Travel Cancelled Due To COVID-19? Here’s How To Save Your Expiring Airline Miles

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With the COVID-19 outbreak taking over one country at a time, it’s safe to say that none of us will be travelling anytime soon.

The latest development saw the Singapore government advising against all overseas travel, imposing a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) on anyone arriving from overseas. 

No one knows how this will play out — whether the virus will disappear in the warmer summer months, or whether we’re in it for the long haul. We shared all you needed to know about airline and hotel cancellation fee waiver policies earlier. 

The one question that’s likely on top of your mind is how your miles and points are affected. Some of them may well be expiring soon. So, what can you do about it? 

Understanding time-based vs activity-based expiry policies

Before we talk about options, it’s essential to understand how your loyalty program works. In general, loyalty programs adopt either a time-based expiry policy, or an activity-based expiry policy.

A time-based expiry policy is fairly intuitive: your points expire after a fixed period of time. The diagram below illustrates how a program with a 3-year expiry works. 

An activity-based expiry policy keeps your points valid indefinitely, so long as your account shows at least one ‘activity’ within a specified period. An activity typically refers to earning or redeeming at least one mile/point.The diagram below illustrates how this works in a program with an 18-month activity requirement.

Obviously, an activity-based balance is easier to maintain, because it offers you the option to keep your points evergreen. 

Who follows what policy?

In the table below, I’ve listed every possible airline frequent flyer program that you could transfer Singapore credit card points to, and the policy they adopt. 

Frequent Flyer Program Credit Card Partners Expiry Type Points Validity
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Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
AMEX, BOC, Citibank, DBS, HSBC, Maybank,OCBC, SCB, UOB Time-based 3 years
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Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
AMEX, BOC, Citibank, DBS, HSBC, Maybank, UOB Activity-based* 18 months
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Malaysia Airlines Enrich
AMEX, Citibank, Maybank, SCB Time-based 3 years
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EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
AMEX, Citibank, SCB Time-based 3 years
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Qantas Frequent Flyer
Citibank, DBS, SCB Activity-based 18 months
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Air Asia BIG
DBS, Maybank Time-based^ 2 years
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British Airways Executive Club
AMEX, Citi Activity-based 3 years
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China Airlines
AMEX Time-based 3 years
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Etihad Guest
Citi, SCB Activity-based 18 months
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Emirates Skywards
AMEX, SCB Time-based 3 years
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Air France FlyingBlue
Citi, SCB Activity-based 2 years
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Qatar Privilege Club
Citi, SCB Time-based 3-3.5 years
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Thai Royal Orchid Plus
AMEX, Citi Time-based 3 years
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Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
Citi Time-based 3 years
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Lufthansa Miles&More
SCB Time-based 3 years
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United MileagePlus
SCB No expiry N/A

*Asia Miles earned from 1 Jan 2020 do not expire with activity; Asia Miles earned before 1 Jan 2020 expire after 3 years
^Air Asia BIG points earned from 1 June 2019 expire after 24 months; Air Asia BIG points earned before 1 June 2019 expire after 36 months


Accumulating air miles is easy when you have the right credit card. Compare and apply for the best air miles credit card through SingSaver, to get receive welcome air miles and even cash (upon approval for selected credit cards only).

If your program adopts an activity-based expiry policy

If your frequent flyer program has an activity-based expiry policy, count yourself lucky. You may not be flying right now, but you’ll almost certainly have at least one way of earning or redeeming the 1 mile you need to keep your entire balance alive. 

Take British Airways Executive Club for example. You could earn miles by:

  • Booking a staycation through Kaligo
  • Completing an online survey
  • Making a purchase online through the Avios eStore
  • Transferring points from AMEX or Citi cards in Singapore
  • Transferring points from Marriott Bonvoy
  • Buying miles from British Airways itself, when they go on sale

With all the options available, there’s really no reason why your miles should expire. Explore the ‘earn miles’ section of your frequent flyer program’s webpage, and you should be set to ride this out. 

If your program adopts a time-based expiry policy

However, most frequent flyer programs still stick to time-based expiry policies, which means you have a conundrum on your hands. 

I’m guessing KrisFlyer will be the main program of interest here, and, unfortunately, Singapore Airlines has not announced any plans to extend the validity of miles despite the current outbreak. 

This leaves you with two main options.

First, you could extend your miles by paying a fee of US$12/1,200 miles per block of 10,000 expiring miles. This buys you 6 extra months of validity (12 if you’re a KrisFlyer Elite Silver or higher).

Fee per 10,000 miles or part thereof

Extension Period KrisFlyer Elite Silver Elite Gold
6 Months 1,200 miles/ US$12 N/A N/A
12 Months N/A 1,200 miles/ US$12 1,200 miles/ US$12

I get that no one likes losing 12% of their miles just to renew them, but it’s better than losing 100% of them. Personally, I’d rather pay the US$12 than spend 1,200 miles — it’s better value. 

Second, do remember that it’s possible to book a flight that departs after your miles expire. For example, if your miles expire on 31 May 2020, you can use them to book a flight that leaves on 1 December 2020 and returns on 15 December 2020. The only requirement is that you make the redemption before 31 May 2020. 

At the point of redemption, you can select flights up to 355 days in advance, which gives your miles a bit more runway. It’s important to note that you may not be able to recover your miles if you cancel your ticket after your miles have expired. However, you’ll still be able to move your travel dates, subject to the ticket’s 1-year validity period. 

The situation will be much the same for other frequent flyer programs with time-based expiry policies. You can pay a fee to extend your miles or you can make a pre-emptive redemption stretching out as far as you can. 

KrisPay represents poor value for spending miles, but poor value is better than 0 value

Where KrisFlyer is concerned, remember that there are (sub-optimal) ways to spend small amounts of expiring miles:

  • Use them at participating merchants via KrisPay
  • Spend them on KrisShop merchandise
  • Transfer them to TapForMore points
  • Transfer them to Shangri-La Golden Circle Points

I’ll be frank with you — none of these are good value, and under normal circumstances, I’d never consider using them. That said, some value is better than none. 

Conclusion

The current crisis is an important reminder of why you shouldn’t hold on to your miles for too long. Even if you’re planning to use them just before expiry, there’s no legislating for black swan events like this that effectively ground you for the foreseeable future. 

Hopefully things will clear up soon enough, and we’ll be back to earning and burning like normal. In the meantime, monitor those miles and don’t let your spending go to waste.

Read these next:
COVID-19: Airline And Hotel Cancellation Fee Waiver Policies
Will My Travel Insurance Cover Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
How Can I Earn Miles And Points On Insurance Payments?
Should You Upgrade Your Singapore Airlines Flight With KrisFlyer Miles?
If I Get COVID-19, What Will I Need To Pay?


By Aaron Wong
Aaron started The MileLion to help people travel better for less and impress “chiobu”. He was 50% successful. This is his story.