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

One of the questions I’m asked most often is “how much is a point or mile worth?” That question varies from person to person and depends on how well you can maximize a particular currency for your needs. Still, some points are worth more than others.

How much are all those points and miles really worth?

How much are all those points and miles really worth?

To give readers – both old and new – some context, I’ve included my valuation of points from 2013 and from the last month, as well as explanations for any changes in value (like devaluations or new fees). The July list now features Avianca Lifemiles and includes a big increase in value for Citi Thank You Points, since they just started adding new transfer partners. I also noted which credit cards out there can help you rack points up fastest, in case you decide you want to focus in on a loyalty currency you haven’t considered previously.

The Calculations I’ll be honest, there isn’t a mathematical formula at work here. At some point I’d like to create a system that could calculate a precise value based on award availability, fees, award levels, and ease of accrual, but for now these valuations are based on a combination of how much I would pay to buy points if given the opportunity, and the overall value I could get from redeeming them. I encourage you to share your thoughts where you think I’m off base (and on point, no pun intended), and I’ll take TPG reader feedback into consideration when I update the list next month. This list doesn’t include every currency under the sun, and I’ll work to add more moving forward, so let me know which you’d like to see featured.

PROGRAM 2013 (cents) June 2014   (cents) July 2014 (cents) What Changed/ News?
American Express Membership Rewards 1.9 1.8 1.8 Hawaiian Airlines transfer bonus. New Uber redemption option (though not great value).
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.5-1.1 0.5-1.1 0.5-1.1 Rising TSA fees add an attractive redemption option for fixed value points.
Capital One 1 1 1 40,000 mile limited time sign-up bonus after $3,000 in 3 months
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.2 2.1 2.1 Shopping portal drops Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline bonuses. Sapphire Preferred drops 7% annual dividend.
Citi ThankYou 1.3 1.1 1.5 Added 7 new transfer partners, including one in each of the major airline alliances.
FlexPerks 1.33-2 1.33-2 1.33-2
Aeroplan 1.9 1.6 1.6
Alaska 1.8 2 2
American 1.9 1.7 1.7  Partner Etihad announces new nonstop service between Abu Dhabi and SFO, DFW.
Avianca - - 1.7 Announced program changes (i.e., devaluation) for October.
British Airways 1.6 1.7 1.7
Delta 1.5 1.2 1.2 June 1 devaluation has passed, more potentially on the way in 2015.
Flying Blue 1.3 1.3 1.3
Frontier 1.3 1.2 1.2
JetBlue 1-1.3 1-1.7 1-1.7 Added Mint business class service with better returns. Also, see American above.
Singapore Airlines 1.5 1.5 1.5 Now a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, as well as Membership Rewards and SPG.
Southwest 1.8 1.4 1.4 50,000 point credit card offers give the opportunity for easy companion pass accrual
United 2 1.5 1.5 Announced future change to revenue-based earning program.
US Airways 1.8 1.9 1.9 Minor increases in award levels and increase of domestic first class 3 cabin awards, but continued buy and share miles bonuses kept the value the same as last month.
Virgin America 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3
Virgin Atlantic 1.4 1.5 1.5
Club Carlson 0.7 0.6 0.6 Flash sales allows for banking more points at a good price
Hilton 0.7 0.5 0.5
Hyatt 2 1.8 1.8
IHG 0.7 0.7 0.7 Negative changes to Points Break bookings, but not enough to shift the value fundamentally
Marriott 0.7 0.7 0.7 Announced plans to add Atlantis Resort and Casino to the Marriott Autograph Collection this fall.
Starwood 2.4 2.3 2.6 50% July transfer bonuses to American and US Airways is a short-term boost to value.

Movers and Shakers

There wasn’t too much moving and shaking this month. Citi ThankYou Rewards and SPG went up, while Avianca Lifemiles declined. There was also some lateral movement as several programs announced small changes that weren’t enough to alter point and mile values.

