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Emirates Added As The Newest American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partner

by on October 30, 2013 · 13 comments

in American Express, Emirates

Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.

In the past couple of years, American Express Membership Rewards – the points program of cards like the Premier Rewards Gold, Business Gold Rewards, Platinum and Business Platinum cards – has gained (Virgin America and British Airways) and lost (Continental and Southwest), but the program is still one of the strongest travel points programs out there with 16 airline transfer partners and 4 hotel transfer partners among other redemptions.

Having transferrable points such as Amex Membership Rewards allow for the most flexibility.

Emirates joins the roster of Membership Rewards transfer partners.

Lately the program has begun showing some strong new signs of life with a series of transfer bonuses – including current ones to British Airways (20%) and Virgin Atlantic (30%) – and this morning’s announcement that it is adding a new airline transfer partner, Emirates.

The news is exciting on several counts. First, it opens up awards on Emirates for direct booking using Skywards miles. Emirates is already partners with JetBlue and Virgin America – two other Amex transfer partners – but now Amex members can redeem their points directly with Emirates’ own Skywards program rather than having to deal with dismal transfer ratios through either JetBlue or Amex.

Emirates is also partners with Alaska, easyJet, JAL, Jet Airways, Korean Air, Qantas, South African Airways and TAP, so this opens up more redemption opportunities on several of those using Emirates miles.

I’m personally excited to fly aboard Emirates A380 in first class, and up until now, my best bet was to use Alaska miles to do so. However, the airline is only a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, and I prefer using those points for hotel stays since I tend to get great values from those redemptions, but now that I can use Amex points directly with Emirates, I’ll be researching redemption opportunities, especially because it’s much easier and faster to rack up Amex points instead of Starwood points.

Emirates is adding a new Platinum tier level.

I can’t wait to fly aboard Emirates’ A380.

In addition to other recent actions like forming a strategic partnership with Qantas and pushing into new routes like the recent launch of a JFK-Milan flight, I see this as another move on the part of Emirates to start syphoning air traffic from traditional European and Asian routes as it attempts to position Dubai as one of the major hubs of world air traffic.

For Amex’s part, I appreciate this move to give consumers another great transfer partner with one of the world’s premier airlines, and a solid countermove to Chase’s aggressive build-up of its Ultimate Rewards program.

Here are the award charts for Emirates- starting today we will also be launching a more in-depth series on how to maximize the program. These rates aren’t particularly good compared to other programs’ redemptions, but if you’ve got a boatload of Membership Rewards points, it is another option to splurge on one of the best airlines out there. I’d also like to see some lucrative transfer bonuses, which would bring down some redemptions more in line with other programs, but as you’ll see below there are hefty fuel surcharges/fees on pretty much all redemptions, so keep that in mind before transferring any points to Emirates.

Below is the award chart from round trip Saver awards from the North America East zone, (BOS, JFK, EWR, IAD, YYZ). One-way awards are only available on Flex redemptions (not the saver awards listed below).

Zone Name Econ. SaverAward – From North America East Bus. Saver Award – From North America East First SaverAward – From North America East

North America (West)

155,000 310,000 465,000

South America

115,000 230,000 345,000

Africa (South & West)

95,000 190,000 285,000

Europe (West)

45,000 90,000 135,000

Africa (North & East)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Europe (South)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Near East

80,000 160,000 240,000

Middle East

75,000 150,000 225,000

Dubai/UAE

72,500 145,000 217,500

Asian Sub Continent (North)

80,000 160,000 240,000

Asian Sub Continent (South)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Asian Sub Continent (East)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Far East

95,000 190,000 285,000

Japan

100,000 200,000 300,000

Australia (West)

115,000 230,000 345,000

Australia (East)

140,000 280,000 320,000

New Zealand

140,000 280,000 320,000

Below is the award chart from round trip Saver awards from the North America West zone, (DFW, IAH, LAX, SFO, and SEA). One-way awards available for half the miles on Flex awards (those listed below are Saver).

Zone Name Econ. SaverAward – From N. America West Bus. Saver Award – From N. America West First SaverAward – From N. America West

North America (East)

155,000 310,000 465,000

South America

125,000 250,000 375,000

Africa (South & West)

100,000 200,000 300,000

Europe (West)

95,000 190,000 285,000

Africa (North & East)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Europe (South)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Near East

85,000 170,000 255,000

Middle East

85,000 170,000 255,000

Dubai/UAE

82,500 165,000 247,000

Asian Sub Continent (North)

85,000 170,000 255,000

Asian Sub Continent (South)

90,000 180,000 270,000

Asian Sub Continent (East)

95,000 190,000 285,000

Far East

105,000 210,000 315,000

Japan

110,000 220,000 330,000

Australia (West)

120,000 240,000 360,000

Australia (East)

150,000 300,000 450,000

New Zealand

155,000 310,000 465,000

And just to give you an idea of taxes and fees on awards, I looked up a sample itinerary from JFK to Dubai on Emirates in economy, business and first and here’s what I found.

Economy: 72,500 miles + $716.10 in taxes and fees.

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 6.56.09 PMBusiness: 145,000 miles + $1,372.10

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 7.02.53 PM

First: 217,500 miles + $1,372.10

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 7.10.13 PM

You’ll notice that on the economy award a stop on the return, and it’s in Milan and you’d be taking the new Milan-JFK route aboard a 777-300 since availability in business and first on the returns on the non-stop from Dubai to JFK was only in the more expensive Flex award category. I thought transiting through Europe might affect the taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges, but it did not – they were the same whether the itinerary was a non-stop or through Milan – which I found by pricing out the taxes and surcharges on a Flex award that was non-stop. So that’s going to be a big consideration for those of you thinking about transferring points for an award.

Stay tuned for more Amex-Emirates news and feel free to share your thoughts below!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Alix

    The redemption chart is not as attractive as the SQ chart.. what do you think?

  • Gary Leff

    One way awards are *not* available at half the cost of saver roundtrip. That’s because saver awards are roundtrip only. One way is only available at the FLEX level — so one way is available at half the cost of a FLEX roundtrip.

  • thepointsguy

    Didn’t realize that- crazy that Alaska members can redeem for one way at much lower rates than Emirates’ own frequent flyers. Kinda like Delta disadvantaging their own frequent flyers!

  • thepointsguy

    Correct

  • Tyler

    These redemption rates are absolutely horrendous. Even the ‘thrill’ of A380 FC is not worth it.

    Membership Rewards is just becoming less and less useful for the average person.

  • Allen

    I’ll stick with Alaska.

  • thepointsguy

    Yea- if Alaska became an Amex transfer partner THAT would be a huge improvement

  • tarik

    Instant transfers?

  • Dieuwer

    Points Guy, maybe you should contact Chase Ultimate Rewards and ask them when the FINALLY will do transfer bonuses.

  • JP

    I got excited when hearing the news about this new transfer partner, but the miles and cash outlay for redemptions are beyond terrible. I can’t see a single situation where someone would actually use points at those levels. I just don’t get Amex MR. They have to be losing customer to Chase all over the place

  • Mohsin

    The only way I see making use of this is purchasing Economy and upgrade to Business. It’s normally 45K each way JFK-DXB. Still not a great deal …

  • Rae

    What is the likelihood Amex will have a transfer bonus early on, now that they just added Emirates as a transfer partner?

  • shonuffharlem

    Doesn’t the fact that Emirates added fuel charges on April 1st 2013 destroy redemption for this airline? Or do any of their partners not charge fuel charges? Would love to take the NYC to MILAN route with no fuel surcharges!

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