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Buying miles through credit cards

Need to buy more miles? Here are your options:

MethodIncome RequiredCPM
DBS Insignia + RentHero$500K1.07
SCB Visa Infinite Tax Payment$150K1.14-1.6
HSBC Visa Infinite Tax Payment$120K1.2-1.5
HSBC Premier MC Tax PaymentAUM: $200K1.25
Citi ULTIMA + PayAll$500K1.25
HSBC Visa Infinite Welcome Gift$120K1.39-1.86
SCB Visa Infinite + EasyBill$150K1.43-2.0
DBS Altitude + RentHero$30K1.43
Citi Prestige + PayAll$120K1.54
UOB PRVI Miles + CardUp (GET225)$30K1.57
Citi PremierMiles + PayAll$30K1.67
HSBC Visa Plat/Revolution Tax Payment$30K1.75
DBS Altitude/Citibank PremierMiles + CardUp (GET225)$30K1.83
OCBC VOYAGE Tax Payment$120K1.9
UOB Reserve VI Payment FacilityInvitation1.9
OCBC VOYAGE Payment Facility$120K1.9-1.95
Citibank PremierMiles, DBS Altitude, KrisFlyer UOB Card, OCBC 90N Annual Fee$30K1.93
UOB PRVI Pay Facility$30K2.0
UOB VI Metal Payment Facility$150K2.0
OCBC VOYAGE Annual Fee- Option 2$120K2.14
Citi Prestige Annual Fee$120K2.14
DBS Altitude Tax Payment$30K2.5
OCBC VOYAGE Annual Fee- Option 1$120K3.25

When buying miles, consider the following questions. 

Which methods do I qualify for?

Basic, almost stupid question, but still important.

Unfortunately, you will need to command a pretty high income if you want to take advantage of some of the better miles buying deals. For example, one of the cheapest ways of buying miles is through the SCB Visa Infinite’s tax payment facility. If you spend at least S$2,000 in a month, you’ll pay an admin fee of 1.6% and earn 1.4 mpd- that’s 1.14 cpm. However, you’d need to earn at least S$150,000 to qualify for this card. 

In fact, if I look at all the options available, the cheapest price you can access with an entry-level income is 1.75 cpm via the tax payment facility on the HSBC Visa Platinum/Revolution cards (HSBC Premier Mastercard has a S$30,000 income requirement and lets you buy miles @ 1.25 cpm, but you need S$200,000 in deposits with the bank to qualify for a Premier account). And even then the miles you can buy is limited by the amount of your tax bill.

CardUp with the UOB PRVI Miles is probably your best bet if you need to buy a large quantum of miles and don’t earn in the 6 digits. Unfortunately, as I pointed out before, using CardUp requires a bona fide business expense like a tuition fee bill, condo management fee, tax bill etc. You can’t just send money to yourself.

You can send money to yourself via the UOB PRVI Pay feature, though. UOB doesn’t give two hoots what you’re getting the money for- drugs, booze, humanitarian reasons. You just tell them how much and where to deposit the money, they bill your card for the relevant amount + a 2% admin fee, and you buy miles at 2 cents each. 

What’s the limit I can buy?

Another key question, because annual fees can only be paid once a year. Once I’ve paid the $192.60 on my DBS Altitude and got my 10,000 miles, I can’t do it again for another year (I could get the Visa and AMEX versions and pay the annual fee twice, of course, if I were so inclined).

You’ll also note that I’ve distinguished between “welcome gift” and “annual fee” in the table above. A welcome gift is a one time opportunity to purchase miles, which is subsequently not available. An annual fee can be paid each year. To my knowledge, neither the HSBC Visa Infinite nor the SCB Visa Infinite offer miles from the second year onwards. This should give people doubts about holding the card beyond the first year, unless you really dig the benefits.

Where tax payment facilities are concerned, I can’t simply go to them and say “hey, my tax bill is $500.000, gimme.” I have to submit copies of my tax bill and they’ll charge my card based on the actual amount. 

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The only truly “unlimited” options are: 

  • Buying at 1.9 cpm via the OCBC VOYAGE Pay facility
  • Buying at 2 cpm via UOB PRVI Pay

Should I be buying miles?

Image result for singapore airlines new first class

Maybe we should have started with this question.

Buying miles can certainly be a much cheaper option of getting business and first class flights. However, you need to remember the inherent restrictions on award tickets, such as availability (the dates you want may not always have award space). 

But, assuming you find yourself in a situation where instantly-confirmable award space is available, it absolutely makes sense to go the buying miles route. You’ll need to factor in the time lag between the time you buy the miles and booking the ticket though, during which the space may vanish. 

Should I be buying miles speculatively?

The previous question assumed that you had a plan in mind already.But what if you don’t have an upcoming trip planned? What if you’re pretty well-stocked already? This is a more complicated question.

I tend to think you should not be buying miles speculatively. Miles are the worst investment to hold. There is no deposit insurance. They do not earn interest. They can only be devalued, sometimes with short or little notice. Miles are only as valuable as airlines’ willingness to accept them. They’re pretty much a fiat currency. 

Conclusion

For better or worse, SQ hasn’t attempted to monetize Krisflyer by selling miles on the cheap, like the US airlines have done. Therefore the best options for buying miles, at least for now, are offered through the banks. I hope this article gives you a better understanding of what’s out there, and what is (and isn’t) worth springing for.

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