Earning and burning Krisflyer miles (Europe Autumn 2020)

Human beings were not designed to spend thirteen hours in a flying tin can, but if you really must, doing it in Business class on Singapore Airlines is definitely a good choice. And if you’re spending your own money, the most cost-efficient way would be to earn and redeem Krisflyer miles.

I’ve been flying for work for decades and have been accruing miles the hard way. For the longest time, my credit cards have been used to earn cashback but The MileLion has set me straight, and I’ve been a convert for more than a year now. Thanks Aaron!

Earning the miles for our upcoming Europe Autumn 2020 trip started early last year, and I roped in The Wife to share the load. We needed a total of 368,000 Krisflyer miles for two return Business Saver redemption awards, which we split 75/25.

Before she started optimising her credit card spend, The Wife had three cards. Now, she has eight, of which six helped her meet her quota.

Let’s just say it took a while to get her on the miles bandwagon. “Just tell me when to apply for what card, and how much to spend on which card by when”, she said upon her final surrender.

The bulk of her 92,000 miles came from sign-up bonuses in 2019, since she’s considered new-to-bank at Citi and Amex.

In addition, DBS ran a 10,000 miles campaign to encourage take-up of its Multiplier account, which required an active Altitude card for miles credit; and UOB was aggressively marketing its Krisflyer card by awarding a sign-up bonus of 5,000 miles.

The rest of the miles were earned mainly though optimised 4.0 miles per dollar (mpd) spending using the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa (PPV) for online purchases and offline payments using PayWave, the UOB Lady’s Card for restaurant dining and the Amex Krisflyer card for topping up my GrabPay Wallet. And yes, I reimbursed her fully each time.

The GrabPay x Amex top-up only earned 3.1 mpd for the first $200 each month and 1.1 mpd thereafter, but it was useful in paying insurance and utility bills (via the GrabPay Mastercard) which would otherwise not qualify for miles accrual. Sadly, this will be nerfed on 1 Mar. Not totally unexpected since Grab has applied for a digital bank licence, but sad nonetheless.

My credit card count currently stands at a manageable ten, but only six were used for the miles in this trip.

The biggest contributor by far was the unprecedented SCB X-Card 100,000 miles sign-on bonus, which lasted all of seven days. They subsequently cut the bonus down to 60,000 miles and then eventually 30,000 miles.

The physical card fulfillment was similarly scaled back progressively. Apparently the first wave of metal cards came in a large box with flashing LED lights. Mine arrived during the second wave; metal card in a large box but no lights (sad). And based on online reports, subsequent deliveries were plastic cards in normal envelopes (even sadder). First world problems, right?

I signed up for the same DBS Multiplier and UOB Krisflyer campaigns, and my 4.0 mpd optimised spend came mainly from the UOB Signature Visa for foreign currency charges during overseas work trips, DBS Women’s World Mastercard (WWMC) for online spending and UOB PPV for PayWave.

Yes, DBS allows men to apply for their women’s card.

And no, UOB does not.

Believe me, I ask every chance I get. Especially when UOB bankers ask me to buy investment products. They really mean it when they say “the men don’t get it”.

After transferring Krisflyer miles from the various bank programmes, we proceeded to redeem our flights. The Wife was in-charge of her SIN-ZRH sector, and I would do my SIN-ZRH and both our AMS-SIN sectors.

Redeeming flights on the Singapore Airlines website is pretty easy and straightforward. Finding availability, especially Saver awards, is a different matter. Especially when we were looking for two seats on the same flight. Redemption seats are released 355 days before departure date, and it’s finger fast for popular destinations.

Luckily, availability for SIN-ZRH was good and we managed to secure our Saver redemptions without any problems.

Image credit: Singapore Airlines

If a specific date is not available, or available only on waitlist, then the “View 7-days calendar” functionality (on the top of the screen) comes in handy. It tells you which dates are available for Saver or Advantage awards and which are only available for Waitlist.

“Check availability” is interesting. When you click on those dates, the system checks something and updates the status. The few times I tried, they were updated to Waitlist. My guess is that someone was doing a redemption for the last seat, and clicking makes the system do a real-time query. Who knows.

Image credit: Singapore Airlines

One benefit of Krisflyer redemptions is that you don’t have to pay for fuel surcharges, which can come up to a large amount. Another benefit is that you can redeem one-way flights, which was useful since we required an open-jaw return flight.

And of course, redemption flights provide the flexibility to cancel (with a miles re-deposit fee) and amend (also with a fee, and subject to award availability), making them almost equivalent to full-fare paid tickets.

Availability for AMS-SIN was not as good, and we had to adjust our return date by one day to confirm a Saver redemption. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of continually checking on the waitlist status and worrying about whether it would clear in time.

Image credit: Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines flies planes from both Boeing and Airbus, and has many models in service with many different generations of Business class seats. I always refer to the wonderful seat guide meticulously compiled and updated by Andrew and Eddie at MainlyMiles.

For SIN-ZRH, we’ll get to try out the latest generation long-haul 2017 J seats which fold down into a pseudo-double bed. Sweet.

For AMS-SIN, it will be the older, but still very comfortable, long-haul 2013 J seats.

It’s too early to “Book the Cook” but I’m sure the selection will be good. The one thing that I always enjoy and look forward to is the satay service before the start of the main meal.

Somehow, satay tastes better 30,000 feet in the air, and makes flying in a tin can so much more pleasant. That, and of course, free flow champagne.

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