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Emirates wants to launch a new UK credit card

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Emirates wants to launch a new UK credit card – and they are serious enough to be asking people to pick a preferred design.

Emirates sent out a survey to some UK members of Emirates Skywards last week.  It offered entry to a prize draw to win 50,000 Skywards miles in return for your thoughts on launching a new Emirates credit card.

The survey wanted to know what people had done after the old MBNA Emirates Skywards credit card, picture below, was closed in 2018.

After asking what card you had replaced your MBNA card with, it went on to ask what other airline credit cards you held and whether you still had an interest in holding an Emirates Skywards card.

It then asked questions about why you chose your current main credit card provider (good app, good service etc).

So far, so standard.

New UK Emirates credit card

What benefits would you want from a new Emirates credit card?

It went on to ask what you would want from an Emirates credit card.  Pick from:

Earning a ‘generous’ number of miles per £1

Earning miles on balance transfers

Earning a sign-up bonus

Earning Skywards tier miles each year you renew an annual fee card

Discounts on flight tickets

Airline benefits (priority check-in etc)

Ability to spend airlines miles from the card on hotel bookings 

Ability to spend airline miles from the card in High Street shops

It them moved on to asking what sort of card design you preferred.  How about this?

New UK Emirates credit card

Or possibly this?

New UK Emirates credit card

Can Emirates get a new credit card off the ground?

It’s good to see Emirates keen to launch a new UK credit card.  We saw a similar survey from Hilton a few months ago, so there may be a spike of activity on the way.

The question, though, is who will issue them.  As I have written before, if 1% of the money going into Starling / Monzo / Revolut / Atom / N26 online current accounts was being dedicated to launching an online-only low-cost credit card company, we could find a model which would survive in the world of low interchange fees.

The rest of Europe has adapted but the bloated UK market, which still expects to make oversized profits from credit cards, has not.  LinkedIn has over 6,500 employees of Barclaycard listed, for example, and that will only be a percentage.  Capital On Tap, which recently launched an online-based UK Avios payment card for small businesses and already had 50,000 customers for its ‘no rewards’ card, seems to have around 50 staff based on my last visit ….

Earning Emirates Skywards miles via UK credit cards

Whilst Emirates no longer has its own UK credit card, you can earn Emirates Skywards points by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.  These are:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

The Platinum Card from American Express – 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

American Express Rewards credit card – 5,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards miles.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Emirates Skywards miles.

Comments (61)

  • callum says:

    I don’t get this comparison you keep making. The current accounts from the new challenger banks offer something different with their fancy apps, no FX fees etc.

    What would a commercially viable online-only credit card look like to you? There are already low-rate cards, there are already rewards cards, there are already travel cards, there are already decent apps – what’s left to improve (emphasis on the commercially viable bit)?

    • Shoestring says:

      Lower overhead = higher rewards, more generous loyalty program

      • callum says:

        How would they have lower overheads? It’s already completely normal for credit card providers to not have physical infrastructure. Even providers like Lloyds have a big degree of separation between their credit card division and their branch network.

        If “online only” means closing down call centres then I hardly think that’s going to save much money in the grand scheme of things.

    • Rob says:

      The key is the cost base behind it, not the card benefits. Is there any reason why, starting from scratch, you couldn’t launch an online-only card company with 30-50 staff? Capital On Tap already does it for commercial payments. With minimal admin costs there is more money to go around.

      The big issue is your loan book and how you fund that. Raising equity for the business is easy. Getting a £500m revolving credit facility to fund your loans is hard.

      • Bob says:

        “Getting a £500m revolving credit facility to fund your loans is hard.”

        No Rob.

        That’s very easy!

        They have to apply for a ‘carte Vueling/Iberia/British Airways’ in France and they get a £500m revolving credit facility.

        This is a good way to explain or remember what revolving means for some of your readers who did not understand this word when you I mention it in a comment when the carte vueling launched in France (Now the iberia and the british airways ones are launched too).

