We did the math and found out that it costs less to upgrade an Economy ticket to Business using KrisFlyer miles.
Once you get into the air miles game, you’ll naturally start to wonder about the best way to use them. How do you get better, uh, mileage, out of those miles you earned? (You use your travel credit card carefully and pay your bill on time each month, right?)
One of the most alluring things you can do is get a swanky Business Class upgrade. Unless your job lets you jet all over the globe, claiming a coveted Business class seat is probably just a distant blip on the horizon.
For the rest of us, the opportunity to join the rarefied ranks pops up once or twice a lifetime - if we’re clever and diligent enough in earning our air miles. With most air miles cards giving you a base earn rate of 1.2 miles on every dollar spent locally, air miles carry a value of around S$0.83 per mile.
Which means it’ll take you a few years of spending before you glimpse a hint of a Business class ticket!
It’s not that flying Business is impossible to afford; it just doesn’t make any sense for regular travellers to pay for the luxury. But what if we buy an Economy ticket using cash, then use our miles to upgrade to Business? Could that be the way to go?
To find out, we poked around on Singapore Air’s website and made an off-the-cuff comparison. To keep things simple and fair, we are comparing KrisFlyer miles against the cash value of SQ tickets.
We’ve included two flights: a long-haul flight to London which takes approximately 14 hours, and a mid-haul flight to Tokyo, which is a much less punishing 7 hours. All flights take place on the same date.
|Comparison of KrisFlyer Miles vs Cash Value of Plane Ticket (One Way)|
|Flight to Japan |
(Approx 7 Hours)
|Flight to London |
(Approx 14 Hours)
|Miles to Redeem Economy Flight||Standard: 45,000 miles||Standard: 70,000 miles|
|Miles to Redeem Business Flight||Standard: 70,000 miles||Standard: 120,000 miles|
|Miles to Upgrade from Economy to Business||Standard: 50,000 miles||Standard: 90,000 miles|
|Price for Economy Ticket (Flexi)||S$1,516||S$1,516|
|Price for Business Ticket||S$3,424||S$5,734|
Upgrading to Business Class Uses More Miles Than Redeeming An Economy Ticket
The first thing we noticed is that upgrading from Economy to Business costs more miles than if you were to simply redeem an Economy ticket. This means that if you want an upgrade, you’ll have to fork out more than the par price of a seat in coach.
This was observed across the vast majority of the flights offered. Does this seem fair? Well, we guess so, if you compare the cash value of an Economy ticket against a Business one.
It Costs Less To Upgrade With Miles Than To Buy A Business Ticket
The next thing we wanted to know was if you would be better off straight-up buying a Business ticket, or would it save you money to buy an Economy ticket first, then upgrade using your miles.
Notice the price difference between the cash value of the Economy and Business class tickets. (Curiously, we were quoted the same price for coach seats to Japan and London.) We used both prices to gauge how many more times the respective Business flights cost.
Then, applying a cash value of per mile of 83 cents, we converted the air miles required to redeem both an Economy ticket and the Business upgrade into a dollar value.
Hey, come back! We’ll stop with the math-speak now.
Suffice it to say that using your miles to upgrade to a Business ticket, from an Economy ticket bought using cash, gives you better value than directly buying a Business ticket.
Redeeming A Business Ticket With Miles Gives The Best Value
The third observation of our highly unscientific exercise is perhaps not unexpected. If you have the miles (and the burning desire), go ahead and use them to fully redeem your Business class seat.
This option costs fewer air miles than if you were to redeem an Economy flight plus a Business-class upgrade using only your air miles. To illustrate: For the Japan flight, an Economy ticket plus an upgrade costs you a total of 95,000 air miles. Meanwhile, a Business ticket can be redeemed for just 70,000 miles.
Another advantage offered: it saves you the out-of-pocket expense of having to buy an Economy ticket beforehand. Note that you may still need to pay taxes and other surcharges.
Get Ahead Of The Air Miles Game
You’ve no doubt come across many hacks and secret tips to boost the number of air miles you earn. We've found that choosing an air miles card that suits your lifestyle and budget is the best way to go. You’ll be consistently earning air miles, which will reduce the cost of your holiday before long.
Try the Citi PremierMiles Visa Signature Card, which gives you 1.2 miles per S$1 spent locally, and 2 miles overseas. But what we like is how this card comes with a welcome offer that lets you earn up to 42,000 miles within the first 3 months.
With bonus miles for paying your annual fee, and opportunities to earn up to 6 miles on Agoda and Expedia, the Citi PremierMiles Visa Signature card is made to help you get ahead in the air miles game. Get it at SingSaver to receive a S$100 NTUC voucher with your card!
Alternatively, compare the other air miles credit cards in the market now to find the best ones to suit your spending habits and lifestyle.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimize happiness and enjoyment in his life.
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