Best Uses of Emirates Miles: Leveraging Chase’s Newest Partner

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Emirates Plane

All The Best Uses of Emirates Miles

Emirates. The carrier’s name conjures up two things for me: an ever-present image of the A380 superjumbo and a shower in the sky. The former I have experienced. Twice (just not flying with Emirates). However, I have yet to enjoy a shower at 35,000 feet. But maybe I can, as they are Chase’s newest transfer partner, and booking flights on their own metal is among the best uses of Emirates miles.

Actually, I’d like to explore all the best uses of Emirates miles. Although I will posit that flying in their swanky first class might certainly be the best use from an experience perspective, there are plenty of other, less glamorous things you can do with Emirates Skywards.

Related: [Review] Emirates Airlines First Class A380-800 (DXB-ICN)

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Cards That Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Since Emirates is a new transfer partner for Emirates Skywards miles we wanted to highlight the cards that earn Ultimate Rewards.  I will also list the current welcome offers for each card.

Premium Cards

These cards earn fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points with a $95 annual fee. The perfect starter card and it offers a ton of value the first year.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points with a $450 annual fee.  The best perks card in the Chase program and a great card for road warriors.
  • Ink Business Preferred– 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points with a $95 annual fee.  The largest UR points offer Chase has
No Annual Fee Cards

You need to carry a Chase premium card listed above to unlock these points and allow them to be transferable points.  Otherwise they are only worth 1 cent a piece in cash.

  • Chase Freedom – 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points with no annual fee. A card that rotates 5% back categories each quarter.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited – 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points with no annual fee. A great everyday card since it earns 1.5X in everything.
  • Ink Business Cash – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points with no annual fee.  This may be the best way to rack up UR points with its 5X earning potential.
  • Ink Unlimited – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points with no annual fee. A great everyday business card since it earns 1.5X in everything.

Earning and Redeeming Skywards

Earning Emirates Skywards miles is rather easy these days. On top of being a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards Emirates is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, and Capital One Rewards. The first two programs transfer at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000 points, while Capital one transfers at a less ideal 2:1.5 points to miles ratio.

You can also earn Emirates Skywards by flying with the carrier or one of their partners and crediting their miles to Skywards. Additionally, you could consider redeeming a Marriott travel package for Emirates Skywards, although I would never personally do this, given that there are so many other great options (including a two better ones for booking Emirates premium cabins). But it’s an option. Just also make sure that your Marriott travel package is a good value (spoiler: some are not).

Redeeming Skywards for Emirates flights is easy enough. You’ll need to create a Skywards account and login on their website to search award space and make award bookings. From your profile landing page, click “Book”, then “Search Flights”, and get started finding an award.

best uses of Emirates miles

You have the option of searching for revenue fares or Classic award flights. You *do* need to select whether you want to search Emirates flights or partner flights. I’m not sure the extent to which partners are bookable online. I couldn’t pull up any, although I have read that Qantas can be searched and booked online. Emirates has a number of partners, however, and you can book any of these by phone:

  • Air Mauritius
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • easyJet
  • GOL
  • JAL
  • JetBlue
  • Jetstar
  • Korean Air
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • S7 Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Portugal

You’ll just need to search the space using other tools. Then call Emirates at: (800) 777 3999 to book your award. Prices for partner flights vary by partner, as Emirates does not have a global distance-based or region-based award chart.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Skywards, let’s move on to all the best uses of Emirates miles for award travel.

Best Uses Of Emirates Miles

The first best use of Emirates miles that I know of is using them to experience Emirates famed premium cabins for cheap. You can find their flagship A380 first class and also their excellent 777-300ER first class on a number of short routes. These are either on routes that with destinations relatively close to Dubai, or on a number of fifth freedom routes. I cover pricing and examples in another post focused on flying first class for the cheapest possible, but here are some of the routes again:

  • Bangkok (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG) – 27,500 Skywards miles + 750 THB
  • Dubai (DXB) to Kuwait City (KWI) – 28,750 Skywards miles + AED 1,070
  • Buenos Aires (EZE) to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) – 35,000 Skywards miles + ~$275
  • Christchurch, NZ (CHC) to Sydney (SYD) – 54,000 Skywards miles + 84 NZD

While it might seem odd to book first class for a shorter haul, it’s a great way to check this off your bucket list while not shelling out 150,000 heard-earned points for their long-haul first class. But…you can argue that long-haul is where it’s really at.

best uses of Emirates miles

Emirates Long-Haul First Class

Emirates uses a distance-based award chart for their own flights, so the longer the haul, the more it’ll cost you. They do not post an actual award chart on their site, leaving you with an award calculator instead. Emirates also has various award levels, ranging from Classic/Saver to Flex Plus. Flex Plus tickets require the most miles. One way awards are only available as Flex Plus awards, never Saver, so booking round-trip awards is a much better deal.