        Oh wait !
        The credit revolving facility of those cards will only be of 2000 euros instead of the £500m needed.

        And the old fashionned Crédit Agricole (the rich farmers and peasants business in France) will be behind it…


      • Callum says:

        Sorry, I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about!

        I’ve never said it’s impossible to start an online only credit card – they already exist in fact (I own one!). What I question is how they’re going to usher in a whole new business model that is particularly noteworthy for the end consumer.

        • Rob says:

          If you’re not spending money on staff, you can spend it on benefits ….

          • Marcw says:

            Or pocket the money in… When there’s no incentive to provide benefits…

  • LewisB says:

    Is it relatively easy to get a first class redemption in from Emirates? I would definitely get the card if this was easily achievable, even one way. Would love to try it out.

    • MDA says:

      Via points, yes. Rob covered an article few months ago. Last min upgrade to first for c.80k points.

      Most likely this card will be visa/mastercard so acceptance will be good

      • Rob says:

        The new 777 First Suite is bookable 3 days before departure. A380 routes with the old seat are easily bookable in F.

    • Ian M says:

      Yes I’ve found it to be relatively easy. I flew London to Sydney in First with Emirates last November on points and have booked again for this year on points. It’s definitely vastly easier on that route than with BA.

  • MEK says:

    It was very easy to rack up Skywards miles with the old MBNA Elite card – 2 miles for every £1 spent on the Amex for non Emirates spend and 4 miles for every £1 spent with Emirates. This resulted in many EK first class trips for me, and why I would never consider BA for flying east of Dubai. Their service on the A380 upstairs is fantastic…airport pick ups and drop offs, great lounges, the amazing bar and the personable crew. Let’s hope the potential new card provides a valuable change from the average miles earning Amex Gold/Platinum for the UK Emirates loyalists!

    • MDA says:

      I’d be interested to know if they will offer EK silver status to cardholders (UAE version of the card does)
      The 10% off emirates holidays was a nice benefit, although I didn’t get a chance to use that (usually book hotels and flights separately)

  • BJ says:

    Full marks to Emirates for offering something, even if just entry to a competition, for completing the survey. I find it very annoying that companies such as BA who will not give you as much as some free milk to go with your own teabag, expect that we are all happy to give them not insignificant amounts of our time for free to complete their surveys.

    • Alex Sm says:

      I always make this point in the comments bit of the survey. They definitely need to give incentive, however small, to people for filling out the survey

      • BJ says:

        If there is no incentive I just ignore them unless I think they contain potentially useful information which is rare. However, I always make a point of submitting a very strong review for CSA who do their job competently or try to be friendly and helpful. If they perform poorly, I tend just to ignore requests for feedback rather than trash them because who knows the circumstances they are under either personally or professionally.

        • Lady London says:

          That’s exactly how I work BJ. But if a consistent pattern of unhelpfulness or incompetency is experienced with multiple agents or channels over a period of time then I will complain.

          British Airways Indian so-called Customer Service richly deserves the amount I hate them due consistency of rottenness, not a small dose of incompetence over multiple occasions over far too long a period of time before they finally did something that will make me hate them for life.

          • Evan says:

            Hate is a strong emotion.

          • Mr(s) Entitled says:

            When did Peace and Love as an ideal become Anger and Hate?

          • Lady London says:

            @Evan it only has to happen enough times and be an awful enough experience. I chose that word carefully. I’m perfectly frank about why I do a bit of BA-bashing. Very occasionally when they notably get something right I make sure to be very fair and thank or praise.

          • David says:

            I’m the same – no incentive = no response, unless I actively want to tell them something.

            The worst are the companies that kick off with “We value your opinion” – and then offer you nothing in exchange. If it holds VALUE to them, why would I give it to them for free?!

