Loyalty Programs Overview

The Idea

  • Krisflyer (and therefore Star Alliance) is the default FFP for most people, and while that’s a good option, you should be aware of other possibilities as well
  • OneWorld has good prestige cabin redemption options, but relatively fewer destinations. SkyTeam lacks a true prestige airline, but has guaranteed economy seats available for elite members
  • Key questions to consider include where you want to travel to, whether local credit cards support miles earning for this FFP, what 3rd party programs this FFP partners with and what alternative redemption options this FFP has

 The Details

For most of us, selecting a Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) will be a no-brainer. The only game in town is Singapore Airlines, and it’s a pretty good game to be honest. If you want a miles earning credit card, most of the local cards only credit to Krisflyer or Asia Miles. If you want to fly somewhere Singapore Airlines is probably the most convenient option (though maybe not the cheapest). And of course we’ve been raised from young to believe that Singapore Airlines is the best and safest airline (in college I actually overhead a girl puzzling over Expedia and asking her friend “eh have you heard of Lufthansa? Are they safe?”). So there’s that too.

But if you’re willing to venture beyond Krisflyer you’ll find that each FFP has its own pros and cons- there are other FFPs which give you more ways to redeem your miles, which have more lucrative sweet spots for premium cabin travel, which give you access to certain parts of the world…

Here are some important questions you should ask when picking an FFP

Which alliance do I want to be part of?

It’s quite difficult these days to find a major airline that isn’t part of some alliance (Emirates and Etihad, perhaps, but Etihad has so many partners they’re arguably an alliance of their own).

Alliances are important because which alliance your FFP is part of determines which partners you can redeem miles on (it’s arguably a bad deal to use Krisflyer miles to redeem Star Alliance awards, but you can try the Lifemiles trick if you’re determined to do so)

Star Alliance OneWorld SkyTeam
Total Members 27 15 20
Examples Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Thai, United, EVA, Asiana Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Japan Airlines, American Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways Delta, KLM, Air France, Korean Air, Garuda
Destinations 1,348 981 1,024
Annual Passengers 610M 475M 569M
Tiers (from highest) Gold, Silver Emerald, Sapphire, Ruby Elite Plus, Elite
Pros
  • 2nd tier elites (Sapphire) get lounge access
  • Air Berlin status match
  • Strong North America, Europe and Australia coverage
  • Strong North America and Asia coverage
Cons
  • Weak Middle East/ South America coverage
  • Lacks a middle tier
  • Smallest overall alliance
  • No Africa coverage
  • Extensive blocking of award space by member airlines
  • No Oceania/South America coverage
  • Lack of “prestige” airlineLacks a middle tier

Although Star Alliance is the largest in terms of destinations and number of airlines, I’ve found that Oneworld has very attractive premium cabin redemptions- Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Japan Airlines and Qantas have very solid First and Business class products.

(Clockwise starting from top left) First class products of BA, JAL, Qatar, Cathay
(Clockwise starting from top left) First class products of BA, JAL, Qatar, Cathay

Another key advantage that Oneworld has is that their program is split into 3 tiers- in the highest tier (Emerald), you get access to first class lounges whenever you fly with a Oneworld carrier (in Star, Gold members are only granted access to designated Star Alliance Gold lounges, which typically are the business class lounges)

Can I earn miles for this FFP via local credit cards?

For understandable reasons, the majority of miles-earning credit cards in Singapore only support Krisflyer or AsiaMiles (Cathay Pacific’s Program)

If you want to be part of another FFP, you may find it hard to come across mile earning opportunities in Singapore.

Credit Card Transfer Partners
UOB  (PRVI Miles, Preferred Platinum) Krisflyer, AsiaMiles
DBS (Altitude, Women’s World) Krisflyer, AsiaMiles
ANZ Travel Card Krisflyer, AsiaMiles
Citibank (Premiermiles) Krisflyer, AsiaMiles, Etihad Guest, Garuda Frequent Flyer, MAS Enrich, Thai Royal Orchid Plus, EVAAir Infinity MileageLands, British Airways Avios, Qatar
American Express Krisflyer, AsiaMiles, British Airways Avios, China Airlines DynastyFlyer, Emirates Skywards, MAS Enrich, Thai Royal Orchid Plus

American Express and Citibank are the outliers here- they offer the option to redeem miles with other partners not offered by any other Singapore bank. However, American Express cards generally have terrible earn rates and expensive annual fees which cannot be waived, so I would not recommend getting them (unless you’re in for the American Express Rewards Card 16,000 mile bonus).

What 3rd party opportunities exist to earn miles in this FFP?

Credit cards aren’t the only way to earn miles- you also want to make sure your selected FFP is reasonably connected to 3rd party programs as well. For example, Rocketmiles and Kaligo offer the chance to earn bonus miles when you book hotel stays through them.

rocketmiles1
Rocketmiles Earning Partners

 

kaligo1
Kaligo Earning Partners (not pictured: Thai Royal Orchid Plus, Xiamen Air)

There are also other ways of earning miles- HotelCheck  offers 200 miles per hotel review you submit to them (partners AAdvantage, Etihad Guest, Topbonus, Miles & More),  e-Miles gives you miles for taking surveys (partners Jetblue, United, US Airways, Southwest), TravellingConnect awards miles when you use roaming overseas (which you really shouldn’t be, unless your company is paying for it)

Long story short- the more connected your FFP is, the more chances you have to earn miles

What kind of alternative redemption options does this FFP have?

It goes without saying that redeeming flights should be the first and foremost priority in enrolling in an FFP. If you’re looking to redeem other things like hotel stays or shopping vouchers, you may be better off converting your credit points into said items instead of losing out on 2 conversions.

Krisflyer is pretty unexciting when it comes to alternative conversions. Apart from flights, you can redeem your miles for Scoot/Tigerair vouchers (which is a terrible idea), convert them to Velocity points (terrible, terrible idea as you’re trading one restricted currency for an even more restricted one) or convert them to PAssion points (don’t get me started)

Compare this to United’s MileagePlus, an FFP on the other end of the spectrum. MileagePlus allows you to redeem miles for hotels, rental cars, cruises, dining, magazine subscriptions, shopping, auctions, music, gift cards, concert/sports tickets…

Note that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. In general redeeming your miles for anything other than flight tickets represents very poor value. For example, you could redeem a 128GB iPhone 6 plus for 177,700 MileagePlus miles. This usually retails for ~US$1,000, so you’re getting less than 0.5 cents per mile.

united mileage plus

Why  then do we value this option? Suppose you have a small number of miles that are about to expire. Under Krisflyer you might not have much of a choice to liquidate those miles- but under MileagePlus you’re bound to be able to find something small that you can get.

To summarise, although it really makes sense to have Krisflyer as your primary FFP, it’s good to know what the other options are out there. Hopefully this puts your decision in a bit more context.

Understand FFPs? Want to learn how to earn status quickly? Have a look here!

 


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