Emirates Skywards: your 101 frequent flyer guide

Skywards allows you to earn and spend miles around the world, with perks like airport lounge access unlocked from the Silver tier.

By Chris C., September 15 2020
Emirates Skywards: your 101 frequent flyer guide

Despite Emirates being one of the most popular airline partners of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program, the airline also operates its own Skywards scheme, through which members can earn and spend miles.

With a wide range of partners both in the air and on the ground, you don't need to be a regular Emirates customer – or indeed, even a regular international traveller – to earn and spend Skywards miles.

Here's what you need to know about Skywards, including how you can start enjoying benefits like unlimited airport lounge access with a Silver membership.

What is Emirates Skywards?

Skywards is Emirates' loyalty program serving both frequent flyers and frequent buyers, allowing members to earn miles on flights, hotels, car hire, credit card spend and more, in countries around the world.

While Emirates isn't a member of a global alliance like Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam, it does maintain a network of domestic and international partner airlines, on which members can earn and spend miles, and in some cases, enjoy tier benefits like lounge access.

How to join Emirates Skywards

The Skywards program is free to join – just visit the Emirates website and submit the online form.

Membership comes at no charge, either to join, or to maintain the membership.

Where and how can I earn Skywards miles?

Even if you don't regularly fly with Emirates, you can earn Skywards miles around the globe, both in the air and on the ground.

Earn Skywards miles on flights, hotels, ground transport

In addition to eligible Emirates flights, Skywards miles can also be earned on eligible flights with Qantas, Jetstar, Air Mauritius, Alaska Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Copa Airlines, GOL, Japan Airlines, JetBlue, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, S7 Airlines, South African Airways and TAP Portugal.

On the ground, earn up to 10,000 Skywards miles per night spend in hotels booked via Skywards Hotels.

Among may other hotel partners, hotel loyalty program points can also be converted into Skywards miles from Accor Live Limitless, Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Radisson Rewards, Shangri-La Golden Circle and more, at varying rates.

Members holding Skywards Silver status or above who link their Skywards and Marriott Bonvoy accounts via Your World Rewards can also earn one Skywards mile per US dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, in addition to any normal Marriott Bonvoy program points.

Emirates also partners with car hire companies Avis, Budget, CarTrawler, Dollar Car Rental, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt, allowing Skywards members to earn miles on eligible rentals. 

Earn Skywards miles on credit cards and shopping

Outside of the UAE, Emirates is affiliated with a number of credit card issuers, through which cardholders can convert their credit card points into Skywards miles.

In Australia, those credit card (and charge card) issuers include American Express, Card Services Direct, Citibank, Diners Club, Suncorp and more.

As well as offering credit cards attached to the Citibank Rewards program (from which points can be manually converted into Skywards miles), Citibank Australia also offers a direct-earning Emirates credit card – the Emirates Citi World Mastercard.

When shopping online, you may also be able to earn Skywards miles via the Skywards Smiles Mall, although this is currently limited to stores in the United Kingdom and the United States.

For a full list of Emirates' Skywards partners, head to the Skywards website and explore all your opportunities for earning miles. 

How many Skywards miles can I earn?

The number of Skywards miles on offer will depend on how you're earning them.

In the air, for example, miles are broadly calculated based on the distance of your flight, the type of fare you've purchased, and the cabin flown on each flight.

Expect to earn a higher number of miles on flights booked in business class or first class, on flexible airfares (including in economy) and on longer routes, versus shorter journeys booked in the lowest-priced economy fares, on which you'll earn fewer miles.

On the ground, the number of Skywards miles you'll collect is more closely linked to the number of dollars spent, such as with hotel partners, on car hire, or on eligible credit cards.

For example, on the Australian Emirates Citi World Mastercard, you can earn 1 Skywards mile per $1 spent up to $3,000 per monthly statement period, and 0.5 Skywards miles per $1 spent on transactions above $3,001 and up to $10,000 per statement period.

