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An interesting Amex Membership Rewards / KrisFlyer arbitrage has opened up

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On 1st April, American Express cut the transfer rate from UK Membership Rewards points to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer programme.

It dropped from 1:1 to 3:2.

This was a big surprise, because no other airline had ever broken the ‘rule’ of 1:1 transfers from the UK Membership Rewards programme.

It is totally normal for Amex cards in other countries to have odd transfer ratios, to keep the value roughly constant across different currencies, but the UK had a cosy 1:1 set-up.

Singapore Airlines Membership Rewards devaluation

Something happened that I didn’t expect

KrisFlyer is also a partner with the International Dollar Card from Amex.

If you look at the reward chart of the International Dollar Card, which I hold, it is a mix of 3:2 and 1:1. 3:2 makes sense with the International Dollar Card because 1 point per $1 is easier to earn than 1 point per £1.

Ironically, KrisFlyer is one of the handful of airlines at 1:1 on that card.

It seemed logical that Singapore Airlines would also be looking to cut the transfer rate on the International Dollar Card. After all, the airline is already more generous than most in its transfer rate. In the UK, it has made an active decision to become less generous than the competition.

And yet, it hasn’t.

Here is UK Membership Rewards website:

Here is the International Dollar Card website, where KrisFlyer is still 1:1.

If you want Singapore Airlines miles, you really need to get the International Dollar Card

The Amex International Dollar Card was always a no-brainer if you had a lot of Membership Rewards points to transfer to Singapore Airlines. It now becomes sensible even for smaller balances.

100,000 UK American Express Membership Rewards points is now worth:

  • 66,666 KrisFlyer miles if you transfer directly from the UK programme at 3:2, or
  • 137,000 KrisFlyer miles if you get the International Dollar Card, transfer your existing UK Membership Rewards points across (they are boosted by the $ FX rate, currently £1 to $1.37) and then send them to KrisFlyer at 1:1

You are basically getting a 105% transfer bonus.

Is there a sign-up bonus on the International Dollar Card?

Yes. As this HfP article explains, you get 30,000 Membership Rewards points if you sign up for IDC Platinum.

You get this bonus irrespective of what UK Amex cards you hold and it will not impact future UK Amex bonuses.

Alternatively, pay $100 and get the basic IDC Green American Express. If your only concern is moving points to KrisFlyer, it will do the job.

What are the best uses of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles?

If you are thinking about taking the route outlined above, you probably already use KrisFlyer.

Whilst we don’t cover KrisFlyer much on Head for Points, it does have some sweet spots.

This HfP article looks at the best deals with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.

It is, for example, the cheapest way to get from the UK to the Middle East in Business Class. You pay just 58,000 miles RETURN in Business Class.

Remember that British Airways wants up to 120,000 Avios on a peak day for a return Club World flight to Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc.  You can use just 58,000 KrisFlyer miles, most likely routed on Lufthansa via Frankfurt or SWISS via Zurich, instead.  Other fun routings include Turkish via Istanbul and Egyptair via Cairo.

Other good options include:

  • Europe to South East Asia, at 92,000 miles one-way in Business.  You can fly direct to Singapore on Singapore Airlines for 90,000 miles, but if you can’t find seats on your dates (not unlikely) then you should get something on Thai, Lufthansa, SWISS, Turkish etc for just 2,000 additional miles
  • Europe to South Africa for 52,000 miles one-way in Business.   Your primary choices would be South African, Lufthansa, SWISS, Ethiopian and Turkish.
  • Europe to the Maldives is 54,500 miles one-way in Business.   Turkish is your likely airline.  Sri Lanka and India are in the same pricing zone.
  • Domestic USA / Canada flights.  Whilst not as cheap as Avios for short hops, 12,500 miles one-way in Economy or 23,000 miles one-way in Business (domestic First in the USA is priced as Business) can work out well.

And if you are prepared to start your trip in Turkey ….

  • Istanbul to Singapore is astonishingly cheap at 49,000 miles one-way in Business. Taxes are also exceptionally low – just US$55 last time I checked.

Conclusion

If you use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, it seems that the sky hasn’t fallen in after all.

Whilst the UK Membership Rewards scheme has devalued, the International Dollar Card scheme has not. This has created a sweet spot – for how long, who know?


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our November 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the top current deals:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers.

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending:

Barclaycard Select Cashback Credit Card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (64)

  • Josh says:

    So am I right in thinking the international $ amex has no impact on eligiblity for any other welcome bonuses? How comes it isn’t included in the couples account opening order?

    • QFFlyer says:

      Because it has no impact whatsoever on any UK card – it’s technically separate to all other Amex cards from any country, it just happens to be issued/serviced from the UK.

      It also requires you to hold another Amex for 6 months prior to opening (from any country except US/Singapore/EU).

      It’s definitely not amateur Amex time, it’s more PhD level points collecting.

      • Memesweeper says:

        The difficulties are paying the card off (in $/€) and sufficient overseas spend to make having one worthwhile. It’s increasingly easy to manage the former even if you earn in Sterling.

    • Rob says:

      Too complicated, the Plat bonus is not permanent and it’s not a no-brainer (30k IDC points = 20k Avios and if you need 3 months to hit the spend target before cancelling it means paying what the points are worth in fee).

