Searching for Emirates sweet spots with non-flight awards

Even if you’ve never flown Emirates, chances are good that you have easy access to Emirates Skywards miles.  You have access to these miles because Emirates is a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards (1 to 1), Chase Ultimate Rewards (1 to 1), Capital One “Miles” (2 to 1), and Marriott (60K to 25K).

In yesterday’s post, “Searching for Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards,” I showed that it’s possible to use Emirates miles to fly JAL round trip business class to Australia for only 145K miles, fly Korean Air round trip business class to South Korea for only 105,000 miles, and to fly Korean Air round trip business class within Korean for only 12K miles.  Those are terrific sweet spots for flying Emirates’ partner airlines.  In today’s post, though, I’m diving into Emirates’ other award options: options that don’t involve flights.  Are there any great sweet spots for activities, hotels, rental cars, etc?

Below you’ll find each of Emirates’ non-flight partners along with my notes about each one….

Non-Flight Award Sweet Spot Overview

Almost all of Emirate’s non-flight award options suck.  I spent all day digging into these options, only to find that most offer less than half a cent per mile value.  That’s awful.

Fortunately, there is one sweet spot worth knowing about: Emirates Culture & Sport awards.  In most cases you have the option to use miles to book a base ticket or a VIP experience ticket.  Experiences change regularly.  To find currently available experiences, click here and log in with your Emirates Skywards account.

I found that the base ticket options offered decent, but not amazing value.  The VIP experiences are harder to quantify since they’re not always readily available for sale.  In my opinion, if you’re a fan of any of the teams or whatever and there’s an opportunity to get VIP treatment by paying more miles, it will probably be miles well spent.  If anyone has had experience booking these experiences, please let us know how it went!

The only other award that I found worth considering is the Wall Street Journal.  See the WSJ section for details.

Vouchers

A number of the options for redeeming Emirates miles involve exchanging Emirates miles for vouchers.  I’ve looked into each and every one of these and found that they all offer awful value.  Most offer about 1/3 cent per mile value.  The best I found was .56 cents per mile value by exchanging Emirates miles for Careem ride hailing vouchers.  Anything less than 1 cent per mile is awful value in my opinion.

Listing of all Emirates non-flight awards

Reminder: For Emirates’ airline partners, please see this post: Searching for Emirates sweet spots with partner airline awards.  Listed below are the non-flight awards that can be booked with Emirates miles.

Arabian Adventures®

I spot checked a few of these tours to compare the mile prices to the online advertised cash prices:

  • Camel Trekking in Dubai: $74 vs. 17,200 miles + 188 AED (~$50).  Horrible value!
  • Morning Dune Drive: $64 vs 18,900 miles + 208 AED (~$56).  What a scam!

Don’t do it!

Budget Car Rental

Redeem miles for a Budget voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

Careem Ride Hailing

Redeem miles for a Careem voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

Damas

Redeem miles for a Damas voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

Emirates Culture & Sport

If you’d like to attend one of these events, there’s real potential here, especially for VIP seating.  I spot-checked some of the offers for general admission tickets, but found that the Emirates price in miles only resulted in about 1 cent per mile value compared to ticket prices readily available through Stubhub.  That said, Emirates also offers VIP seating, which might offer terrific value (it’s hard to know since I couldn’t find pricing online).  One example is the Emirates Hospitality Lounge at Real Madrid’s stadium for 22,000 miles:

Emirates Holidays

If you want to get poor value for your miles, you can use miles to help pay for Emirates Holidays packages.  For every 5,000 miles, you get AED 110 ($30 USD) off your package.  That’s a value of only about 0.6 cents per mile.

Heathrow Rewards

Convert 6,000 Miles into 2,000 points.  Heathrow Rewards points cannot be converted to other rewards currencies when they come first from Emirates.  Heathrow Rewards points can be used to convert 5,000 points to £5 to spend in participating outlets.  You could convert 30,000 Emirates miles to 10,000 Heathrow Rewards in order to get 10GBP worth of stuff (about $12 USD).  That would give you approximately 0.04 cents per mile value.  That’s just about the worst value you can get.

Le Méridien Dubai (Natural Elements Spa & Fitness, Airport Road, Dubai)

Redeem miles for a Le Méridien Dubai voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

Magrudy’s

Redeem miles for a Magrudy’s voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

Marriott Hotels

Select Marriott hotels can be booked with Emirates miles based on the award chart shown above.  With mile prices starting at 26,000 miles per night, you would have to find a hotel charging at least $260 per night just to get a paltry 1 cent per mile value.  At the high end, the Al Maha resort costs 197,500 Skywards Miles.  When the resort charges well over 2,000 per night (which is sometimes the case), this could be an OK use of miles.