  • Nigel the Pensioner says:

    Staff are the biggest commercial drain on a company. Barclaycard employ thousands of people including huge international call centre employee numbers, none of whom have the first clue as to how to solve a simple problem, in my experience.
    Tandem however (like AmEx) have instant message for transactions and in addition have a great (daytime) on line app chat that gets straight to the point. All cards (should) have 24/7 fraud lines.
    So, you lower your overheads simply by improving your IT, training your staff, paying the fewer number that you need, better, and pleasing customers. Its really not difficult – unless you are Barclaycard.

    • callum says:

      I’m really struggling to believe that closing call centres and redeploying people as live-chat agents is going to save the hundreds of millions required to significantly improve the reward schemes on these credit cards…

      Barclaycard has 10 million customers. Let’s say better rewards cost £50 each per year (a wildly conservative figure in my mind – that amount wouldn’t excite me whatsoever!) – how are Barclaycard going to make the £0.5bn in savings every year required to fund that (or how would a new entrant build a system with that much more efficiency)?

      This is why I want to see what Rob is envisaging these cards to look like. The only feasible suggestions I can come up with are already done by the “normal” credit card suppliers, perhaps his superior knowledge of the financial system etc. lets him see something I can’t!

      • Riccatti says:

        Of course it does.

        Chat agents do not need expensive office buildings paying business rates for everything. They can have flexible arrangement and service different timezones — again without the need for night shifts.

        Revolut/Curve manages to service a large customer base via asynchronous chat messages (even as Revolut chats are often dropped and customers grumpy it still runs).

        • Shoestring says:

          In depth look at Revolut in the Sunday Telegraph Business section today. Behind the paywall but you can access it for free here

          You need to put in your library card number or just invent one along the lines 800147***

        • Riccatti says:

          There has been plenty features stories into Revolut, eg. recruitment and morale.

          I can see how picking on details and phrases presents one-side picture though.

          It remains to be seen why Telegraph is running a barrage of attacks at Revolut:

          1 March – Revolut faces FCA probe
          30 April – British digital bank Revolut at risk of losing European banking licences
          5 May – Inside Revolut and why the booming finance firm is facing a tide of criticism

          There are personal escapades, literally in the second-third paragraph of one article a connection is made to the father of Mr Storonsky being “a director at a division of Gazprom, a Russian natural gas giant that has been on a US sanctions list” — to suggest the Gazprom or say Russian mafia investment into Revolut. Or something bad that’s is happening and will get US sanctions too. This is not a journalism.

          Compared to say, money laundering scandals via Danske Bank’s Estonian branch and earlier via reverse stroke purchases at Deustche Bank where the toll is to 100s of billions laundered money right within the EU jurisdiction, when other customers, including us in retail, have to suffer from all that regulation and AML nonsense. Where are the EU sanctions?

        • callum says:

          Chat agents need exactly the same things call centre agents need – perhaps excluding a phone. You seem to think they can just work at home – well, so can call centre agents.

          The fact you are holding up a system that, by your own review, “annoys” the customers as a good idea is beyond absurd! Why on Earth would I switch my custom to a credit card that only offers what my existing ones do and provides “annoying” customer service?

          • the_real_a says:

            Call center agents generally dont “fix” problems. They field calls, and raise tickets to specialist teams in the “back office” who navigate the legacy architecture.

            The real value comes from a fresh built app and a series of processes that reduces the support overhead to near zero. Using something like Zendesk you effectively remove the first layer and allow end users to raise tickets against the exact staff you need to fix the problem.

            Rob Im sure could quite easily piggyback on top of white label version of pokit/monzo etc with an Emirates prepaid rewards card that would have none of the issues of revolving credit whilst still meeting the needs of 90% of the points collectors!

        • Riccatti says:

          Phone call centres — separate technology, expensive software.

          • callum says:

            No it’s not – it’s pretty cheap software… I’ve personally used it myself, and I know several people using it with Airbnb (many of their call centre agents work from home from a Macbook).

      • Lady London says:

        Outsourcing. Provided you manage the quality. Which is the knack.

