Barclays Emirates Credit Cards Offering Big Welcome & Spending Bonuses

Barclays Emirates Credit Cards Offering Big Welcome & Spending Bonuses

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In 2020, Barclays and Emirates introduced co-branded credit cards in the United States, and they’re surprisingly lucrative. A few months back we saw new increased welcome bonuses launched on these cards, and now there’s also a new spending bonus that can help you earn a higher status tier, for both new and existing cardmembers. In this post I wanted to go over the details.

Barclays & Emirates US credit card basics

In September 2020, Emirates and Barclays launched co-branded credit cards. Emirates notes that the US market has the second largest membership base of Skywards members, as there are a total of over 2.5 million members. These cards are intended to increase that membership base in the US.

These cards are the latest to be issued by Barclays in the travel space:

  • Barclays issues airline credit cards for American, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and Lufthansa
  • Barclays has some other cards in the travel space, including for Choice and Wyndham on the hotel front, and Carnival, Holland America, and Princess, on the cruise front

Barclays and Emirates are issuing two credit cards at different price points, so let’s take a look at the details.

Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard

The Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard is the more basic of the two cards. The card offers the following perks:

  • Annual fee: $99
  • Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus Skywards miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Return on spending: 3x Skywards miles per dollar spent on Emirates purchases, 2x Skywards miles per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases (including airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals), and 1x Skywards miles per dollar spent on other purchases; there are no foreign transaction fees
  • Elite status perks: Emirates Skywards Silver status for the first year of enrollment, and you can retain the status by spending $20,000 on purchases on the card each cardmember year

For those of you not familiar with Skywards Silver status, it offers the following benefits:

  • Access to the Emirates Business Lounge in Dubai (only for the member)
  • 25% bonus Skywards miles on Emirates flights
  • Free economy seat selection
  • Priority check-in and boarding

Receive Skywards Silver status with this card

Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard

The Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard is the more premium of the two cards. The card offers the following perks:

  • Annual fee: $499
  • Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus Skywards miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Return on spending: 3x Skywards miles per dollar spent on Emirates purchases, 2x Skywards miles per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases (including airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals), and 1x Skywards miles per dollar spent on other purchases; there are no foreign transaction fees
  • Elite status perks: Emirates Skywards Gold status for the first year of enrollment, and you can retain the status by spending $40,000 on purchases on the card each cardmember year
  • Other perks: a Priority Pass select membership, plus Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit once every five years, which is a value of up to $100
  • Anniversary bonus: earn 10,000 bonus Skywards miles after spending $30,000 on the card in a cardmember year

For those of you not familiar with Skywards Gold status, it offers the following benefits beyond Silver status:

  • Access to Emirates Business Lounges around the world (for the member and one guest)
  • 50% bonus Skywards miles on Emirates flights
  • Priority baggage delivery

Get access to Emirates Lounges around the world with this card

Which Emirates credit card is better?

Obviously these credit cards have very different price points, and there’s no one size fits all answer. A few observations:

  • The premium card sign-up bonus is 10,000 miles better, so I’d maybe value that at an incremental ~$100 or so in value
  • The rewards structure for spending is identical on both cards, with the exception of the anniversary bonus on the premium card for spending $30,000
  • If you fly Emirates with any frequency you’ll notice the difference between Silver and Gold status
  • If you value the Priority Pass membership and/or Global Entry fee credit, that can help to offset the difference between the two annual fees

Redeem Skywards miles for Emirates’ new first class

New spending bonus on Emirates credit cards

In addition to the elevated welcome bonuses on the Emirates credit cards, there’s also a new incentive for spending money on the cards, whether you’re a new or existing cardmember.

Through December 31, 2021, you can earn one Emirates Skywards status mile (known as a Tier Mile) for every four Skywards miles earned on the credit card. There are a couple of things to be aware of:

  • This doesn’t apply to bonus Skywards miles issued in relation to welcome bonuses or promotional bonus Skywards miles
  • You can earn at most 50,000 status miles with this offer

Unfortunately this offer won’t be valuable unless you otherwise have a lot of qualifying elite activity with Emirates Skywards. Why?

