at.

However, if I toggle my search to Star Alliance, (using the button above), I’m now able to book options with THAI Airways instead!

That’s why I would recommend that most miles chasers, at a minimum, have accounts with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. This gives you access to the Star Alliance and oneworld networks, with almost 40 different carriers to choose from. 


#2: Policies on fuel surcharges may differ

You might have heard of fuel surcharges, which airlines add to tickets to cover the cost of fuel (which is weird, because you wouldn’t go to a restaurant and expect to pay an “ingredient surcharge”).

These are basically junk fees, but they’re relatively more harmless with cash tickets because the fuel surcharge is baked into the total price. When it comes to award tickets, however, you’ll need to pay the fuel surcharge in cash because your miles only cover the fare component. You don’t need to tell me that’s a load of nonsense, but unfortunately it is what it is!

Singapore Airlines no longer imposes fuel surcharges, so you don’t need to worry about those when redeeming Singapore Airlines award flights. However, when you’re redeeming KrisFlyer miles on other Star Alliance carriers, you’ll need to pay fuel surcharges where applicable.

Among all the programmes available to Singapore-based cardholders, only United MileagePlus (all awards) and Qatar Privilege Club (Qatar Airways flights only) absorb fuel surcharges.


#3: Different programmes have different sweet spots

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that miles are interchangeable across programmes. 1 KrisFlyer mile is not the same as 1 Qatar Avios, and 1 Qatar Avios is not the same as 1 Asia Mile. Think of them like different currencies, each operating within their own economy, with their own prices.

For example, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles charges 45,000 miles for a one-way Business Class award between Singapore and Europe. If you were to redeem a similar routing through EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, it would cost 80,000 miles! 

The difference in pricing across programmes gives rise to so-called “sweet spots”, redemption opportunities offering outsized value. While it’s beyond the scope of this article to go into details (off the top of my head: British Airways Executive Club for short-haul travel, Qatar Privilege Club for Europe, EVA Air for Japan), comparing award charts across programmes can help you understand where the opportunities lie. 


#4: Not all conversion ratios are equal.

Even if a given frequent flyer programme has a sweet spot, that may be undermined by an inferior transfer ratio. 

For example, suppose programme A charges 100,000 miles for a Singapore to USA Business Class ticket, while programme B charges 150,000 miles. The former would appear to provide better value.

But then suppose that your bank converts points to programme A at a ratio of 4 points= 1 mile, but to programme B at 2 points= 1 mile. The story changes completely! 

The good news is that most banks in Singapore offer the same conversion ratio for all partners, with the exception of OCBC and Standard Chartered. 

Bank
Airline Transfer Ratios
AMEX
Same ratio for all partners*
BOC
Same ratio for all partners
Citibank
Same ratio for all partners
DBS
Same ratio for all partners
HSBC
Same ratio for all partners
Maybank
Same ratio for all partners
OCBC
Different ratio for different partners
StanChart
Different ratio for different partners
UOB
Same ratio for all partners
*However, AMEX Platinum Charge cardholders enjoy a preferential rate of 400 MR points = 250 miles, versus 450 MR points = 250 miles for all other cards
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Receive up to 135,000 Membership Rewards® points (enough for a return trip to Europe or Canada on Singapore Airlines) when you spend at least S$6,000 within 2 months of card approval and pay the annual fee (S$1,728 incl. GST). Valid till 28 Feb 2024. T&Cs apply.

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GST) to be eligible for rewards</li><ul>\n <li>New AMEX cardmembers will receive 127,500 Membership Rewards® points from SingSaver offer with min. spend of S$6,000 within 2 months of card approval and annual fee payment</li>\n\t<li>Existing AMEX cardmembers will receive 80,000 Membership Rewards® points from SingSaver offer with min. spend of S$6,000 within 2 months of card approval and annual fee payment</li> \n <li>Receive 7,500 Membership Rewards® points based on the S$6,000 spent (based on 2 Membership Rewards® points for every S$1.60 spent)</li>\n </ul>\n </li>\n <li>Promotion is valid until 28 February 2024</li>\n <li><a href=\"https://www.americanexpress.com/content/dam/amex/sg/campaigns/pdfs/affiliates-singsaver-tncs-1nov23to28feb24-platrcp.pdf\" target=\"_blank\">Terms and Conditions</a> apply</li>\n <li>SingSaver General Promotion <a href=\"https://singsaver.link/cc-rewards-campaign\" target=\"_blank\">Terms and Conditions</a> apply</li>\n</ul>"}}]}],"exclusiveOffers":[{"reward":[]}],"additionalOffers":null}}, hs_name=, hs_initial_published_at=1718496009570, hs_created_at=1669950678729, hs_is_edited=false, hs_deleted_at=0, productname=American Express Platinum Card, hs_updated_by_user_id=60412388}, id=57339306172, table_id=4702395, table_name=product_singsaver})

#5: What about hotels?

You may have noticed in the transfer partners chart that certain credit card points can be converted to hotel loyalty programmes as well. Is this something worth considering?

Generally no. The transfer ratios that banks apply mean it’s much better value to go for airline miles instead. 

As a simple example, 10,000 Citi Miles can be converted into 10,000 KrisFlyer miles, or 10,000 IHG One Rewards points. I personally value the former at 1.5 cents each, and the latter at 0.67 cents each, based on the cost of generating each currency (IHG often sells its points at 0.5 US cents each, which makes the valuation easy; for KrisFlyer I base it on the opportunities to buy miles through bill payment services, annual fees and the like).

While valuation may not be a simple exercise, assuming you accept my figures, the answer is clear – you’d have to be crazy to go for the hotel points over the miles. 


Conclusion

Having access to a wide range of points transfer partners can give you additional options for booking flights, and variety should be at the back of your mind when selecting a card.

The launch of the HSBC TravelOne Card and OCBC’s expansion of STACK Rewards has greatly expanded the diversity of transfer partners, and I’m hopeful that more banks will follow suit!

Read these next:
7 Best Credit Cards For Booking Flights and Hotels
Singapore Airlines First Class Guide: Cards & Tips to Maximise Your Savings
MileLion: 5 Credit Cards That I Use Everyday
Credit Cards With Free Access to Airport Lounges

Aaron founded The Milelion to teach people how to travel better for less, with credit cards, airline and hotel loyalty programmes. With 500,000 miles flown and counting, he’s keen to debunk the myth that you can’t travel in style without breaking the bank.

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