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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.

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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.

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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!

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JFK-DXB roundtrip in first: 217,500 miles + $1,372
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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.

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Recap

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.

Bonus

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 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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 60,000 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!


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