As we enter August the new football season (and a blessed distraction from the transfer window!) is finally in sight. I thought this was a good time to look at a particularly interesting use of miles.

A couple of months back I mentioned a number of different hotel loyalty schemes that allow you to redeem your points for cultural, culinary and sporting experiences. These include SPG Moments and Hilton’s@Play scheme. In that article, I deliberately left out an intriguing way to redeeming airline miles as I felt it deserved a piece of its own.


The basics

Emirates sponsor a number of major football clubs across Europe. As a result, there is a fairly unique opportunity to redeem Emirates Skywards miles for tickets to watch the likes of Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain, AC Milan and, more pertinently for people based in the UK, Arsenal.

What’s more is that because of Emirates’ sponsorship of the FA Cup, you can also pick up tickets for various games over the course of the tournament. There isn’t a hard and fast rule as to which rounds they make available, but the semi-finals and final were certainly available last year. They even offered tickets to 2nd round games for just a single Skywards mile a couple of years back! 

There are generally two types of tickets available to purchase with your miles. Standard seats are essentially just regular match tickets and hospitality packages which generally involve full catering and more comfortable/better-placed seating etc. The difference in mileage required between the packages is often relatively small and splurging on the more ‘expensive’ seats often looks the better choice.


Availability

Currently, this season’s fixtures have yet to be loaded into the system with the exception of the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

UPDATE –  02/08/2017: It seems our readers have been busy. This game is now sold out on the Emirates site. 

I have reached out to Emirates for a rough estimate of when these will be loaded but at the time of writing, I have yet to hear back from them. The best way to stay on top of this is simply to keep checking the relevant page on the Emirates site. 

UPDATE – 23/08/2017: Availability has now been fully loaded on the Emirates site – Home games for Arsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan and PSG are all bookable using the links provided. 

It seems the games are loaded in 2 or 3 batches of the course of the season, so this is one to keep an eye on throughout the season. It also means you have a good chance of securing tickets even if you miss out on the first tranche.


If you don’t have any Emirates miles yet

That won’t be too much of an issue. There are numerous methods of earning Emirates miles via non-flying means in the UK. Here are a couple:

American Express Membership Rewards

  • American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Emirates at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Membership Rewards points can be earned by holding the Green, Preferred Rewards Gold and Platinum cards.
  • You may feel this is a good use of the welcome bonuses on some of these cards. The sign-up bonus on the Gold card is equivalent to 20,000 Emirates miles and the bonus on the Platinum is worth 35,000 miles.

 

Heathrow Rewards

You can convert Heathrow Rewards points to Emirates Skywards miles at a 1:1 ratio.

Emirates Credit Cards 

In the UK, MBNA issues two variants of their co-branded Emirates credit cards. I won’t be writing a full review of both of these here, but I will provide a quick summary of their Emirates miles-earning capabilities.

Emirates Skywards Elite Credit Card account

This consists of a double pack with both an American Express card and an accompanying Visa card. This one is the more premium offering, much like the British Airways Premium Plus card is the ‘elder sibling’ to the British Airways Credit Card if you like.

Sign-up bonus = 10,000 Skywards miles

Day-to-day earnings rate = 2 miles per £1 spent on the Amex, 1 mile per £1 spent on the Visa card.

This card carries a £150 annual fee.

Emirates Skywards Credit Card account

Like the Elite card above, this card actually comes as an American Express/Visa double pack.

Sign-up bonus = 5,000 Emirates Skywards miles

Day-to-day earnings rate = 1 mile per £1 spent on the Amex, 0.5 miles per £1 spent on the Visa card.

There is no annual fee payable on this card.


Note: There was an increased sign-up bonus offer on both of these cards that ran for a couple of months from April until the end of June. These offered 25,000 miles on the Elite card and 12,000 miles on the free card. If you don’t have an immediate need to apply for these cards, I would consider holding off and wait for the raised sign-up bonus to be repeated. 

Although there is never any guarantee when MBNA will run another of those raised bonus offers, since their T&C’s only permit a sign-up bonus “once for every new customer” – you want to make sure that bonus is a good one when you do decide to apply. 


How to book

You need to visit this page on the Emirates website.

After logging in you will find yourself in the Culture and Sport section where you will see the available packages. You need to have sufficient miles in your account at the time of booking in order to nab the tickets.

Remember that the game dates and times are always subject to TV scheduling changes. Unfortunately, the Emirates website is basic in the extreme regarding cancellation/change policies. Reports online suggest that in the event of a TV scheduling change you will not be offered a refund if you cannot make the new date. (Get in touch and let me know if you have any experience of this).

Another interesting point is that football is just one of the available sports. You can also use your miles for US Open Tennis tickets and they have also featured the French Open in the past.


I thought the best way to redeem miles is for flights?

Well, it is, generally. But compared to many other uses of miles that don’t involve flights, this redemption option is actually decent value.

Especially since Emirates Skywards miles have a hard expiry date. They will expire 3 years after they were earned and there isn’t anything you can do to stop it. This is in contrast to the likes of BA where as long as you earn at least one Avios point every 3 years, the expiry date will reset.

That being the case, you need to try and get maximum value from those miles before they expire. Using them for football (or other) tickets is a good way of doing just that.


Verdict

This is one of the more interesting non-flight uses of airline miles and I give this the thumbs up.

If you are a fan of any of these teams or simply want to experience the atmosphere at stadiums such as the San Siro or the Bernabeu, this can be a great and cheap way to do it.

I will post an update in due course, once this season’s fixtures are fully loaded. In the meantime, bookmark the page and grab some US Open tickets if you fancy them.

 

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