x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Etihad returns serve in credit battle

Best buy The air carrier has launched an upscale credit card through ADCB to compete with similar deals from Emirates Airline.

As last week's record-long tennis match proved, it doesn't really matter how late the winning shot comes, as long as you can raise your arms triumphantly. This seems to be Etihad Airways' strategy with its new Above credit cards, issued through Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), the airline's latest attempt at an upscale product that offers fast rewards for those who can afford it.

With this latest volley, the ADCB programme appears similar to Emirates Airline's Skywards credit cards through Emirates NBD and Citibank, but slightly better, and whether the Dubai airline has an ace up its sleeve for the next game has yet to be seen. "We are confident we are supporting the best loyalty-based credit card in the market," says Peter Baumgartner, the chief commercial officer for Etihad.

"As our Etihad Guest loyalty programme continues to grow, we are able to offer this additional ADCB credit card service to our frequent flyers." The ADCB Above cards, which are all Visa, come in four flavours, Classic, Gold, Platinum and Infinite, although the benefits of even the free Classic card match the airline's highest-end card with its last partner, HSBC. The latter bank recently announced plans to cancel its Etihad-branded cards at the end of September.

The Visa Infinite card, which carries a Dh2,500 annual fee, offers 50,000 bonus Etihad Guest miles for new applicants as well as a complimentary Etihad Guest Gold membership. The card earns two miles for every US dollar spent in the UAE and three miles for every dollar spent overseas or on Etihad tickets. Compare that to the HSBC Etihad Guest Exclusive card, which costs just Dh750 a year but pays out only one mile per dollar spent.

The card also offers a "miles multiplier", which pays out an extra 5,000 miles if you charge more than US$5,000 (Dh18,365) in a month, as well as a long list of purchase protection, insurance and travel programmes. While ADCB's introductory offer of 50,000 Etihad miles outstrips the two Emirates cards, it still runs lower than Emirates NBD's promotion of 75,000 Skywards miles when the cards were introduced last year. The latter offer has since been lowered to 40,000 miles.

So what is Emirates planning to do to return Etihad's hard serve? "Premium customers look for best-in-class benefits and are willing to pay for good value," says R Sivaram, a senior vice president at Emirates NBD. "We will continue to leverage this." So stay tuned. mryan@thenational.ae