Unless you’re spending on a cobrand card that credits miles directly to your frequent flyer account, at some point you’re going to have to make a conversion from bank points into miles.
This usually incurs an administrative fee- but not always!
In this post, we’ll look at how much conversions cost by bank, and which credit cards give you free conversions.
|💳 Credit Card FAQs|
|This article forms part of a series on Credit Card FAQs. Refer to the articles below for answers to other common questions.|
How much do miles conversions normally cost?
Banks adopt two main models for conversion fees:
- Per conversion: Pay a fee every time you convert miles
- Annual option: Pay a fee that covers unlimited conversions in a 12-month period
Here’s how much various banks normally charge for points conversions to airline or hotel loyalty programmes:
|💰 Points Conversion Fees by Bank|
|Issuer||Per Conversion||Annual Option|
|1. Waived for all Platinum and Centurion cardholders|
2. Waived for Citi ULTIMA cardholders
3. Waived for DBS Insignia cardholders
4. Automatic conversions in blocks of 500 DBS points (1,000 miles) each quarter. Additional ad-hoc redemptions can be done for free
5. Covers all HSBC cards you may have, even though HSBC points don’t pool. Waived for TravelOne Cards until 31 Dec 2023
6. Waived for Maybank Visa Infinite and Maybank World Mastercard cardholders
7. Waived for points transfers via STACK, till 30 Oct 2023
8. Waived for UOB Reserve, UOB Visa Infinite Metal, UOB Visa Infinite and UOB Privilege Banking cardholders
9. 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
As the lengthy list of footnotes implies, exceptions do apply- be sure to read this table in conjunction with the rest of the article!
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.
BOC 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 an additional 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 Singapore Airlines cobrand 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.
|💳 SIA Cobrand Cards|
|Card||Income Req.||Annual Fee.|
|KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card||S$30K||S$194.40|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||S$30K*||S$178.20|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||S$50K*||S$340.20|
|AMEX PPS Card||S$30K*||S$556.20|
|AMEX Solitaire PPS Card||S$30K*||S$556.20|
|*American Express cards no longer publish official income requirements, merely stating that approvals are “subject to internal review”. These were the last known income requirements|
|FYF= First Year Free|
Regardless of the bank’s overall policy, some credit cards offer waivers of miles conversion fees.
|💳 Non-Cobrand Cards|
|Card||Income Req.||Annual Fee.|
|OCBC 90°N Card^||S$30K||S$54|
|OCBC Titanium Rewards^||S$30K||S$194.40|
|HSBC TravelOne Card*||S$30K||S$194.40|
|UOB Privilege Banking Visa Infinite||S$30K|
(min. S$350K AUM)
(waived if min. AUM is met)
|AMEX Platinum Credit Card||S$80K#||S$324|
|Maybank World Mastercard||S$120K||S$240|
|Maybank Visa Infinite||S$120K||S$600|
|UOB VI Metal Card||S$120K||S$648|
|AMEX Platinum Reserve||S$150K#||S$540|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||S$150K#||S$1,728|
|DBS Insignia Card||S$500K||S$3,240|
|Citi ULTIMA Card||S$500K||S$4,200|
|UOB Reserve Card||S$500K||S$3,888|
|^Fee waived till 30 October 2023, for transfers via STACK|
*Fee waived till 31 December 2023
#American Express cards no longer publish official income requirements, merely stating that approvals are “subject to internal review”. These were the last known income requirements
|FYF= First Year Free | F2YF= First Two Years Free|
Of the cards mentioned above, conversion fees are an evergreen feature, except for the following.
The newly-launched HSBC TravelOne Card offers conversions to KrisFlyer and 11 other airline and hotel programmes. As part of the launch promo, all conversion fees will be waived till 31 December 2023.
OBCC 90°N Card, OCBC Titanium Rewards and OCBC VOYAGE Cardholders can enjoy free conversions to the eight new loyalty partners offered on STACK, such as British Airways Executive Club, Etihad Guest and Accor Live Limitless, until 30 October 2023. Unfortunately, the S$25 admin fee still applies for KrisFlyer transfers, which are offered on the OCBC Rewards portal.
I also want to give special mention to UOB, which waives the usual S$25 conversion fee for UOB Privilege Banking Visa Infinite, UOB Reserve and UOB Visa Infinite Metal Cardholders. And because UNI$ pool, you can effectively use one of these cards as a conduit to transfer out points earned on other UOB cards like the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa or UOB Visa Signature.
In the unlikely scenario that you hold a DBS Insignia, you can leverage its free conversions and DBS’s points pooling to do the same for your DBS cards.
The same should apply to Maybank as well, in the case of cardholders with the Maybank Visa Infinite/Maybank World Mastercard and another card like the Maybank Horizon Visa Signature.
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. Does it really cost S$25 to process a miles transaction? And with improved processes and API integration, shouldn’t the cost be falling over time?
All the same, I don’t think you should get too hung up about them. Of course you should minimise fees where you can, but the odd S$25 fee here and there is more annoyance than deal-breaker.
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.
Points conversion fees are an annoying, yet persistent feature of the Singapore credit card market. Expect to pay around S$25 per conversion, though some banks may offer unlimited conversions for a fixed fee, or free conversions to selected programmes for a limited time.
It’s not something to lose sleep over, although you should obviously minimise them wherever possible.