Ever since I started this blog, I have been getting a few requests to recommend the best credit card in Dubai and UAE. For any country that has a vibrant financial services industry, there will not be a simple answer. UAE has nearly a hundred different cards and what will be best for me may not be the best for you. Moreover, I believe picking credit cards is like picking stocks, a portfolio makes more sense than a single one.
However, we can tackle the question by breaking it down. In this post, let us look at the best cards to earn Skywards Miles – the loyalty program of Emirates airline.
And the nominees are
- Emirates Citibank Ultima Card
- Emirates Citibank Ultimate Card
- Skywards Infinite Card from Emirates Islamic Bank
- Skywards Infinite Card from Emirates NBD
- SPG World Mastercard from Emirates NBD
- American Express Platinum Card
There are several other cards in the market that could earn Skywards Miles. However, I believe others do not have returns even close the these six cards. Let us look at them in more detail.
Emirates Citibank Ultima Card
This is a top-end card in the Citi portfolio – in line with Citi Prestige. The annual fee is AED 3,000 ($800). Citi claims this is the highest Skywards Miles earning card in the UAE. It earns a very decent 2.5 miles per USD for direct spend on Emirates, 1.5 miles per USD for international spends and 1 mile for retail spends.
Other benefits include complimentary Skywards Silver membership. It is worth noting that the perceived value of Skywards Silver membership has increased recently. This is after Emirates reduced baggage allowance for Deal and Saver fares. Skywards Silver status offers your extra baggage allowance, priority check-in and free seat selection.
Presently, this card has a promotion going on wherein you would get a statement credit of AED 1,500 (half the annual fee) and bonus 25,000 miles. You can use my referral link to avail the sign-on bonus.
However, for the statement credit, the minimum spend required is AED 25,000 ($6,800) in 3 months. This is hidden somewhere in the T&Cs and that is why it is important to read them.
Emirates Citibank Ultimate Card
Citi should be given an award for the closest sounding card names ever!
Ultima and Ultimate are two different cards. Citibank Ultimate Card is the younger sibling to Ultima. It is the only card outside of the top-end bracket that I will be reviewing. The annual fee is AED 800 ($220). The Ultimate card earns 1.25 miles per USD for international spends and 1 mile for retail spends.
As you can see, the earnings rate are similar to Ultima except for spends on Emirates. If you book your ticket through a travel agent rather than directly on Emirates, Ultimate card will make more sense.
Ultimate card is also running a promotion. You will get AED 800 statement credit (same as the annual fee) upon spending AED 20,000 ($5,400) within 3 months. You can use my referral link to avail the sign-on bonus.
There is no Skywards Silver membership with this card.
Emirates Islamic Skywards Infinite Card
This card variant has been around for sometime but is being aggressively promoted now. This credit card offers a staggering 100,000 Emirates Skywards Miles as a sign-up bonus.
The offer is extremely enticing but it requires you to follow a dedicated spending pattern. I had written more about this card here.
Like the Citibank Ultima Card, Emirates Islamic also offers a complimentary Skywards Silver membership. It earns 2 miles per USD for direct spend on Emirates, 1.5 miles per USD for international spends and 1 mile for retail spends.
Emirates NBD Skywards Infinite Card
This card is almost a mirror image of the previous card. Skywards Infinite Card from Emirates NBD is also offering 100,000 miles as a joining bonus. The earnings rate are also same.
However, the way to achieve the coveted 100,000 miles is different. You would get 35,000 miles on payment of joining fee, 40,000 miles on spending $25,000 (AED 90,000) within 3 months and another 25,000 miles on spending $7,500 (AED 27,500) directly on Emirates within 12 months.
Based on my experience, Emirates NBD has the most restaurant partners in Dubai. A lot of the places I visit offer anywhere between 10%-30% discount on dining etc.
The annual fee for the card is AED 1,500 ($400).
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 (1/3 of SPG points). This is an indirect way to earn Skywards Miles and is a two-step process. Your Marriott points can be transferred to Emirates Skywards at a transfer rate of 3:1. Additionally, for every 60,000 Marriott points, you will receive an extra 5,000 Skywards Miles as bonus.
The annual fee for the card is also AED 1,500 ($400).
The credit card will earn 6 Marriott points (2 Skywards Miles) per USD spend on Marriott properties and 3 Marriott points (1 Skywards Miles) per USD spend on other retail.
As a promotional offer, you will get 75,000 points (convertible to 30,000 Skywards Miles) on payment of joining fee and additional 75,000 points upon achieving $10,000 spend in 3 months.
Obviously, there is no Skywards Silver membership with this card. However, you will be a Marriott Gold Elite.
American Express Platinum Credit Card
This is another way to indirectly earn Skywards Miles. You get 2 MR points on every AED 4 spend. MR points can be converted to Skywards Miles (among others) at a ratio of 2 points to one mile. This implies you would be earning one mile on every AED 4 ($1.1).
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.
It appears there is no promotional offer on the card at present. However, if you are interested you should give Amex a call. I had got this card a year back and they had given me a fantastic offer.
There is little to separate these cards in terms of regular spends. Most of these earn one Skywards Mile per USD of retail spend.
If you are a high-spender, I would suggest going for Emirates Islamic Skywards Infinite Card or Skywards Infinite Card from Emirates NBD depending on how your spends are distributed in a year.
For relatively low-spenders, SPG World Mastercard from Emirates NBD and American Express Platinum Card are attractive. You do not compromise on the earning rate and yet you could earn a sweet sign-on bonus. Also, there is the added flexibility you have to use your points as you deem fit. However, neither of these cards will provide you a Skywards Silver membership.
What are your thoughts? Have you come across any other card that is more attractive?