This is part of a series of articles I have written on best credit cards in UAE. So far, we have covered
- Best Cards to Earn Etihad Guest Miles,
- Best Cards to Earn Emirates Skywards Miles, and
- Cashback Cards
Another great way to maximize returns from your credit card spends is through hotel loyalty programs. You can stay at fabulous hotels for a fraction of the price – like I had in Gstaad. Read more about how I redeemed points for a stay in Gstaad here.
Hotel Loyalty Programs
There are a lot of hotels in the UAE. Just Dubai is home to more than 100,000 hotel rooms with a large pipeline.
UAE has approximately 200 five star hotels (source: Booking.com) – any hotel chain you can think of would probably be present here. Some of the leading ones are Marriott Group, Hilton, Intercontinental (IHG), Jumeirah (chain that owns Burj-Al-Arab), Rotana and Anantara.
In addition, there are several niche brands hotels as well – Taj, Melia, Radisson etc.
UAE offers a staggering array of choices to earn and burn hotel points. Another very unique aspect to UAE is the stark difference between nightly rates in the low and high seasons. While, luxury hotels like JW Marriott Marquis sell for a nightly rate of ~AED 1000+ in the peak season, it goes as low as ~AED300 ($50) in the low season.
There are two ways to earn hotel loyalty points. You can either go for a co-branded credit card or a rewards credit card that lets you convert your points to hotel loyalty programs. Some of the options available are
- Citi Prestige Card
- SPG World Elite Mastercard by Emirates NBD
- American Express Platinum Credit Card
CITI PRESTIGE CARD
Welcome to the newest entrant to my portfolio.
The card has an annual fee of AED 1,500. However, there is a promotion that offers you 30,000 Thank You points on sign-up and an additional AED 1,250 as statement credit if you spend AED 20,000 in 3 months. In effect, you get 30,000 Thank You points only for AED 250 which I believe is a steal!
You earn 2 Thank You points per USD of domestic spend and 3 Thank You points per USD of international spend.
One of the great things about this card is that your spends towards utilities, groceries etc. are not discounted. In other words, you earn 2 Thank You points for DEWA, Etisalat, Du, Supermarket, Hypermarket spends. So far, I have not come across any other card that offers this.
Like Amex MR points, Citi Thank You points are a versatile currency. There are a number of airline partners to choose from including Etihad, British Airways, Jet Airways, Singapore Airlines etc. However, hotel partner is limited only to IHG.
So far, I am happy with this card. A detailed review to follow once I have used this enough. Meanwhile, you can use this link to sign-up for the card if you wish (link).
SPG WORLD MASTERCARD FROM EMIRATES NBD
While the name of the card has not been changed (yet), the points have been adjusted to reflect the Marriott points.
The annual fee for the card is also AED 1,500 ($400).
The credit card will earn 6 Marriott points per USD spend on Marriott properties and 3 Marriott points per USD spend on other retail.
As a promotional offer, you will get 75,000 points on payment of joining fee and additional 75,000 points upon achieving $10,000 spend in 3 months.
Additionally, you receive Gold Elite status with this card. With this, you receive 25% bonus points on your stays. Additionally, you can get a room upgrade and late checkout subject to availability.
AMERICAN EXPRESS PLATINUM CREDIT CARD
You get 2 MR points on every AED 4 spend. MR points can be converted to a number of hotel loyalty programs including Marriott Bonvoy (1:1), Hilton Honors (1:1) and Jumeirah Sirius (3:1).
The card comes with an annual fee of AED 700 which is waived-off after you spend AED 10,000 in the first 3 months.
One of the major problems with American Express cards in the Middle East is that small establishments usually do not accept them.
All three cards reviewed above have different uses. If you spend is tilted towards utility, groceries, telephone bills, Citi Prestige is a good option.
SPG card comes with a great sign-on bonus and Marriott Silver Elite status.
Amex Platinum is the most versatile as it has Marriott, Hilton and Jumeirah as hotel partners.