Best Ways to Redeem Emirates Skywards Miles

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Emirates is known for their top-notch premium cabins, and earning the miles needed to book an award ticket just got easier. You do not have to fly on Emirates to have access to Emirates miles. Emirates was recently added as a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

You can redeem Emirates miles for Emirates flights and for flights operated by their partner airlines. In this post, I’ll go over the best ways to earn and redeem Emirates Skywards miles.

How to earn Emirates Skywards miles

There are no Emirates co-branded credit cards in the US, but even if there were, you’re better off earning transferable currencies. The best way to earn Emirates miles is to use a credit card that earns a currency that transfers to Emirates. You can transfer points from the three transferable currencies I discuss most on this blog to Emirates:

Earn your first 60,000 points!  

The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has a welcome offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. With this card, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining spend. You can transfer those points to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.

If you want a premium travel card and you frequently book flights, consider the Platinum Card from American Express.  The welcome bonus is currently 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly through airlines.  The annual fee on this card is higher, but the benefits are great, especially if you travel often. Terms apply. Click here to learn how to apply.

Platinum Card from American Express

A first class suite on an Emirates flight is one of the most aspirational award travel redemptions, but…

There are two factors that may be a deal-breaker:

  • High redemption rates- Depending on your route, the amount of Emirates miles required for first class on Emirates operated flights can be very high compared to first class booked with other airline programs
  • Fuel surcharges- Another major downfall of Emirates is the fact that they collect very high fuel surcharges on award tickets. For example, Premium cabin seats on US to Dubai routes are about $1700 roundtrip

Paying fuel surcharges OR redeeming more miles is one thing. For example, Virgin Atlantic has high fuel surcharges, but their redemption rates are so low on certain routes that it might make sense to book the ticket anyway. But redeeming more miles AND paying high fuel surcharges is a no-go for some.

Best ways to redeem Emirates Skywards miles

Besides the obvious, which is redeeming miles for the Emirates first class experience, I wanted to figure out the best ways to redeem Emirates Skywards miles. I did a deep dive and I have to be honest here. There aren’t many. But the few that I did find are definitely worth mentioning.

There are a few ways to redeem Emirates miles for flights:

  1. Use miles to book flights operated by Emirates
  2. You can also redeem Emirates miles for flights operated by partner airlines of Emirates
  3. Use Emirates miles to upgrade paid Emirates tickets

Since a majority of this blog’s audience is US-based, I’ll focus on routes that originate in the US/North America., but you can certainly use Emirates miles for other routes.

Pricing for award flights on nonstop US routes operated by Emirates

Emirates does not publish redemption prices for their own flights. Instead, you can use their miles calculator. Partner pricing is different and I’ll discuss that in the partners section. For flights operated by Emirates, Emirates Skywards redemption prices are somewhat region-based, but there is also a distance component. For example, US-Dubai has 2 tiers of pricing. The first is made up of eastern cities in the US. The second is middle and western US cities. Eastern US is a shorter distance to Dubai than the middle/western cities, so it makes sense that award tickets from the Eastern cities are priced slightly lower.

While most nonstop Emirates routes from the US are to Dubai, there are 2 fifth freedom routes between the US and Europe. Of course, you can also connect to other worldwide destinations via Dubai.

You can fly to Dubai nonstop from these cities:
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • New York John F Kennedy
  • Newark
  • Orlando
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington

Here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket to Dubai:

Eastern US to Dubai: Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, JFK, Newark, Orlando, and Washington (IAD)

  • Economy: 72,500 Emirates miles
  • Business: 145,000 Emirates miles
  • First: 217,500 Emirates miles

Middle/Western US to Dubai: Dallas, Houston, LAX, San Francisco, Seattle

  • Economy: 82,500 Emirates miles
  • Business: 165,000 Emirates miles
  • First: 247,500 Emirates miles

Emirates allows one ways, but it’s not half of the roundtrip price like most other programs that allow one ways. Instead, it’s more than half. Roundtrip is a much better value.

Tip: If you want the first class experience but you’re short some miles, you can also book a roundtrip ticket in different classes each way, but at the roundtrip price as long as it’s booked as one ticket (as opposed to two one ways). So you could book first class DFW-Dubai and economy Dubai-DFW for 165,000 miles total. That’s 123,750 (half of the roundtrip first class) plus 41,250 (half of the roundtrip economy).

There are 2 fifth freedom routes (nonstop) between the US and Europe that are operated by Emirates:

  • Newark to Athens (on a 777)
  • JFK to Milan (on an A380)

For roundtrip nonstop flights, here are the amounts you’ll need to redeem:

  • Economy: 45,000
  • Business: 90,000
  • First: 135,000
Redemption prices for these routes aren’t the problem

The problem is the fuel surcharges. You can expect to pay between $400 (Europe) and $600 (Dubai) for an economy ticket, depending on your route. For business and first class seats, you can expect to pay between $1100 (Europe) and over $1700 (Dubai) roundtrip in fuel surcharges.

