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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 November, as well as explanations for any changes in value (like devaluations or new fees). While the past month saw some big news (like IHG acquiring Kimpton) and several meaningful program changes (including Hyatt Gold Passport and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan), none of it was enough to sway my valuations. As always, I noted program related updates in the What Changed/News column.
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)||Nov 2014 (cents)||Dec 2014 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9||New Lounge in Sydney. Adds Airbnb redemption option. 40% transfer bonus to British Airways.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.2||2.1||2.1||Korean Air still not showing up among transfer partners.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.3||1.6||1.6||100% transfer bonus to Hilton.|
|Diners Club Rewards||–||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.9||1.6||1.6||Bonus miles for Marriott stays.|
|Alaska||1.8||2||2||Adjusts Mileage Plan earning rates for 2015.|
|American||1.9||1.7||1.7||2015 double miles promotion. Bonus miles for Marriott stays.|
|ANA||–||1.7||1.7||Shift from distance-based to regional award chart, with better redemption options.|
|Delta||1.5||1.2||1.2||New partner earning charts for 2015. Reverses decision to limit partner transfers. Medallion members get Hertz elite status.|
|Flying Blue||1.3||1.3||1.3||Air France reconfigures long-haul business cabins.|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||Launches conversion option with Virgin Australia. Bonus miles for Hilton stays.|
|Southwest||1.8||1.4||1.4||Plans to add Belize and other international destinations.|
|United||2||1.5||1.5||Discount awards for economy in North America and business in Europe/Asia. Bonus miles on transatlantic flights. Launches MileagePlus X app.|
|Hilton||0.7||0.5||0.5||Bonus points for car rentals. 33% off winter sale in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.|
|Hyatt||2||1.8||1.8||Category changes and updates to Gold Passport program for 2015.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||IHG acquires Kimpton Hotels. Bonus points with “Set Your Sights” promotion.|
||Free internet for SPG members. Free breakfast and Starpoints at Four Points by Sheraton.|
Movers and Shakers
There was no movement in the valuations this month, but Chase Ultimate Rewards, Alaska Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt, and IHG all made noise. Here’s what I think of their respective changes, and why I let the current valuations remain.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
November Value: 2.1 cents. December Value: 2.1 cents. News: Last month, Korean Air quietly disappeared from among the available Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. Citing technical issues, Chase and Korean Air have stated that this removal is temporary, but just how temporary remains to be seen. If transferability doesn’t return next month, Ultimate Rewards may “temporarily” slide in my valuations.
Associated Credit Cards: Ink Plus, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
November Value: 2.0 cents. December Value: 2.0 cents. News: At the end of November, Alaska announced a new mileage earning structure for 2015, which was mostly good news for Mileage Plan members, and bad news for Delta flyers who credit to Alaska. Since these changes pertain to the earning (and not to redemption), they didn’t alter my valuation for Mileage Plan miles.
Associated Credit Cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card from Bank of America.
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
November Value: 1.5 cents. December Value: 1.5 cents. News: Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia launched a new feature that allows members to convert miles and points between the two frequent flyer programs. However, this feature doesn’t do much unless you’re a Virgin Australia Velocity member, for which you must be a resident of Australia, New Zealand, or a Pacific Island nation.
Associated Credit Cards: Singapore is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards (Ink Plus and Sapphire Preferred), Amex Membership Rewards (The Platinum Card from American Express, Everyday Preferred Card), SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express), and Citi ThankYou Rewards (Citi Premier Card, Citi Prestige).
Hyatt Gold Passport
November Value: 1.8 cents. December Value: 1.8 cents. News: Earlier this month Hyatt announced a re-categorization of 70 properties (48 moving down and 22 moving up). Almost immediately after, Hyatt also announced that it will extend the Points + Cash program. Shuffling properties from one category to another is pretty routine, and as long as the overall trend isn’t upward, this doesn’t change the value of Hyatt points for me. I’m happy to see the Points + Cash option being extended, as that feature offers some good value.
Associated Credit Cards: Hyatt Visa
November Value: 0.7 cents. December Value: 0.7 cents. News: Earlier this week IHG announced that it will acquire Kimpton Hotels for a reported $430 million in cash. For the moment, there’s no word on whether Kimpton Karma Rewards will merge with IHG Rewards, though it seems inevitable. I’m a fan of Kimpton hotels, and adding them to the IHG portfolio would definitely make IHG Rewards more valuable to me. Until then, my valuation remains steady.
Associated Credit Cards: IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- 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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- 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