By Adele Chan
A safari has been on my bucket list since I was a kid, and this year, I’m finally going to make that happen. And I’m making it happen with free flights!
Believe it or not, earning miles is easy. I’m secretly one of those “miles hackers” and I’ve actually hacked my way to a Suite on Singapore Airlines flying from Singapore to New York. And as a typical Gen-Xer, I was uncomfortable posting photos of that experience all over social media, so I didn’t. But today I’ll share with you some tips on how to start your journey flying comfortable, and flying free.
The safari I’m heading to is in Kruger National Park, and so I need to fly in to Johannesburg, South Africa to get there. For the purpose of this article, I’m focusing on Singapore Airlines and KrisFlyer miles (because it’s the best!); and I’m basing all my recommendations on a basic salary of S$30,000 and above per annum.
Let’s start with the basics — these are the KrisFlyer miles required to fly return from Singapore to Johannesburg:
ALWAYS, always aim for the “Saver” Award category because it requires half (in this case, less than half) of the miles needed compared to the standard “Advantage” category. There’s no difference in the flight you get; it’s just about availability of the seat in that category.
Here are some tips on getting available seats in the “Saver” category:
- This is obvious, but let me just say it: plan in advance and book as early as you can. My flights to New York were booked 10 months in advance.
- Choose unpopular weekdays to travel, like Tuesdays.
I did a quick search for redemption flights, and look here!
Just keep putting in different dates to see what’s available on the “Saver” Award category (there’s some luck involved). Do note that you will have to pay for taxes, but it’s not much:
NOW LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS!
We need to accrue 50,000 miles.
STEP 1: Sign up to be a KrisFlyer member.
STEP 2: Apply for the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer card and link your KrisFlyer membership number to it.
STEP 3: Apply for 2 supplementary cards (one for mum and one for dad!). You will earn 1,500 miles for each of these approved cards. That’s your first 3,000 miles earned!
STEP 4: Make a purchase using the Amex. Any purchase. You will immediately earn 5,000 miles. AND if you sign up for this card before 30th June 2018, you will get an additional 2,000 miles (it’s a promotion Amex is currently running).
MILES TO DATE: Just based on the above, you’ve earned 10,000 miles!!! (That’s more than a one-way Economy ticket to Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta on the Saver category.)
STEP 5: Assuming you apply for the Amex before 31st March 2018, you can earn an additional 7,500 miles if you charge $2,500 to the card within the first 3 months you get it (another promo, but note that it’s expiring soon). $2,500 is $834 a month. Get mum to use the card for all household groceries and expenses! And charge all your shopping and entertainment to it as well, at least up until the $2,500 mark for the first 3 months.
HERE’S A TIP: When you’re out dining with friends, ALWAYS offer to pay first and sign with your card. This is one of the ways I chalk up miles. But of course you have to chase your friends to pay you back in time before the credit card bill arrives. If you have friends who use this same tactic, just take turns to pay.
NOTE ABOUT THE AMEX KRISFLYER CARD: The annual fees aren’t cheap. It’s $176.55 for the main card, and $53.50 per supplementary card (that’s $283.55 in total if you have two supp cards!). HOWEVER, there’s a fee waiver for the first year, so if you want to avoid subsequent annual fees, try asking for a waiver (usually works), or just cancel the card.
MILES TO DATE: Assuming you make that $2,500 spend, you’ve earned 2,750 miles from that spend (at a rate of 1.1 miles per dollar), and adding to the above, you’re now at 20,250 miles.
STEP 6: It’s time you know about a magical thing called “KrisFlyer Spree“. It’s an incredibly underrated and under-marketed service, but very effective in earning miles. Since I discovered it a few years ago, this is how much I’ve earned:
What is KrisFlyer Spree? It’s basically a clickthrough site that earns you miles. You know how you get rebates when you shop through websites like ShopBack? This is similar, but instead of rebates or discounts, you earn miles. And because I’m so focused on earning miles, I don’t use other clickthrough services (you can only use one clickthrough link at a time). I’d much rather pile up my miles (which have a high dollar value), than get an instant $5 discount (for example).
What should you use KrisFlyer Spree for?
