Running down our expiring Krisflyer miles

So, our Europe Autumn 2020 trip got cancelled and the Japan Winter 2021 trip is definitely not happening. We’re not entirely sure when we’d be comfortable to travel internationally but it’s unlikely going to be anytime in 2022. And even though we definitely enjoy flying overseas for vacations, it hasn’t been an issue staying at home over the past year during the global pandemic.

Except for one small problem.

We have a huge stash of around 450,000 Krisflyer miles that are going to expire over the next three years. And that’s not factoring in an additional 190,000 miles sitting in various credit card rewards platforms that have yet to be converted, for a grand total of almost 640,000 miles.

Given that 500,000 Krisflyer miles can be exchanged for round-the-world Business class tickets on Star Alliance airlines for two people, that’s a lot of miles to burn in a short period of time.

We did think about going on an epic continent-hopping trip many years back but didn’t feel up to the strain of travelling continuously for more than two months, and that was before we had even considered the possibility of a global viral outbreak.

Instead, we redeemed 368,000 miles for our open jaw Singapore Airlines flight to Europe, landing in Zurich and departing from Amsterdam. After that trip was cancelled, the miles came back into our respective accounts but with their expiry clock still ticking.

Our next few flights will be within the region, starting with Japan in 2023 Q1, followed by South Korea in 2023 Q4 and Taiwan in 2024 Q2.

Based on the current Krisflyer redemption chart, one return Business class Saver ticket for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan would require 188,000, 188,000 and 122,000 miles respectively for a total of 498,000 miles. Which would be enough to wipe out the expiring miles already sitting inside our Krisflyer accounts.

The tricky bit though is the expiry profile of the miles and the timing of those redemptions, given that redemption seats can only be booked 355 days beforehand from 8am onwards at the earliest. Also, miles can’t be pooled across accounts and we’ll have to make separate redemptions to maximise the usage of our individual balances.

TripTravelRedemptionMy MilesHer Miles
Japan2023 Q12022 Q1188,0000
South Korea2023 Q42022 Q494,00094,000
Taiwan2024 Q22023 Q261,00061,000
Total343,000155,000

Overlaying both the expiry and redemption profiles, and looking at the aggregate of both our accounts, there will still be some miles that will expire before we can redeem them for the planned trip. Specifically, the ones marked with the orange circles and cumulative numbers e.g. 28,908 by 2021 Q3 and 53,246 by 2021 Q4.

In practice, it’s a bit more complicated than that, since miles cannot be pooled and each account has to be considered independently — mine (1) and hers (2).

One bit of good news is that the three-year expiry countdown for the miles sitting inside the credit cards don’t start until they actually get transferred into Krisflyer, though some credit cards impose a deadline for that transfer to happen. But that’s a future problem for future me to solve, and I won’t deal with the large balances in the “Credit Card” column at this time.

For my account, the miles at risk of expiring without redemption are itemised in the table below, where the “Cumulative” row adds up the miles expiring in each specific quarter to give a running total.

Given that international leisure travel has not opened up, Singapore Airlines has been extending the miles expiry dates by six months at a time on an incremental and rolling basis, with the latest for those expiring in June 2021.

I’m hopeful that they will continue to do so for miles expiring in both Q3 and Q4 this year, and if they do, I won’t have to worry about the cumulative 53,246 miles.

2021 Q32021 Q4
Miles at Risk28,90824,338
Cumulative53,246
My Krisflyer account

If they don’t, then I’ll have to figure out what to do with them. Mainly Miles created a really useful and comprehensive list of Krisflyer redemption options, starting with the best (i.e. flight redemptions) followed by other non-flight choices in descending order of achievable cents per mile (cpm).

The situation with The Wife’s account is a bit more tricky since the expiry profile starts in 2022 Q1 but the first redemption will only be in 2022 Q4, leaving several quarters “exposed”. I tried putting one of the Japan redemptions on her account, but given her relatively lower balances compared to mine, the overall exposure was worse. So this was the least bad option.

Since her first redemption will happen in 2022 Q4, as long as the cumulative 40,640 miles expiring by 2022 Q3 are addressed, the rest of the expiring miles down the line will drop accordingly and take care of themselves.

2022 Q12022 Q22022 Q32022 Q42023 Q1
Miles at Risk11,32216,35212,966-21,5103,735
Cumulative27,67440,64019,13022,865
The Wife’s Krisflyer account

All the analysis so far is based on the assumption that it will be more-or-less safe to travel starting from 2023 Q1 and that we will feel comfortable enough to actually enjoy flying overseas again. All bets are off if the timeline changes, and if so, I’ll have some serious re-planning to do.

Given the huge amount of work travel I’ve done over the past two decades and the many overseas vacations we’ve had during the same period, it might seem a bit paranoid of us to completely write off flying in 2021 and 2022, and to even be concerned about early 2023. But our last vacation to Seoul in November 2019 is still fresh on our minds.

Out of the eight days we were there, we were sick as dogs for six of them and spent most of our time feeling miserable, watching TV in the hotel room and having most of our meals in the hotel executive lounge (thank you, Marriott Platinum benefits!).

We did manage to salvage a small part of the trip after we visited a clinic and started on medication, but the trauma is still fresh in our minds. Based on the incubation period, there was a chance that we actually caught something on the flight to Seoul.

In two years time, the world should be in a better place and international travel will probably get back to some semblance of normalcy. Until then, we have a large stockpile of past travel photos and a reservoir of fond memories to look back on.

Soon, we will all fly again.

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