Sidenote: Normally I’d offer another way to book the ticket via a different airline program. Unfortunately, there are really no great ways around the fuel surcharges on Emirates operated flights. The exception would be to use Alaska Airlines miles to book but it’s not that easy to do so. First of all, Alaska Airlines requires more miles. Alaska Airlines does not collect fuel surcharges when you use Alaska Airlines miles to book Emirates operated flights, so you wouldn’t have to pay the surcharges. But you would have to redeem 150,000 Alaska Airlines miles for a US-Dubai first class Emirates seat each way. Also, Alaska Airlines miles aren’t that easy to earn. Alaska Airlines is not a transfer partner of Chase, Amex, or Capital One. The best currency that transfers to Alaska is Marriott (but at a 3:1 ratio, so not ideal). Otherwise you have to earn Alaska miles with their co-branded credit card or by flying, etc.

Best ways to redeem Emirates Skywards miles on Emirates flights

Economy seats on Emirates flights are almost never going to be a good value due to fuel surcharges. If you want to book economy, you may be better off redeeming via a cash-back/purchase eraser type method. For example, you can book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you have Capital One Venture miles, you’d be better off redeeming them via the purchase eraser method. Click here for more info about Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Capital One Venture.

A first class ticket on Emirates is one of those bucket list aspirational award travel experiences. If you have your heart set on Emirates first class, Emirates miles are actually a decent way to book first class on some routes (as opposed to booking with partner airline programs). Just know that you will have to pay fuel surcharges.

You can save money and miles on Emirates business class seats by using miles to upgrade instead of booking the business class award ticket.

1. Redeem Emirates miles for first class on Emirates nonstop routes between the US and Europe

There are two fifth freedom routes between the US and Europe that are operated by Emirates:

  • Newark to Athens (on a 777)
  • JFK to Milan (on an A380)

First class roundtrip at 135,000 miles is less than the amount of miles some programs require for business class on US-Europe routes. The problem is the fuel surcharges.

For roundtrip nonstop flights, here are the amounts you’ll need to redeem:

  • Economy: 45,000 plus pay ~$406
  • Business: 90,000 plus pay ~$1140
  • First: 135,000 plus pay ~$406*

*I’m not convinced this is correct, but if it is, this is a GREAT deal. I’d easily pay $400 on top of 135,000 for a roundtrip first class Emirates seat. This may be a website glitch, as fuel surcharges for first class seats on other routes always price the same as business. I haven’t found any data points to confirm or debunk this, but I’ll update this if and when I do. Even if the fuel surcharges are $1140, I’d consider 135,000 for a roundtrip Emirates first class seat to Europe a pretty good redemption.

For business class, you can save money and miles, plus you can earn miles by upgrading an economy ticket rather than booking a business class award ticket.

2. Use Emirates miles to save money and miles on business class seats

You can read more details in this post.

The best way to save on out of pocket expenses for business class seats on Emirates is to book a paid economy ticket and then use Emirates miles to upgrade. There are no fuel surcharges when you use Emirates miles to upgrade. You’re going to have to pay out of pocket anyway, so you might as well book in such a way that you save money and miles, plus you earn miles for the flight!

Here are two examples:

DFW-Dubai

  • A roundtrip business class award ticket from DFW to Dubai would require 165,000 Emirates miles plus over $1700 in fuel surcharges and fees.
  • Instead, you can purchase a roundtrip economy flex ticket from DFW-Dubai for $1587 and upgrade to business class for 163,800 Emirates miles.

Although not a huge difference, buying the ticket and upgrading is better than redeeming 165,000 miles and paying $1700 in fees for the same business class ticket. Plus, you will earn miles for the flight. While this isn’t a huge difference, other routes are more significant.

Newark-Athens

  • A roundtrip business class ticket form Newark to Athens would require 90,000 Emirates miles plus you would have to pay $1140 in fuel surcharges and fees.
  • Instead, you can buy a flex economy ticket for $1030 and upgrade for 78,000 miles.

Buying an economy ticket and upgrading to business class would save $100 and 12,000 miles. Plus you earn miles on the paid economy ticket. Plus you earn miles and points with whichever credit card you use to book. For example, the Amex Platinum card earns 5 points per dollar on flights. So a $1,000 flight would earn 5,000 Amex points!

best emirates redemptions, how to redeem chase ultimate rewards points for emirates flights

3. Redeem for premium seats on other Emirates routes from the US like Africa and the Maldives

Like I mentioned earlier, you can fly to several destinations on Emirates, but you’ll have to connect in Dubai if you’re flying from the US. You’ll be required to pay fuel surcharges, but one interesting thing to note is that fuel surcharges aren’t much higher on connecting routes. US-Dubai and US-Johannesburg-Dubai are both around $1700 in surcharges and fees. Considering Dubai to Johannesburg is about 8 hours, that means you get an extra 8 hours each way of the first or business class Emirates experience without paying more in fees! The redemption rates are high, but these are bucket list type trips that you probably aren’t going to be booking on a regular basis.

