I was traveling last week and thus didn’t get a chance to post about the new relationship between American Express Membership Rewards and Emirates.

As of last week you can redeem American Express points for travel on Emirates, which opens up some potential options for award travel. To celebrate the new partnership, Membership Rewards is offering a 25% bonus on transfers to Emirates Skywards through November 21st, 2013. The transfer bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, meaning you can take advantage of the transfer bonus as often as you’d like.


Emirates Skywards award redemption rates aren’t especially lucrative, and it’s worth noting that they do assess fuel surcharges on award tickets. To find out how many miles travel will cost you’ll want to use their award calculator.

For example, a roundtrip business class award on their new route between New York and Milan will cost you 90,000 Skywards miles. With a 25% transfer bonus that brings down the cost to 72,000 Membership Rewards points roundtrip. The big catch is that the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges come out to $1,079.80 roundtrip, which is really steep.


Purely for entertainment purposes, check out the cost of an economy class redemption between New York and Milan. At the lowest level it costs 45,000 miles plus $585.40 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.


Meanwhile a paid ticket would cost $620.40.


I pity the fool that redeems 45,000 miles for a $35 discount, all while forgoing earning miles as well.

Another possible redemption is New York to Dubai, which would run you 145,000 Skywards miles (116,000 Membership Rewards points with the transfer bonus) plus a mind blowing $1,406.50 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.


Sadly those are among the best values as well. Given those rates, I’d say it’s probably not worthwhile to redeem awards through the Emirates program, though if you already have American Express Membership Rewards points the 25% bonus takes the sting out of that a bit.

The one thing that can be quite lucrative about the Skywards program are upgrades. They don’t charge co-pays and all fares are upgradable, so it’s generally a much better value. Now, upgrades aren’t cheap — 45,000-57,500 miles one-way between New York and Dubai — but given the lack of co-pays and fare restrictions, I’d say that’s pretty reasonable.

The best options for award redemptions on Emirates are still through Alaska Mileage Plan and Japan Airlines Mileage Bank. The downsides of those two programs are that through Alaska Mileage Plan you can only book Emirates award tickets either originating or terminating in North America, while through Japan Airlines you can only book Emirates award tickets for roundtrip travel.

Of course the main issue is that the easiest way to rack up Japan Airlines miles is through Starwood points transfers, and there’s no easy way to rack up Starwood points. The easiest way to rack them up is through the Starwood Personal American Express and Starwood Business American Express (affiliate links) both of which offer 25,000 point sign-up bonuses after spending $5,000 within six months.

Japan Airlines charges just 65,000 miles for roundtrip business class between New York and Milan, and doesn’t impose fuel surcharges. So that’s a much better value.

Generally I don’t see much value in the new partnership between American Express Membership Rewards and Emirates Skywards. If you’d otherwise pay for business class and don’t mind paying huge fuel surcharges the program might not be horrible. But between the fairly high redemption rates and high fuel surcharges, I give the partnership a “pass” for the most part.

Redeem Membership Rewards on Emirates
Infamous Emirates A380 Shower Suite

  1. November 8th, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Baqa said,

    It is early here so sorry if I missed it in the post, but IMHO the best deal to use this for is the reasonable “upgrade with miles” costs on Emirates and not a full award, correct?

  2. November 8th, 2013 at 8:04 am

    lucky said,

    @ Baqa — Good point, you’re absolutely right. Just updated the post to make mention of that.

  3. November 8th, 2013 at 8:14 am

    SRQ said,

    I usually enjoy redeeming EK skywards miles for DOMESTIC travel on JET Airways ,9W ,within INDIA in Y which is Fixed redemption and with NO FUEL SURCHARGES, although ROUNDTRIP ONLY.

  4. November 8th, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Joey said,

    I agree with your analysis. It’s crazy that even for economy the fuel surcharges/taxes/fees are so high!

  5. November 8th, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Rik said,

    Does JAL charge fuel surcharges on EK travel?

  6. November 8th, 2013 at 8:24 am

    lucky said,

    @ Rik — Outside of travel to Australia they don’t in my experience.

  7. November 8th, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Ace said,

    Pity da Fool lmao!

  8. November 8th, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Justin said,

    One way from GIG/GRU an option to save on fuel surcharge?

  9. November 8th, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Ben said,

    Lucky, I don’t think that all fares are upgradable any more as easily as suggested from what I read. There are 3 types of fares you can buy now: ‘Saver + Not upgradable before check-in’, normal ‘Saver’ and then ‘Flex’. The former category is what most Saver tickets fall under and in my experience, by the time you come to check in, all of the upgrade seats have already disappeared.

    But otherwise I completely agree with your conclusion – thanks for another great article :)

  10. November 8th, 2013 at 9:50 am

    ucipass said,

    Can someone please verify that surcharges are indeed missing from Ex-Brazil awards?

  11. November 8th, 2013 at 10:27 am

    lucky said,

    @ Justin – I’m not sure, to be honest, though given that you’d then have to position to Brazil, is likely not really much of a savings.

  12. November 12th, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Air India FFP is a joke - FlyerTalk Forums said,

    […] are pretty high. Take jet for example. Or take emirates for example, as stated in this post http://boardingarea.com/onemileatati…ates-25-bonus/ __________________ My (largely) India focussed miles & points blog is at: […]

  13. November 14th, 2013 at 11:02 am

    PointsHoarder 39: The devaluation episode | PointsHoarder said,

    […] the plus side, Emirates is now a partner with AmEx Membership Rewards and they’ve got a 25% bonus going on for transfers these days. You will pay fuel surcharges on the awards but it is another option to […]

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