How to Make the Most of Emirates Skywards Awards During Capital One’s 100% Transfer Bonus

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This week Capital One announced its first miles transfer bonus in partnership with Emirates Skywards. Between March 18 at 12:01 a.m. EST and March 24 at 11:59 p.m. EST) Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card accountholders receive a 100% bonus on all miles transferred to the Emirates Skywards program. (The transfer rate to Emirates will be 1:1 during this limited-time offer.)

Capital One even shares that “this points promotion is the first of the year” which is fantastic news.

Capital One Venture’s Big New Benefits

The biggest end of year miles and points news was definitely that Capital One has introduced the ability to transfer their miles to a variety of different airlines. That’s a game changer because the Capital One Venture is now a double threat. When you spend on the card you earn your choice of:

  • 2% back towards paid travel with Purchase Eraser, or
  • Up to 1.5 airline frequent flyer miles per dollar spent on everyday purchases or up to 7.5 airline frequent flyer miles per dollar spent on bookings made at hotels.com/venture (through January 2020)

That’s on all of your purchases, every day, without requiring any special category bonuses at all. That’s why Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is the new best personal card for everyday spending.

Currently you can enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening a new Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.

In addition the card lets you earn 10X miles on hotels booked at hotels.com/venture (through January 2020) and you will receive up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or Pre✓®. The card as a $0 intro annual fee for first year; $95 after that.

Capital One Airline Transfer Partners

Capital One miles transfer to most airline loyalty programs at a 2-to-1.5 ratio. These rates are current as of March 20, 2019 and may change, so if you’re consulting this article in the future check for current transfer rates.

Airline Frequent Flyer Program Transfer Ratio
Aeromexico Club Premier 2-to-1.5
Air Canada Aeroplan 2-to-1.5
Air France KLM Flying Blue 2-to-1.5
Alitalia MilleMiglia Program 2-to-1.5
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 2-to-1.5
Avianca LifeMiles 2-to-1.5
Emirates Skywards 2-to-1.0* (1:1 during promo)
Etihad Airways Etihad Guest 2-to-1.5
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands 2-to-1.5
Finnair Plus 2-to-1.5
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club 2-to-1.5
Qantas Frequent Flyer 2-to-1.5
Qatar Airways Privilege Club 2-to-1.5
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer 2-to-1.0

Capital One also tells me they plan to add more travel loyalty program transfer partners on an ongoing basis, which I’m really looking forward to.

100% Bonus on Emirates Transfers

Capital One is running a limited-time 100% bonus on transfers to Emirates Skywards from March 18 through March 24, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST. As a result Capital One points transfer to Emirates at 1:1 during this period.

Effectively that means spending on the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2 Emirates Skywards miles per dollar when those points are transferred during this limited time offer.

Emirates Has a Great Product

Emirates offers one of the great first class experiences in the sky. You don’t have to be flying one of their limited number of planes with ‘new’ first class to have a special experience.

Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s are mainstays of their fleet, and both feature suites with doors in first class.


Emirates First Class Suite

On the Airbus A380 first class even features two ‘shower spas’ — the forward lavatories each are huge and include showers. The floors are heated so you don’t step onto a cold floor when coming out of a hot shower you’ve just taken at 36,000 feet. The little details here are done right — the bath mat is even curved to match the shape of the shower.

First class passengers can reserve a shower for their preferred time inflight. I usually ask right after boarding if I can have the last slot prior to arrival, because I find this isn’t just a gimmick — there’s nothing quite like taking a shower before getting off of a long haul flight. You get 5 minutes of running water which is plenty because you can start it and stop it at will. And when you return to your seat they’ll even have a snack of fruit ready for you.


Emirates Airbus A380 Shower Spa

If you’re flying on an Airbus A380 then business class features a bar in the back of the cabin. Even if I’m flying first class I’ll head back to business to check it out (though I’ll ask them to bring up some of the first class liquor for my drink).


Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat

Their business class seats on this aircraft are fully flat with direct aisle access. Notably though business class on most of their Boeing 777s is angled.


Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Bar

In Dubai the Emirates A concourse first class lounge is an entire level of the terminal. It’s like having the whole airport just for first class passengers, with dining and spa services and boarding straight from the ‘lounge’.

Emirates is one of my favorite airlines to fly, and there are only a handful of ways to book award travel on the carrier. That’s why it’s nice to be able to transfer points to the Skywards program.

And this is true even with the ‘older’ products I’ve described above. Recently they’ve even started making first class awards available on their newer first product which flies on limited Boeing 777 routes — between Dubai and London Stansted (flights 33/34); Frankfurt (flights 43/44); Geneva (flights 83/84, 89/90); Brussels (flights 181/182, 183/184); Hamburg (flights 59/60); and Tokyo Haneda (flights 312/313). This space has been appearing about 2 days prior to departure when at least 4 first class seats remain for sale. That said, I almost like the Airbus A380 first class better because of the showers.

Where Emirates Flies

One of the great things about Emirates is its extensive route network from the United States to their hub in Dubai and beyond to destinations in the Mideast, Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

They fly from the following airports to Dubai: Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort-Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, New York JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington Dulles. They also fly to Dubai from Toronto, and they also operate Newark – Athens and New York JFK – Milan.

