Business Class to Hawaii on United for Just 60K Membership Reward Points

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If you read this blog with any regularity you will already know that I love Hawaii.  I love almost everything about it, except perhaps how many points/miles it can take to get there if you don’t live on the West Coast (in which case you can use just 25k British Airways Avios RT to fly on American or Alaska).  For those of us in the middle of the country, or on the east coast, the distance based charts aren’t favorable for us to get to Hawaii.  Sometimes you can get lucky and catch a sale where tickets can go for close to $400 RT, but that takes good timing and luck, and you will be sitting in coach unless you have elite status or elite upgrade instruments to potentially get you a more comfortable seat.


How can I argue with her wanting to go back to Kauai?

Fly to Hawaii in Business Class for Fewer Miles:

If you want to fly at least in business class, you are looking at 80,000 miles round trip in many programs, including United.  Considering that getting to Europe and back in business can be about 100,000 miles, it is hard to justify spending that many miles to get to Hawaii in a seat that likely isn’t near as good as the business class seats that are available to Europe.  However, there is another way.

You can fly on the same planes, in the same business class seat that you can book with 80,000 United miles, for 60,000 miles by just going through the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program.   Singapore Airlines is in the Star Alliance just like United, and as a result you can use their miles to fly on Star Alliance partner, United.  If you are more interested in coach than business, that can be done via the same method for 35,000 miles round trip.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any Singapore Airlines miles as you can transfer into the Krisflyer program 1:1 from the American Express Membership Rewards program and cards such as the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card,  The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, or the Mercedes Benz Platinum Amex.

Singapore Airlines Award Chart

I outlined the transfer process from Membership Rewards to Singapore Airlines in detail in this post, and I recommend you checking that out if this sounds like a trip you may book in the future.  It isn’t hard, but it did take a couple of hours for the miles to post with Singapore.  Keep in mind that you are booking with KrisFlyer miles with the KrisFlyer program.  Even though you are booking for a United operated flight, you do not contact United to do the booking, and you are not using United miles to make the booking.


United business isn’t award winning, but I did sleep

Why is it a better deal via Singapore Airlines?

Every award program has their own award chart with their own award prices.  Almost all of them have some routes that are more favorable than others when compared to other award charts.  Those are often referred to as “sweet spots”.  Singapore Airlines actually has a few sweet spots when it comes to flights in the United States.  You can fly round trip in the United States on their Star Alliance partner, United, in domestic first class (on a two cabin plane), or in business class (on a three cabin plan) for just 40,000 KrisFlyer miles round trip.  This would be 50,000 miles if booked via United using United miles.

What My Family Did:

We really wanted to return to Hawaii this summer (at the request of my daughter who fell in love with it last summer).  I have gotten lucky with fare wars to Hawaii before and scored round trip tickets for around $400 each, but I wanted to get the trip locked in (in part due to looming devaluations) and wasn’t willing to wait hopefully for another discounted fare to fall in our laps.  We had some Membership Reward points that I didn’t have immediate plans for, so we decided to use 120,000 of them to book the non-stop Houston – Honolulu flight for both my husband and my daughter.

For me, it made more sense to buy a revenue ticket on United.  Because of my elite status, I will earn 100% mileage bonus on the flights (so about 15,000 miles to use on a future flight), I have confirmed regional upgrades to use to get me into business class just by buying a coach ticket, and I want to earn elite qualifying miles for next year.  My upgrades cleared, and I am sitting right with my family in business class on the United operated flights.  I got there with a combo of cash and upgrade instruments, and they got there using Membership Reward points via Singapore Airlines.

We then added the Honolulu – Kauai flights on Hawaiian using a combo of United miles (5k each way on Hawaiian), Hawaiian miles (7.5k each way), and cash.  We could have booked all the way to Kauai using just KrisFlyer miles if we connected on the West Coast for a flight to Kauai, and kept all of our flights on United operated flights.  However, we wanted the direct Houston – Honolulu flight, and once you get to Honolulu there is no United operated flight to get you to Kauai.  That nonstop to Honolulu worked best for our needs, so we were wiling to add the flights to Kauai on top of that ourselves.

