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.
EDIT: These cards have now been withdrawn. Scroll to the bottom of this review for the current best options for earning Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit card.
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)
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
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.
How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (June 2022)
Emirates Skywards does not have a UK credit card. However, you can earn Emirates Skywards miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.
Cards earning Membership Rewards points include:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 30,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for your first year and also comes with two free airport lounge passes.
- The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 30,000 Emirates Skywards miles
- American Express Rewards credit card (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 5,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for life.
SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on Amex Gold is increased from 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 30,000 Membership Rewards points until 19th July 2022. This card is free for the first year.
Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards miles which is an attractive rate. The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Emirates Skywards mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.