      Also, without stating the obvious, if you are making Sterling purchases on a Dollar card then you have a 3% FX on top too, plus whatever fee your bank makes for paying the card bill in $.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        1 MR / $ means you earn 1.4 MR points per pound … so it not so far off 2 points per £2 spend.

        obviously wiped out by any non $ spend but if you spend a lot of time in the USA you’d be far better off.

  • Benilyn says:

    DXB -> LGW is flown by Turkish on Boeing 777-300ER to Istanbul, then the A321 to LGW. Peoples thoughts on J here? Didn’t look that impressive but better than Y BA I have booked at the moment I guess! How is the J lounge in IST, worth spending some time there?

    No Swiss / Lufty availability on my date who fly to my preferred LHR.

    • Louie says:

      Turkish lounge in IST is superb, better than any lounge I’ve been in bar maybe the CX ones in HKG. Miles better than any of the BA ones, including whatever the first class one is called. Or was before Covid, no idea about now.

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      The one major problem with that, especially now is whether transiting in turkey will be on red list for either of UK or Dubai. In addition, you might have to get tested each time you transit.
      I was looking at this option, but with a child, it’s not worth the hassle.

      • Benilyn says:

        Ah yes… that’s why I was looking at direct flights… 😩
        Etihad/Emirates J a lot more (62.5k MR Vs this route c20K MR per ticket) especially as I’m booking for 4 adults and no BA availability. I’m going in December so wonder if I take a gamble

    • Mark says:

      With Turkish, B777 mainly new flat beds now (similar to Qatar’s non Q-Suite business seat), and A321 to LGW business completely different to BA – like the old BMI business to Middle East (2 x 2 and large seats with lots of legroom)

    • graham says:

      ist to lgw on turkish is usually proper business class seats with 2 seats either side of the isle nothing like BA and turkish airlines lounge is probably one of the best in europe

  • mutley says:

    I have a Green IDC.

    Can Mrs mutley transfer her Plat Business MR balance to her supplementary Personal Plat? ( My Personal Plat) . Plan then is to transfer whole lot to my Green IDC?

  • Jake Taylor says:

    Can someone explain to me how this is “arbitrage”? Isn’t it just “getting a better rate for your points elsewhere”?

    It’s not like you can then convert them back and lock in a profit, which would be arbitrage.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Plus even ignoring the vocab it’s just the same deal as a month ago but a min $100 cost for getting it

      • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

        Think you guys are being a bit unfair to Rob here. It is an arbitrage in the sense that you are exploiting differences in pricing within the Amex system to receive more KrisFlyer points for your MRs than you would via the normal route. I take the point about the USD100 cost for the IDC but this has always been the case and one had to weigh it up versus the benefit of the approx 1.4x multiplier received on the MRs conversion. Now the increase is even more significant as you also benefit from a better exchange ratio into KrisFlyer miles from the IDC, so the article has real value to people who have MRs and want KF miles…

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It is arbitrage as your are profiting from the difference is exchange and transfer rates.

      transfer to IDC gets you 1.4x more points and transfer to krisflyer is 1:1 rather than 3:2

      simple terms 150k UK MR = 100k krisflyer
      150k UK MR transferred to IDC = 210k IDC MR = 210k Krisflyer

      • kevbar says:

        you are getting more Krisflyer for your MR, you are not arbing anything

        • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

          You are arbitraging the quite rates available between the UK Amex accounts and the IDC. I don’t see why people are arguing that this is not arbitrage.

          • Guernsey Globetrotter says:

            ‘quite DIFFERENT rates’ (sorry for typo)

  • Tim says:

    A good few years back I did Edinburgh to Istanbul business on Turkish using Aeroplan miles, then Istanbul to Singapore in, if I recall, the old first class. I then used Avios to get to Hong Kong with Cathay and than back to London and Newcastle with BA. I recall it being a great trip that used substantially fewer miles than you would expect and minimal cash – I think EDI to IST needed about £100 and the other segments combined came to less than that.

    • Erico1875 says:

      Was Turkish Edi to Ist proper business class seat or was it similar to Club Europe,?

      • C says:

        Narroebody are like US domestic first – a 38″ pitch recliner. It’s quite adequate for 4 hours over to Istanbul, particularly if the alternative is a CE style product.

  • Patrick C says:

    3 questions:

    (1) can you get both IDC cards and can you get the bonus twice? I may have a specific 2021 opportunity to do that.
    (2) The fee is prorata refunded I presume when you cancel?
    (3) are the transfer rates the same for the EUR and the USD cards?

  • Rob says:

    Has anybody managed to successfully book Lufthansa F using Krisflyer miles? Is it even possible? Presumably just using the same 14 day out rule.

    • Rob says:

      In theory you can do it inside 14 days. You can’t book Swiss F.

  • Grateful says:

    If I recently received the 100,000 MR bonus for the Business Plat, would I need to sign up for the Personal Green ICC, or the Business ICC?

    Thank you.

    • Rob says:

      You can get either (note that you need to have had an Amex card for 6 months in another country eg UK to qualify for IDC) but only Plat has a bonus, which you would receive.

      • Grateful says:

        Thank you Rob! Thinking about it at the moment as I’m mindful of the 3-year Krisflyer Miles expiry.

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