Emirates launches two credit cards with unique perks, but are they worth getting?

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If luxury travel is what brought you to miles and points, Emirates might just be your favorite global airline. It offers best-in-class service, a diverse route network, and a downright fun onboard experience that includes over the top first class suites and even a full-service bar.

We have good news for Emirates fans — Barclays has just released two cobranded U.S. credit cards which allow you to earn Emirates miles, and even elite status with the airline. For folks looking to accumulate Emirates miles or just grab the next great sign up bonus, this is exciting news!

Emirates first class can be yours for cheap if you leverage Emirates miles correctly. (Photo by Dmitri Birin/Shutterstock)

Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard®

The first card offering is the Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard (a bit of a mouthful!) and is likely targeting the casual Emirates flyer. Some of the card details are as follows:

  • $99 annual fee, not waived the first year
  • Welcome bonus of 30,000 Emirates miles after spending $3,000 within 90 days
  • 3x points earning on Emirates purchases, 2x points earning on travel purchases, and 1x on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary Emirates Skywards Silver status for one year (you can extend this beyond your first year with $20,000 of annual spending on the card)

This low-fee card offers a solid welcome bonus and the opportunity to hold Emirates elite status without needing to earn it by flying. The most interesting ascpect of the card is the ability to earn Emirates Silver status, which gets the cardmember access to the Emirates Business Lounge in Dubai, free economy seat selection, priority check-in and boarding and more.

Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard®

For folks who want a more premium credit card and may fly Emirates often, Barclays has released the Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard. This card comes with the following fees and benefits:

  • $499 annual fee
  • Welcome bonus of 40,000 Emirates miles after spending $3,000 within 90 days
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 3x points earning on Emirates purchases, 2x points earning on travel purchases, and 1x on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Emirates Skywards Gold status for one year (you can extend this beyond your first year with $40,000 of annual spending on the card)
  • Priority Pass Select Membership
  • UP to $100 reimbursement for TSA Precheck or Global Entry once every five years
  • 10,000 Emirates miles bonus after spending $30,000 in a cardmember year

For big spenders who often fly with Emirates, the Emirates Skywards Premium card has a compelling value proposition. Although it carries a hefty annual fee, you can offset the fee with the Priority Pass membership, bonus 10,000 anniversary miles and complimentary Emirates Gold status, which includes access to Emirates business lounges around the world for the cardmember and one guest, 50% bonus miles when flying, priority baggage delivery plus all of the benefits of silver status.

Are these cards worth getting? 

Any time new credit cards hit the market, consumers benefit from more options and more competition. Unfortunately, the ongoing earnings rates for both the Emirates Rewards and Emirates Premium cards are pretty weak at just 1 mile per dollar spent on most purchases. 

That being said, I love new credit cards for the lucrative welcome bonuses and interesting first year benefits. For example, I might apply for the Emirates Rewards card to top up my Emirates miles balance before planning a large award trip to the Middle East on Emirates. We value Emirates miles at about 1.3 cents per point, so the introductory 30,000 or 40,000 miles would be worth ~$390 or $520, respectively.

In addition to the welcome bonus miles, I could also benefit from Emirates Silver status and enjoy preferential elite treatment such as priority check in and boarding and access to the Emirates Business Class lounge in Dubai when flying econoomy.

[ Read: The best travel credit cards ]

Emirates miles recently became much more valuable when the carrier eliminated fuel surcharges on its award tickets — which could easily translate to $1,500 in savings when booking a premium cabin. There are some sweet spots to take advantage of in its award chart too. For example, you can fly round-trip in Emirates First Class from Newark to Athens or Milan and pay just 135,000 miles — that ticket normally costs ~$7,000.

You’ll get an enclosed suite and access to a shower when flying Emirates first class on the Airbus A380. (Photo by Agent Wolf/Shutterstock)

For folks who don’t have a specific use for Emirates miles or who don’t fly with Emirates, the cards are less appealing. Emirates has a few partners like JetBlue and Japan Airlines where you can find decent value, but it can be difficult to book those awards since you can’t reserve them online (only over the phone).

The new cards are most attractive if you value Emirates elite status or access to the airline’s airport lounges, which means you’re likely flying on the carrier with at least some frequency. If you have no plans involving Emirates in your travel future, I recommend you check out other travel credit cards instead. 

Earning Emirates miles

Keep in mind that Emirates miles are fairly easy to earn in other ways as well. That’s because Emirates partners with all five of the major transferable points currencies.

You can increase your Emirates miles balance by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, or Citi Thank You points at a 1:1 ratio while you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at 3:1 ratio (with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred) and Capital One Miles at a 2:1 ratio.

This makes the new Barclays Emirates credit cards enticing since you can “top up” your Emirates balance with a points transfer. For example, I might sign up for the Emirates Rewards credit card for a total of 33,000 Emirates miles (after meeting the $3,000 introductory spending) and then transfer 12,000 Chase Ultimate rewards to get my Emirates account balance to 45,000 miles. That’s enough for a roundtrip coach flight on Emirates from Newark to Milan.

Finally, the transfer partners mean that every day spending on the new Barclays Emirates cards is even less valuable. Instead, I recommend you put daily purchases on a different travel credit card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (since it earns 1.5% cash back/1.5 points per dollar on every day purchases), and then transfering your points to Emirates (as long as you hold an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card). So the value proposition for these new cards is mostly in the welcome bonus, elite status and travel perks like Global Entry reimbursement.

Heck, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a welcome bonus that’s more than 2-2.5x that of the Emirates cards. You can earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. So if you’re just looking to earn Emirates miles and take free flights on the carrier, I’d recommend signing up for that card first.

Bottom line

New cobranded airline credit cards almost always benefit us as points and miles earners, so I’m excited about these new Barclays Emirates credit cards. I won’t personally be applying for either card as I’m trying to get under the Chase 5/24 limitation–but the value proposition may be compelling for some.

If you have an upcoming flight with Emirates or you want to increase your Emirates miles balance, consider applying for one of these new cards or transferring points from a flexible-points-earning credit card

Jake Pearring is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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