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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 October, as well as explanations for any changes in value (like devaluations or new fees). Along with several changes to point values this month, I noted program related news in the What Changed/News column, and thanks to the recent improvements to the ANA award chart, this month I added the airline to the list.
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)||Oct 2014 (cents)||Nov 2014 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9||Plans for Seattle Centurion Lounge; another opens in SFO; added McDonald’s redemption option.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.2||2.1||2.1||Website formally restricts points transfers to other members.|
|Diners Club Rewards||–||2.1||2.1||Diners Club credit cards now open for application, access to Diners Club Rewards program.|
|Aeroplan||1.9||1.6||1.6||35,000 bonus miles to London; Bonus miles for Marriott stays.|
|ANA||–||–||1.7||Shift from distance-based to regional award chart, with better redemption options.|
|Delta||1.5||1.2||1.2||Changes to stopover and open jaw award policy; new routes from Seattle; testing early valet baggage service.|
|Frontier||1.3||1.2||1.1||Adds award redemption fees, eliminates 5,000 mile companion discount.|
|JetBlue||1-1.3||1-1.7||1-1.7||Plans to add baggage fees and reduce legroom; launch of Mint service between JFK-SFO.|
|Southwest||1.8||1.4||1.4||End of Airtran A+ Rewards.|
|United||2||1.5||1.5||Raising PQD threshold in 2015; discount awards to Europe until 12/4; introduces airport terminal redemptions at EWR; launches Hertz partnership.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Enters codeshare agreement with China Airlines.|
|Hilton||0.7||0.5||0.5||Launches Double Points promo. Earn Delta MQMs during stays.|
|Hyatt||2||1.8||1.8||End of Diamond Challenge.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||IHG Into the Nights promo.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Offers free WiFi to Marriott Rewards members.|
|Starwood||2.4||2.3||2.4||Having fun with SPG Moments. Launches reciprocal benefits partnership with Emirates; debuts SPG Keyless entry.|
Movers and Shakers
There was a bit more activity this month than last. SPG went up, Frontier went down, ANA was added to the list, and Delta made a lot of noise (even though the valuation didn’t change). There was plenty of other action, as several more programs announced small changes that weren’t enough to alter point and mile values.
Starwood Preferred Guest
October Value: 2.3 cents. November Value: 2.4 cents. Valuation: Starpoints have been the most valuable loyalty currency on this list for a while, but a few unexpected uses of points recently has me valuing them even higher. While I’ve avoided auctions, experiences, and most other non-travel related redemption options in the past, I’ve been rethinking my stance thanks to the value offered by SPG Moments. I just redeemed for what may be my favorite use of points ever, as well as one of my most valuable. As a result, Starpoints get a boost moving forward from this month’s valuation.
Associated Credit Cards: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (and business version, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express).
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns
October Value: 1.2 cents. November Value: 1.1 cents. Why it changed: This month Frontier Airlines instituted new award redemption fees, which vary based on how far in advance you book, but can reach as high as $75 per ticket. While American, United, and other airlines charge last-minute award booking fees, Frontier starts their clock at 180 days out! Granted, you’ll only pay $15 for award tickets booked between 21-179 days in advance, and award ticket fees are waived for elite members and those who have the co-branded credit card, but that’s enough to justify a decrease in my valuation.
Associated Credit Cards: Amex Everyday Preferred card and other Membership Rewards cards (which transfer to Frontier at 1:1); Frontier Airlines World MasterCard.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
October Value: Not listed. November Value: 1.7 cents. Valuation: ANA has long been one of my top foreign frequent flyer programs, partly thanks to its useful Star Alliance partner award search engine, its non-alliance partners, and its friendly stopover award policies. The new award chart offers some great bargains, with sweet spots to Europe, South America, and Africa. Based on what is known so far about the new zone-based redemptions, and taking into account award taxes and fees, I value these miles slightly above ANA’s star alliance partners.
Associated Credit Cards: Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express (Starpoints transfer to ANA at 1:1); Amex Everyday Preferred card and other Membership Rewards cards (also transfer to ANA at 1:1).
Delta Air Lines
October Value: 1.2 cents. November Value: 1.2 cents. Valuation: Delta just can’t seem to help itself. Or, more aptly, it just can’t seem to help its frequent flyers. Yes, the new Delta award search engine is an improvement, and one-way awards are going to be available soon, but losing stopover and open jaw capability on award tickets is a resounding negative. For now, there’s no net change; I suppose staying level qualifies as a win for Delta these days.
Associated Credit Cards: Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
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