      • Peter King says:

        A telephone rep can only talk to one person at a time, One rep on live chat can type to many people at a time, and use AI/canned responses.

        • Paul says:

          Which is easy to spot and intently annoying as they just use delaying responses whilst they reply to the other customer which makes the whole conversation far slower. And irritating!

          • Lady London says:

            +1,000. All very, very obvious.

            Occasionally my work includes training people to use corporate live chat services. If you make someone aware up front of the environment in which the call centre agent is probably working and how they are likely to be managed, plus also sometimes cultural considerations if they keep recurring in the context, using live chat services can be much more efficient for the users than phone calls.

            I personally am a big fan of live chat for both private and professional use.

          • Lady London says:

            Try live chatting with Amazon. Cut and paste masters supreme.

          • Shoestring says:

            also masters of giving away compo when Amazon lets you down, so I can forgive a lot

    • Riccatti says:

      IT and legacy systems are a humongous cost to established banks, particularly in the US but UK too.

      Some economically peripheral countries, eg Russia, Turkey, Portugal have some best online banking services where you can swap USD into EUR or buy US stocks at zero commission, generate virtual Visa card numbers for one-off online purchases, or easily pay to established telecom providers, government, metro.

      Come to a UK retail bank or stockbrocker and you will be paying 15GBP per a dealing.

      Portugal financial system goes to develop MB-Way, an alternative to ApplePay/GooglePay — inconvenient for US tourists perhaps but country residents can pay to in-country using the same technology. That ensures that nearly all local local businesses accept cards issued in Portugal.

      • Doug M says:

        In fairness the £15 dealing charge is insignificant against the government stamp duty, and that is Tax.

      • Riccatti says:

        £15 dealing charge is not insignificant if you want to accumulate a position though smaller purchases.

        US stocks, which inside the US you can trade pretty much for zero commission — the UK/EU brokerages will ask £25-30.

        • Doug M says:

          If you want to trade small amounts where the commission is significant have you looked at something like Halifax Share Dealing. As little as £2 on regular investments.

        • Doug M says:

          Trading stocks listed on foreign exchanges with currency implications will of course have higher charges. Saying what someone does elsewhere makes little sense. A fairer comparison might be what charges are there in France or Germany. Banking in the UK is largely free, it certainly isn’t in the US, should we demand to pay charges here?

        • Riccatti says:

          Both a bit of rubbish arguments of and towards the established model “of how things are” with brokerage services in the UK.

          A UK traditional broker deals with US inter-dealer or other traditional broker. Each of them has a nice business in a nice office and highly-paid “traders”. Hence 15-25GBP per trade.

          IB UK perhaps the only provider that gives trades to UK customers for 1GBP but no competition comes. The rest of UK brokerages just ignore it.

          Germany has several good online brokers that are cheaper than UK.

  • Riccatti says:

    Barclaycard are large payment processors — so, plenty of those 6,500 are not in servicing retail credit and plenty based in India call centres, plus some in the lagging US division.

    Barclaycard appears to be the largest operator of balance transfers/zero fee offering — so pretty intensive wholesale finance team they must have.

    Barclays itself, together with PIMCO are leveraging and re-packaging nearly 2/3 of ALL UK mortgages. Cross-referencing the data with credit card customer base data (if in place) has a lot of value to confirm certain aspects of mortgage pools and thus be able to repackage and sell them on successfully.

  • Frenzie01 says:

    Slightly off topic but interesting.
    TFL banned adverts from 11 countries (including Dubai) due to very poor human rights record.
    There used to be Emirates ,and other Middle Eastern flight and holiday ads all over the tube, buses etc. These are now thankfully gone.

  • Neil Donoghue says:

    Long may the competition last. I really miss my old emirates card from MBNA and the impending Avios devaluation has made me consider Star Alliance / Skyward points more. Let’s also not forget Virgin, sometimes change isn’t a bad thing at all.