If you are just starting out with miles and points this may still sound a little confusing.  That’s okay, either ask me some questions until it makes sense, or just file it away somewhere and come back to it when you need it.  Once you get past the basics of earning and redeeming miles, I think the smartest “intermediate” step you can take is to begin identifying the “sweet spots” in various award charts as they relate to places you want to go.  Using 60,000 Membership Reward points instead of 80,000 United miles to go to Hawaii and back in business class is a deal I will certainly take.

Have you utilized the sweet spots in the Singapore Airlines award chart to fly on United in the US or to Hawaii, or do you think this is a trip you make take in the future?


See you again soon, Kauai!


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  1. Ive done this (tweeted you when I was in IAH about to board).
    The iah-hnl isn’t a very good hard product (old ife, no “Real” power). Don’t eat the smoked salmon. It gave me food poisoning so my first night and day in Kauai weren’t very good.
    We used Barclay arrival points for the Hawaiian flights we bought for $69.

  2. I will absolutely file this in my brain for use in the near future. My husband lived in california and is always regretting that he never went to hawaii while he lived there. So, getting our family to Hawaii in business class is on my to do list.

  3. While theoretically interesting, this doesn’t really seem like a relevant post to a blog called “Mommy Points.” First, kids don’t really need biz class seats to Hawaii. Second, it’s not really realistic for your readers to save enough MR points to get a family to Hawaii in biz class on SQ. Even a family of 3 would need 240,000 MR points. How do you propose a family get that number of points?

  4. We actually did this in the fall- transferred points to Singapore and then flew United metal to Honolulu. It was great, no problem but there was a problem coming home. We were to fly from Kona to LAX for our connection but the United plane hadn’t even left LAX to fly to Kona when we were arrived at the Kona airport a few hours before our departure. The flight would be delayed about 4 hours which meant that we would miss our connecting flight as well. Since it was booked through Singapore flying on United, the United agent had to contact Singapore to get their permission to book us First Class on the American flight that would have left about shortly after our scheduled UAL flight. It took the agent 2 1/2 hours to contact Singapore and to work with American including walking over to the AA counter to find out that their computers don’t talk to each other.

    Just be prepared that if there are problems, you might have a long wait to get it resolved.

  5. iahphx – I am constantly amazed by people that read blogs that offer valuable information (at no cost to the reader)yet choose to whine about everything from the name of the blog to crying about how hard it would be to implement the advise.
    If you spent more time learning/implementing strategies and less time complaining and you would know how to EASILY obtain way more than 180,000 MR points!

  6. Hmm. I think you have the chart backwards. The top is the origin and the left is the destination which shows that it is 80k round trip…

  7. MP – I have 65K MR points that I need to use before cancelling a gold card. Was thinking of downgrading to Blue until I get a business card or transferring to Singapore since I want to fly suites at some point and now you’ve given me another reason in this post.
    Thoughts on that??

  8. @iahphx: No one NEEDS business class to Hawaii (or anywhere, for that matter). If anything, I’d say it’s nominally more valuable for children (they can’t reach the seat in front of them, for instance).

    As for cost, 180,000 miles is cheap for longish-haul premium cabin travel. Sure, the miles don’t magically appear, but I have over 110,000 MR points from a single 75K bonus and a couple of years of modest bonused spend (airfare and groceries). If you can’t acquire 180,000 miles in a relatively easy program like MR I’m not sure how you’re ever going to expect to use miles for a significant family vacation.

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for the site– I’ve just started getting into points/miles/churning game and while I’ve learned a lot in the past week or so…I’m still really really confused about the best way to maximize my rewards. I actually also would really like to go to Hawaii for a one-week vacation later this year (thinking April). I just applied for the CSP and got it approved but obviously I won’t be able to accrue enough points for a flight. The signup bonus points aside, what are some of the best ways that you recommend I search for cheap fares? I’d be flying out of NYC. Can I still use Travelocity to book trips for 2x the points that CSP had before? I’ve been reading that they nixed that. I don’t necessarily mind paying for the trips outright, but I’d like to know the best ways for me to earn points while I’m doing that.

    Thanks very much and sorry for the long post.

