Sign-up bonus on the Emirates credit cards doubled – worth a look?

MBNA has brought back a special sign-up promotion for its two Emirates credit cards.  This is not as good as the offer which ran last September and is the same as the one they ran in June 2014 – which was the first time this card had ever been on promotion.

Full details can be found here on the Emirates website.

I will go through the features of the cards in detail in a minute. In summary:

the bonus on the free card is increased from 5,000 miles to 10,000 miles (last September it was 12,000 miles)

the bonus on the £150 card is increased from 10,000 miles to 20,000 miles (last September it was 25,000 miles)

Emirates card

Both cards come as a combined pack of an American Express and a Visa.

The free cards (the blue ones, pictured above) now offer:

10,000 Emirates Skywards miles sign-up bonus when you apply by April 12th

Bonus requires £1,000 of spend within 90 days

No annual fee

1 Skywards mile per £1 spent on the American Express

0.5 Skywards miles per £1 spent on the Visa

Double miles on spend at emirates.com

Representative APR of 17.9% variable

The paid ‘Elite’ cards (which come in red) offer:

20,000 Emirates Skywards miles sign-up bonus when you apply by April 12th

Bonus requires £2,000 of spend within 90 days

Annual fee of £150

2 Skywards miles per £1 spent on the American Express

1 Skywards mile per £1 spent on the Visa

Double miles on spend at emirates.com

Representative APR of 54.9% including the fee, based on a typical £1200 credit limit

Churning rules

MBNA has two specific rules regarding repeat applications for credit cards which are worth remembering:

You can usually only get the bonus on a particular card once. If you cancel and reapply in two years time you are unlikely to receive another bonus.

You can apply for BOTH sets of cards. This means that your maximum bonus is actually 30,000 miles – 10,000 from the free card and 20,000 from the £150 Elite card.

Additional ‘Elite’ features

The £150 ‘Elite’ cards also comes with three additional features which may or may not justify the annual fee for you:

A 2-4-1 voucher on CASH tickets when you spend £15,000 in a year

This is similar to the voucher offered on the Virgin Flying Club credit cards. However, the small print appears very restrictive:

You can only obtain a free companion ticket when you buy a Flex Fare (ie an expensive refundable ticket) in Economy or Business Class

The free ticket is issued as a ‘Saver’-level reward ticket. You therefore need award tickets to be available for the flight you want.

Full taxes and charges need to be paid on the companion ticket

The companion ticket is non-refundable (it is not clear if the voucher is made available for reuse if you cancel)

So, to summarise – to use your voucher (which requires £15,000 of spend) you need to purchase an expensive flexible ticket, and you are still reliant on award space being available at the ‘saver’ level before you can claim your companion seat. Your flexible ticket will also, at the same time, become de facto non-flexible because your companion seat is not flexible!

Let’s imagine, for instance, that you travel for work and your employer pays for flexible tickets. You decide to take your partner with you for once, using your 2-4-1 voucher, and you are lucky enough to find Saver reward space for him/her. On the morning of your trip, you get called into an unexpected meeting and your secretary moves you to a later Emirates flight. Your companion ticket would be cancelled and would not be rebookable on the new flight, because it is unlikely that ‘Saver’-level reward space would be available at the last minute. Try explaining that to your partner ….

£150 discount on an Emirates First or Business Class ticket

Holders of the £150 fee ‘Elite’ cards will receive a discount code which will give a one-off £150 discount on the purchase on an Emirates First or Business Class ticket. This cannot be combined with the companion ticket offer above.

Check in at Business Class ticket desks if travelling on an Economy ticket

This may have some value if flying Emirates in Economy on a regular basis. This is ONLY valid when departing the UK, and only when your ticket has been purchased with your Emirates credit card (which excludes most business travellers from taking advantage of this).

Both pairs of cards also come with some other features which I don’t value highly:

10% discount when you book with Emirates Tours

25% discount when you purchase Skywards miles

0% interest on flight purchases at emirates.com for the first 12 months

Are these cards worth it?

Emirates offer an excellent product and flies from various UK airports. Here is my review of their Business Class product. Trying out the private suites in First Class on their A380’s should be on the ‘to do’ list of every serious points collector!

I used to criticise Emirates for their pricey rewards (you can try their ‘Miles Calculator’ here).  After April 28th, however, they are looking quite good compared to British Airways.  London to Dubai would cost you 90,000 miles in Business Class at ‘Saver’ level (Avios will be 100,000 off-peak or 120,000 peak) and 125,000 at ‘Flex’ level.

More importantly, if you are reliant on the credit card to earn miles, is that Emirates does not allow one-way redemptions at Saver level. The cheapest one-way Business Class ticket to Dubai would therefore be 62,500 miles (half of a ‘Flex’ reward). Even with 20,000 miles from the ‘Elite’ credit card you are a long way short.