Through other credit card partners, you would instead earn credit card points in the issuer's own loyalty program – based on dollars spent – and could then convert those points into Skywards miles.

Under that scenario, the more you spend, the more Skywards miles you could access.

Skywards doesn't limit the number of miles you can earn in total across all categories and methods, although some partners may apply individual caps or limits on Skymiles earn – such as credit card points capping or tiering, or car hire providers setting a limit on how many miles can be earned from a single rental. 

What are Skywards Tier Miles?

In the Skywards program, members can earn both 'Skywards miles' and 'Tier Miles'.

Skywards miles are those referenced above, being miles you earn from all kinds of activities that can later be spent on a variety of rewards, such as flight bookings and upgrades.

Tier Miles, however, are the Emirates equivalent of status credits, and exist solely to determine your eligibility for an elite rank in the Skywards program: such as Silver, Gold or Platinum membership.

Unlike Skywards miles, Tier Miles can only be earned from eligible Emirates and Flydubai marketed flights – not from things like credit card spend.

What are the Emirates Skywards membership tiers?

As you've just heard, Skywards has three elite tier levels – Silver, Gold and Platinum – above the entry-level Blue status.

Emirates also has an invitation-only tier, 'iO', for which the qualification criteria are not published. However, these memberships are typically extended to Emirates' most frequent premium flyers.

Read: Inside Emirates iO: a secret invitation-only club for VIP flyers

In any case, here's how you can earn these tiers, and how you can retain them.

Tier / requirements

How to earn

How to retain

Skywards Silver

25,000 Tier Miles or 25 flights

25,000 Tier Miles or 25 flights

Skywards Gold

50,000 Tier Miles or 50 flights

50,000 Tier Miles or 50 flights

Skywards Platinum

150,000 Tier Miles

150,000 Tier Miles

iO (Invitation Only)

By invitation only

By invitation only

Emirates uses a rolling 12-month window to assess membership upgrades. This means that you can earn either the Tier Miles or the number of flights at any time over a consecutive 12-month period, and be upgraded once you've achieved one or the other.

Importantly, you don't need both – so if you've earned the required number of Tier Miles for a higher level of status but haven't also accrued the number of 'flights' shown above, you'll still be upgraded.

Platinum status, however, is only available upon reaching 150,000 Tier Miles, regardless of how many eligible flights you've taken.

Once you reach an elite tier, your account will instead move to a fixed 12-month membership year for the purpose of retaining that status.

That is, once you've earned Silver, you need to earn either 25,000 Tier Miles or complete 25 flights within that first 12 months to maintain your Silver membership for a further year.

It's also worth noting that once status has been earned, you have 14 months to enjoy the benefits, even if you won't retain that status for a longer period.

However, as membership years are linked to 12-month periods (as opposed to 14-month windows), this essentially means that at the end of your 12 months of membership, you'll simply hold onto your tier for two months longer before you drop down, if you haven't retained it for another year.

What are the benefits of Skywards status?

Skywards offers elite members a suite of generous benefits, with even Silver-level members enjoying some form of unlimited airport lounge access.

Here are just some of the benefits you can look forward to:

  • Skywards Silver: Enjoy complimentary unlimited access to Emirates' business class lounges in Dubai when travelling with Emirates, plus earn 25% bonus miles on Emirates flights, use miles to upgrade after boarding a flight, and more.
  • Skywards Gold: Benefits of Silver, plus global access to Emirates' business class lounges when flying Emirates (plus domestic Qantas Clubs and most Qantas international business lounges, when flying Qantas), complimentary standard seat selection, and more.
  • Skywards Platinum: Perks of Gold, plus access to Emirates' first class lounges in Dubai, Qantas' first class lounges in Australia and Singapore (LAX is excluded), 75% bonus Skywards miles on Emirates flights, and a complimentary Gold card for a spouse, partner or friend.

For the full list of benefits, head to the Skywards website.

Do Skywards miles expire?