For business class, you can save money, miles, or both by upgrading a paid economy ticket. For example, you can upgrade a flex economy ticket from New York to the Maldives for 152,100 miles. To compare, booking business class as an award ticket would require 170,000 miles. The cost of the flex economy ticket is about the same as the cost of fuel surcharges on the business class award ticket.

Here are some examples of places that you can book on Emirates via Dubai:

US to Johannesburg on Emirates operated flights:

For Eastern US (Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, JFK, Newark, Orlando, and Washington) to Johannesburg via Dubai, here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket:

  • Economy: 95,000
  • Business: 190,000
  • First: 285,000

For Middle/Western US (Dallas, Houston, LAX, San Francisco, Seattle) to Johannesburg via Dubai, here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket:

  • Economy: 100,000
  • Business: 200,000
  • First: 300,000
US to Seychelles on Emirates operated flights:

For Eastern US (Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, JFK, Newark, Orlando, and Washington) to Seychelles via Dubai, here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket:

  • Economy: 85,000
  • Business: 170,000
  • First: 255,000

For Middle/Western US (Dallas, Houston, LAX, San Francisco, Seattle) to Seychelles via Dubai, here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket:

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business: 180,000
  • First: 270,000
US to Maldives on Emirates operated flights:

For Eastern US (Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, JFK, Newark, Orlando, and Washington) to Maldives via Dubai, here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket:

  • Economy: 85,000
  • Business: 170,000
  • First: 255,000

For Middle/Western US (Dallas, Houston, LAX, San Francisco, Seattle) to Maldives via Dubai, here are the redemption amounts for a nonstop roundtrip saver ticket:

  • Economy: 90,000
  • Business: 180,000
  • First: 270,000

Redeeming Emirates Skywards miles for flights operated by partner airlines

Emirates is not in one of the three major airline alliances. Instead, Emirates has several non alliance partners. You can use Emirates Skywards miles to book flights on these partner airlines. Remember, you should never transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards (or Amex Membership Rewards or any other currency) to an airline until you have confirmed availability for your dates. Transfers are permanent.

Emirates partners:

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

Bookable online: Qantas, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, easyJet, flydubai

Call to book: Air Mauritius, Malaysia Airlines, Copa Airlines, Copa Airlines Colombia, Japan Airlines, Jetstar, Korean Air, TAP Portugal and GOL

Fuel surcharges: many of these partners are going to have fuel surcharges.

I’ll go over a few of these partners and which routes you can book from the US. There are very few routes I can find where Emirates Skywards miles offer more value than those of other Amex, Chase, and Venture partner airlines. I’ll give some examples of other Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Capital One partners you can use to book some of these routes for less miles, less money, or both.

South African Airways

Read more here.

There are 2 flights between North America and Africa operated by South African Airways. JFK to Johannesburg and Washington (IAD) to Johannesburg. Both are 100,000 miles roundtrip in economy or 250,000 miles in business class roundtrip.

emirates partner airlines

Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards have another partner, Virgin Atlantic, that is probably better for flights between the US and South Africa. You can use Virgin Atlantic miles for flights operated by Virgin Atlantic or for flights operated by partners such as Delta and South African Airways. Virgin Atlantic collects fuel surcharges on their own flights and on some partner flights, but the amount of miles required may be less than what Emirates requires.

If you redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for a roundtrip flight between the US and South Africa on South African Always, you would redeem 150,000 for business class. So after confirming availability on South African Airways, here are your options with Amex and Chase points:

  • Transfer 250,000 Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards points to Emirates to book the South African Airways flight
  • Transfer 150,000 Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rrewards points to Virgin Atlantic to book the exact same South African Airways flight

This is a great example of why it is important to have transferable currencies!

Korean Air

Read more here.

You can redeem Emirates Skywards miles for flights operated by Korean Air. You can fly to South Korea nonstop from 11 US cities. There is also a route from Honolulu to Tokyo. You can also connect to other destinations. These redemption prices are not bad, but you will have to call to get fuel surcharges. Fuel surcharges may or may not be a deal-breaker.

