An Interview with NYLON’s Editor-In-Chief on getting started on the “Miles Game”

Last month, a representative from Singapore Airlines contacted me to be part of a new initiative that KrisFlyer was launching; it’s a column on SilverKris.com called, “Humans of KrisFlyer”. The idea is to inspire their readers with real stories about KrisFlyer members; to “humanise” the KrisFlyer experience and showcase the diversity of their membership base — their words.

To kickstart the project, they want to feature advocates of the “Miles Game” — individuals who seek out ways and means to accumulate and wisely utilise miles. That’s me. I make no apologies for wanting to be comfortable when I travel — especially when it’s a red-eye flight (who doesn’t like to lie flat when they sleep?). Hence over the years, I’ve discovered clever ways to earn miles, and did my research on the best ways to use them.

Here’s the full interview with SilverKris.com!

1. How did you first get started on the “miles game”?

Back in 2015, I saw this video on YouTube:

It was about this guy called Justin Ross Lee who flies around the world for next to nothing. A lot of his methods to get free miles and entry to lounges were pretty unscrupulous, but they weren’t illegal. Anyway, I’m not thick-skinned enough to do exactly what he does, but he did inspire me to look into the “miles game”, and so I started researching credit cards and realised it was actually really easy to accumulate miles. In fact, almost all my day-to-day tasks and shopping now revolve around earning miles.

 

2. How often do you travel? Do you usually travel on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Scoot or any of our partner airlines, and if yes, why do you prefer flying with us?

I travel around once every 2 months, mainly for press trips, and always on Singapore Airlines. It’s important to stick to one airline and gather all your miles with that one airline or its partners (in this case, Star Alliance). Personally, I’m comfortable flying with my national carrier, because it’s really one of the best in the industry. The service is great, the planes keep upgrading, the food is decent, and most importantly, it feels like home the minute I step on board. It’s comforting to see fellow Singaporeans (whether it’s the crew or other passengers), especially if you’ve been in a foreign place for a long time. 

left: Here’s a tip — check seat guru to see if your seat has a window, because some seats in business class don’t! also, can you see me in the reflection? ✌️ / right: i always pre-order nasi lemak through “book the cook”. This is the presentation on Premium Economy.

 

3. How do you usually earn your KrisFlyer miles? Do you earn them on flights — for personal holidays or press junkets — or through other non-flight related activities?

The bulk of my miles are earned through day-to-day credit card usage. I thought, if I’m going to spend on groceries, at a restaurant, or on shopping, I should earn miles on the purchase. I recently changed my car and put the entire downpayment on my UOB PRVIMILES Mastercard. That’s a free return Premium Economy ticket to New York!

I’ve also got PPS status, but that’s earned through press trips on Business Class. PPS is so important; it helps me cut the queues with my family when we’re on holiday; and gives me entry to the Silverkris lounges around the world — also very important, especially when you have hours to burn in-between transfer flights.

 

4. What do you usually redeem your miles for?

Always for flights; never for vouchers or things. And also always on the “Saver” category instead of the standard “Advantage” category, which sometimes requires almost twice the miles! It’s the exact same flight and seat you’re redeeming for across Saver and Advantage; the difference is in the availability of “Saver”, so I try to plan and book months in advance. But sometimes I do get lucky and the flight’s not crowded. For example, I just redeemed Business Class tickets to Hong Kong on “Saver” for the second week of July.

above: It was a pretty empty Business Class flying back from Hong Kong to Singapore in july 2018.

 

Here’s a breakdown of the value of your miles:

ITEMMILES REQUIRED TO REDEEMCOST (AT RETAIL)VALUE FOR YOUR 1 MILE
Toys”R”Us $10 Voucher1,400$10$0.007 (not even 1 cent)
Swensen’s $30 Voucher3,600$30$0.008 (not even 1 cent)
Return flights from Singapore to New York on Economy (Saver Category)80,000$1,582.40$0.019 (around 2 cents)
Return flights from Singapore to New York on Premium Economy (Saver Category)140,000$3,387.40$0.024 (slightly more than 2 cents)
Return flights from Singapore to New York on Business (Saver Category)184,000$5,287.40$0.028 (around 3 cents)
Return flights from Singapore to New York on First Class (Saver Category)240,000$19,487.40$0.081 (around 8 cents)

The moral of the story: DO NOT REDEEM FOR VOUCHERS, EVER!