- Definitely Redmart (9 miles / USD10). Redmart was on KrisFlyer Spree for about a year, and then disconnected from the service. I was really upset when that happened because I was doing all my grocery shopping through the site, and earning double miles along the way (both from the Amex visa, and from KrisFlyer Spree!). But this week they are back!!! And I’m back to using Redmart again.
- Guardian (11 miles / USD10), for any of the pharmaceutical items that Redmart doesn’t stock.
- Lazada (23 miles / USD10), Courts (5 miles / USD10) and Apple (5 miles / USD10) for any electronics. Lazada Singapore seems to have disappeared from the KrisFlyer Spree site (since last month), but I’ve been linking through Lazada Malaysia and my miles still get recorded, so it’s still good.
- Shopping on Asos (19 miles / USD10), Net-A-Porter (53 miles / USD10), Farfetch (21 miles / USD10), Zalora (19 miles / USD10), and Luisaviaroma (34 miles / USD10), Sephora (15 miles / US10) and Book Depository (19 miles / USD10).
- Travel bookings through Booking.com (15 miles / USD10), Expedia (30 miles / USD10), Hotels.com (26 miles / USD10), and Klook (11 miles / USD10).
Like me, you’ll probably be using KrisFlyer Spree most frequently for Redmart and Lazada; and make one-off big ticket purchases when birthdays and Christmas come around. I particularly like to choose gifts from Net-A-Porter, because they are constantly having promotions on the KrisFlyer Spree website. Right now until 11th April, you earn 53 miles per USD10; the usual earn rate is 30 miles per USD10.
Step 7: Link your Krisflyer Membership Account to Everything! And I mean everything that has a partnership with KrisFlyer. These include:
- Esso Smiles Cards — set up an auto conversion to covert all your Esso points to KrisFlyer miles. 110 Smiles Points = 100 KrisFlyer miles. And for every litre of Synergy fuel pumped, you earn 1 Smiles Point. That works out to be around 400 KrisFlyer miles with every full tank (of course depending on the size of your tank).
- Passion Card — you know that card your mum has… you need to get one too. The Passion Card earns you 1 Point for every $1 spent at participating stores; and you can convert all those points to KrisFlyer miles! The participating stores are also probably ones you already shop at, including Cold Storage, Giant and Guardian. Link your KrisFlyer account here.
- M1 SunPerks — If you’re on M1, save all your SunPerks and convert them to KrisFlyer miles.
Step 8: Volunteer to sign for the bill (first)!
So it’s going to be the birthday of one of your best friends, and the group has decided to share a present. There are 8 friends and everyone has agreed on a budget of USD50 each. You buy it on Net-A-Porter and click through the KrisFlyer Spree website, and use your Amex to pay for it; you’ll be earning: 2,120 miles through KrisFlyer Spree, and approximately 550 miles through Amex.
Next, you attend the birthday dinner and volunteer to sign for the $400 bill first. That’s 440 miles through the Amex.
MILES TO DATE: Adding to the previous 20,250 miles, you’re now at 23,360 miles.
Apply the “volunteer” scenario to pay for stuff across expenses with your family, friends and co-workers. If you’re in a situation to pay first for office equipment and services as well, even better! The idea is to keep charging to your credit card to earn miles. But do so prudently and make sure these expenses are not your own — because constantly spending your own money is a surefire way to get into credit card debt.
I’ve brought you through the halfway point and have shown you how to cleverly accumulate miles. The idea is to earn miles through your daily routine and expenditure, and not have to do anything out of the ordinary (except other than applying for the right cards, of course). NOTE: If you earn S$50,000 per annum and above, there’s an even better miles card that earns you miles faster — the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend; and an even better one for those earning S$80,000 and above — the UOB Prvimiles card.
Of course the high earners who take home S$120,000 and above can just sign up for the HSBC and Standard Chartered cards, which both have a welcome gift of 35,000 miles — and that’s already 70,000 miles in the bank. More than enough to fly to Johannesburg and back!
See my full table of comparison here for: The Best Credit Cards for Miles.
If you manage to chalk up enough miles for a flight to a safari, let me know! 🛫