Tonight (for me it is almost 11 PM) my goal was to book a flight to get me from Norway to Spain around July 11, because for the rest of the days leading up to the 11th, I’ll be camping in rural Norway with little to no internet access.
Cash flights at this point are exorbitantly expensive, but hey, that’s what miles are for. At least, it’s one reason why I love miles–protection against last second cash ticket prices.
There was only one award that worked around my desired travel date, and it included two connecting segments on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which is a member of Star Alliance. Out of my current rewards stash, my top two options for booking Scandinavian were Singapore miles (which I already have in my Singapore Krisflyer Account) and Aeroplan miles (which I could transfer from Membership Rewards).
Using Singapore Miles to Book SAS
I called Scandinavian to price out the award with Singapore miles. The agent quoted 12,500 miles (in economy) as expected…
…and just under $30 out of pocket, meaning just taxes. Great!
Using Aeroplan Miles to Book SAS
It would also cost 12,500 Aeroplan miles to book the SAS flights, as both Norway and Spain are in the region Aeroplan calls Europe 1 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain (incl. Balearic Islands; excl. Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom).
I could see that the available award space I had originally found on united.com was also displaying via Aeorplan’s award search tool. The price was indeed 12,500 miles, also with just taxes and no fuel surcharges.
If All Else is Equal, Redeem the Less Valuable Mile
The two awards I was choosing between were exactly the same in mileage price and out of pocket cost. If you’re ever in that situation, I hope you already realize what you should do. Redeem the less valuable mile!
I value Membership Rewards more highly than outright Singapore miles because of an obvious reason.
Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Singapore, as well as to many other airline partners. But Singapore miles can only be Singapore miles.
Seems like an easy choice, right?
Whoops, my Singapore balance is just a little short!
“But that’s not a problem because I can just top off my Singapore balance with a small amount of Membership Rewards. Doing so would still represent better value than using a whole chunk of 12.5k Membership Rewards.”
I hesitated, however, when the Point Transfer Time series I wrote not too long ago popped into the forefront of my memory. If you haven’t read it, I recommend taking a look and bookmarking it for the exact reason that saved me an hour ago. When I looked back at average transfer times between Membership Rewards and Singapore miles, the chart read “Up to three business days”.
Oh no, siree. That would not work for me. In three days I would be nowhere near internet and the one lone award flight that works for my schedule could very likely be gone anyways.
Back to Aeroplan
Luckily the average transfer time between Membership Rewards and Aeroplan is instant. Without a moment’s hesitation I logged into my Membership Rewards account and transferred 13,000 Membership Rewards to Aeroplan (I only needed 12.5k but you must transfer in 1k increments).
While the miles didn’t show up the instant I transferred them, once I logged out and logged back into my Aeroplan account about five minutes later, there they were.
I was able to book the SAS award and will sleep a little easier tonight knowing that I won’t be forced to buy a $600 cash ticket. Phew.
Value comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. In this case, the value of being able to book right now was much higher to me than the marginal value of redeeming 12.5k Singapore miles over Membership Rewards.
Be aware of transfer times between a bank point and airline mile partner, especially if your award space has a narrow desired travel window and you can’t put the award on hold beforehand. If I hadn’t I might have ended up with no award flight, $600 poorer, and some sad orphaned miles!