  10. Does Singapore do one-way awards? Have a flight to HNL in Oct in AA Business and have been trying to way my options on how to get back.

  11. Anyone have thoughts on doing this in the summer? My wife and I are teachers. I’m assuming coach availability is pretty close to non-exsistent. Also, am I searching for availability on United’s website?

  12. I would rather use 60,000 SQ miles to fly SQ business class one-way to Tokyo. Or, just book close to 2 roundtrip tickets to Hawaii economy class. Spending almost double mileage on business class tickets to Hawaii is a bit unnecessary and impractical, but if you are points rich then might not be a problem.

  13. @rom, keep in mind that for those of us on the east coast flying to Hawai’i is at least 9 hours each way in a plane. 60k for even domestic first class for 18+ hours of flying is still a better deal than 60k for a one-way SQ flight to Tokyo, especially considering you then have to come up with a return flight to get home.

    From the west coast, this isn’t probably the best option.

  14. iahphx: your numbers of 99% might be close to correct, but the main problem is people on these type blogs and Flyertalk type sites represent 99% of the 1% remaining. The methods to get 200k Amex points are actually readily available to most people in the USA as long as you dont live in really rural areas.

  15. I agree that this a sweet spot on the SQ chart if you wanted to travel to Hawaii in biz.

    However, I agree with @iahphx and @rom, if I had 120k MR points just lying around for a rainy day, then I am sure there are better uses.

    @smay, @LarryInNYC, @David, I would like to know how I can get 140k MR points (4 x 35k), if I already have the Amex Plat and am not eligible for that bonus in the future.

    I don’t think it is so easy for the average reader to rack up MR points. And, sorry @David, the average reader here is not the 99% of the 1%. If so, there wouldn’t be so many basic 101 posts on thie blog.

  16. I think this is one of the better redemptions out there that make MR more valueable to me and SPG points as well. Took advanatage of this last year as soon as the schedule opened up for my dates this year. I got my family of 7 (6 awards) booked from the east coast to hnl. Great redemption since it only cost me a total of 210k MR. I did a combo of MR and Starwood transfers. SPG to top off. It did take some effort on my part to wait for the transfers. This is what I learned:

    1) MR to KrisFlyer is a relatively fast transfer. SPG to KrisFlyer is a different story. There is no set time, but it looks like they do the transfer on a certain day of the week based on flyertalk threads. So, timing is everything if you are looking to snatch up award space.

    2) I noticed that to keep on calling back if the rep says they do not see availability. If I saw it on United, I was able to book it. Sometimes that was not always the case when talking to a rep.

    3) MR to KrisFlyer and SPG to KrisFlyer, account names have to match. If it is spelled differently it could delay the transfer and hold it up. I read that people who has slightly varied spelling of their names were delayed in their transfer and had go through the work in releasing their points. My spouse’s SPG account had some spaces in her last name. I made the effort
    to match it with KrisFlyer so there would be no delay or denial. It’s relatively easy to do and extra homework before hand so your accounts are already ready.

  17. Great article and I’ve got lots of UA miles. But also have enough Hawaiian and Alaska miles to do that if their in the same alliance. But I want to ask an unrelated question because you obviously like to maximize your spending to get more for your money or point/miles. I get a lot of promotional offers for increased points/miles doe each $1 spent. I though I had signed up for such an offer with Citi’s Thank You points and spent 2k for Christmas using the card. Wrong no such promotion. Does any recent blog advise of the number of Miles/Points earned for dollar spent either in category spending or across the Board spending? Enjoy your blog very much.

  18. Apologies for not getting to each comment individually right now since we are leveraging Avios points and Choice hotel points in the Bahamas, but here are a few thoughts:
    -Yes, there needs to be saver level availability on United. My trip is in the summer and we did get saver availability without any issue for our routes.
    -I don’t really use any MS techniques with regularity, so I absolutely think that we if we can do it, most anyone in the US can do it. Just last year there were many 75k and 50k Amex sign-up bonuses that came along. Get two parents playing that game and 180k is easy.
    -That said, not everyone wants to spend their points in this manner and that’s fine. My family doesn’t want to go to Asia right now, some families don’t want biz to Hawaii. No big deal. Just focus on earning for your goals.
    -The hard product to Hawaii absolutely isn’t great, but it is better than coach. The flight is about as long as to get to Europe from Houston, so my family voted no to coach…tall husband has tie-breaking vote. Again, redeem your points however you want.