Citi logo

Citi ThankYou Points

June Value: 1.1 cents July Value: 1.5 cents Why it changed: Citi ThankYou Rewards just added 7 new airline transfer partners for Citi ThankYou Premier and Citi ThankYou Prestige cardholders, including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, and Garuda Indonesia, which gives ThankYou Rewards a transfer partner in all three major airline alliances. All of the new partners transfer at 1:1. ThankYou points also transfer to Hilton HHonors at a ratio of 1 to 1.5. Without one of those cards, points can be redeemed for travel and gift cards for 1 cent apiece, which represents the minimum value you should expect to get for ThankYou Rewards. If Citi were to extend the transfer option to all cards that earn ThankYou points, the valuation would jump even higher. Associated Credit Cards: Citi ThankYou Premier, Citi PrestigeCiti ThankYou Preferred.

Starwood Preferred Guest
June Value: 2.3 cents July Value: 2.6 cents Why it changed: SPG hasn’t made huge program changes, but they’ve been offering a ton of decent deals to use points for concerts and even for a luxury box at the US Open tennis tournament in NYC. There is also a strong promotional offer going on that increases the point values for transfers to American Airlines and US Airways where you can can earn up to a 50% bonus, which can be leveraged into valuable business and first class awards. Associated Credit Cards: Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American ExpressStarwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express

Avianca Lifemiles
June Value:
 Not listed July Value: 1.7 cents Valuation: Avianca Lifemiles is a quirky program that I used to count among my top ten foreign frequent flier programs. Lifemiles offer good value on flights to South America, but Avianca just announced program changes (better known as devaluation) planned for October, 2014. It’s not a complete overhaul and there’s still plenty of value to be had, but anyone sitting on a pile of Lifemiles should plan to use them sooner rather than later. Associated Credit Cards: Lifemiles Visa Signature from US Bank.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Redpanda

    Thanks for this, its really useful. I’ve been banking all my miles on alaska or united for a while, so I’m glad they’re staying strong.

    Also, you noted SPG at 2.6 cents in the table but its stated as 2.4 cents in the text, not sure which one is the correct value

  • Steve Case

    I am not sure if the numbers represent what a mile costs or what its redemptive value is. I am flying from PDX to LHR next week in business class on DL going and AF on the return. I redeemed 100,000 miles but the retail value for my itinerary is $11,000. Wouldn’t my miles be worth 11 cents?

  • Redpanda

    Yes, but you have to take into account that you would never have actually paid the $11000.

  • moho

    Well, I’m not proud of it, but I have 134,000 avios from British Airways to spend… and I want to go to Berlin (and the rest of Germany) to further dig in to my family’s World War 2 past.

    BA forces you to go through Heathrow and pay their obnoxious fees. but I found a trip (from Denver, where I’m based.. with only one daily BA flight)… and I get a business (Club World) class for $1000 (oppressive London fees). A coach flight is $1400. A business class flilght is $4500.

    So while I HATE Heathrhow’s fees… it’s still a good deal (savings about $3000)…. to burn off BA avios. Award or upgrade seats on BA from Denver to London are rare.

    I still resent London’s crazy-ass fees!! I love you, London, but you suck the big one for charging this NONSENSE.

  • Redpanda

    Just book boston to Dublin for 12500 avios and buy the remaining flights with cash, much cheaper

  • Rusty Longwood

    And even if you would pay for it, you’ll rarely be in a situation with that high of a valuation. A mile needs to be valued at a typical redemption rate.

  • Jordan

    You should use avios Aer Berlin or Aer Lingus from JFK or BOS. They can get you to Dusseldorf. They have the cheapest fees.

  • Danny

    Using Avios for BA is not the way to go! Use them on Air Berlin, there’s basically zero fees.

  • Mike

    I have been trying to understand the difference between the terms of points and miles. It seems points can be used to lower the cost of a ticket and miles can be directly used to get a ticket. Yes/No?

