It’s a rarity that you’re able to transfer points from one airline to another, even when the two airlines are alliance partners or have formed some other official partnership. A couple of exceptions to this rule are transferring Virgin America points to Alaska (due to the merger) and transferring Avios between programs like British Airways and Iberia. Those exceptions notwithstanding, it’s not a common thing.
However, since late 2014 you’ve actually been allowed to transfer Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles to Virgin Australia’s Velocity frequent flyer program, but there’s a pretty big catch.
The transfer ratio is 1.35 to 1.00….
And that goes for both transferring points from Singapore Airlines Krisflyer to Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer.
So regardless of which airline you are transferring miles to you will lose points given the transfer ratio.
Virgin Australia claims that “[t]he conversion rate reflects the fact that each airline program operates in a different reward program currency.” But it’s hard to take that claim seriously because if that’s the case then you’d think they would make the transfer ratio even out the discrepancy in value between the two reward program currencies. But that’s not the case.
I think just about everyone would agree that Krisflyer miles are more valuable than Velocity miles. Thus, Australians with plenty of Velocity miles probably benefit most with this set up since they get opportunities to use miles to book Singapore Suites and also get to tap into Singapore Airlines’ award chart, which has some very valuable redemptions.
And for many Americans, Singapore Krisflyer miles are extremely easy to accumulate since Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner of the big four: American Express, Chase, Citi, and SPG. So at first glance it seems like a great oppurtunity to transfer points into your Virgin Australia Velocity account. However, that transfer ratio really hurts. For example, if you transferred 100,000 Krisflyer miles you’d only end up with 74,074 Velocity miles. So you retain about 74% of your value.
For that reason, I’d only do this under a few circumstances.
If I really wanted to avoid fuel surcharges on an award then the drop in points when I transfer from Singapore Airlines to Virgin Australia might make sense in some circumstances where Singapore imposed high fuel surcharges.
Let’s say you’re flying one way in business class from Australia to the US.
Virgin Australia would require 95,000 miles and around $90 USD in total fees.
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer charges 85,000 points but fees would be as high as $472 USD.
So if you had 128,925 Singapore Krisflyer miles you could lose out on saving 43,925 miles but save $382 in fees. That’s a deal that some might consider, but I’d probably rather just pay the fees and save the points since I could get much more than $382 in value from 43,925 Krisflyer miles. However, if surcharges were to go up and the exchange rate fluctuated enough, I could see this being worth it to some people averse to paying out of pocket for fees.
Availability on direct flights on Virgin Australia to the US can be quite good, too, so that might be another factor in your decision.
Topping off an account
If I needed to top-off my Velocity mileage account I would consider this option. If we’re just talking about a few thousand points and I don’t have an alternative, then I’m usually okay with topping off points even when the transfer ratio is a bit sub-par.
Another reason I’d transfer would be if my Singapore Krisflyer miles were going to expire. One drawback to the Krisflyer program is that there’s no way to extend the life of your Krisflyer miles — they always expire 3 years after accumulating them, regardless of the activity level in your account. So in this case, you’d have nothing to lose by transferring your points if they would otherwise go to waste.
Another option is that you could always transfer points from Krisflyer to Virgin Australia and then back to Krisflyer to not lose your points. For example, let’s say you have 50,000 Krisflyer miles you are trying to save. You would do transfer #1 from Krisflyer to Velocity and be left with 37,037 Velocity miles. And then transfer them back from Velocity to Krisflyer and you’d end up with 27,434 miles.
So you’d only retain 54% of your value but at least you’d have some points rather than none.
This is an interesting feature that I didn’t know about, although it’s not something that I think I would do, aside from special circumstances. Still, it’s always good to be aware of all of your possibilities since you never know what might come in handy one day.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.