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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?” The answer 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.
To give readers — both old and new — some context, I’ve included my valuations from one year ago and from April. One airline program moved up this month, thanks to a very significant drop in award fuel surcharges. As always, you’ll find that and plenty of other program-related news noted in the What Changed/News column.
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||May 2015 (cents)||April 2016 (cents)||May 2016 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||1.9||1.9||Etihad Guest added as new transfer partner. 30% bonus on transfers to Virgin Atlantic and Etihad. Updates to earnings on vacation packages. Platinum Double points at Target and Best Buy in 2016.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||1.0||1.0|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||Freedom Unlimited card now available online. Ink Plus offers 70,000 points when you apply in branch.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||Improved benefits for ThankYou Premier and Prestige cards. Redeem points with Expedia and Best Buy. Citi Forward has lower earning rates starting in June.|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.6||1.5||1.5||You can now redeem miles for flight taxes and surcharges.|
|Alaska||2.0||1.8||1.8||Confirmed plans to acquire Virgin America. Elite flyers now get perks on British Airways flights. Up to 50% bonus for buying miles.|
|American||1.7||1.5||1.5||You can now route through Hong Kong on the way to India/Maldives. Reduced Mileage Awards through July. Higher mileage earnings on Qatar.|
|ANA||1.7||1.5||1.6||Reduced fuel surcharges on ANA awards.|
|Avianca||1.7||1.7||1.7||125% bonus for buying LifeMiles.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||No more phone booking fees. Earn bonus SkyMiles for Starwood stays. Expanded Global Upgrade availability on KLM flights. Suspended service between New York and Istanbul.|
|Flying Blue||1.3||1.3||1.3||Air France business-class dining at JFK. KLM bringing 787 Dreamliner service to Bay Area.|
|JetBlue||1-1.7||1-1.4||1-1.4||Mint service expanding to new routes.|
|Miles & More||–||1.4||1.4||Lufthansa removing first class from many A330-300s|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||Earn United elite credits with Azul. Earn 500 bonus miles with MileagePlus X app. Up to 5,000 miles and VIP status with MileagePlus Dining.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Improvements to Elevate benefits. Easy 250 Elevate points.|
|Virgin Atlantic||1.5||1.5||1.5||Discounted economy awards to UK.|
|Club Carlson||0.5||0.4||0.4||Earn up to 50,000 points with bonus promotion. Chinese group HNA to acquire Carlson Hotels.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||Earn double points with summer promo. Status matches offered through 2018. Buy up to 160,000 HHonors points for 0.5 cents apiece.|
|Hyatt||1.8||1.8||1.8||Save with new members-only discounts. Spring promotion offers up to 75,000 points.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||New list of PointBreaks awards now available. Earn bonus point with Share Forever promotion.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Shareholders approve Starwood merger. SPG benefits already being integrated. Reduced rates for Rewards members. Win a free night in the 1,000 Nights of Summer sweepstakes.|
|Starwood||2.4||2.5||2.5||Virgin America added as transfer partner. Up to 3x points with Triple Up promotion. Double elite credits to targeted members. 1,000 points for referring a friend.|
|Wyndham||–||1.2||1.2||5,000 bonus points for using Visa Checkout.|
|Amtrak||–||2.5||2.5||Double points on travel through May 21.|
Movers and Shakers
After ANA decreased surcharges on many of its awards, I decided to boost the valuation for Mileage Club. Both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest introduced new transfer partners (Etihad Guest and Virgin America, respectively), but I didn’t think those additions were enough to move the needle in either case.
All Nippon Mileage Club
April Value: 1.5 cents. May Value: 1.6 cents. Valuation: Fuel surcharges and other carrier-imposed fees are a major knock against several frequent flyer programs. ANA hasn’t been one of the most egregious offenders, but many Mileage Club awards previously came with high fees that made them impractical. While those fees haven’t gone away entirely, the situation has definitely improved.
ANA announced a plan to reduce fuel surcharges beginning in April, though as TPG Contributor Richard Kerr discussed last month, the lower prices started appearing early. As we enter May, it’s clear the airline has lived up to its promise: Surcharges for awards on ANA metal have dropped by roughly $100 on average, with some decreasing by hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately, many partner awards still incur hefty surcharges, though even those have become moderately more affordable.
ANA offers a quality premium cabin, and now that carrier-imposed charges have been reduced, the Mileage Club program looks like a strong option for awards to and from Japan. If the airline further decreases the cost of partner awards, the value of these miles will go up quickly.
Associated Credit Cards: ANA is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so you can earn points that transfer to Mileage Club with the Premier Rewards Gold Card, the EveryDay Credit Card, and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, among others.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards