Unless you’re spending on a cobrand card like the AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend or KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card, you’re technically earning bank points, not airline miles.
This means that when the time comes to redeem your miles, you’ll need to first transfer points into your frequent flyer programme, which in turn raises the question: which cards offer the smallest conversion blocks?
|💳 Credit Card FAQs|
What’s the minimum conversion block?
Here’s a table summarising the minimum conversion block for every points currency in Singapore.
|✈️ Min. Conversion Blocks for KrisFlyer Miles|
|AMEX Membership Rewards||450||250||None|
|AMEX Membership Rewards|
(Plat. Charge, Centurion)
|Citi ThankYou Points||25K||10K||S$26.75@|
|OCBC VOYAGE Miles||1||1||None|
|SC Rewards Points |
|SC Rewards Points|
|@ Fee waived for Citi ULTIMA cardholders|
^Fee waived for Maybank Visa Infinite and World Mastercard cardholders
*Fee waived for OCBC Premier Visa Infinite cardholders
#Fee waived for UOB Visa Infinite, Visa Infinite Metal and Privilege Banking Visa Infinite cardholders
A few things to note.
Different currency, different policy
Don’t assume a bank applies the same policy across all its cards! Some banks have multiple points currencies, each with its own minimum conversion blocks. For example:
- OCBC Titanium Rewards Cardholders transfer OCBC$ in minimum blocks of 25,000 points (10,000 miles)
- OCBC 90°N Cardholders transfer Travel$ in minimum blocks of 1,000 points (1,000 miles)
- OCBC VOYAGE Cardholders transfer VOYAGE Miles in minimum blocks of 1 point (1 mile)
Even if the points currency shares a common name, the minimum conversion block may vary depending on card:
- Standard Chartered Visa Infinite and X Cardholders transfer SC Rewards Points in minimum blocks of 2,500 points (1,000 miles)
- All other Standard Chartered cardholders transfer SC Rewards Points in minimum blocks of 3,500 points (1,015 miles)
- AMEX Platinum Charge and Centurion Cardholders transfer Membership Rewards Points in minimum blocks of 400 points (250 miles)
- All other AMEX cardholders transfer Membership Rewards Points in minimum blocks of 450 points (250 miles)
Points pooling means that points earned on different cards with a given bank can be combined and redeemed at one go.
Obviously, points pooling makes it easier to hit a minimum conversion block. For example, DBS has a minimum conversion block of 5,000 points, and pools points. If I have 2,500 points on the DBS Altitude AMEX and 2,500 points on the DBS Altitude Visa, I can redeem one block of 5,000 points.
In contrast, Citibank has a minimum conversion block of 25,000 points, and does not pool points. If I have 12,500 points on the Citi Rewards Mastercard and 12,500 points on the Citi Rewards Visa, I cannot transfer anything until I earn a further 12,500 points on either card.
The presence of pooling can also affect the minimum conversion block required. For example, since SC Rewards Points pool together, points earned on a non-Visa Infinite card (3,500 pts:1,015 miles) can be combined with points earned on a Visa Infinite card (2,500 pts:1,000 miles), and transferred at the Visa Infinite’s conversion ratio.
In the same way, if you have an AMEX Platinum Charge (400pts:250miles) and an AMEX Platinum Reserve (450pts:250miles), you can transfer your combined Membership Rewards stash at the Platinum Charge’s conversion ratio.
Transfer fees affect how practical it is to convert small blocks of points. Since the fee is the same regardless of how many points you transfer (except BOC, but we won’t talk about that), a smaller fee makes it more worthwhile to do small top-ups.
For example, OCBC VOYAGE cardholders can transfer as little as 1 mile to KrisFlyer, with no fees. This allows for minimal wastage- transfer exactly what you need, and nothing more.
Other loyalty programmes
The table above assumes you’re transferring points to KrisFlyer. The minimum conversion block may differ for other loyalty programmes, as summarised below:
Why do smaller conversion blocks matter?
Points conversions are one-way; once you transfer points into a frequent flyer programme, there’s no going back.
By not transferring more points than you have to, you can keep your options open. For example, Citi Miles can be transferred not just to KrisFlyer, but British Airways Avios, Qantas points, Etihad Guest miles and seven other loyalty programmes. It’d be a shame if you dumped everything into KrisFlyer and called it a day.
Your points have “two validities”: one on the bank side, and one on the airline side.
For example, AMEX Membership Rewards points never expire. Once they’re converted into KrisFlyer miles, however, they expire in three years. UOB UNI$ expire in two years, but if you max out their life before transferring them to KrisFlyer, you get a total of five years.
Therefore, it makes sense to keep points on the bank side until they’re needed, and smaller conversion blocks help with that.
Avoid orphan points
In the event you need to cash out your points and close your card account, smaller minimum conversion blocks help reduce orphan points.
For example, suppose John spends S$10,000 each on the Citi PremierMiles Card and OCBC 90°N Mastercard. At an earn rate of 1.2 mpd, he will have:
- 12,000 Citi Miles
- 12,000 Travel$
Now suppose he wants to close both cards. Since the minimum conversion block for Citibank is 10,000 Citi Miles, he’ll have 2,000 Citi Miles leftover (known as orphan points) which can only be spent for vouchers or cash rebates at a rather poor rate. But since the minimum conversion block for OCBC is 1,000 Travel$, he can cash out his entire balance with nothing leftover.
Breaking down conversion blocks via Kris+
If you find the default conversion blocks to be too large, it’s possible to break them up by transferring points via Kris+.
Kris+ supports instant transfers from Citi Miles/ThankYou points, DBS Points and UOB UNI$ to KrisPay miles. KrisPay miles can then be converted into KrisFlyer miles at a 1:1 ratio.
|Bank||Transfer Ratio||Min. Transfer|
|Read More||1 Citi Mile: 0.85 miles|
1 TYP: 0.34 miles
|4,000 Citi Miles|
|Read More||1 DBS Point: 1.7 miles||100 DBS Points|
|Read More||1 UNI$: 1.7 miles||1,000 UNI$|
While Kris+ transfers are free-of-charge, there is a 15% haircut compared to the number of miles you’d receive via the bank’s transfer portal (e.g. 100 DBS Points is normally worth 200 miles via the DBS Rewards portal, but only 170 miles via Kris+).
Assuming you value a mile at 1.5 cents, a S$26.75 transfer fee would be equivalent to ~1,783 miles. Therefore, your indifference point is roughly around the 10,000 miles mark. If you’re transferring more than this, it would make more sense to go via the bank’s portal.
Other ways of doing small top-ups
If you just need a small top-off your KrisFlyer account, you can consider the options below instead of transferring credit card points:
- Earning miles from a purchase at a Kris+ merchant
- Transferring CapitaStars, GrabRewards points or Linkpoints
- Converting Virgin Australia Velocity points
For the full details, refer to this post.
In an ideal world, conversion blocks would be in the hundreds of miles, if not less. It was great to see OCBC break the mould by reducing transfer blocks to as little as one mile, but unfortunately, other banks don’t seem keen to follow suit.
10,000 miles is the default that the market has settled on, unless you’re willing to earn points with American Express, OCBC or Standard Chartered. It does mean more orphan points and less flexibility, but that’s just the way it is for now.