More Amex alchemy: United award flights to Hawaii at a discount!

I wrote yesterday about how I’m crossing my fingers for another big sign-up bonus opportunity from Amex. These limited-time megabonus offers (50K, 75K, even 100K points!) have burst onto the scene a few times over the past few years, and it seems like it’s about time for another one to hit.

Since both Josh and I signed up for one of these great bonus offers last year (I got 100K, he got 75K points), we’ve got a big stash of Amex points in our account. I’ve been holding onto them because I thought we might need them for our big trip this summer, but it turns out that we don’t, so it’s time to book some travel!

Destination: Kauai. Since my cousin lives there, this is actually an affordable trip for us. We can stay with her, cook meals as a family, and get kama’aina deals.

Here’s how I did it, using our Amex points – on United, and at a discount!

(By the way – first, I tried to book our trip using Avios. Since we live on the West coast, this would have been the cheapest redemption option for us – and also bookable with an Amex points transfer. However, there was no Avios availability for the dates we wanted, so I turned to the next best option.)

Book United Airlines flights to Hawaii using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles

Did you know that you can use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles to fly to Hawaii on United? And did you know that by doing this, you can pay fewer miles for an award seat than with the United award chart?

If you’ve got Amex miles, you’ve got Krisflyer miles. Simply transfer the amount you’d like to use into your KrisFlyer account. Don’t have a KrisFlyer account? Amex makes it easy to create one, then link it to your Amex account for transfer purposes.

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With KrisFlyer miles, a round-trip award to Hawaii costs 35,000 miles in coach or 60,000 miles in business class. By comparison, United charges 40,000 miles in coach (5,000 more than KrisFlyer) or 80,000 miles in business class (20,000 more than KrisFlyer).

Note that KrisFlyer allows one-way award redemptions for just half the cost.

For reference, here is the Krisflyer Star Alliance partner award redemption chart:

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Before you transfer miles to KrisFlyer, it is a good idea to make sure that there is United award space available on the flights you want (at the “Saver Award” level – Standard awards won’t work here). You can do this easily on the United site; just make sure that you are not logged in when you search, as this sometimes results in the site displaying availability that is not bookable via Singapore Airlines.

Also, note that Singapore Airlines mileage transfers from Membership Rewards are not instant, and that it could potentially take up to 3 business days to complete the transfer; there is no way to hold award space while you are waiting. My experience is that it only takes a couple of hours, but this could be different for you.

Once you’ve confirmed availability and your mileage transfer is complete, you need to call the KrisFlyer service center to book over the phone (213-404-0301). They’re open 24 hours a day and are super nice. There is no booking fee for this transaction.

Using this option, we spent 140,000 Membership Rewards points for 4 round-trip tickets to Hawaii. Since this is less than the combined total of our 2 sign-up bonuses (and since we were flush with Amex points), I felt pretty good about this redemption. This is also something to keep in mind if you decide to go for the next big Amex bonus (whenever it happens).

Have you ever used this transfer option before?