Ways to Buy Miles Cheaply… And Why

Want to buy miles for your next holiday flight? Here are some of my favourite ways to get miles at a reasonable price.

Why buy miles?

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, buying miles is a great way to get value. At the time of writing, a US dollar is worth about S$1.34. If someone offers to sell US dollars to you at S$1.25 each, how much would you buy? The answer is as much as you can, assuming the person is reliable of course.

That is the way to view miles: it’s simply another type of currency – one that is very useful to buy flights with.

Unlike the US dollar, however, which has a fairly objective valuation, miles can differ in value based on how you use them, so it may be worth as much as 2 to 3 cents each to someone, or as low as just 0.6 to 0.7 cents each to others. My conservative valuation of miles is that most people should be able to derive around 1 to 1.5 cents of value from each mile. Check out my video for more info on this topic.

Credit card sign-up promos

Sign-up offers are one of the best ways to get a bunch of miles. The advantages of sign-up promos are obvious: you often get a bunch of miles quickly, and they are often much cheaper than most other methods of buying miles.

The downside is that you often need to be a new customer to enjoy such perks and can’t have an existing card with the bank offering the promo. It is also pretty seasonal and not always available, which is why one should take advantage of deals while they are still available. Subscribing to the Telegram helps so that you’d be notified of such deals when they are available.

For the month of June 2023 at least, there are quite a few deals one may take advantage of:

CardPromoFeeCost Per Mile¹
Citi PremierMiles30,000 milesS$194.400.648¢
HSBC TravelOne20,000 milesS$194.400.972¢
Citi Prestige48,000 milesS$5401.13¢
DBS Vantage60,000 milesS$5940.99¢
1. Note that cost per mile here does not take into account opportunity cost (e.g. being able to spend on a better card) and other perks of paying the annual fees (e.g. lounge visits, free hotel stays etc.). Tap on each link for more analysis on the promo.
Seth
Seth

New HSBC Live+ offers 8% cashback and a great sign-up promo!

Subscribe to the Telegram for more great deals and updates.

Payment services

Another great way to buy miles is to make use of payment services like CardUp, ipaymy, and Citi PayAll. Such services allow you to use your credit card to pay for things that are normally not payable with credit cards. They do charge a fee, but you get rewards on your credit card for using such services, and people often do this to essentially buy miles.

To lower your cost for buying miles, you would want to use cards that give you a higher miles per dollar earn rate. High-earn cards that give 4 miles per dollar are generally excluded from such services, so you would pick cards that give between 1.2 to 1.6 miles per dollar.

You also want to take advantage of promos. CardUp and ipaymy both offer discounts on one’s first transaction, so you can get thousands of miles for free for your first payment:

CardUp

ActivityReward
New user, use this first: sign up and use code SETHISFY Get S$30 off transaction fee ¹

(Free miles/cashback for a payment of about S$1,154!)
New or existing users: use code SETHTAX24Reduced 1.75% fee² for income tax payment
(Visa or China Unionpay only)
New or existing users: use code MCTAX24Reduced 1.99% CardUp fee³ for income tax payment
(Mastercard only)

Tap here for guide

Terms and conditions:

  1. Terms and conditions for SETHISFY
  2. Terms and conditions for SETHTAX24
  3. Terms and conditions for MCTAX24

ipaymy

Ongoing promo

Activity Reward
New user: sign up hereGet S$30 off transaction fee

(free miles/cashback for a payment of about S$1,333!)
Existing users: code TAX2024Reduced fee of 1.75% for income tax payment with a VISA card. Code can only be redeemed once

After signing up with the link, an email will be sent to you with the code.

After your first payment, there are still promos that reduce your transaction fees. Both services offer an income tax payment promo with a 1.75% fee, and also a recurring payment promo with 1.79% fee.

The fees also earn miles on the card. A S$1,000 transaction incurs a fee of S$17.90, which means S$1,017.90 will be charged to your credit card and miles will be earned on this figure.

Miles Earn RateFeeCost Per MileCard Examples¹
1.6 miles per dollar1.79%1.10¢DBS Insignia, UOB Reserve
1.5 miles per dollar1.79%1.17¢DBS Vantage
1.4 miles per dollar1.79%1.26¢UOB PRVI Miles
1.3 miles per dollar1.79%1.35¢Citi Prestige, OCBC 90°N
1.2 miles per dollar1.79%1.47¢Citi PremierMiles, DBS Altitude, StanChart Journey
1. Please take note of terms and conditions of each card. UOB has excluded ipaymy so only CardUp works for UOB credit cards.

Citi PayAll comes with periodic promos, and the current one lets you buy miles at 1 cent each:

Paying annual fees for miles

Many miles and points cards offer miles when you pay for their annual fees. The going rate for a few entry-level credit cards is usually 10,000 miles for paying an annual fee of S$194.40. At 1.94¢ per mile, this is pretty pricey.

I’ve talked about this in my recent video, so if you want to find out more about whether it’s worth it paying annual fees for your credit cards, have a watch:

Pay your friends/family for transactions

This method may be a bit unorthodox, but it does get me lots of miles. You can work out mutually beneficial agreements with family or friends where you pay for things on their behalf and you pass them some rebates. More generous people wouldn’t expect anything in return, but it’s not ridiculous to offer a few percent in cash rebates for it.

Buying a S$2,000 computer? You could use a 4 miles per dollar card and pass them anywhere between 2 to 4% in “cashback” in return for those miles. This works particularly well with people you know who don’t have credit cards and will miss out on all the rewards anyway.

You could also stack with reward programmes like ShopBack, Kris+ etc. for more rewards to offset the cash rebates you give to your friend, and cash you collect from them can sit in your bank account until your credit card is due.

Conclusion

One can fly to Istanbul on a one-way business class flight with Singapore Air using 56,500 miles + around S$60 in tax. If you bought miles at around 1 cent each, your cost for this flight is just S$625. That might even be cheaper than what some would pay for economy class.

Even flying economy with miles can make sense if you get your miles cheap enough, especially when there are promotional rates.

Buying miles is definitely something worth doing if the price is low enough, and for more updates on good opportunities to buy miles, don’t forget to stay subscribed to the Telegram – we’re closing in on 10,000 members!

Keep up to date on the best cashback/mile cards, financial products, attractive deals, and more tips to maximise your financial wellbeing by subscribing to my Telegram channel.

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Please exercise due diligence when signing up for any service/product as I will not be liable for any personal loss, financial or otherwise. Content published here are my sole views and personal opinion, and none of the information here constitutes personal financial advice nor represents the views of my employer(s).

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