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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 May. There were some significant programs updates this month, but none of them warranted a change in the valuations. I’ve noted the most important ones below, and as always, you’ll find plenty of other program-related news 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||June 2015 (cents)||May 2016 (cents)||June 2016 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||1.9||1.9||30% bonus on transfers to Etihad through June 15. Save 25% when redeeming for gift cards (targeted).|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||1.0||1.0|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||Flying Blue added as new transfer partner.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||Citi Forward card lowers earning rates.|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Alaska||2.0||1.8||1.8||New partnership with JAL announced. Earn bonus miles when you fly on partner airlines.|
|American||1.7||1.5||1.5||Flights to Europe and New Zealand earn bonus miles. Free Platinum challenge for select members (targeted). Admirals Club fees increasing.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||Discounted awards through June 7. Changes to Comfort+ policy on international flights. Improvements to companion upgrade policy.|
|Etihad||–||1.4||1.4||Discounts and bonus miles through Etihad app.|
|JetBlue||1-1.7||1-1.4||1-1.4||Triple points for travel in June.|
|Miles & More||–||1.4||1.4||Cheaper flights in Europe with Lufthansa Surprise fares.|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||Redeem KrisFlyer miles for Premium Economy.|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||1,000 miles for trying finance app. Elite members receiving status upgrades and Economy Plus subscriptions. Redeem Global Premier Upgrades on ANA.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||50% bonus on some routes through June 7.|
|Choice Privileges||–||0.6||0.6||Free status match opportunity.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||Use Google Maps for room selection. Earn double points with summer promo. Status matches offered through 2018.|
|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 member rates. Bonus points with Accelerate promotion.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||100,000 points with Marriott Business card. Earn bonus points with Summer 2016 promotion. Two hotels suing over upcoming merger.|
|Ritz-Carlton||0.7||0.7||0.7||Up to 120,000 points with Rewarding Journeys promotion (targeted).|
|Starwood||2.4||2.5||2.5||10,000 points for SPG Amex referrals. Earn up to 3x points with Triple Up promotion.|
|Wyndham||1.2||1.2||1.2||New elite status levels and award benefits. Bonus points and more with current promotions.|
Movers and Shakers
I didn’t alter any valuations this month, but several programs made significant positive changes. Chase Ultimate Rewards and Alaska Mileage Plan announced new partners; Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer began offering Premium Economy award redemptions; and Wyndham Rewards introduced elite status and some innovative benefits. None of these updates are momentous, but it’s always nice to see good program news on any scale.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
May Value: 2.1 cents. June Value: 2.1 cents. Valuation: Last month, Chase Ultimate Rewards added Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) as the seventh airline partner and the 11th overall. While Citi, Amex and SPG have all been bulking up their transfer rosters, this is the first partner Chase has added in several years. Unfortunately, I don’t think Flying Blue opens a lot of opportunities that weren’t already available through SkyTeam partner Korean Air. Still, it’s good to have new options, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come from the Ultimate Rewards program.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
May Value: 1.8 cents. June Value: 1.8 cents. Valuation: Alaska and JAL announced a new partnership that will allow Mileage Plan members to earn and redeem miles on JAL flight starting later this year. Despite the recent overnight devaluation of Mileage Plan awards on Emirates first and business-class flights, Alaska’s frequent flyer program still offers a lot of value and some favorable routing rules. We don’t yet know the redemption rates for awards on JAL, but depending on the outcome, Alaska has an opportunity to regain some of the luster it lost in March.
Associated Credit Cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card.
May Value: 1.2 cents. June Value: 1.2 cents. Valuation: Since revamping its loyalty program last year, Wyndham has continued to tinker with rates and other features to find a winning formula. The new elite status levels and benefits (especially the Plus Awards) are a good start. The most impressive perks are restricted to top-tier Diamond members, and even those are limited to certain cities and properties, but I’m happy to see Wyndham innovating instead of just copying what other programs have already done.
Associated Credit Cards: Wyndham Rewards Visa Card.
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