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It’s difficult for a new airline credit card to compete with bank cards whose points transfer to a variety of different mileage programs. To be worthwhile the airline card has to earn more miles than competitors, and has to offer better benefits.
Back in February, when Barclays announced it would be introducing an Emirates credit card in the United States I highlighted this problem because Emirates was a transfer partner of American Express, Chase, and Capital One. In April Emirates even became a Citibank transfer partner too.
Barclays has an interesting take on this challenge: the new cards come with elite status, and spending on the card lets you keep your status.
- The $99 annual fee Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard® comes with Silver status for a year, and $20,000 spend each year continues to earn that status. There’s an initial bonus of 30,000 miles after $3000 spend within 90 days.
- The $499 annual fee Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard® comes with Gold status (the 50,000 mile tier) for a year, and $40,000 spend each year continues to earn that status. There’s an initial bonus of 40,000 miles after $3000 spend within 90 days, and each year you spend $30,000 on the card you’ll earn an additional 10,000 miles. The card comes with Priority Pass Select (unlimited visits) and TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement (up to $100, every 5 years – so you may need to wait for benefits to expire to re-apply and get the credit).
Earning on both cards is a rather uninspired ‘3-2-1′: 3 miles on Emirates spend; 2 miles on air, hotel and car rental; 1 mile on everything else.
Cardmembers’ miles don’t expire, and receive a 25% bonus when buying miles from Emirates. The pause on expiration is useful, since miles in the program expire 3 years after being earned normally, with new activity not extending expiration.
Ultimately the cards are valuable for preserving the life of miles, and for those who value Emirates status. They aren’t good for spending money on outside of earning elite status. And Emirates status has modest value.
- Silvers get complimentary seat selection and priority check-in and boarding, plus business class lounge access for themselves in Dubai.
- Golds can bring a guest with them into any Emirates business lounge.
Sadly there’s no opportunity for progress towards status from the credit card to count towards higher levels of status, including the Platinum tier or iO status.