What Is A Point or Mile Worth? My New Monthly Valuation Series

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New offer: The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a great way to pad your IHG balance with 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within the first 3 months.

You can view all posts in the Monthly Valuation Series here.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express Personal and Business Cards

One of the questions I’m asked the most is – how much is a point or mile worth? That question lies at the heart of what we do every day at The Points Guy, and one that I am constantly finding new answers to as I travel the world and put my points and miles to use.

How much are all those points and miles really worth?
How much are all those points and miles really worth?

The fact of the matter is, there is no quick or easy answer. The value of a point will depend on both the monetary value you get from it as well as the experiential value of its worth to you personally. By that, I mean, if you redeem your miles for a cheap ticket that you would not otherwise have been able to purchase in order to do something you want or need to, that can be worth much more to you than flying in Emirates first class for 90,000 Alaska miles and $57. It all depends.

That said, it’s my business to keep track of the points and miles world and to inform my readers of their ever-changing values by relaying up-to-the-minute news, formulating strategies to maximize points and trying to make sense of complicated loyalty programs. To that end, I have come up with a quick guide to my current valuations of the major points and miles programs and I plan to update this list every month taking into account any devaluations, program changes or special promotions that may make a currency more valuable in a particular month.

To give readers – both old and new – some context, I have included my valuation of points from a year ago and also their current valuations, as well as the reasons why there have been changes in their values (ahem, devaluations). I also added what credit cards are out there to help you rack them up fastest in case you decide you want to focus in on a currency you may not have considered before.

The Calculations
I will be honest, there isn’t a huge mathematical formula being used here to calculate a number based on award availability, fees, award levels and ease in accruing the miles. At some point I’d like to create such a system, but these “cent” valuations are simply the number in my head are a combination of the value where I’d gladly buy points if given the opportunity and overall value I could attain by making some of their solid redemptions on a consistent basis. I absolutely encourage you to share your thoughts where you think I’m off-base (and on point, no pun intended) and I will take TPG reader feedback into consideration when I update this list for next month. This list does not include every single currency and I’ll work over time to add more and more to the list, so let us know which you’d like to see featured.

I’ll start with a table that gives you the quick overview, and then for the details on each program, read on below.

OVERVIEW

PROGRAM 2013 Value 2014 Value What Changed?
American Express Membership Rewards 1.9 cents 1.7 cents Partner devaluations
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.5-1.1 cents 0.5-1.1 cents No changes
Capital One 1 cent 1 cent No changes
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.2 cents 2 cents United and Hyatt devaluations
Citi ThankYou 1.3 cents 1.1 cents Citi devalued flight redemptions.
FlexPerks 1.33-2 cents 1.33-2 cents No change
 
Aeroplan 1.9 cents 1.6 cents Major award chart devaluation
Alaska 1.8 cents 2 cents Great new partners
American 1.9 cents 1.7 cents Lots of negative, unannounced changes
British Airways 1.6 cents 1.7 cents New partners like Qatar, Sri Lankan, TAM and US Airways
Delta 1.5 cents 1.2 cents Huge award chart devaluations and earning changes in 2015 plus unknown chart changes in the future
Frontier 1.3 cents 1.2 cents New fees
JetBlue 1-1.3 cents 1-1.3 cents No changes
Southwest 1.8 cents 1.4 cents Point devaluation
United 2 cents 1.6 cents Huge devaluation, especially for partner awards
US Airways 1.8 cents 1.9 cents New partners and only one minor chart devaluation
Virgin America 1.5-2.3 cents 1.5-2.3 cents No reach change
Virgin Atlantic 1.4 cents 1.5 cents New Delta partnership, still high taxes/surcharges
 
Club Carlson 0.7 cents 0.6 cents New top-tier category
Hilton 0.7 cents 0.5 cents Massive 2013 devaluation was pre May 2013, but premium rooms have become more of the norm
Hyatt 2 cents 1.8 cents Award devaluations but also cash & points and elite discounts
IHG 0.7 cents 0.7 cents No big changes
Marriott 0.7 cents 0.5 cents Big May 16 2013 devaluation
Starwood 2.3 cents 2.1 cents Cash & Points pricing increases