There are some sweet spots for flying Emirates business and first class, but I mainly want to focus on first. Here are some sample prices for round-trip Emirates First Class awards:

  • New York – JFK to Milan (fifth freedom) – 135,000 Skywards Miles
  • Newark to Athens (fifth freedom) – 135,000 Skywards Miles
  • London to Dubai – 135,000 Skywards Miles
  • Dubai to Tokyo – 187,500 Skywards Miles
  • New York – JFK to Dubai – 217,500 Skywards Miles
  • Los Angeles to Dubai – 247,500 Skywards Miles

The 135,000-mile (round-trip) band is where things are at, in my opinion. The flights are long enough that you can really enjoy the experience, yet the price is still tolerable, especially for first class. You’re looking at 67,500 miles each way to/from Europe from New York, which is less than business class on many carriers. Easily one of the best uses of Emirates miles.

What is going to kill you on Emirates first class bookings are the fuel surcharges. You can often be looking at more than $1,000(!) for long-haul awards. This is in addition to the high number of miles. But if you are short on another currency that can transfer to Skywards, it may still be worth it.

When you approach the really long-haul, prices get ludicrous. Los Angeles to Sydney for 390,000 Skywards Miles? #nothanks

Intra-Brazil Short-Haul for Cheap with GOL!

One interesting opportunity that Emirates offers is redeeming miles on GOL, their Brazilian partner. Flights start at just 4,500 miles one-way in economy, which is downright excellent. Check out the list of award routes here. Sure, many intra-Brazil flights are cheap, but this is an easy way to save some cash.

Here are some sample intra-Brazil routes for just 4,500 miles:

  • Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil)
  • Fortaleza to Recife
  • Manaus to Belem
  • Brasilia to Rio De Janeiro

There are a number of routes available for just 8,000 miles as well one-way:

  • Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires
  • Brasilia to Fortaleza

From there prices increase to 12,500 miles, then 18,000 miles, with a handful or routes costing 25,000 miles. Business class prices are twice the cost of economy in all cases.

best uses of Emirates miles

Europe to North Africa with TAP

Another interesting best use of Emirates miles is using them to fly TAP Portugal. Emirates has a zone-based award chart for flights on this Star Alliance carrier, with a number of sweet spots. While Europe can typically be reached with cheap cash fares, Africa generally cannot. Awards between Portgual and Northern Africa / Azores start at just 15,000 miles round-trip in economy. From Spain to Northern Africa or the Azores, you’ll pay 20,000 miles, just 5,000 more.

Another sweet spot is flying between Portugal (including the Azores) and South America for just 160,000 miles round-trip in business. There are few programs that offer awards between Europe and South America for cheap, and Emirates pricing is better than what you’ll find with United, Air France and a number of other Chase transfer partners.

Flights between Portugal and the U.S. in TAP business class are a reasonable deal at 140,000 miles round-trip. However, this is comparable to United’s pricing yet without the flexibility to add U.S. domestic connections. Booking is way easier with United, so I’d surely opt for them instead.

Fly to Australia on JAL in Business

Japan Air Lines is yet another Emirates partner with a few sweet spots worth considering. One of these is flying their premium cabins between Japan and Australia. While I’ll argue that you cannot beat 40,000 American Airlines miles one-way for these routes in JAL business class, Emirates gives AA a run for their money, charging 42,500 miles each way. Japan to Hawaii is available for the same price.

Japan to North America isn’t all that bad of a deal, either, at 125,000 miles round-trip.

best uses of Emirates miles - JAL premium cabins

Other Best Uses of Emirates Miles?

There are some other partners that I haven’t covered (including JetBlue), but I don’t find the pricing to be all that attractive. Emirates is unique in that they have numerous partners, yet do not belong to an airline alliance. There are plenty of ways to use your miles, should you find yourself with a bunch of Skywards, but look to these awards as the best uses of Emirates miles!

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Ian,
    Thank you very much for the excellent analysis.
    Just a warning about some of my experiences with Emirates Skywards.
    When it comes to (at least AMEX) transfers, once you pick an account from which you are transferring (i.e. AMEX account), the system “locks” on to that transferring account, blocking further AMEX transfers from other accounts.
    Transferred AMEX MR to my Emirates Skywards account first from my wife’s account, and it blocked transfers from my own AMEX MR account. It took almost 3 months for my Skywards account to be detached from my wife’s accounts even after interminable emails and phone calls.
    I was able to transfer Marriott points to meet the number of Skywards miles needed for a EWR-ATH flight in 777 business class. Might also be a problem with other transfer partners to EK.
    BTW, was disappointed by that particular EK experience. Plane seemed decrepit, service was stilted and awkward. Prior experience JFK-MXP Biz round trip was flawless in the A380.

    • Good to note. I didn’t even know it was possible to add someone else (i.e. not the cardholder) and not get flagged.

      I have heard that the 777 is very inferior compared to the A380 is many respects with EK. Definitely will avoid!

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