The upside is that ‘Flex’ availability is excellent.  We have business class seats to Dubai booked over Easter with Emirates and my wife and I are currently discussing coming back a day later.  There are two Emirates flights that day which still have four business class reward seats at ‘Flex’ level showing even though it will be one of the busiest days of the year for tourist traffic.

Intriguingly, the free card is advertised with the slogan “10,000 bonus Miles is enough for a one-way flight within Europe on easyJet”. This is not strictly true – easyJet flights are priced based on the cash price at the time you book. You can get easyJet flights for as little as 7,500 Skywards miles but at the same time you could end up needing a heck of a lot more than 12,000 miles at peak times.

You can top up an Emirates Skywards account with American Express Membership Rewards points. Unless you have a huge number of Amex points this is unlikely to change the maths much. If you got an American Express Gold card, for example (free in the first year) you would get a 20,000 point sign-up bonus, equivalent to 20,000 Skywards miles.

Remember that you can now redeem Skywards miles for standard and VIP tickets at Arsenal.  VIP tickets – in the Emirates Skybox – are 20,000 miles for lower quality opposition and 40,000 miles for peak games.  I am taking my father-in-law to the Chelsea game in April.  Standard tickets are 10,000 or 20,000 miles depending on the opposition.

Emirates miles have a strict expiry policy. They expire 3 years after you earn them and there is NOTHING you can do to stop them expiring.

Fuel surcharges on Emirates are also high, on a par with British Airways.  The CEO has talked of making reductions in April but no figures have been quoted.

Emirates used to have attractive upgrade rewards. This has now changed and now requires the purchase of a flexible Economy ticket in order to upgrade to Business Class.

Who would these cards suit?

If you already have some Emirates miles, this offer is well worth considering. You will be able to top up your account at almost no cost.

If you fly Emirates on fully flexible tickets for work you may even be able to get some benefit from the 2-4-1 voucher, although you will still find it hugely restrictive.

If you have high credit card spending and kids, Emirates is also worth a look. Reward seat availability at the ‘Flex’ level is very good even at peak periods.

My full reviews of the Emirates credit card are here (free card) and here (Elite card).

You can apply via emirates.com here.

(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.

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Comments

    • Indeed. If you’ve ever fancied a day in Emirates Skybox at the Emirates you can effectively buy your way in (albeit on your own!) for £150 with the 20,000 miles.

      You could also move 20k Amex points from the free Amex Gold over to Skywards if you wanted a 2nd ticket.

      • You can’t put a price on these superbox tickets as they are only normally available on a season long basis. But the Amex gold is a better deal if you wanted to get them just for this as you still get 20k points but no annual fee for 1st year?

        Also this is guessing that the Arsenal offer will run next year

  1. Are you saying you can only use the 2-4-1 on economy or business, not first??

    • Yes. However, would you REALLY buy a FULLY FLEXIBLE ticket for CASH in First to take advantage of this?

      It is virtually impossible use the 2-4-1. Anyone travelling on a FULLY FLEXIBLE cash ticket will, in most case, only buy that ticket a week or so in advance as – by definition – their plans are changing constantly. There is minimal chance of a Saver award being available at that time.

      And, as I said in the piece, your fully flexible ticket would become (de facto) non flexible because you wouldn’t be able to find more Saver reward space for your companion if you had to change it.

      • Thanks for confirming. Agreed with you there – a large waste of time/money in that case, for someone like myself, who collects air miles for the use of premium travel.

  2. Jimmyjimmy says:

    Will I get accepted as I have the MBNA United card?
    J

    • Yes, not a problem. If you get rejected, ring MBNA and say you will reduce the credit limit on the United card if they accept you for this. That usually works – take £5k off your United limit and get a £5k opening limit with Emirates. MBNA’s exposure to you remains the same so they are happy.

  3. James67 says:

    Nationwide current account holders can get 10% of Emirates economy and business fares at the moment via simply rewards. Anybody heading to se Asia and wanting to try out EK a380 premium cabins on the cheap could use the £150 discount for a flight between HKG and BKK.

  4. Vouchercodes.co.uk has a 5% voucher code for Emirates right now…

  5. In the throws of deciding which way to go, after the Avios devaluation, for flights to Dubai.
    1st choice is BA F using 2-4-1, if there is availabilty.
    Then it’s a toss up between, Virgin, Emirates, Qatar ( via Doha) and Etihad. Availabilty is an issue as need 4 seats on a flight, have 2 Lloyd’s amex upgrade vouchers available ( probably used for 4 OW on BA to F)
    Points only collected through Tesco and amex. Currently leaning towards Qatar or Virgin( using current 30% bonus), unless anyone has a better suggestion.

  6. Neal B says:

    I note the comment from Rob about good availability on Emirates for using miles; I am off to Australia in June and have had no issue using points to upgrade from flex economy to business on both Dubai legs, but there appears to be zero availability anytime for the Dubai – Briabane leg- anyone have any insight / experience of the same pls?

Trackbacks

  1. […] My review of the free Emirates credit card is here.  My review of the Emirates Skywards Elite credit card is here.  My original article on this promotion is here. […]