How to Travel Business Class for Free

Rohith Murthy

Rohith Murthy

Last updated 23 September, 2015
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To earn miles, you must be prepared to play the 'miles' game. And you need at least one good credit card.

I recently boarded a flight from Singapore to Amsterdam en route to Romania. As always I was flying Singapore Airlines, my first loyal choice of airlines. At the time of check-in, I requested the SQ staff if I could get the single window Business class seat and she smiled back letting me know I had already selected it.

I then thought to myself, when did I actually reserve the seat?

I quickly pulled out my Macbook and checked my inbox to find the seat reservation confirmation email. Guess what? I had reserved this seat 8 months back. And it was around the same time, I had redeemed my air miles to purchase a business class ticket on Singapore Airlines.

I have never purchased a Business Class ticket in my life. And for the last 6 years, I have travelled back and forth to Europe every year on business class.

So what's the secret? Do I dress up in a suit and walk into the business class queue pretending my assistant booked me on the wrong Economy class? Do I pay compliments to the staff at check-in hoping she might eventually upgrade me? Does Singapore Airlines upgrade me for flying them and not any other European or Middle Eastern airline?

The simple answer is there is no real secret to this. To earn miles, you must be prepared to play the 'miles' game. And you need at least one right credit card.

My all-time favourite air miles credit card is the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card. Let's say my average monthly spend on the card is $2,500. Here's how I rack up airmiles with Amex card every year.

If I charge $2,500 to card every monthIf I charge $5,000 to card every month
KrisFlyer Miles earned
Welcome Bonus5,0005,000
5000 bonus miles for the first S$5000

charged in the first 6 months

Base miles18,75037,500
Bonus miles on Booking SQ tickets

to and from Amsterdam (S$2000)

50% more KrisFlyer miles9,37518,750
50% additional KrisFlyer miles8,0008,000
Total KrisFlyer miles earned47,37575,500
Miles needed for one way upgrade

from economy to business class (Singapore to Amsterdam)

Discount for being a KrisFlyer member75007500
Miles still left to redeem4,87533,000

When you redeem these miles, you are eligible to redeem your business class ticket to Amsterdam!. Don't forget to book your ticket in advance as there are limited seats for redemption tickets.

There are more than 100 credit cards in Singapore, and people often ask me how they find the right air miles card. I suggest asking themselves several questions:

  • Are you a frequent traveller? Do you like to go on short trips every month?
  • Do you like to travel to a new far away destination once every year?
  • How do you like to travel? Does comfort matter?
  • Do you often travel alone or as a family?
  • Do you book your air tickets well in advance or a month before travel?

I travel to Europe once every year. This is usually a 12-hour flight, so I like to travel in comfort on Business Class. I usually know when I am going to travel, so I book my tickets way in advance. And I use my card to rack up air miles. Here are 5 rules that have worked for me every year.

1. Pick the right air miles card

Shop around before choosing a credit card. Look for perks such as welcome miles, accelerator miles, bonus miles when you purchase on SQ, etc.

2. Book your ticket early

Book your economy class ticket way in advance (at least 6 months in advance) as these upgrade seats will soon run out. While booking an economy class ticket, make sure you are booking economy class type that allows you to upgrade to Business Class. these are typically labelled Y, B, E, etc.

3. Know your miles required

Check how many miles you need to do an upgrade. Many airlines offer seasonal discounts and member discounts which translate to lesser miles required.

4. Spend smart

Put the majority of your monthly expenditure (groceries, dining, shopping, etc) on airmiles credit card where you can earn more miles. You may want to hold multiple air miles credit cards if there are special promotions that offer you lots of bonus miles upon card signup and spend.

5. Spend wisely

Pay your credit cards bills in full and on time. There are no savings if you are paying interest on a credit card.

What is my next challenge? To fly First Class without purchasing a First Class ticket :)

Rohith Murthy

By Rohith Murthy

Rohith leads Singapore’s, a financial comparison site aimed at helping consumers in Singapore save money and time by finding the right product at the best price online.


Photo source

Rohith is the Group General Manager of Hyphen Group’s SaaS platform that connects, powers and accelerates an ecosystem of consumers, financial institutions and the ‘Creator Economy’.


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