TRANSFERABLE AND FIXED-VALUE POINTS

Amex Membership Rewards feat

American Express Membership Rewards
2013 Value: 1.9 cents
2014 Value: 1.7 cents
Why it changed: Membership Rewards points have long been one of the most useful workhorses in my points portfolio, but lately they have begun to look a bit more lackluster thanks to a few factors. First, compared to the bonanza transfer bonuses of 2011 and 2012 with up to 50% and even 67% bonuses on certain transfers including to Delta, the best we have seen lately are 30-40% bonuses to partners like British Airways. Not only that, but several transfer partner programs including Delta and Air Canada’s Aeroplan have undergone massive devaluations in the past year, which in turn devalued Membership Rewards points in my estimation.
Associated Credit Cards:
Premier Rewards Gold
Platinum
Mercedes-Benz Platinum
EveryDay Preferred
EveryDay
Business Gold Rewards
Business Platinum

Barclaycard Arrival Miles
2013 Value: 0.5-1.1 cents
2014 Value: 0.5-1.1 cents
Why it changed: These are fixed-value points, and the Arrival miles program didn’t change, so there was no change in their value. The range really depends on which card you have and what you redeem your miles for, though. For instance, if you have the Arrival card with an $89 annual fee (waived the first year), you earn 2x miles per $1 on all purchases, whereas with the no annual fee card, you earn 2x miles per $1 just on travel and dining. On the redemption side, merchandise redemption values are as low as 0.5 cents per mile, but for travel redemptions, you get a return of 2.27% on spending thanks to both the 2x per $1 earning and the 10% mileage refund on travel redemptions. I’d advise using these miles only for travel redemptions and would peg the value at the high end of the range for most intents and purposes
Associated Credit Cards:
Arrival
Arrival with No Annual Fee

Capital One Venture Rewards
2013 Value: 1 cent
2014 Value: 1 cent
Why it changed: No major changes here – each mile is worth a cent when redeemed for travel.
Associated Credit Cards:
Venture
VentureOne

Ultimate Rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards
2013 Value: 2.2 cents
2014 Value: 2 cents
Why it changed: I still think Ultimate Rewards are among the most valuable points currencies out there, but major changes to two of the program’s 10 transfer partners have also meant changes to the value you can get from them. First, United instituted a major mileage devaluation earlier this year by revamping both its own and its partners awards to make the mileage requirements much higher in many cases. The other transfer partner I mentioned is Hyatt, which not only raised some award categories’ pricing, but also created a new top-tier category of hotels where award nights jumped from 22,000 points to 30,000 points. Hyatt still is a great program, but it did factor into my valuation.
Associated Credit Cards:
Sapphire Preferred
Ink Bold
Ink Plus
In combination with the above: Freedom, Sapphire

Citi ThankYou Points
2013 Value: 1.3 cents
2014 Value: 1.1 cents
Why it changed: Not only did Citi axe the value of ThankYou points for flight redemptions from 1.33 cents per point to 1.25 cents per point, but it also discontinued the ability to earn flight miles (more ThankYou points based on mileage flown) on flights paid for with the credit card, discontinued anniversary bonuses and discontinuing the ability to earn bonus points through the ThankYou shopping portal. There were category bonuses added to take the pain out a little bit, but still an overall devaluation in my opinion.
Associated Credit Cards:
Citi ThankYou Premier
Citi ThankYou Preferred
Citi Prestige

FlexPerks
2013 Value: 1.33-2 cents
2014 Value: 1.33-2 cents
Why it changed: There wasn’t a change here, but the value of these points varies inherently since you have to redeem them for airline tickets within dollar value bands. So you can get up to a $400 ticket for 20,000 points, but if your ticket costs $401, you have to redeem 30,000 points, meaning you’ve got to do a lot of sleuthing to maximize their value.
Associated Credit Cards:
US Bank FlexPerks Visa Signature

SPGLife-2_600

Starwood Preferred Guest
2013 Value: 2.3 cents
2014 Value: 2.1 cents
Why it changed: SPG is probably my top points program at the moment and is holding steady, though there were some negative changes in the past year that shifted my valuation downward – namely increasing the prices on Cash & Points awards, and hotel category changes. That said, the program still holds tremendous value thanks to the ability to transfer points to 32 airline partners (Virgin Australia being the newest) and earn a 25% bonus on transfers of 20,000 points at a time.
Associated Credit Cards:
Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express

AIRLINE MILES

Aeroplan
2013 Value: 1.9 cents
2014 Value: 1.6 cents
Why it changed: Aeroplan devalued many of its award redemptions this year, making some of them much more expensive. It also charges fuel surcharges and high taxes on many awards though not all (including Brussels Airlines, Singapore and South African Airways), but there are still some great value redemptions to be had, especially if you can snag a low-level business class ticket to Europe for 90,000 miles. There are also frequent flight bonus promos, Aeroplan introduced one-way awards for half the price (instead of 67%) as roundtrips, and the program is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, which makes it easy to top up your account for an award. Aeroplan still offers generous routing on awards (around the world), so value can be had, but it is getting harder and more expensive.

