The introduction of the credit card completely revolutionized the way people spend, enabling financial freedom around the globe and sophisticating the concept of ‘credit’. As credit cards evolved from their archaic and bulky paper-based formats into the sleek plastic cards of today, so too did card benefits. Today, air miles cards are the ultimate must-have financial tool. But not all cards are created equal and certain features separate good air miles cards from the best air miles cards.

Join us as we explore the realm of air miles cards and identify the potential best air miles cards of 2019.

Types of Air Miles Cards

Before we take a look at the logistics of earning and redeeming miles, it is important to understand the difference between the two major types of air miles cards. Air mile cards may be:

  1. Airline-Specific
    These air miles cards are partnered with a particular airline. Miles earned with such air miles cards can only be redeemed at the specified airline.

  2. General
    A general air miles card allows the cardholder to redeem air miles at a variety of different airlines. Cardholders should not make the mistake of assuming that such cards are the best air miles cards, as they may not offer as many miles as an airline-specific card does.

Note: Certain airline partnerships such as the ‘oneworld Alliance’ even allow owners of an airline-specific air miles card to redeem their miles at member airlines. The oneworld Alliance is a partnership of 13 airlines, which includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and many more.

Earning Air Miles

Air miles cards allow the cardholder to earn miles in one of two ways:

  1. Fly to Earn
    In this earning method, every mile travelled in the air earns the cardholder an ‘airmile’.

  2. Spend to Earn
    The other way to earn airmiles is by spending with an air miles card. While most of the best air miles cards allow cardholders to directly earn airmiles, some cards take an indirect approach by offering rewards points (which can be redeemed for flight tickets).

Note: Air miles cards usually implement spending categories that define how many air miles can be earned per AED of expenditure. For example, a vast majority of the best air miles cards reward international spending with more airmiles as compared to domestic spending.

Redeeming Air Miles

The term ‘airmiles’ suggests that cardholders can use their accumulated rewards for flight tickets. However, the redemption possibilities are actually far more diverse. The best air miles cards allow cardholders to utilize their airmiles for:

  • Flight Tickets & Upgrades,
  • Hotel Stays,
  • Car Rentals,
  • Spa & Massage Treatments,
  • Dining Discounts,
  • Retail Shopping,
  • And much more.

Note: The ratio of Air Miles to AED is rarely ever 1:1. For example, 100 Air Miles earned with an air miles card will not be equal to AED 100.

Furthermore, while it may be tempting to redeem airmiles for a free flight ticket, it is actually more financially prudent to use airmiles to upgrade flight tickets instead.

Common Misconceptions & Queries

  1. Status of Air Miles
    General air miles cards usually have an online portal on the card issuer’s website itself. Cardholders may log in to check on the status of accumulated air miles and to redeem them. Airline-specific air miles cards, on the other hand, may require cardholders to visit the respective Airline’s website in order to check the status of and to redeem their airmiles.

  2. Restrictions
    Air miles card typically impose restrictions on the number of airmiles that can be earned by cardholders. These are known as ‘caps’ and may be implemented on monthly or yearly earnings. Note that some of the best air miles cards reward cardholders for continued loyalty by offering them bonus airmiles on the anniversary of their joining. It is during these times that airmiles caps play an important role. Cardholders should spend airmiles in advance to ensure their bonus anniversary airmiles are not wasted by crossing the cap amount.

  3. Blackout & Expiry Dates
    The policy documents provided with air miles cards contain useful information about airmiles earning and redemption such as blackout and expiry dates. Expiry dates specify the amount of time that earned airmiles are valid for and usually range from 1 – 3 years. Blackout dates are specific times of the year that airmiles cannot be used. These are usually during the busiest times of the year such as on festivals and at the end of the year.

  4. Closing an Air Miles Card
    It is recommended that cardholders utilize all their accumulated airmiles before terminating an air miles card. The best air miles cards even allow airmiles to be transferred to other cards or loyalty program. More information on the same can be found in the air miles card policy documents or by getting in touch with the credit card issuer.

Some of the Best Air Miles Cards in the UAE

Mentioned below are some of the best air miles cards in the UAE as per our opinion. While there are dozens of other air miles cards to choose from, we believe the following cards offer the best airmiles earning potential.

  1. Emirates NBD Skywards Signature Card
    Emirates NBD’s Skywards Signature air miles card offers cardholders up to 1.5 Skywards airmiles for every US $ 1 spent. The card is available for an annual membership fee of AED 700.

  2. ADIB Etihad Visa Platinum Card
    Owners of the ADIB Etihad Platinum air miles card can earn up to 3 Etihad Guest Miles for every AED 4 spent. The card is available for an annual membership fee of AED 2,000.

  3. Emirates-Citibank Ultima Card
    Citibank’s Ultima card charges a slightly higher annual membership fee of AED 3,000. But, it also ranks as one of the best air miles cards due to its high airmiles earning potential of up to 2.5 Skywards airmiles per US $1 of expenditure.

Before you go…

Ease of modern travel has primed UAE for an influx of air miles cards. With new air miles cards being created every month, it has become crucial for customers to hold their own comparisons in order to find the best air miles card.

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