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I just booked myself a $1,233 economy flight from Hawaii to Chicago for 17,500 Singapore miles and $5.

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You probably already have the miles I used, so you’re only a 10 minute phone call away from a trip to Hawaii that costs thousands of miles fewer than it “should.”

The basic idea is that you don’t want to use United, American Airlines, or Delta miles to fly to Hawaii. You want to use their planes, but you want to book those flights with miles issued by foreign airlines, which for whatever reason, offer far cheaper award prices to Hawaii.

My flight is a direct flight from Honolulu to Chicago on United. It is cheaper to book the exact same United flights to Hawaii with Singapore KrisFlyer miles than with United miles.

  • United charges 22,500 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii
  • Singapore charges 17,500 miles each way in economy and 30,000 miles each way in First Class between the mainland and Hawaii

That’s a humongous difference. Instead of costing 90,000 United miles to get two people from your home airport to Hawaii and back, you could pay 70,000 Singapore miles. Instead of paying 160,000 United miles for two roundtrip First Class tickets, you could pay 120,000 Singapore miles–even occasionally for flat beds!

To reiterate, these are the exact same flights with vastly different prices depending on which miles you use. Singapore has access to all the same Saver award space United releases to people with United miles (except for some space set aside only for United elites and credit card holders.)

For similar examples and even cheaper awards, look this post about booking American Airlines flights to Hawaii with British Airways Avios.

What’s the catch? For bookings to Hawaii, there really isn’t one.

  • Singapore awards cost fewer miles than United awards
  • Singapore awards are way cheaper to change or cancel than United awards if your plans change
  • Singapore awards of United flights do not have fuel surcharges, so both types of awards will just have identical taxes of around $11 roundtrip.
  • Singapore miles are easier to get than United miles, and even share a key transfer partner.

Getting Singapore Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of the four major transferable points program:

  1. Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1
  2. Citi ThankYou Points, 1:1
  3. American Express Membership Rewards, 1:1

Right now, the best cards to earn Singapore miles is Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Searching for Award Space, Transferring Miles, and Booking the Awards

I need to get from Hawaii to Chicago in October. The direct United flight is definitely my preferred option for convenience.

Here’s how to search Make sure that you do NOT sign into when searching for award space that you plan to book with another type of miles because signing in can cause award space set aside for elites or credit card holders to appear, and that space is not bookable with other types of miles like Singapore miles.

I found Saver award space on my date in Economy, but none in First Class.

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I would prefer to pay 12,500 extra Singapore miles for First Class even though it’s just this recliner First Class I reviewed from Houston to Honolulu.

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I used my method to estimate the likelihood of First Class award space opening on the flight later. Things don’t look good, though, as award space isn’t available any time in the next two months on the flight in First Class.

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Even if First Class award space was likely to open though, I’d probably book economy now because I wouldn’t want to miss out on booking my preferred date and because Singapore’s change and cancellation fees are minimal.

  1. United charges $200 to cancel an award booking and get your miles back. Singapore charges $30.
  2. United charges $75 to $100 to change an award booking. Singapore charges $20.

Transferring Miles

Transfers from Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points to Singapore miles all take about 19-48 hours.

Normally once I find award space, I initiate the transfer, though in this case I already had enough Singapore miles to book the award.

Award space changes all the time, so in a worst case scenario, your award space could disappear before your miles post from a points transfer. If you can’t handle this outcome, transfer Ultimate Rewards to United miles instantly instead, and pay the extra miles.

I can handle the small chance that my award space will disappear. Maybe it will reappear later. If not, I can always use Singapore miles in the future for a different high value award.

Picking Seats

To pick my seats and confirm that my reservation was ticketed correctly, I headed to and input the Singapore Airlines confirmation number on the home page where it says “My trips.” The Singapore Airlines confirmation number is the six letter/number code listed on your email attachment next to “Booking Reference.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.42.41 PM will recognize the Singapore Airlines confirmation number. You can select your seats and note your United confirmation number, which will be a different six letter/number code.

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You can also permanently add this reservation to your account, which will be convenient for checking in without having to search for it again. To do that, click “Save to my Account” from the tiny links above “United Confirmation Number.”
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Bottom Line

Use Singapore miles instead of United miles to book economy and First Class awards to Hawaii on United flights. You’ll pay fewer miles, and be able to book the exact same seats. Plus Singapore miles are so easy to get as a transfer partner of pretty much everyone.

If I didn’t have miles, I would have paid $1,233 for the same flight or, more likely, slogged through a much worse itinerary for $370.
Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 4.47.01 PMOr if I had miles, but didn’t know the right ones to use, I might assume that United miles are best for booking United flights and paid 22,500 miles for my ticket instead of the 17,500 I did pay.

For more info on booking awards to Hawaii with Singapore miles, see Complete Guide to Booking Singapore Awards to Hawaii on United Planes

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