Which credit cards don’t charge miles conversion fees?

No one likes paying conversion fees...but is it possible to avoid them?

The Milelion has partnered with Seedly to launch The Milelion’s Community, an online space for miles chasers to ask and answer questions. In this series, I’ll pick out a few interesting questions for deeper analysis.

An anonymous user asked the following question on The Milelion’s Seedly Community:

“Is there any way to get around the miles conversion fee to your KrisFlyer account?”

Remember that unless you’re holding a cobrand card, you technically earn credit card points, not miles. As such, you’ll need to transfer these points into your frequent flyer program before redeeming flights, which usually entails a conversion fee.

How much are conversion fees normally?

Here’s how much various banks normally charge for points conversions to frequent flyer programs. Do note that some banks charge per conversion, while others charge a flat annual fee that covers all conversions in a 12-month period.

Per ConversionAnnual Option
S$20N/A
S$30N/A
S$25 
(S$26.75 from 17 May 20)
N/A
S$26.75S$42.80
N/AS$42.80
S$26.75N/A
S$25N/A
S$26.75N/A
S$25S$50

With the exception of Bank of China (of course), the conversion fee is the same regardless of how many points you transfer. In other words, it costs the same to transfer 5,000 DBS points (10,000 miles) as it does 500,000 DBS points (1,000,000 miles), provided you do it in a single transfer.

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Bank of China caps the maximum number of points you can transfer in a single conversion to 10 blocks (i.e 60,000 Asia Miles or 100,000 KrisFlyer miles). If you want to transfer more than this, you’ll need to pay a second conversion fee. It’s ridiculously arbitrary, but hey, it wouldn’t be BOC if it weren’t. 

Which cards don’t charge conversion fees?

Cobrand cards

Any cobrand Singapore Airlines card will credit miles earned directly into the holder’s KrisFlyer account. This saves on the conversion fee, but on the flip side, your three-year expiry countdown starts immediately, and you don’t have any other choice of transfer partner.

Cobrand Cards (All with no conversion fees)
CardIncome Req. Annual Fee. Partners
KrisFlyer UOB Credit CardS$30KS$192.60
(1-year waiver)
SQ
AMEX KrisFlyer Credit CardS$30KS$176.55
(1-year waiver)
SQ
AMEX KrisFlyer AscendS$50KS$337.05SQ
AMEX PPS CardS$30KS$551.05
(1-year waiver)
SQ
AMEX Solitaire PPS CardS$30KS$551.05
(1-year waiver)
SQ

Bank cards

Although most bank cards charge a conversion fee, there are some exceptions. The key advantage of bank cards is that they offer a wider variety of transfer partners, and some offer non-expiring points (highlighted in green).

Bank Cards With No Conversion Fees
CardIncome Req. Annual Fee. Partners*
OCBC 90NS$30KS$192.60
(1-year waiver)
SQ
UOB Privilege Banking Visa InfiniteS$30K
(min S$350K AUM)
S$1,926
(waived if min AUM is met)
SQ, CX
OCBC Premier Banking VOYAGES$30K
(min S$200K AUM)
S$488SQ
AMEX Platinum Credit CardS$50KS$321SQ, BA, BR, CI, CX, EK, MH, TG, 
Maybank World MastercardS$120KS$240
(1-year waiver)
SQ, CX, MH, AK
Maybank Visa InfiniteS$120KS$600
(1-year waiver)
SQ, CX, MH, AK
OCBC VOYAGES$120KS$488SQ
AMEX Platinum ReserveS$150KS$535SQ, BA, BR, CI, CX, EK, MH, TG, 
UOB Visa Infinite
S$150KS$650SQ, CX
AMEX Platinum ChargeS$200KS$1,712SQ, BA, BR, CI, CX, EK, MH, TG, 
Citi ULTIMAS$500KS$4,160SQ, AF/KL, BA, BR, CX, EY, MH, QF, QR, TG, TK
UOB ReserveS$500KS$3,852SQ, CX
*SQ= Singapore Airlines, AF/KL= Air France/ KLM (FlyingBlue), BA= British Airways, BR= EVA Air, CI= China Airlines, EK= Emirates, EY= Etihad, MH= Malaysia Airlines, QF= Qantas, QR= Qatar, TG= Thai, TK= Turkish

Unfortunately, most of these cards require you to earn a substantial income, or have a privilege banking relationship.

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The exception is the OCBC 90N, which has an income requirement of just S$30,000. If you’re looking for an entry-level bank card that offers free transfers, this is your best bet.

Do conversion fees really matter?

I get it. No one likes paying conversion fees. They seem arbitrary, and in the case of BOC, opportunistic.

At the same time though, I don’t think you should get too caught up about them. Of course you minimize conversion fees where you can, but the odd S$25 fee here and there is more annoyance than dealbreaker.

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The average person will transfer miles maybe once a year, and if you’re using a multi-card strategy, you’ll pay two, perhaps three fees which will add up to less than S$100. Put it another way: no one ever grumbled about conversion fees when he/she sat down in a Business Class seat for the first time.

If conversion fees really bother you, try and spread your spending across different cards within a bank that pools points, like UOB. For example, you might use the UOB PRVI Miles Visa as a general spending card, with the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa for Paywave. When the time comes to transfer points, you’ll only pay a single transfer fee as all your UNI$ are pooled together.

In contrast, Citibank does not pool points. If you use the Citi PremierMiles Visa as a general spending card, with the Citi Rewards Visa for online spending, you’ll need to pay two separate transfer fees as your points are kept in silos.

Which banks pool credit card points? See the full list here

Conclusion

Conversion fees aren’t anything to lose sleep over, although you obviously want to minimize them wherever possible. My hope is that we’ll see these progressively phased out over the next few years, as more banks introduce products like the OCBC 90N.

If you have a burning question about anything to do with the world of miles and points, be sure to join The Milelion’s Community on Seedly and post it there. You’ll get to tap the hive mind of experts and solicit a variety of opinions, all while helping others to travel better for less.

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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CyberMew

Ocbc 90N don’t pool points also

Adam

So, if you have cards from a bank that pools points, and one of your cards do not charge conversion fees, does that mean you don’t have to pay conversion fees from all cards from that bank? For example, if you have UOB PPV, PRVI, Lady’s, and VI, you can just convert all your UNI$ using the VI and avoid paying any conversion fees?

Raymond Wee

That’s the way for Maybank. 🙂

freedom

Now the question is where to transfer? Asia Miles is going to remove stopover on one-way ticket. So it is dead to me. There are plenty for KrisFlyer.

What’s the next best place to transfer to?

Bankrupt

I’d wait 6 months as the airline and points landscape is likely to be very different. I hope the value of my stash of Citi points doesn’t go down the toilet. I’m pretty sure the value of my KF miles will.

freedom

KrisFlyer should be okay. Post crisis, there will be periods that KrisFlyer is going to offer large discount to fill the seats. That will be the time to burn KrisFlyer miles.

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