Emirates & Barclays Launch New US Credit Cards, And They’re Better Than I Expected

Filed Under: Credit Cards, Emirates

At the beginning of the year we learned that Barclays and Emirates would be launching a co-branded credit card in the US, though at the time no details were available.

Well, the card has now launched, or more accurately, two new cards have now launched. While I wouldn’t say they’re the best cards out there, I’m very pleasantly surprised.

The new Barclays & Emirates US credit cards

Emirates and Barclays have this week launched new 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, and these new cards are intended to increase that membership base in the US.

This will be the latest cards 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: 30,000 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: 40,000 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 Pre-Check 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

My take on the two Emirates credit cards

Let me say upfront that I had very low expectations of these cards. I generally think 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, and that’s not something I was expecting to 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

It’s cool to see that Barclays and Emirates have launched two credit cards in the US. 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 new Emirates credit cards, and would you sign up for them?

Comments
  1. Do Emirates Skywards Miles expire? If so, are there any easy ways to reset the expiration dates, i.e. magazine subscriptions? Thank you.

  2. You’d think the premium card would give you an option to get Gold but if not provide Silver status. A GE credit and PP are the most redundant benefits. The card seems pretty weak.

  3. These seem pretty crappy…

    Premium card is $500 a year and has no statement credits, so the effective annual fee is still $500.

    I can’t see good justification for holding either past the first year.

  4. Ben – what are the implications of this card with their partnership with Marriott? If you frequent Marriott Bonvoy hotels, will having status with Emirates through this card help you earn miles in either program? Thanks!

  5. So does this mean that to earn status higher than gold you have to earn the entire amount, not just the difference between gold and the higher status?

  6. As I usually fly Emirates in business or first and get AS credit, I cannot see what use the card would have for me.

  7. RE: EMIRATES Skywards PREMIUM World Elite MasterCard: $499 annual fee

    Is it made of 24K GOLD? Diamond/s around MasterCard logo OR on that gold tree?

    DAMN!!!! They were this close | | just about to click “APPLY” button.

  8. I have two Barclays USA issuing Mastercard is the most worst banking service I ever. Barclays USA will not honor reapply after 24 months . I had a long relations with Barclays with Lufthansa and JetBlue Mastercard after once closed accounts and can not apply again lifetime ! American Express more human ! Barclay USA is not worth and not human !

  9. Note the free AUs that include PP Select with *unlimited* guests, like the Ritz and CSR good old days. Food for thought if you have people to split the $499 AF cost with (like with the AA Admirals card/10 AUs).

  10. Before Emirates partnered with Qantas several years ago the highest elite tier for Skywards miles was Gold — so I wish they offered this card back then!
    Nowadays though neither of those cards are that competitive so I’ll give it a pass.

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