  19. @John:
    Wait until the Gold comes around with a 50K or 75K bonus. Get two. Complete the spend, favoring grocery stores and gas stations where possible to average 2pts per dollar. You now have between 120K and 170K depending on which offer you got.
    It’s true, once you have gotten most of the bonuses you’ll have to wait a year or two to acquire MR points — in that case, this strategy is not for you.

  20. David —

    I’ve been playing the credit card game for quite some time now, and I can assure you that it’s not “easy” to get 180,000 MR points. Possible? Sure — especially if you’re very engaged in manufactured spending. Easy — no way!

    And if you have the points, this is, objectively, a terrible use for them unless you never plan to travel outside the USA.

    That said, my comment was directed to the fact that this is supposed to be “Mommy Points” — a name which doesn’t suggest the blog is focused on silly premium travel that you can undertake with a lot of miles. There are certainly lots of travel blogs for that! This tip is kind of the equivalent of having filet mignon at McDonalds. Sure, they could offer it, but would it make any sense?

    • iahphx, I have to respectfully disagree. Just because a blog post is focused on premium cabin travel, that does not mean it isn’t right for “mommies” aka families. My family prefers to travel up front when possible, and I know others do as well. There is a coach option listed in the post, and is also a solid plan for those who don’t want to spend 60k.

      180k points is a lot of points, but it is certainly an attainable number for many families. I like to travel outside the US, but also love Hawaii. A terrible use of points is only possible if you book a trip to somewhere you don’t want to go. Beyond that, it is all subjective to a point and 60k points for something that costs several thousand dollars isn’t a bad deal by most standards….if, and only if, you want to get to Hawaii that way.

      Just finished a coach Avios trip to the Caribbean that was also amazing, but Hawaii is a bit further and coach doesn’t sound as fun. 😉

  21. How would you propose that a family obtain 180,000 Membership Rewards points? I give advice to upper middle class and affluent friends and family all the time on how they should sign-up for credit cards (to get the bonuses) instead of paying for expensive vacation airfare. That said, I have absolutely no plausible (aka “non crazy”) strategy for a family to obtain 180,000 MR points. If you happen to know of a strategy, please share THAT!

  22. Did you not read the above post by Larry? If you have a significant other get cards for them as well or get a business card. Or both do it and have 250,000 points from sign ups alone.

  23. hi..I have been reading your posts and you obviously like Hawaii a lot. I am a little confused with my first hawaii trip in summers. I am wondering if you can help. Which island should we visit with our 1 year old daughter and what hotel property would be best to use with any award nights? Not sure if you can advice but will be really helpful.

  24. Sorry to take up so much space, but I feel the need to defend the mommypoints vision. Iahphx – ‎I’m really having trouble understanding your objection here. There is a substantial contingent out ‎there who have no interest in collecting points and miles. This blog is not for those people. It is ‎like many of the other blogs out there – One Mile at a Time, View from the Wing, The Points ‎Guy – that gives people advice about redeeming their miles. But unlike those, mommypoints ‎isn’t about the single traveler. If you want to figure out how to get to Singapore with stop-overs ‎and get driven in a Porsche to the First Class Terminal in FRA, then Lucky is the guy you want. ‎But for those of us who are avid points and miles collectors, but who do it to provide travel ‎experiences for our families, mommypoints fills a virtually nonexistent void in the blogosphere. ‎I’m a dad who collects points and miles for a family of four to have travel experiences. This blog ‎is indispensable.‎

    When travelling with four, you spend four times as many points as those who travel alone. No ‎doubt about it. So, yes, 180,000 points is a lot. That’s what it takes. If I were not planning ‎family travel, I could do a heck of a lot with 180,000 points. But that’s who I am. And this ‎blog is for me.‎