Alaska has amazing airline partners.
Alaska has amazing airline partners.

Alaska Airlines
2013 Value: 1.8 cents
2014 Value: 2 cents
Why it changed: Alaska made some great changes to its Mileage Plan program over the past year including adding new partners like Emirates and also extending elite-qualifying mileage earning to flights on all its partners. It also introduced better award booking capability through its app.
Associated Credit Cards:
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature

American Airlines Airbus 321
The “New” American has seen a lot of changes lately.

American
2013 Value: 1.9 cents
2014 Value: 1.7 cents
Why it changed: AA miles recently becomes less valuable due to their negative, unannounced changes the airline has recently made to its mileage program in advance of the merger with US Airways including hacking away at Choice Fares and discontinuing the ability to make stopovers in international gateway cities. That said, the airline still offers some lucrative bonus promos and has some good current credit card offers out there and a relatively generous award chart (which we might see change as the merger progresses).
Associated Credit Cards:
Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard
Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Mastercard
CitiBusiness Mastercard
Citi Gold AAdvantage World Mastercard

British Airways
2013 Value: 1.6 cents
2014 Value: 1.7 cents
Why it changed: The major changes to British Airways’ mileage program all occurred in 2012 when it became Avios and shifted to a distance-based award program. Though longer flights will now cost you more miles and BA is notorious for levying high fuel surcharges, there are some valuable features to the program including great short-hop redemptions, upgrade options and easy ways to rack up miles and other benefits like the Travel Together Companion Ticket with its co-branded Chase credit card. I moved up the valuation slightly due to the addition of carriers like Qatar and also US Airways (and there currently aren’t huge fees on US Airways awards, though their transatlantic award availability is not great).
Associated Credit Cards:
British Airways Visa Signature

Delta underwent massive changes - with more on the way.
Delta underwent massive changes – with more on the way.

Delta SkyMiles
2013 Value: 1.5 cents
2014 Value: 1.2 cents
Why it changed: Delta, Delta, Delta. My how times have changed. Though Delta SkyMiles have been known as SkyPesos for a while now, 2013 and 2014 so far have presented some very big, bad news for Delta flyers. Not only did the airline institute two (not one, but two!) devaluations, ceased letting flyers change awards within 72 hours of their flight and hacked away at Medallion upgrades, but it also announced that as of 2015, mileage earning would be based on revenue, and you can bet that there are going to be more changes coming down the pike.
Associated Credit Cards:
Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express – personal and business
Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express – personal and business
Delta Reserve Card from American Express – personal and business

The animals on the tail of Frontier planes are a big hit with kids.

Frontier
2013 Value: 1.3 cents
2014 Value: 1.2 cents
Why it changed: Another airline making negative changes – Frontier just started charging for advance seat assignments and for bringing overhead carry-on luggage on your trip. That was enough to downgrade it a tenth of a cent for me.
Associated Credit Cards:
Frontier Mastercard

JetBlue
2013 Value: 1-1.3 cents
2014 Value: 1-1.3 cents
Why it changed: No major changes to the program in the last year, though exciting airline changes like rolling out high-speed in-flight internet, and a new business class product.
Associated Credit Cards:
JetBlue Amex

Southwest Airlines

Southwest
2013 Value: 1.8 cents
2014 Value: 1.4 cents
Why it changed: This was a pretty straightforward calculation. Before March 31, 2014, Wanna Get Away fares would cost you 60 Rapid Rewards points per dollar. After, they now cost 70 points per dollar. Despite the downshift you still get more value than that sometimes and Southwest still has some amazing features including the ability to change your flights without penalty, free checked bags, and most of all, that ultra-valuable Companion Pass.
Associated Credit Cards:
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa – personal and business
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa – personal and business

United
2013 Value: 2 cents
2014 Value: 1.6 cents
Why it changed: The major factor here? That massive award chart devaluation from February, which raised the rates of some redemptions on partners as much as nearly 90%, not to mention redemptions on United itself, some of which went up as much as 25,000 miles in each direction (like from North America to Japan).
Associated Credit Cards:
United Explorer
United Club Card

As part of the merger settlement - American must divest slots at DCA and LGA.
More changes will come as the merger gets underway, but for now the US Airways Dividend Miles program is intact.