In general, don’t expect to get good value through this path.

marhaba Airport Meet & Greet services

Marhaba provides meet & greet services for flights departing or arriving at select airports.  Pricing varies, but I spot checked one option involving arrival services in Dubai.  Here are the paid prices vs. the pay with miles prices:

  • Bronze Meet & Greet: $30 vs. 5,410 miles
  • Silver Meet & Greet: $50 vs. 9,220 miles
  • Gold Meet & Greet: $101 vs. 17,160 miles

In each case, using miles results in poor value.

Rocketmiles Hotels

Rocketmiles is usually used as a way to earn miles when booking hotels, but Emirates uses them in reverse as well: you can spend Emirates miles to book a hotel through Rocketmiles.  I spot checked a couple of reservations when compared with Expedia and found the following:

  • Graduate Hotel Ann Arbor (2 nights): $553 after taxes via Expedia vs. 118,615 miles via Rocketmiles (less than half a cent per mile value)
  • Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt, Kensington UK (2 nights): $857.38 after taxes via Expedia vs. 185,119 miles via Rocketmiles (less than half a cent per mile value)

This is yet another poor value option.

Ski Dubai

Redeem miles for a Ski Dubai voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

The ENTERTAINER

“Unlock 2-for-1 offers with Emirates Skywards GO for just 6,700 Skywards Miles”.

I downloaded this app in order to try to figure out the cash equivalent price for this.  The 2019 Dubai “book” is currently selling for $53.08 for deals that are good through the end of this year.  The “usual” price of $134.74 is crossed out.  It could be that $134.74 is the regular price when buying this near the beginning of the year.  If so, then 6,700 miles is a good deal vs buying this thing at full retail price.  That said, this appears to be a discount app very much like the Entertainment coupon book here in the US that usually sells for about $30 before discounts.

My recommendation: go for this only if you find an incredible deal that’s available only through the app.

The Wall Street Journal

“Redeem 20,000 Skywards Miles for a 12-month digital subscription to the Wall Street Journal.”  The usual price for the Wall Street Journal digital subscription is $19.49 per month plus tax.  At this full rack rate, you would pay $233.88, plus tax, for a year.  If taxes are 8%, then the total would be $252.59.

Spending 20K miles instead would yield a value of 1.26 cents per mile.  That’s not bad.

If you’re a student, you can do much better with the WSJ student discount.  At the time of this writing, the WSJ is offering 15 weeks for $1, then only $4 per month after that!

Wild Wadi Water Park

Redeem miles for a Wild Wadi Water Park voucher only if you want to get terrible value from your miles.   See the Vouchers section of this post for details.

 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Raffles
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Raffles

I have done Arsenal football (soccer) MANY times. The Emirates VIP box is THE best box in the stadium, on the half way line, as you’d expect given they are the prime club sponsor. Seats are huge, padded and heated. You get a hot buffet in the suite and all the alcohol you want. It is excellent value, especially against weaker opposition.

It is also worth noting that Arsenal NEVER sells tickets, even standard ones, to the public. Virtually the entire ground is sold as season tickets, and if you can’t go you need to trade it via an internal club marketplace to a registered club member. The resale of football tickets for cash in public is illegal in Britain. For the casual fan who wants to experience a game as a one off this is one of the very few ways to get in.

MSer
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MSer

Raffles, great insight. Always wanted to see a game of proper football – this might spur (ahem) me to go to England for the first time in over 45 years…

Raffles
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Raffles

I also did VIP hospitality to two London tennis tournaments via Emirates in 2018 and 2019. Again, a great day out and good value for the miles.

Neil
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Neil

Another great article. I assumed no value but would never have the time to go through these things – great to see it confirmed. And the comments from Raffles confirm the one potential (niche) sweet spot you found.

Lynn
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Lynn

Thanks for a great post. Somewhat off topic, but if you ARE going to Dubai, the Entertainer app is an amazing deal (but pay cash!). Our family of 4 used this recently in Dubai and got crazy value for it. Nearly every restaurant we went to was included and each provided a BOGO entree that could be used for multiple people, including the restaurant and bar in our hotel which had BOGO drinks with the app. So for each dinner, we paid for 2 and got 2 free. We also went to Wild Wadi and Ferrari World and essentially paid 1/2 price. We didn’t go to any places we wouldn’t have otherwise. It was an amazing value. I don’t find the similar books/apps in the U.S. worthwhile at all.