MileValue is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit to learn more.

Note: Some of the offers mentioned below may have changed or are no longer be available. You can view current offers here.

The newest Membership Rewards airline partner is Emirates Skyward miles. To celebrate the partnership, from now until November 22, 2013, you can transfer 1,000 Membership Rewards to 1,250 Emirates miles, a 25% transfer bonus.

The bonus is coded into the transfer page.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 5.27.14 PM

My first thought was: this is a fantastic way to get into Emirates First Class on an A380, the only plane with an onboard shower–that I flew this January from Auckland to Sydney.

Is this your ticket to showering at 35,000 feet? Are there sweet spots with Emirates miles?

But upon closer inspection, the Emirates Skyward program is not a great way into Emirates First or Business Class.

There are two huge problems with using Emirates miles on Emirates flights:

  1. Emirates collects obscene fuel surcharges on its own flights.
  2. Emirates charges double the economy award price for Business Class redemptions and triple the economy award price for First Class redemptions.

One of the easiest and cheapest routes for an American to fly on Emirates from New York to Milan illustrates the fuel surcharge problem. A roundtrip in business class on the route goes for 90k miles + $1,079 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 5.42.32 PM

During the transfer bonus, you could book the route for 72k Membership Rewards and $1,079. That’s far too pricey for me.

In general, most First Class routes cost an exorbitant amount of miles because–exactly like Avios awards–Emirates charges three times the economy price for a first class award. Compare that to most American airlines, which charge around twice the economy price for most first class awards.

For instance, New York to Dubai roundtrip costs 72,500 Emirates miles in economy, 145,000 in business, and 217,500 in first. That works out to 116k Membership Rewards for a roundtrip in business and 174k for a roundtrip in first. No thanks!

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 9.12.27 PM
JFK-DXB roundtrip in first: 217,500 miles + $1,372
Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 9.13.25 PM
JFK-DXB roundtrip in business: 145k + $1,406

Even the route I flew in Emirates First Class–Auckland to Sydney one way–costs 68,500 miles and and about $50. That would be 55,000 Membership Rewards even during the transfer bonus, too much for such a short flight.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 6.08.37 PM


There is a 25% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Emirates miles through November 22, 2013, but you can skip it because flying Emirates flights with Emirates miles costs too many miles and too many dollars.


All hope is not lost. Tomorrow I will compare the three easiest options that Americans have for getting into Emirates First Class. Two are surprisingly affordable in miles and collect no fuel surcharges!

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 75,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.