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.
Infamous Emirates A380 Shower Suite