In the above example, you can see the higher the class of seat, the more value you will get for your mile (and it seriously jumps from Business to First). I always try to book Business or First Class tickets for myself, because it’s just better value.

 

5. What is the best part of being a KrisFlyer member?  (eg. The perks of being able to use the lounge, or other rewards collecting miles can give you.)

Be a KrisFlyer member so you can accumulate your KrisFlyer miles (obviously). Also, I can manage all my bookings through the website or app, such as selecting my seat, booking the cook, or changing my itinerary if I need to. It’s also important to get on the mailing list because that’s the fastest way to know about any promotions.

For example, right now as I write this, there’s a promotion for “spontaneous” flights; if you redeem miles by 30 June, and travel in July (to selected destinations), there’s a 30% discount on miles required — and that’s what I did for my “spontaneous” trip to Hong Kong! Here’s a breakdown:

This 30% discount only applies to Business Class tickets; so it only took me 38,500 miles to redeem the return flight.

It would have cost me 30,000 miles to fly Economy — so I would obviously top up 8,500 miles to fly Business instead! And here’s some irony: It would have cost me 45,000 miles to fly Premium Economy! So imagine if you didn’t know about the “Spontaneous Flights” promo, and booked yourself on Premium using your miles… you’d essentially be paying more to sit in a lower class seat. Hence, always be on the lookout for ongoing promos!!!

 

6. What is the best redemption you’ve ever made with your KrisFlyer miles?

I booked a ticket to New York on Suites. I kept refreshing the SQ website daily for weeks, until something opened up on the “Saver” category. I didn’t post my experience anywhere on social media though; I thought it was too hao lian to do so. Anyway, flying Suites to New York is really an experience and was on my bucket list. I just didn’t think I would achieve it so soon!

 

7. If you had a million KrisFlyer miles, how will you use it?

I’ve had a million KrisFlyer miles in my account before. I used it for the above flight on Suites to New York, and Business Class tickets for the family to Tokyo and Osaka. As for the extra miles, I save them for my sister who lives in New York (she’s one of my nominees) — she comes back to Singapore at least once a year, and I upgrade her flight to Business whenever I can.

 

8. What is your best miles hack? 

Here’s an article on a detailed step-by-step breakdown on how I accumulated miles for a free flight to Johannesburg for a safari.

above: FROM JOHANNESBURG, I STOPPED OVER IN ZIMBABWE AND ZAMBIA TO SEE VICTORIA FALLS. THIS IS ME FLYING OVER THE FALLS IN A MICROLIGHT PLANE.

 

In summary, get the right credit card. Right now, I’d recommend the UOB PRVIMILES card which gives 1.4 miles per (local) dollar spent, and has a promo of 10,000 miles for sign-ups before end July. Also, UOB lowered the requirements for this card recently; they used to require $80,000 per annum salary, but they’ve dropped it to $30,000 per annum! Which makes this an incredibly competitive card in the industry now. I’ve replaced my DBS Altitude Visa (only 1.2 miles per dollar) with this UOB one, and have gotten friends and family to do so as well. DBS needs to improve their game!!! (Hopefully someone from DBS is reading this.)

 

9. Do you have any advice for someone who is new to the “Miles Game”?

Think about your daily habits — what you do (movies, entertainment, travel, etc) and what you buy (groceries, electronics…), and incorporate earning miles into your day-to-day routine. You won’t be spending any more than you already are; you’ll just be doing it in a smarter way that’ll earn you free flights and upgrades!

 

10. In today’s digital economy, people are becoming increasingly savvy with their miles and redemption options. What are some of the ways KrisFlyer can improve to further value add to your life?

  • Add more relevant vendors to KrisFlyer Spree; like Redmart and Lazada — I sometimes find them on KrisFlyer Spree, and other times they’re gone. Also, fine a way to link to apps like Amazon Prime where I do most of my grocery shopping now!
  • There’s a rule that you can’t remove a nominee until 6 months later — please remove this rule; it’s annoying. Sometimes I need to make changes.
  • Please tie up with Singtel! Right now, KrisFlyer is only partnering with M1. But I’m on Singtel!!!
  • Have more of these “Spontaneous Flights” promos. They’re great!