x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Banks take off with air-mile loyalty programmes

UAE banks jump on the air mile bandwagon with new loyalty schemes.

Airline loyalty programmes may have been around since the 1980s, but it is only in the past five or so years that banks and credit-card companies in the UAE have recognised the value - and subsequent profits - they represent.

Etihad Airways has tied up with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank to offer customers co-branded credit and debit cards, while Emirates Air and Citibank also have a joint loyalty card programme.

But the global trend of banks launching their own independent loyalty programmes based on air miles has reached the UAE.

United Arab Bank, the Sharjah-based lender, in September launched its FlyWards programme, which allows customers to earn air-mile points through salary transfers, fixed deposits and debit and credit-card transactions, and gives them access to 360 airlines and no black-out dates.

This week, Emirates NBD (ENBD), the biggest lender in the UAE by assets, launched its own programme for frequent flyers in conjunction with dnata Travel and MasterCard.

ENBD says its Emirates NBD dnata World MasterCard offers 15 per cent rewards on all purchases at dnata Travel and a nil per cent foreign currency transaction fee.

Other benefits include complimentary access to 50 lounges worldwide, 10 per cent rewards at Duty Free shops and the option of redeeming points on more than 130 airlines.

"Cardholders will also receive up to 5,000 dnata points worth Dh5,000, against a joining fee of Dh2,500," ENBD says, adding that the annual fee from the second year will be Dh999.

Emirates Islamic Bank (EIB) also this month announced its Skywards Visa Infinite credit card for frequent travellers, who can earn up to 32,000 miles a month and will receive a bonus 20,000 miles on registration.

It gives cardholders access to airport lounges and golf clubs across the world, as well as the usual dining discounts.

"We have tried to form strategic partnerships to develop the most beneficial products for our customers," says Faisal Aqil, the deputy chief executive at EIB.

The card is aimed at the lender's premier customers.