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Capital One’s foray into the world of transferable points has been a huge value-add to customers who have the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One Spark Miles for Business card. When the transfer ability launched in December 2018, there were originally 12 partners available, but shortly after the launch, Singapore KrisFlyer and Emirates Skywards were added, bringing the total to the following 14 airline programs:

Points transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio to all partners, except the latecomers Singapore and Emirates which transfer at a 2:1 ratio. While we’re used to seeing 1:1 transfers from most points programs, this set up makes sense given that the Venture and Spark cards earn 2x miles per dollar spent on almost all purchases.

The addition of transfer partners took two great fixed-value cards and made them competitive in the world of transferable points. Now, Capital One is offering even more value to its cardholders with a limited time transfer bonus. Until March 24th, Capital One is offering a 100% bonus on transfers to Emirates. This brings the ratio up to 1:1, and means that the Venture and Spark cards will effectively be earning 2x Emirates miles per dollar spent.

The Emirates Skywards program isn’t known for offering an outsized amount of value, but between flights on Emirates and its surprisingly large list of partner airlines, there are a few deals worth mentioning. Let’s take a look at some of your best options to maximize this transfer bonus.

Flights on Emirates Metal

While Emirates owes much of its success to the way it built Dubai (DXB) into a hub for connecting passengers, US based travelers will actually get a better value targeting shorter flights instead. A one-way business class award from New York (JFK) to Dubai costs 100,000 miles and $843 in taxes, hardly a redemption to write home about. Unfortunately things get even worse for the rest of the country, with one-way economy awards from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai pricing out at over 70,000 miles.

Instead, you should consider looking at one of Emirates many fifth-freedom routes around the globe. Two of these routes connect the US and Europe, with Emirates operating an A380 from JFK to Milan (MXP), and a Boeing 777-300ER from Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH). The costs for one-way awards on these routes aren’t brag-worthy deals, but in every class of service Emirates will offer you a better flight experience than the US legacy carriers it competes with on these routes.

Here are the one-way award costs and taxes for both routes, and you can see the massive jump in fuel surcharges for those looking to fly in a premium cabin:

  • Economy: 38,750 miles ($182)
  • Business: 62,500 ($549)
  • First: 85,000 miles ($549)

Of course part of the Emirates first class experience is the onboard shower which you’ll only find on the Airbus A380. Emirates has also recently begun releasing last-minute award space on its 777 aircraft featuring the new first-class suite, and you can book a one-way award between Dubai and most of Europe for 85,000 miles plus taxes.

One of the trickiest things about booking Emirates first class awards is minimizing or avoiding the massive fuel surcharges the carrier tacks on. Since these taxes are based almost entirely on your departure city, a bit of routing creativity can save you a lot of money. You can check out this guide for some of the cheapest cities to depart from, including Hong Kong (HKG), Sydney (SYD) and Auckland (AKL).

Emirates
Emirates’ first class suite on the Boeing 777 (Photo by Zach Honig/TPG)

Upgrades

Emirates’ massive fleet of high-capacity jumbo jets gives it the ability to frequently offer competitive fares on many routes. You can book a cheap cash ticket and use your miles to upgrade, which might be cheaper than booking a premium cabin award outright given how high the fuel surcharges can get. Depending on the fare code of your ticket, an upgrade from economy to business class would cost anywhere between 30,000 and 57,500 miles on the New York to Milan route.

Emirates also routinely offers cheap premium cabin fares for flights departing Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB). You could book this $2,700 business class ticket to New York, and upgrade to first class for ~70,000 miles or less. This would give you all the trimmings of Emirates first class on your long trip, including access to the comically oversized first class lounge in Dubai where you can board directly onto the upper deck of the A380.

Partner Awards

While Emirates isn’t a member of one of the three major alliances, it does have a unique and underrated collection of airline partners. One of these is JetBlue, which normally uses a revenue based pricing system for its TrueBlue loyalty program, but has a fixed award chart for flights booked through Emirates. The chart (which you can access here) is rather confusing, as it lists the price for every individual city pair you can fly too as opposed to using regions or flight distances. It also appears that only economy awards are available (sorry, no Mint), but many of the prices are quite reasonable.

Flights start at 7,500 miles each way for short hops like Boston (BOS) to Laguardia (LGA) and Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) to Nassau (NAS), and the majority of flights appear to price out at 11,500 miles or less each way. You can use this fixed award chart to your advantage when JetBlue fares are high, but when cash prices are low you might get a better deal booking directly with JetBlue.

Before we move on to international partner awards, it’s worth taking a look at Alaska Airlines. Like most of Emirates partners, you can only book round-trip awards with Alaska. While all domestic flights are reasonably priced, the sweet spot is 40,000 miles for a round-trip economy award to Hawaii.

Emirates also partners with Japan Airlines, and while the prices aren’t quite as low as if you booked directly with JAL or with Alaska Airlines, this can be a great value if you’re trying to use Capital One miles to get to Japan or Australia. Flights from the US to Japan are reasonably priced in both economy and business class at 60,000 and 125,000 miles round-trip respectively, and while first class is pricey at 185,000 miles round-trip, JAL absolutely delivers with a world-class experience.

What might be even more valuable is flying from the US to Australia on JAL with a stop in Tokyo. Australia and New Zealand are some of the hardest destinations to visit on points and miles, given the limited flight options and intense competition for award space. Breaking up the trip with a stop in Asia can help solve both of these problems and give you more flexibility. It’s interesting to note that flights from the US to Australia cost the same as “Asia 2,” normally the South Pacific is broken off into its own separate and more expensive region.

Another option to get to Australia is to route through Seoul (ICN) on Korean Air. Korean Air doesn’t release first class award space to partners, but you can book round-trip economy and business class awards at the following rates:

  • Economy: 110,000 miles
  • Business: 165,000 miles

If you’re just flying from the US to Seoul, the prices drop to 70,000 miles round-trip in economy and 105,000 in business class.

One last sweet spot that’s both incredibly niche and incredibly cheap has to do with South African Airways’ fifth freedom route between Washington DC (IAD) and Dakar, Senegal (DSS). Virgin Atlantic lets you book this route for only 40,000 miles round-trip in economy, while Emirates charges 48,000 miles. If you wanted to continue on to Johannesburg (JNB), your costs would more than double to 100,000 miles round-trip.

Bottom Line

While more transfer options is always a good thing, at a 2:1 ratio, Emirates is usually a tough sell for how to redeem your Capital One miles. This limited time transfer bonus which doubles the ratio to 1:1 makes Emirates a much more appealing option. If you choose to fly on Emirates you can expect a high level of service (as well as high award costs and fuel surcharges), but you might find your best value redemptions lurking in one of Emirate’s poorly advertised partnerships.

Featured image of an Emirates Airbus A380 by Zach Honig/TPG

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