For the first time since September 2015, unbelievably, MBNA has brought back a special sign-up promotion for its two Emirates credit cards. The offer is as good as it ever gets on these cards.
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 12,000 miles
the bonus on the £150 card is increased from 10,000 miles to 25,000 miles
Both cards come as a combined pack of an American Express and a Visa.
The free cards (the blue ones, pictured above) now offer:
12,000 Emirates Skywards miles sign-up bonus when you apply by June 30th
Full bonus requires £1,000 of spend within 90 days – although you receive the first 5,000 miles just for making one transaction
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 22.9% variable
The paid ‘Elite’ cards (which come in red) offer:
25,000 Emirates Skywards miles sign-up bonus when you apply by June 30th
Full bonus requires £2,000 of spend within 90 days although you receive the first 10,000 miles just making one transaction
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 60.5% including the fee, based on a typical £1200 credit limit
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 37,000 miles – 12,000 from the free card and 25,000 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 Holidays
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 and I am reviewing the A380 First Class product later this week.
I used to criticise Emirates for their pricey rewards (you can try their ‘Miles Calculator’ here). Since the Avios devaluation, 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 rewards now cost 100,000 off-peak or 120,000 peak) and 125,000 at ‘Flex’ level. ‘Flex’ availability is EXCELLENT – we rarely have trouble redeeming for four business class seats during peak school holiday dates.
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 25,000 miles from the ‘Elite’ credit card you are a long way short.
Intriguingly, the free card is advertised with the slogan “12,000 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 convert Emirates Skywards miles into Heathrow Rewards points – but you can only redeem them for Heathrow shopping vouchers. They cannot be converted into other airline miles. 6000 miles gets you a £20 voucher which is a very poor deal and best avoided unless your miles are expiring.
You can now redeem Skywards miles for hotel rooms anywhere in the world via Rocketmiles. This is a new 2017 feature.
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. Here is my review of watching Arsenal vs Chelsea from the Emirates Skybox! Standard tickets are also available. Ticket prices have increased since I wrote that article – the last Skybox pair I got cost 25,000 miles each (50,000 for a pair) for the Everton game in May.
FA Cup tickets, including the semi-finals (and with or without hospitality) are also available. These tend to disappear very quickly – Emirates emails selected top tier members as soon as they go live – and I have never been able to get a pair.
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, slightly higher than British Airways in fact.
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.
And, of course, if you love Arsenal and want to try out the Skybox, the Elite comes with enough miles to get you in there! You won’t have enough miles for two tickets but Emirates is happy for you just to order one. I normally mention on HFP when the tickets for the new season come up, usually August.
You can apply via MBNA here. The offer is not showing on the Emirates website for some reason.
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. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker even though MBNA does not pay me a penny! Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.