Citi Adds Emirates as Transfer Partner to Redeem ThankYou Points

Certain Citi cardholders can now transfer their ThankYou Points to new airline partner Emirates.
Apr 22, 2020

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Ever wanted to sip champagne in a private suite and then enjoy a hot, refreshing shower … in the sky? If you hold a Citi Premier® Card or a Citi Prestige® Card, you just got another option for taking that luxurious bucket list flight.

Citi has added a new airline transfer partner to its ThankYou Rewards program. Emirates, the flagship airline for the United Arab Emirates, has become the 16th airline transfer partner for Citi. ThankYou Points will transfer to the Emirates Skywards loyalty program at a 1:1 ratio.

It’s always great news in our book to have more transfer partner options. And while you certainly can use Emirates points to fly in Emirates First Class suites, you have even better options to get the most value out of your Emirates Skywards miles.

Emirates Skywards miles are now easy to earn

The Emirates Skywards loyalty program is one you may not be too familiar with. That’s because until recently, Emirates miles were harder to earn. In the past, you could transfer your American Express Membership Rewards to Emirates, but that was the only mainstream option. However, in the past two years, Emirates has become a transfer partner of both Capital One Venture miles and Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

With the addition of Citi as a partner, you can now earn Emirates Skywards miles from every major flexible bank points program, as well as from Marriott Bonvoy points.

Even though Citi has several different credit cards that earn ThankYou Points, it’s important to note that the Citi Premier® Card and the Citi Prestige® Card are the two that will provide the option to transfer to all 16 airline partners. Some other cards allow transfers, but only to JetBlue.

What you need to know about Emirates

While it’s now easy to acquire Emirates miles, it’s not as easy to know how many miles you’ll need to spend to take that dream first class flight. That’s because Emirates doesn’t publish an award chart for its own program. Instead, the Emirates website provides a miles calculator. It’s handy to see how many miles you’ll need to take a specific flight you have in mind, but it makes it difficult to know exactly how many you’ll need to plan future flights.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind about using Emirates miles:

  • No alliance: Although Emirates has a variety of partnerships with other airlines like Korean Air, Japan Airlines and JetBlue, the airline isn't part of a major alliance.

  • Different award charts for each partner: While Emirates does publish charts showing how many Skywards miles you’ll need to fly on partner airlines, it’s a different chart for each partner. So don’t make assumptions about how many Emirates miles you’ll need to take a Copa Airlines flight based on how many miles it takes to fly on TAP Portugal, for example.

  • High fees and surcharges: Emirates notoriously tacks on high surcharges and fees to the cost of its award tickets. A round-trip to Dubai in the signature first class cabin will run you well over $1,000 in cash out of pocket, in addition to the miles.

  • Use a combination of cash and miles: If you don’t have enough miles to book a full award, you can use the Cash+Miles program to offset the cost. You also have the option of using Emirates miles to upgrade your flight.

  • Strict expiration policy: Emirates Skywards miles expire three years from the date in which they’re earned. For an added plot twist, they’ll actually be removed from your account at the end of the month you were born. Emirates did recently offer the option to pay to extend the life of the miles if they’re due to expire in the next three months. But you won’t want to speculatively transfer your flexible points to Emirates unless you have a specific trip to book.

  • Family account pooling: You can combine Emirates miles with up to seven family members, including kids. You can choose to keep some of your miles separate in your individual account while sharing others in the family account.

Other ways to use Emirates Skywards miles

While flying on an Emirates plane to an exotic location is a dream come true for many, there are also many ways to use Skywards miles, some closer to home. You can use your miles to book on Emirates' partner airlines, including:

  • JetBlue: Starting at just 7,500 miles for a one-way trip, use your Emirates miles to fly domestically.

  • GOL: This Brazilian regional airline's award chart boasts several sweet spots where you can use Emirates Skywards miles. Explore the more than 3-million-square-mile country for as little as 4,500 miles for a one-way economy ticket.

  • Copa: Want to hop around Central America for as little as 5,000 miles? This Panamanian carrier can take you all over, including a one-way trip back to the U.S. for just 11,000 miles in economy.

The bottom line

It’s good news for consumers whenever more transfer partners are added to flexible rewards programs. While many travelers may not find significant usefulness in the Emirates loyalty program right away, there’s great value to be found if you’re willing to plan ahead and do a little research.

The information related to the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

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