Yes, Skywards miles do expire, with a lifespan of at least three years from the time you first earn them – and sometimes, a little more.

Expiry takes place once per year at the end of the month in which you were born.

So, if your birthday is in September, any miles earned from October 2020 through September 2021 would expire on September 30 2024, and so on.

This provides you with 3-4 years in which to use your miles, but unlike programs such as Qantas Frequent Flyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer, simply earning or spending a mile isn't enough to keep your balance alive.

Regardless of how often you use your miles, if they aren't spent within that period of time, they'll be gone for good.

How do I spend and redeem Skywards miles?

Many of the ways that you earn Skywards miles are also ways that you can spend them: such as on flights with Emirates, Qantas, and its broader web of partner airlines.

Miles can also be spent on the ground, such as on hotel stays and car hire.

Upgrades using Skywards miles are also possible on Emirates flights, subject to availability.

Your upgrade options will vary depending on the type of fare originally purchased, and the cabins offered on your flight.

Such upgrade options may include:

  • Economy (Saver, Flex and Flex Plus) to business class
  • Business (Saver, Flex and Flex Plus) to first class
Use your Skywards miles for a first class upgrade, when you can next travel overseas.
Use your Skywards miles for a first class upgrade, when you can next travel overseas.

Upgrades from economy straight to first class are not possible. You also can't complete a 'double upgrade', such as by trading an economy class seat for business class, and then upgrading again from business class to first class.

Read: Emirates first class upgrade guide

It's not possible to upgrade on Qantas flights using Skywards miles.

What's the best way to spend Skywards miles?

Skywards miles offer great value when used towards things like flight bookings, but only average value towards other uses such as for activities on the ground.

Ultimately, any mile spent is a mile wasted, but some of the best ways to spend Skywards miles are generally considered to include business class and first class travel, on both Emirates and its partner airlines.

For example, some of Emirates' partners offer great rates on business class flight awards – such as Japan Airlines and Korean Air, particularly on flights to and from Australia – although you do need to call Skywards to make these bookings.

Reward bookings on Emirates as well as Qantas can instead be made via the Skywards website.

Do I need a Skywards membership card?

Skywards primarily uses digital membership cards, particularly at the Blue, Silver and Gold tiers, which you can access and present via the Emirates website or mobile app.

Platinum members (and above) typically receive a physical membership card by mail, along with their branded Skywards baggage tags: which Silver and Gold members can also request at the airport in Dubai from one of the Skywards membership counter.

While a membership card is nice to have, all you really need to access your benefits is your Skywards membership number. Link this to your booking and your Skywards status will be reflected on your boarding pass, making things like lounge access and priority boarding easy.

Frequently asked questions

Can you join two Emirates Skywards accounts?

In a way, yes. Emirates allows members to set up a 'My Family' account with Skywards, and to then link this with their own Skywards profile, and those of their family members.

Each family member can choose whether to contribute miles to the My Family account, by setting the percentage of miles in their account preferences.

For example, a member may wish to redirect 100% of the miles they earn into their shared My Family account, or select a 50/50 split – retaining half the miles they earn in their own account, and sharing the other half with the My Family account.

Percentages can be changed at any time, and the miles in a My Family account can be used to book flights and other activities, just like regular Skywards miles.

Can you use Skywards miles to upgrade on other airlines?

No, it's not possible to use Skywards miles to upgrade on airlines other than Emirates.

This includes codeshare flights booked on an EK flight number, including those operated by Qantas, which cannot be upgraded using Skywards miles.

Can you convert credit card points into Skywards miles?

Absolutely, provided that Skywards is an eligible transfer partner of your credit card reward program, and your card is a type eligible for such transfers.

As different card issuers may adopt different conversion rates, minimum conversion amounts and other rules and limitations, contact your credit card issuer to verify your eligibility and the latest rules and rates as apply to your account.

Also read: What's it like to fly with Emirates during the coronavirus?

Chris C.

A former contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

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