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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.
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 sign-up bonus after $3,000 within 3 months of account opening.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Delta||1.5||1.2||1.2||June 1 devaluation has passed, more potentially on the way in 2015.|
|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.|
|Club Carlson||0.7||0.6||0.6||Flash sales allows for banking more points at a good price|
|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 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 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 Premier Card, Citi Prestige Card, Citi ThankYou Preferred Card.
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 Express, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express
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.
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