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While the various transferable points currencies used to pride themselves on their unique selection of transfer partners, over the past couple of years we’ve seen an increase in the number of partners that overlap between one or more of these programs. This makes perfect sense, as once an airline has built the technological infrastructure to support points transfers and decided on a price for selling miles, it would make sense to see it partner up with more than one credit card issuer.
A perfect example of this trend would be Emirates Skywards. A few years back, the only way to transfer miles to Emirates was from Amex Membership Rewards or Marriott (then SPG). Late last year, Emirates was added as a transfer partner to Capital One’s newly transferable miles, and now Chase Ultimate Rewards has added Emirates as its 10th airline transfer partner. Today we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know to maximize your earning and redemptions through Emirates Skywards.
Earning Skywards Miles
As mentioned above, Emirates now has a number of transfer partners to choose from. You can transfer points to Emirates at the following rates:
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||1:1|
|Amex Membership Rewards||1:1|
|Marriott Bonvoy||3:1 (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred)|
If you are looking to earn any of the above currencies, adding a new credit card to your wallet could be a good idea. Here are a few current offers:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. However, you may be targeted for a 100,000-point welcome bonus through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time). Terms Apply.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn a welcome bonus of 50,000 Venture miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
While credit cards are the fastest way to earn a meaningful amount of miles, you can also top off your balance by crediting paid flights on Emirates or one of its partner airlines to your Skywards account. Unlike most airlines that offer either a distance-based or revenue-based earning system, you accrue Skywards miles based on a combination of the following factors:
- Fare class (flex, saver, etc.)
- Class of travel (economy, business, first)
- Elite status
Skywards elite members earn bonus miles, with Silver members earning a 25% bonus, Gold members earning a 50% bonus and Platinum members earning a 75% bonus. If you’re wondering how many miles you’ll earn on an upcoming flight, you can use Emirates’ online calculator to check. For example, a one-way business-class ticket between New York (JFK) and Dubai (DXB) would earn between 6,000 and 11,400 Skywards miles before factoring in any elite bonus.
While Emirates isn’t a member of one of the major airline alliances, it does have a number of individual partnerships with airlines. You can earn Skywards miles when flying on eligible tickets on the following carriers:
- Air Mauritius
- Alaska Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Malaysia Airlines
- S7 Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Portugal
While the exact earning rates vary by partner, all of Emirates’ partners accrue miles based on the distance flown. With Alaska Airlines, you’ll earn between .5 and 1.5 Skywards miles per mile flown, depending on your fare class.
Redeeming Skywards Miles
Flying With Emirates
When we start talking about redeeming miles for Emirates flights, most people’s hearts are going to start beating a little faster as they imagine a gold-studded first-class suite and onboard shower. While it is possible to use Emirates miles for these aspirational first-class flights, Skywards is not the best frequent flyer program to book them with. If you have your sights set on first class, you’d be better off booking Emirates awards through Japan Airlines or maybe even Alaska.
If you wanted to fly first class from JFK to Dubai, a lovely 13-hour flight operated by Emirates’ flagship A380, that award would cost you 136,250 miles. TPG values Emirates miles at 1.2 cents each, so the $1,635 worth of miles you’re redeeming pales in comparison to the $14,000+ cash cost of the ticket. The only downside is the $843 in taxes, but again, that’s a small price to pay for one of the most luxurious tickets available in commercial aviation.
These heavy fuel surcharges really only affect premium cabins. If you wanted to fly the same route in business class it would cost you 100,000 miles and the same $843, while an economy award would only cost 62,500 miles and $286. It’s also worth noting that while Emirates’ award pricing isn’t strictly distance based, distance is a factor. A business-class award from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai would cost 113,750 miles, a 13% premium over the JFK flight.
If you’re put off by these fuel surcharges but still looking to experience Emirates’ premium-cabin luxury, you can greatly reduce your out-of-pocket cost by picking your departure city strategically. Fuel surcharges are tied to the departure city, which means that flying from New York to Dubai will cost a different amount than flying the reverse routing, Dubai to New York. In order to reduce fuel surcharges for Emirates first-class awards, you should plan your trip to depart from one of the following cities:
- Hong Kong (~$120)
- Sydney (~$315)
- Auckland (~$230)
You can check out our guide to Emirates first-class fuel surcharges for instructions on how to approximate what you’ll have to pay, though I’d strongly suggest confirming that information with Emirates before transferring any of your miles.
Partner Award Flights
Much like Alaska Airlines, Emirates has a slightly different award chart for redeeming flights on each of its partners. In addition to the list mentioned above, you can also redeem (but not earn) Emirates miles on easyJet.
Let’s start with Alaska Airlines, which might be the most popular partner for North American travelers to redeem with. You can only redeem for round-trip awards and only for nonstop flights (if there are no nonstop flights you may need to book two separate awards), but some of these prices are fairly compelling.
25,000 miles for round-trip travel within the continental US and Canada, or 12,500 miles each way, matches the industry average and can represent a good value. The intra-state pricing can also be interesting at 7,500 miles each way, likely for travel within Alaska or California. The 40,000-mile round-trip tickets to Hawaii are also compelling. While there are a number of sweet spots to Hawaii that offer cheaper tickets, Alaska Airlines has an extensive route network from the West Coast to most major Hawaiian destinations, giving you plenty of options for redeeming your miles.
While Japan Airlines is one of the best programs for booking Emirates first-class awards, Emirates offer some great values on JAL awards departing from North America. The table below shows round-trip award costs, with the sweet spot being the 125,000-mile round-trip business class tickets between the US and much of Asia. Even 145,000 miles for business class to Asia 2 and Australia is a great deal, and Emirates allows one free stopover on international award tickets. This means that you can fly from the US to Japan, spend some time exploring, and then continue on to Australia all on one ticket.
JetBlue is perhaps the oddest partner, as award prices are listed for individual city pairs instead of for broader regions or flights covering a certain distance. The cheapest awards start at 7,500 miles each way for short flights like Boston (BOS) to Newark (EWR), New York (LGA) or Baltimore (BWI), and climb as high as 17,500 miles each way for transcontinental flights.
You can find a few more good redemptions sprinkled in with Emirates’ other partners, such as Korean Air business class round-trip from the US to Seoul (ICN) for 105,000 miles, economy flights on Qantas from the West Coast to Australia for 41,900 miles in economy and round-trip TAP Portugal flights to the US for 70,000 miles in economy or 140,000 miles in business.
Most of Emirates award rates, both for its own flights and for partner airlines, fall right in the middle. There aren’t a ton of sweet spots, but for the most part prices aren’t egregious either (especially when you consider the quality of the experience you’re getting, particularly in premium cabins). The biggest drawback is the often excessive fuel surcharges, while the biggest strength is the ability to transfer points from multiple different sources to top up your Emirates account. With Chase Ultimate Rewards adding Emirates as its newest 1:1 transfer partner, you should strongly consider adding Emirates Skywards to your repertoire for award redemptions.
Fore more on Emirates award tickets make sure to check out the following:
- The Best Programs for Booking Emirates Awards
- A380 First Class Showdown: Emirates vs. Etihad vs. Singapore
Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy
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