With that many flights I find I’m often able to secure award space to Dubai, and I’ve had good luck booking travel to places including Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

And since the only U.S. airline which allows you to redeem their miles for travel on Emirates is Alaska, you’re simply not competing against as many members for scarce award seats as you are with some airlines.

How Many Miles Will My Award Cost?

Emirates doesn’t have a published award chart. Instead they have a calculator. One-way awards cost more than half of a roundtrip, as they must be booked as a ‘flex’ fare (no fee to change or cancel) instead of the less expensive ‘saver’.

Flying between the US and Dubai runs:

  • Economy: 72,500 – 82,500 miles roundtrip (plus taxes and fees)
  • Business: 145,000 – 165,000 miles roundtrip (plus taxes and fees)
  • First: 217,500 – 247,500 miles roundtrip (plus taxes and fees)

You’ll see that roundtrip business class awards cost twice what roundtrip coach awards cost, and roundtrip first class awards cost three times as much as roundtrip coach. I consider business class to be a real sweet spot.

The mileage cost of Emirates awards largely track the distance flown. As a result there are comparative values flying shorter routes, for instance New York JFK – Milan costs 45,000 miles roundtrip in economy; 90,000 miles roundtrip in business class; 135,000 miles roundtrip in first class. Since the route is operated by an Airbus A380, it’s a great way to experience the airline’s flagship product in both directions.

Emirates Skywards has separate award prices for travel on their partners. I like the value redeeming Emirates miles for business class travel on Japan Airlines and on Korean Air.

How to Think About Surcharges on Awards

In addition to miles and taxes Emirates Skywards adds the cost of ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’ when redeeming an award. The how much that will cost you depends on the route that you fly, and can range from nothing, to more than $1500 roundtrip.

Here are some sample routes to show you a range of prices, current as of March 10, 2019. Amounts will fluctuate as the value of the dollar changes for non-US routes.

Carrier-Imposed Total
Origin Destination Surcharges Taxes/Fees
Houston (IAH) Dubai (DXB)                    812.00               842.10
Milan (MXP) New York (JFK)                    219.70               286.43
Hong Kong (HKG) Dubai (DXB)                      57.10               103.23
Bangkok (BKK) Sydney (SYD)                             –                 46.40

If you’re looking to avoid these surcharges when redeeming Emirates miles, consider using them for routes with no or low added costs.

However I’d argue that paying these surcharges can still make for a good deal. I think of as buying a deeply-discounted coach ticket that doesn’t earn miles, and redeeming miles for an upgrade. The fact that you can ‘double upgrade’ in that sense (for a first class redemption) can be a phenomenal deal – when a paid ticket in first class Los Angeles – Singapore roundtrip might run you $28,000.

I also think that it may be worth paying the surcharges for the Emirates inflight product. Since they offer one of the better premium offerings you’d be paying for a better experience.

I was willing to pay carrier-imposed surcharges when I fly with my 3-month-old daughter to Paris in January. The convenience of a non-stop Austin – London Heathrow flight in first class meant the expense made sense to me, since that’s the only transatlantic first class from my home city.

Use Emirates Skywards for Upgrades

Instead of picking dates at random, or looking for dates with upgrade availability to show you, let me share an exchange I had with a journalist who covers the airline industry.

Emirates business class upgrades book into the D inventory bucket and first class upgrades book into Z (which is also for award travel).

Finding Availability and Booking Space

My starting place is usually just to search the Alaska or Qantas websites for award space. I find that’s quickest. Expertflyer.com shows availability that’s offered to Skywards members, and upgrade and award space comes from the same inventory. You can also search the Emirates Skywards website without any miles in your account after logging in.

Capital One transfers to Emirates are reportedly instant. While you can book awards and also process upgrades for existing bookings online, I like ringing up Emirates on the phone before making the transfer. I’ll get them to set up the award or upgrade and then make a transfer of points online once they’ve done so.

Should You Transfer Points Speculatively?

A 100% transfer bonus to Emirates is a nice deal, and it’s only available through March 24, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST. This is the first time that Capital One has run a transfer bonus from their miles to airline miles.

If you have a plan for how you’ll use Emirates Skywards miles, consider making a transfer. However I love the flexibility points have in a Capital One account to transfer to a variety of places.

That’s in part because of all of the options Capital One gives you, and in part because Emirates miles expire if unused less than three years from when they are earned (they expire at the end of your birth month in the third year after they are credited to your account although you can pay to extend expiring miles for an additional 12 months).

Overall though I’m excited to see that Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is running a bonus to transfer their miles to an airline at a better than standard rate. Transfer bonuses are on their radar, so I can’t wait to see whether another transfer bonus comes along soon.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

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  1. Do I want to fly what looks like – with all the gaudy gold and crap, “Trump [redacted] Airlines” – to the world’s litter box? Hard pass.

  2. First of all, there’s really no connection between Emirates and Trump that I’m aware of. Second much of their business is connecting traffic, not ferrying passengers in and out of Dubai. They’re a great airline to fly to Southeast Asia from the East Coast, they’re great for travel to India or much of Africa, as well as places like the Maldives.

  3. Emirates also has some pretty terrific partners on whose metal you can fly. For example, Jet Blue and Alaska. (Although I can’t find AS to book via the Emirates site). I looked at flights JFK to LAX and LAX to JFK in coach in the Fall and the flight costs (and $ for taxes) were very reasonable.

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