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Don’t be fooled by your air miles credit card


Ambareen Musa, CEO of Souqalmal reminds us to take a closer look at the value of our air miles.

December 23, 2012 10:58 by

Since I founded, the most common question I’ve been asked is “What is the best credit card for earning miles?” I don’t have the answer but to be fair, the question is completely legit considering there are over 20 different cards offering air miles as a reward program.

On top of that, the UAE is very much a base for both leisure and business travel. Many of the companies have their main office here but serve the region and therefore weekly flights are on the menu for many of us. Being an expat, many of us travel back home at least once a year with the whole family and tickets can get expensive.  So, if you are a frequent traveller, you may as well get some benefit out of it.

I have to admit that during my two years of being a consultant at Bain and Company, I was obsessed with earning as many miles as I could.  I figured if I was away from home so often, I may as well maximise the number of miles I earn and get a free ticket or upgrade to visit my family.   I realised very quickly that the first time you redeem the miles is when you really get to know the value of the program.

There are two types of travellers in my opinion:

Loyal travellers – Those of us who will always travel only one airline be it Emirates from Dubai or Etihad from Abu Dhabi.  We love STATUS! More miles means higher Tier.

“Non loyal” travellers – Those of us who do not really care about the airline, the route or the status of the airline.

In the last few years, many programs have come up that does not tie you to only one airline such as the SkyyMiles from Dubai First, Airmiles from HSBC and Premium Miles from NAJM cards.  These program offer you the choice of airlines for you to redeem.  Now if you are a “non-loyal”, these programs could be a good pick.

Here are some other tips to follow when picking out an air mile credit card:

Don’t be fooled by BIG earnings ratios! You may be earning the highest number of miles per AED spend but you may also need the highest number of those miles to get a free ticket, like so.

Check out the blackout dates – Does the program have any blackout dates or is the redemption of miles open to any time and any day of the year?

Can the miles be redeemed for other items? Let’s say you will not be travelling this year, can you redeem the miles for Christmas shopping instead and save some money?

Can you redeem the miles for an upgrade? Programs that are airline specific  generally give you the choice of either an upgrade or a free ticket.

If there is anything to take and remember from this column, is to make sure you know what you are paying for.  Don’t spend more just to earn the miles –  easy to think the more you spend the more miles you earn and therefore the more free tickets you have. If the extra spending was not planned, you may be putting yourself into debt. Nothing is for free.  You may be getting the free ticket but you paid for them with the extra spend.


Ambareen Musa is the founder and CEO of Having moved to the Middle East in 2008, Ambareen worked as a consultant for Bain & Company – Middle East and focused on the financial services sector, before joining MasterCard Middle East and Africa to set up their consulting arm, before leaving 2 years later to become the founder of in 2011.

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