    Perhaps Hawaii is not your cup of tea. That’s ok. It’s a great place for families. As for the point ‎that business class is not for families, I sort of think you’re missing the point. Most US carriers ‎charge 20-25k for saver OW to Hawaii. This little “sweet spot” in the SQ chart, coupled with the ‎fact that UA codes the front of its two-class aircraft as business, creates an opportunity to fly a ‎long-haul in a big seat for a small extra premium. This is not only good advice for families, it’s ‎perfect advice. In fact, when I saw this headline today, I immediately knew what she was going ‎to post, and I was a little mad, because I’ve known about this use of SQ for a while and hoped it ‎would stay covert.‎

    As for the point that it’s hard to accumulate 180,000 points in a “non crazy” way, I guess I’m ‎surprised you think that way. Aren’t we reading the same blogs and getting the same tips from ‎flyertalk? I have about 10 to 15 nights per year of business travel. Since I got serious about ‎collecting miles in the last 4 years or so, I’ve parlayed that into ten times that easily. I burned ‎over 600,000 miles in one weekend last year planning my family’s summer trip – 200,000 to ‎Europe in C, 270,000 coming back in F, lots of avios for intra-europe flights, and another 200k ‎Hilton and 82k Starwood. I shudder to think what great adventures Lucky could have with ‎‎600k miles, but for me, one huge blowout with the family is how I spend them. For non-miles ‎collectors maybe my methods of miles accumulation seem crazy, but I don’t do anything that ‎everyone else isn’t – lots of credit cards, taking advantage of every promo and bonus I can, ‎buying on the cheap when, for example, there’s a US share miles promo, and dabbling a bit in ‎some manufactured spend, though note nearly as much as others. I hope this doesn’t sound like ‎bragging, but with all due respect, 180k ain’t nothin’. 120k to get my family to HI in C, and ‎‎80k to get them back in coach, when coach tickets are $1,200 each? I’ll take that.‎

  25. Larry —

    I’m not saying it’s hard to put together 180,000 loyalty points. I’m saying it’s very, very hard for any individual to acquire 180,000 MR points in a non-crazy way. It’s certainly not something that any “flyertalker” would achieve without considerable effort. So they idea that a “mommy” would have these miles just sitting around for a trip to Hawaii for her family seems like fantasy to me.

  26. I think I see where you’re coming from. But perhaps you’re focused too much on the mommy part and not enough on the points part. Most people don’t have 180,000 points lying around. Heck, I have co-workers who have shlubbed it out staying in courtyards for work for 5 years who tell me about their 216,000 Marriott points like they are going to retire with that. I don’t think this blog is for them, or for mommies and daddies in general. I view it as a blog for people who are already deep into the mikeage collection game and want to know how to use them for families. Maybe it just resonates because that’s me. I mean, you can read some of the blogs for a year and they never even contemplate that sometimes more than one person wants reward seats n the same flight. I think this blog fills some of that space. This entry gives a way that for 30k — just 5k to 7.5k more than some charge for coach — you can get Biz to HI. Not much good for someone who only has 10,000 points to start, but helpful to some.

  27. I am a “mommy” who has over 100K MR points from a targeted offer. If my husband opened an Amex gold for 50k, and we opened another business card for 50K, we’d pretty easily have over 200K MR’s. I don’t think it’s that hard if you pay attention to offers and jump when the right one comes along. I think the best use of points are to get you to wherever you love to go in a way that makes you comfortable. Our family can only take one big trip per year due to work and school schedules, so we’d rather make it as luxurious as possible whether we are going domestic or overseas. I really appreciate seeing the different ways to use various points programs to make that possible.

  28. @iahphx. I’m a single guy and pulled together 343k MR points over the past ~3 years. I may have gone a bit beyond the average level of effort, by why couldn’t a married couple pull in 180k every year or two?

  29. @ 12th Man. Very simple, if you are using BA Avios to book an award, even if on American or Alaska, you will be using the Avios award system which requires 12,500 Avios points each way.

  30. Hey Summer I know this is an older post, but do you know if it’s possible to use kris flyer miles to fly to HI on United and then pay to sit in an economy plus seat? Can’t find family seats for 4 up front so trying to think of ways to be a bit more comfortable. No elite status :(.

    • Yes it should work just fine, but E+ upgrades aren’t going to be super cheap to Hawaii, so just factor that in the budget. Enjoy!

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