US Airways
2013 Value: 1.8 cents
2014 Value: 1.9 cents
Why it changed: Despite some changes with the merger – including raising one award chart sweet spot of business class to North Asia from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles, the Dividend Miles program remains relatively unscathed. So far. There are still some amazing values such as 110,000 miles in business class to South Africa and Australia, as well as very flexible routing rules, and great 100% buy and share miles promos that make it easy to rack up miles quickly.
Associated Credit Cards:
US Airways Premier World Mastercard

Virgin America
2013 Value: 1.5-2.3 cents
2014 Value: 1.5-2.3 cents
Why it changed: Though Elevate points are pretty much fixed-value points, their individual worth can vary depending on the specific airfare. However, it’s common to get just about 2 cents per point in value. There weren’t any major changes to the program this year, though there have been periodic transfer bonuses of 30-40% from American Express as well as some double status points promos and decent fare sales. Virgin has also added partners like Hawaiian and Emirates, which present some interesting redemption options, though beware of high fuel surcharges and taxes on certain partner awards.
Associated Credit Cards:
Virgin America Premium Visa Signature
Virgin America Visa Signature

Starting today, you can book Virgin flights using Delta miles and vice versa.
Delta and Virgin Atlantic formed a partnership over the summer.

Virgin Atlantic
2013 Value: 1.4 cents
2014 Value: 1.5 cents
Why it changed: No major changes here, either, though over last summer, Virgin Atlantic and Delta cemented their partnership and that meant being able to use Virgin miles for Delta flights to Europe and Australia, for example, though it’s usually a better idea to use Delta miles thanks to the enormous fuel surcharges Virgin Atlantic levies. Amex has been offering periodic 30% transfer bonuses recently as well. Though a downside is that they recently hacked the transfer ratio to Hilton from 1:2 to 1:1.5, which was a bummer.
Associated Credit Cards:
Virgin Atlantic Amex

HOTEL POINTS

Club Carlson
2013 Value: 0.7 cents
2014 Value: 0.6 cents
Why it changed: I didn’t make a huge adjustment here, but Club Carlson instituted some changes in March that included creating a new top-tier category 7 (with 9 hotels in it for now) that now cost 70,000 points per night. Not only that, but I find a lot of Club Carlson’s portfolio is budget or moderate in quality and it lacks the same breadth of high-end hotels the other major chains have. That said, you can still buy Carlson points cheaply at 0.7 cents each, and if you have the Club Carlson credit cards (which launched in December 2012), you can get award redemptions for as little as half price, so there’s still a lot of value here.
Associated Credit Cards:
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature
Club Carlson Visa Signature
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Business Visa

HHonors feat

Hilton HHonors
2013 Value: 0.7 cents
2014 Value: 0.5 cents
Why it changed: Hilton’s major devaluation took place at the beginning of 2013, with some aspirational awards going up to 95,000 points per night (or much more via premium room awards), cutting AXON and elite awards and more.
Associated Credit Cards:
Hilton Visa
Hilton Amex
Hilton Surpass from Amex
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

hyatt feat 1

Hyatt Gold Passport
2013 Value: 2 cents
2014 Value: 1.8 cents
Why it changed: Hyatt announced a devaluation back in November that included upping award levels for categories 5-6 as well as creating a new top-tier category 7 hotel. On the plus side, they also created Points & Cash awards and started offering discounted room rates to elites of up to 20%.
Associated Credit Cards:
Hyatt Visa

IHG Rewards
2013 Value: 0.7 cents
2014 Value: 0.7 cents
Why it changed: There haven’t been huge changes to this program since 2012, except the rebranding from Priority Club to IHG Rewards last year, and there have been some positive changes including complimentary internet for all members. However, base earning isn’t great compared to other chains (including for elites) and elites don’t get benefits on award stays, so the value here is limited by those constraints.
Associated Credit Cards:
IHG Rewards Mastercard

1404050175Marriott Rewards
2013 Value: 0.7 cents
2014 Value: 0.5 cents
Why it changed: Marriott’s major devaluation was announced early in 2013 and went into effect May 16, 2013. Not only did it include the creation of a new Category 9 top tier, but over one third of Marriott’s properties were raised a category at the same time. The changes since then have been minor, but that was a body blow to the program.
Associated Credit Cards:
Marriott Rewards Visa
Marriott Rewards Premier Visa

Starwood Preferred Guest: See above in the transferable points section.

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