If you’re looking to qualify/requalify for elite status with Singapore Airlines’ “earn on the ground” campaign, you’ve got approximately four months left to do so.
For many people, the most straightforward route to qualification/requalification will be by transferring credit card points. KrisFlyer members earn 1 Elite mile per 5 KrisFlyer miles transferred, while PPS Club members will earn 1 PPS Value per 10 KrisFlyer miles transferred.
|Convert KrisFlyer miles from credit card points|
(min 10,000 miles)
|1 Elite mile per 5 KrisFlyer miles||1 PPS Value per 10 KrisFlyer miles|
To sweeten the deal, KrisFlyer is currently offering a 15% transfer bonus, valid with a minimum transfer of 50,000 miles (10,000-49,999 miles enjoy a 12% bonus). The bonus applies to both KrisFlyer miles and Elite miles too; here’s my thoughts on getting the most out of it.
Of course, transferring credit card points to miles (usually) incurs an administrative fee. In this post, we’ll look at how much banks charge for points transfers, and which cards let you avoid these fees.
|💳 Credit Card FAQs|
How much are conversion fees?
There are two main models for conversion fees:
- Per conversion: Pay a flat fee every time you convert miles
- Annual option: Pay a flat fee that covers unlimited conversions in a 12-month period
Here’s how much various banks normally charge for points conversions to frequent flyer programs (note that exceptions apply, be sure to read this in conjunction with the rest of the article):
|Issuer||Per Conversion||Annual Option|
|*Automatic conversions in blocks of 500 DBS points (1,000 miles) each quarter. Addition ad-hoc redemptions can be done for free|
^Automatic conversions in blocks of UNI$2,500 (5,000 miles) each month for balances above UNI$15,000. Additional ad-hoc redemptions cost S$25
With the exception of Bank of China (naturally), 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.
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?
Any cobrand Singapore Airlines card will batch and credit miles earned directly into the cardholder’s KrisFlyer account each month.
This saves on conversion fees, but on the flip side, your three-year expiry countdown starts immediately, and you don’t have any other choice of transfer partner.
|Card||Income Req.||Annual Fee.|
|KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card||S$30K||S$192.60|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||S$30K||S$176.55|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||S$50K||S$337.05|
|AMEX PPS Card||S$30K||S$551.05|
|AMEX Solitaire PPS Card||S$30K||S$551.05|
Regardless of the bank’s overall policy, some credit cards offer waivers of miles conversion fees.
|Card||Income Req.||Annual Fee.|
|OCBC 90N Visa||S$30K||S$53.50|
(FYF for sign-ups bet. 15 Oct 21 to 15 Jan 22)
|OCBC 90N Mastercard||S$30K||S$192.60|
|UOB Privilege Banking Visa Infinite||S$30K|
(min S$350K AUM)
(waived if min AUM is met)
|OCBC Premier Banking VOYAGE||S$30K|
(min S$200K AUM)
|AMEX Platinum Credit Card||S$50K||S$321|
|Maybank World Mastercard||S$120K||S$240|
|Maybank Visa Infinite||S$120K||S$600|
|AMEX Platinum Reserve||S$150K||S$535|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||S$200K||S$1,712|
Unfortunately, most of these cards require you to earn a substantial income, or have a privilege banking relationship.
The exception is the OCBC 90N Visa/Mastercard, 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 Bank of China, opportunistic.
At the same time though, I don’t think you should get too hung up about them. Of course you should minimize fees where you can, but the odd S$25 fee here and there is more annoyance than dealbreaker.
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 Card as a general spending card, with the Citi Rewards Card for online spending, you’ll need to pay two separate transfer fees as your points are kept in silos.
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.