  • You receive Emirates Skywards Silver or Gold status with these welcome bonuses for one year, but don’t actually receive the elite miles associated with it, so you’re starting from scratch when it comes to qualifying for a higher tier with this offer
  • As an ongoing perk, the cards let you requalify for status after the first year by spending $20,000-40,000, and that’s an easier pathway to earning status than this offer
  • The only situation where this would be valuable is if you’re an Emirates frequent flyer and you’re just short of earning Skywards Platinum status, and this would get you closer to earning that

While this might sound like a nice promotion in theory, unfortunately there are very limited circumstances where taking advantage of it actually makes sense.

There are limited situations where this promo makes sense

My take on the two Emirates credit cards

Emirates’ US credit cards are surprisingly good — generally airline credit cards are worth it for the perks, rather than for spending money on. That’s probably still true here.

That being said, these cards are fairly easily offering “legitimate” status, both as part of the welcome bonus and for ongoing spend, and that’s not something we often see. Along those lines, I have a few thoughts:

  • There aren’t many airline credit cards offering mid-tier status the first year just for having the card, and letting you retain that status in subsequent years for a fairly reasonable spending requirement
  • Emirates Skywards elite perks are fairly weak on paper, though I’d note that one of the best unpublished benefits is higher priority for operational upgrades (situations where economy or business class are oversold, and they need to bump someone up), so if you have Gold status you may find yourself getting operational upgrades every so often, at least once flights fill up again
  • For someone who flies Emirates with any frequency, it could definitely be worth having status, especially Gold status
  • I do wish you could get some credit towards Emirates’ top-tier Skywards Platinum status with spending, rather than the value topping out at Gold status

That being said, unless you value retaining Emirates Skywards status, it’s tough to get excited about the value proposition of spending money on these cards. Emirates Skywards is partners with all four major transferable points currencies, so there are so many ways to earn Skywards miles.

Other cards can offer you multiple points per dollar in many more categories, and then you could transfer those points to Emirates Skywards. If you’re not going for status, then it’s definitely not worth spending money on these cards.

At least for the premium version of the card you get a 10,000 mile bonus if you spend $30,000 on the card. That means if you spent $40,000 on the card to earn Gold status, you’d at least earn the equivalent of 1.25 Skywards miles per dollar on non-bonused spending. That’s better than no bonus…

Bottom line

The US Barclays and Emirates credit cards are offering solid welcome bonuses, which can earn you 50,000-60,000 Skywards miles upon completing minimum spending. On top of that there’s a new spending bonus on the cards, though there aren’t many situations where that’s worthwhile.

Personally I think these are some of the most rewarding co-brand airline credit cards issued in the US for foreign airlines. In particular, earning mid-tier status the first year just for having a card is a pretty special perk you don’t often see.

What do you make of the Emirates credit cards, and would you sign up for them?

Conversations (5)
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  1. Chandana Guest

    Can I use American s
    Airline miles to get a booking In Emirates

  2. Mark n Guest

    You skipped the 99 (up to 4 people in economy) or 250 (business class) or 499 (1st class) which further offset the cost of the card if you actually fly Emirates as a revenue passenger

  3. mjonis Guest

    Don't Skywards points have a hard expiration? If they still do, just keep in mind earn and burn with the signup bonuses

  4. Joey Guest

    The status helps if one flies Emirates economy a lot but for the business or first class flyer (cash or award ticket) I don’t think it makes much of a difference.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Chandana Guest

Can I use American s Airline miles to get a booking In Emirates

0
Mark n Guest

You skipped the 99 (up to 4 people in economy) or 250 (business class) or 499 (1st class) which further offset the cost of the card if you actually fly Emirates as a revenue passenger

0
mjonis Guest

Don't Skywards points have a hard expiration? If they still do, just keep in mind earn and burn with the signup bonuses

0
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