Note: Emirates Skywards was re-added as an American Express Membership Rewards partner on 1st June 2020. See our article here for details.
Only three weeks ago we were reporting that Standard Chartered had removed Malaysia Enrich miles from its list of frequent flyer programme transfer partners, and today it’s more unfortunate news with one less option for American Express cardholders – Emirates Skywards Miles.
From today, you can no longer transfer American Express Membership Rewards points into Emirates Skywards miles, including those earned through:
- The Platinum Card
- The Platinum Credit Card
- The Platinum Reserve Credit Card
- The Rewards Card
- The Gold Card
- The Centurion Card
The SIA American Express KrisFlyer co-brand cards continue to offer automatic monthly miles transfer exclusively to the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer programme.
All your FFP transfer options
Here’s an update to our table of bank to loyalty programme transfer chart, reflecting this removal from the Amex programme.
As you can see, transfers to the following airline frequent flyer programmes are still available using Membership Rewards points:
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- British Airways Avios
- Eva Air Infinity Mileagelands
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Malaysia Enrich
- China Airlines Dynasty Flyer
These retain the regular transfer ratios of 450 Membership Rewards points > 250 miles.
You can also continue to convert your Amex Membership Rewards points into:
- Hilton Honors (1,000 MR > 1,250 points)
- Marriott Bonvoy (1,000 MR > 1,000 points)
Who else transfers to Emirates?
Unfortunately this leaves only one bank supporting credit card points transfers to the Emirates Skywards programme in Singapore – Standard Chartered.
The bad news for Standard Chartered customers remains that their points convert to Skywards at an unattractive transfer ratio of 3.5:1, leaving them with nearly 30% fewer miles in their Skywards account than for an equivalent credit card points transfer into the KrisFlyer programme.
There was a one-off double points promotion from Standard Chartered to Skywards in February 2020, which meant getting 43% more Skywards Miles than an equivalent transfer from Standard Chartered to KrisFlyer, but outside that offer it’s not usually worth considering.
Is Skywards a good programme anyway?
Even for American Express cardholders, who could transfer to Skywards at the same ratio as they do to other FFPs (450 MR points > 250 miles), the general consensus was usually that Skywards just doesn’t have good value redemptions to take advantage of, and Emirates levies high fuel surcharges on its award tickets.
That may be true, but it doesn’t mean there’s no value in holding Skywards miles in Singapore.
For one thing, despite the poor value, it was the only way to use your Amex MR points to experience the fantastic brand new Emirates First Class Suite on the airline’s latest Boeing 777s.
That’s because Amex does not support transfers to Qantas Frequent Flyer, which can also be used to redeem these seats.
You could redeem this suite on a flight like Dubai to London Stansted for 85,000 Skywards Miles (expensive, but worth it we say!), though you typically had to jump on an empty seat 2-3 days before departure to do so.
Then there’s one of the few opportunities to have a shower on an aircraft if you’re flying one of the airline’s A380 Suites, regularly serving Singapore in ‘normal times’ (and hopefully again soon).
Using Skywards Miles to upgrade on Emirates
Skywards Miles weren’t a bad value proposition for upgrading your Emirates flight in some cases.
For example if your company bought you an Economy Flex fare from Singapore to Melbourne, you could upgrade that sector to Business Class (subject to award availability) for 30,000 Skywards Miles.
Similarly a cash Flex or Flex Plus Business Class fare on the same route could be upgraded to First Class, if you fancy your own Suite on board after a Salt and Pepper Squid in the Qantas First Lounge at Changi, for 30,000 Skywards Miles.
Using Skywards Miles on partner airlines
Skywards Miles can also come in handy (or more valuable) when used to redeem on one of 15 partner airlines. For example:
- Bangkok Airways Economy Singapore – Koh Samui: 12,000 miles one-way (better timings than SilkAir)
- JAL Business Singapore to New York: 72,500 miles one-way
- JAL Singapore to Moscow: 62,500 miles one-way
- JAL Singapore to Honolulu: 62,500 miles one-way
- JAL Tokyo to Sydney: 42,500 miles one-way
- Korean Air Singapore to Los Angeles: 125,000 miles return (62,500 miles each way)
- Korean Air Singapore to London: 125,000 miles (62,500 miles each way)
Of course it’s worth noting that even at these ‘good rates’, Emirates will pass on the fuel surcharge of all three carriers to your ticket price – anywhere from around S$56 in the Bangkok Airways Koh Samui example right up to S$300-400 each way in the JAL / Korean Air ones (a more palatable S$140 on Tokyo – Sydney).
Will Citi pick up Emirates?
Citi in the USA recently added Emirates Skywards as a ThankYou points transfer partner for their US-based customers, with the same standard transfer ratios as they offer to their other FFPs.
Usually we wouldn’t read too much into that, the US transfer partners list is different to the Singapore one after all, but you may recall that last year Citi in Singapore stopped supporting points transfers into Garuda Miles.
That move came shortly after Garuda had been dropped from the list of Citi transfer partners in the USA, so sometimes the Singapore partners list does follow with similar changes.
If Skywards is adding (or maybe even ultimately shifting) allegiance to Citi in the USA, that could possibly happen here too.
Emirates Skywards Miles don’t provide top value for redemptions on its own flights, or even those of principal partner Qantas, but as we’ve shown there is value in some of the partner redemption options, especially with JAL and Korean Air, despite high fuel surcharges.
Unfortunately the only reasonable transfer ratio you could achieve to Skywards in Singapore (outside a promo offer) was from American Express Membership Rewards points, a partnership that’s now discontinued.
Skywards probably wasn’t your first port of call when transferring from Amex Membership Rewards, but it’s always good to have more options and unfortunately this one’s now been removed.
Aside from the handful of fair value uses of the scheme, it was one of your few keys to the Airbus A380 ‘shower in the sky’ or the coveted and rare world’s first fully-enclosed Suite on selected Boeing 777s.
With Malaysia Enrich miles dropping off the Standard Chartered transfer list a few weeks ago, Garuda leaving the Citi scheme last year and now Emirates cutting ties with Amex, we hope this isn’t a trend that’s going to continue in 2020.
(Cover Photo: Boeing)