  • To redeem Emirates miles for Korean Air flights from the US to South Korea, you would need to redeem 70,000 miles roundtrip in economy or 105,000 miles in business class roundtrip.
  • US to Southeast Asia would be 85,000 miles roundtrip in economy or 125,000 miles in business class roundtrip
  • US to Southwest Asia would be 95,000 miles roundtrip in economy or 140,000 miles in business class roundtrip
  • US to Southwest Asia would be 110,000 miles roundtrip in economy or 165,000 miles in business class roundtrip

Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One miles from the Venture card, and American Express Membership Rewards have other partners that can book Korean Air flights. Depending on your route, a different airline may result in lower miles and/or fuel surcharges.

A few notes about using Emirates miles to book Korean Air flights:

  • One way tickets are not allowed
  • Fully unused reward tickets can be refunded at a fee of USD 75.
  • A rush reward fee of USD 75 applies for bookings made within 24 hours of outbound travel.
  • A rush reward fee of USD 50 applies for bookings made within seven days of outbound travel.
  • All fees and charges exclude any local taxes (if applicable)

Alaska Airlines

Read more here

If you have any of the transferable credit card currencies, there may be other partners that can book Alaska Airlines flights. Depending on your route, booking with a different airline program may result in a better redemption price.

Continental US and Canada for 25,000 miles in economy is on par with several airline programs, but there are a few ways to book US/North America nonstop routes for less. For example, British Airways is probably a better way to book most, if not all, Alaska Airlines nonstop routes.

For example, you can use Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles (a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One miles from the Venture card, and American Express Membership Rewards), to book Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii for less than the amount required by Emirates.

using emirates miles to book Alaska Airlines flights

A few notes about using Emirates miles to book Alaska Airlines flights:

  • One way tickets are not allowed
  • Nonstop flights only, if connections are required, more miles are required
  • Date change: USD 25 per change, per person.
  • Refunds before travel: USD 75 only within ticket and Miles validity.

Jet Blue

This is an interesting partner because JetBlue’s own program, True Blue, ties award ticket pricing to the paid fare. If you use Emirates miles to book JetBlue flights, there is a specific amount of miles required for every city pair operated by Jet Blue. Read more here.

JetBlue True Blue is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One miles from the Venture card, and American Express Membership Rewards, so it would make sense to compare the amount of points required by True Blue with the amount of points required by Emirates. Then you can transfer the credit card points to to the airline program that results in the lowest amount required.

You can book one-way flights when you redeem Emirates miles for Jet Blue operated routes. Prices start at 7,500 miles. Click here for the chart.

Japan Airlines

Read more

A roundtrip flight from North America to Japan operated by Japan Airlines is 60,000 Emirates miles in economy or 125,000 miles in business class. While these numbers are similar to those of other programs, fuel surcharges may mean Emirates miles are not the best way to book these flights.

Qantas

Read more here.

For Qantas operated flights, Emirates uses a distance based pricing model. You can book one way flights. The amount of miles required is similar to that of other programs.

using emirates miles to book Qantas flights
using emirates miles to book Qantas flights

For example, DFW-Sydney is 51,200 each way in economy. But Emirates may collect higher fuel surcharges on Qantas flights than other airlines that you can use to book Qantas flights. One way fees would be $141.

using emirates miles to book Qantas flights
using emirates miles to book Qantas flights

British Airways, a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, can be used to book Qantas. Their program requires a similar amount of points, but the fees are better. The exact same flight would be 51,500 British Airways avios (points) and $63. So you would be better off using British Airways for this route.

using British Airways to book Qantas flights

TAP Portugal

Read more here.

A roundtrip flight from the US to mainland Portugal, Spain, Northern Africa, and Europe 1 operated by TAP is 70,000 Emirates miles in economy or 140,000 miles in business class. For economy this is more than most other airline programs. There are other Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One, and American Express Membership Rewards partners that have better economy prices. For example, all 3 transfer to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer. Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles can be used to book TAP flights, and the redemption cost is 27,500 miles each way in economy for a US-Europe ticket.

For business class, it’s similar to the average redemption price. It is unclear what kind of fuel surcharges are added to award tickets operated by TAP booked with Emirates miles.

using emirates miles to book TAP flights
using emirates miles to book TAP flights
  • Refunds on fully unused tickets permitted at a charge of USD 75.
  • A rush reward fee of USD 75 applies for bookings made within 24 hours of outbound travel.
  • A rush reward fee of USD 50 applies for bookings made within seven days of outbound travel.

Final Thoughts

  • Fuel surcharges are a huge burden when booking Emirates award tickets.
  • In my opinion, the best use of Emirates miles is on their US-Europe routes.
  • Generally, Emirates miles are not going to be a good value for economy award tickets.
  • For business class tickets, you’re probably better off spending the money you would on fuel surcharges and buying an economy ticket instead. Then you can use miles to upgrade to business class.
  • For first class, Emirates miles are a decent way to book, especially if you’re the type that gets excited about a high cents per point value.

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

1 thought on “Best Ways to Redeem Emirates Skywards Miles”

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