  • matthewD

    I agree TPG can’t tell the general public that miles are worth 11 cents each, but Steve Case got that much value out of his miles whether he would have actually paid $11,000 or not. I mean, just because I wouldn’t pay $11,000 for a first class seat doesn’t mean I wouldn’t sit in an $11,000 seat. Should he value his miles at 11 cents when planning future travel? Maybe yes, maybe no because the miles are ultimately worth whatever you trade them for. No one can say what my AA miles or Ultimate Rewards Points are worth until they’re spent. They don’t have a fixed value like Southwest Rapid Rewards or Capital One. Would I alternately trade the half a million+ AA miles I earned with five executive cards in for hotel redemptions at a value of half a cent ($0.005) each? No, but I could, and then that’s what they would be worth.

    I don’t mean to debate Rusty Longwood or Redpanda. I just want to point out to newbies that the actual value is based on what the miles/points are traded for. So if you would never trade in AA miles for $0.005 then they are never worth a half a cent each, or if you only trade in your AA miles for first/business class seats at the mile sAAver rates then they will never be worth only the 1.7 cents ($0.017) each as noted in the TPG chart above. I traded 150,000 AA miles in for $6000 worth of first class tickets to Hawaii using the mile sAAver rates. Those miles were worth four cents ($0.04) each. What a great benchmark to strive for. 11 cents ($0.11) each would be even better!

  • matthewD

    People want to know what miles are worth because they don’t know that the value depends on what they’re traded for.

  • PR@TPG

    The terms are more or less interchangeable to describe all forms of loyalty currencies. I think most people use “miles” in reference to airline loyalty programs, and “points” in reference to hotel programs and flexible programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards, etc.

    The distinction often just depends on whatever designation is used by the loyalty program in question. For example, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus earns “miles” even though they can be redeemed equally for most travel expenses, including flights and hotel rooms.

    As for the distinction you made, many loyalty currencies can be used for both purposes! Delta SkyMiles, for example, can be used to book tickets directly, AND they can be used to reduce the cost of a paid fare through the Pay With Miles feature (though I don’t recommend this since it offers poor value).

    So…points, miles…for practical purposes they’re the same.

  • ce87

    Are the hotel points true apples to apples comparisons? As I’m sure tpg knows, they’re earned at very different rates. Is that discounted or grossed up somehow in this matrix?

  • JRB

    Greetings, I see your amex MR value @ ~ 1.8 cents. Most flights i see are ( ~ 1.0 ) and hotels @ ~ ( 0.7 ). I was curious how you arrive at 1.8. Thank for your insight and appreciate you pointing out what I may be overlooking. Cheers.

  • PR@TPG

    I see what you’re asking; in some sense, points below the award threshold would be worthless, since you couldn’t get anything for them.

    Think of the numbers above as partially representing the value you could get from your points assuming you had enough of them to redeem for an award.

  • PR@TPG

    You can get the most value out of Membership Rewards (and Ultimate Rewards and now Citi ThankYou Points) by transferring to partner programs. Check out TPG’s posts on maximizing Membership Rewards, such as:

  • ce87

    Thanks for the reply, and sorry my question was pretty muddled. I had a different concern–that the points don’t have the same cost. I’m thinking of how I would typically earn the points to begin with, which would cost me approximately $1 per 2 Starpoints, 10 Marriott points, or 15 Hilton points. If you spend a lot more to get Starpoints than Hilton points, it makes the comparison much less compelling than in the chart. Or am I missing something?

  • taryn

    Club Carlson Visa has a somewhat low valuation, but I have to say it was a good deal for me to get that card and buy some points because I’m going to get 3 nights of a room which normally costs $240/night for only $93/night, in part because of the bonus night feature which I learned about here on TPG.

  • Morena1178

    Any thoughts on Sun Country Airlines? I’m flying with them for the first time in a couple weeks and am considering their credit card. 40k points for a modest spend requirement, $500. $69 annual fee waived the first year.

  • Derek

    I have the same concern, I think a better way to represent is to have three columns:
    Program | Points value | Earn Rate | Indexed value per dollar spend
    arrival+ | 1.1c/pt | 2pt/$ | 2.2
    spg | 2.6c/pt | 1pt/$ | 2.6

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