Here's good news if you're sitting on a stack of Emirates Skywards frequent flyer points, or alternatively, if you don't quite have enough Skywards points for your next trip or upgrade.
Emirates now allows Skywards points to be transferred any other Skywards member, instead of limiting the transfers to the accounts of immediate family members.
This will likely result in a burst of people hawking frequent flyer points on eBay and travel forums.
However, before you get too excited, there's a catch: Emirates levies a US$25 fee on every 1,000 points transferred. That translates into an effective cost of 2.5c per Skywards point based on the transfer -- and that's more than a point is generally worth.
Emirates is also selling Skywards points directly for US$40 per 1,000 points, which works out at 4c per point. (It used to sell the points directly for US$25 per 1,000 points, so it's no bargain.)
Generally speaking, neither the transfers nor the direct purchasing is a cost-effective way to get points compared to earning them on credit cards which offer one point per dollar spent.
For example, 25,000 Skywards points will get you a return ticket from Sydney to Auckland. The fare price for that ticket is $468, so the per-point value works out at 1.87c.
Clearly, you'd be better off just buying the fare rather than paying someone else an effective 2.5c per point -- or paying Emirates 4c per point -- for an award fare.
Instead of buying a ticket outright, the best use of the new Skywards rules will be if you're just a few thousand miles short of the reward flight or upgrade you want: you can buy the miles to top up your account.
For example, 16,000 points is enough to get you a one-way upgrade between Sydney and Auckland from the cheapest economy fare to business class . A one way business class fare is $677 compared to a one way economy fare of $254, so which means there's a $423 difference -- which equates to a value of 2.64c per point.
It'd be (just) worth paying the fees to transfer the points in that scenario, although the person giving you the points would also be giving up a lot of value to do so.
57,500 miles will get you a one-way upgrade from the cheapest Economy fare to Dubai. Given an economy one-way ticket costs $1594 and business costs $3603, the $2009 difference equates to a per-point cost of 3.49c per point.
In this scenario it'd clearly be worth transferring the points, but still wouldn't be worth buying them.
Obviously, if you are considering taking up Emirates on this offer, always check availability of award flights first. You don't want to buy the miles and then be unable to redeem them.
With additional reporting by John Walton.
Australian Business Traveller regularly drills into frequent flyer point earning tips and strategies, the best ways to burn them once earned, and how to extract the most value from frequent flyer memberships.
Are you a point maven? Do you do mileage runs in your sleep? Are you merely a Woolworths grocery shopper who has discovered a particularly good points earner? Send your earning and burning tip-offs to [email protected].