United Miles Versus Singapore Miles: Which Star Alliance Partner Awards Are Cheaper With Each Program

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I’m getting more into Citi’s ThankYou program recently (because Citi ThankYou points are so easy to earn).

And while I can’t totally abandon Ultimate Rewards (for access to United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt), I’ve been thinking of award flights where collecting Citi ThankYou points instead of Ultimate Rewards might actually make more sense.

Why Singapore Airlines miles?

If you like to fly Star Alliance partners, there are a few times you’ll pay fewer Singapore Airlines miles than United Airlines miles.

So many ways

So many ways

Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program. And so do AMEX Membership Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points, and SPG points.

Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United Airlines, too. So you’ll have your pick of either program (Singapore or United).

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Star Alliance partners – the airlines with no/low fuel surcharges are highlighted

But, huge note, Singapore Airlines passes along fuel surcharges. I highlighted the airlines where you’ll avoid the worst of the fuel surcharges.

That’ll make a lot of European, Middle Eastern, and African Star Alliance partners a lot less shiny. Unless you feel its worth it to pay them, and save your Ultimate Rewards points for something else. If anything, it’s worth it to check the price on your route. If it’s ~$100 or so, it might be economical to pay and save Ultimate Rewards points/United Airlines miles.

And, if you’re going to pay fuel surcharges to Europe, you might come out ahead with Flying Blue promo awards – especially if you can get a good deal.

Here’s the full breakdown of when it’s better to use Singapore Airlines miles, purely from a mileage perspective. I bolded the awards priced the same or cheaper than United Airlines miles.

Mainland US and Alaska to: United Airlines Miles, in Thousands, Each WaySingapore Airlines Miles, in Thousands, Each Way
Mainland US and Alaska12.5
25
35
12.5
20
30
Hawaii22.5
40
50
17.5
30
40
Mexico/Central America/Caribbean17.5
30
40
17.5
30
40
Northern South America20
35
45
30
50
70
Southern South America30
55
70
30
50
70
Europe30
70
110
27.5
65
80
Northern Africa40
80
130
37.5
57.5
75
Central/Southern Africa40
80
130
45
72.5
110
Middle East42.5
80
140
37.5
57.5
75
Central Asia42.5
80
140
52.5
97.5
132.5
North Asia35
80
120
45
87.5
100
South Asia40
80
130
52.5
97.5
132.5
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sinagore, Thailand, Vietnam 40
80
130
55
97.5
112.5
Japan35
75
110
45
87.5
100
Oceania35
75
110
55
97.5
127.5
Australia/New Zealand40
80
130
55
97.5
127.5

Note: You have to call Singapore Airlines at 800-742-3333 to book a partner award flight.

When is it better to redeem Singapore Airlines miles?

Let’s break this down a little more. You will save:

  • 5,000 miles each way in Business and First within the US. And pay the same as United in econ
  • In every class of service to Hawaii on United (5,000 each way in econ, 10,000 each way in Business or First)
  • 15,000 miles each way in Business to Southern South America. And pay the same as United in First
  • 5,000 miles each way to Europe in econ or Business. And 30,000 miles each way in First
  • 7,500 miles each way to Central/Southern Africa in Business. And 20,000 miles each way in First
  • In every class of service to the Middle East (5,000 miles each way in econ, 22,500 miles each way in Business, 65,000 miles each way in First)
  • In every class of service to Northern Africa (2,500 miles each way in econ, 22,500 miles each way in Business, 55,000 miles each way in First)
  • 7,500 miles each way to Central Asia in First
  • 20,000 miles each way to North Asia in First
  • 10,000 miles each way to Japan in First

You will pay the same price as United to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. So use Citi ThankYou points for these awards if they’re easier for you to earn.

Singapore Airlines has some funky regional definitions that work to your advantage in certain situations.

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Canary Islands, anyone? United categorizes it as Northern Africa

For example, if you want to visit Spain’s Canary Islands, you’ll save a lot with Singapore miles, because it’s considered part of Europe. Whereas United (rightfully) calls it Northern Africa.

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There’s no distinction between Northern and Southern South America

Singapore considers South America as one big region, which saves you a bit on Business Class awards to what United calls Southern South America, including Argentina and Chile.

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United considers Guam, Micronesia, and Palau to be Oceania. But Singapore calls it North Asia

You’ll also save marginally on certain First Class flights to Oceania.

The biggest takeaway is how much you can save on:

  • All domestic award flights
  • All flights to Hawaii
  • All flights to Europe, if you can minimize fuel surcharges
  • Business andFirst Class flights to South Africa
  • All flights to Mexico/Central America/Caribbean, if you can minimize fuel surcharges

More resources

While researching this, I found a few other posts and resources you might find useful:

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Did you know Singapore Airlines partners with Virgin-brand airlines?

Drew from Travel Is Free has a nice breakdown of when to use Singapore Airlines between regions – including outside of the US. He also talks a bit about using Singapore Airlines miles for flights on Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. Again, beware fuel surcharges.

And here’s the link to the Virgin-brand airlines’ award charts. Just scroll down to the “Downloads” section on the right side – they’re linked individually there.

Bottom line

United Airlines has NO fuel surcharges on all of its partner award flights, which is one of the main draws of the program. And, that makes Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth collecting.

But if you want to fly with the mainland US, Canada, Alaska, or Hawaii, you’re better off using Singapore Airlines miles.

And if you like to fly in premium cabins, there are instances where you can save 100,000+ miles round-trip with Singapore Airlines miles (Middle East and Northern Africa, for example). Saving that many miles, yeah, could make it worth paying fuel surcharges.

At this point, an Ultimate Rewards/Citi ThankYou hybrid sounds good to me. Because each program has cards with 3X/5X categories – and that amps up the earnings. And, to me at least, AMEX Membership Rewards is choking on dust (except for maybe ANA and Aeroplan in a few circumstances).

As with all miles posts containing a lot of numbers, it’s all theoretical until it’s applied – until you can see the route you want and how much it’ll cost with taxes and fees.

Food for thought.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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Comments

  1. Another, similar analysis was done by MileValue last year, worth a look since it also includes ANA, Miles & More, Aeroplan, and others. It’s a good resource. He seems to be updating it with award chart changes as well. Not sure if you allow links so I’d just suggest searching for “Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts: Cheapest Awards to Every Region Updated”.

  2. Thanks for posting this Harlan and thanks to DV for pointing out some supplement info! I very briefly heard about using Singapore miles on United but didn’t investigate much about this. After reviewing your post and analysis, this could really work for my travel needs. Much appreciated

    • Awesome! Glad you found it useful!

      It really is a good way to save miles on a lot of different routes. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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