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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 December, as well as explanations for any fluctuations in value. The past month brought some significant program changes (like Delta’s refreshed SkyMiles program and Citi adding Virgin Atlantic as a transfer partner) and lots of other program-related news, which you’ll find noted 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)||Dec 2014 (cents)||Jan 2015 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9||Amex Platinum targeted 100,000 points welcome bonus. 35% transfer bonus to Virgin America. Amex Fine Hotels Adds Free WiFi.|
|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, but should return soon.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.3||1.6||1.6||Virgin Atlantic added as new transfer partner. Premier card changing bonus categories.|
|Diners Club Rewards||–||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.9||1.6||1.6||Bonus miles for Best Western stays.|
|Alaska||1.8||2||2||Free checked bags for Mileage Plan members in January.|
|American||1.9||1.7||1.7||2015 double miles promotion.|
|Delta||1.5||1.2||1.3||Improved award availability and one-way awards. Pay With Miles tickets eligible to earn SkyMiles. Partners China Southern and China Eastern bookable on Delta.com.|
|JetBlue||1-1.3||1-1.7||1-1.7||Earn double TrueBlue points promotion.|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||Bonus miles for Hilton stays.|
|United||2||1.5||1.5||Enhanced options for premium dining. Mileage bonuses for elites in premium classes. Discount awards for economy in North America. Bonus miles on transatlantic flights.|
|Club Carlson||0.7||0.6||0.6||Bonus points for Extend Your Stay promotion.|
|Hilton||0.7||0.5||0.5||New benefits for Citi Hilton Visa. Bonus points for Amex Hilton cardholders. Winter sale in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.|
|Hyatt||2||1.8||1.8||Launch of Stay More Play More promotion. Free WiFi beginning in February.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||No points earned for stays booked through an OTA. Bonus points with Set Your Sights promotion.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Free breakfast for Gold or Platinum members. Bonus earnings with MegaMiles promotion. Protea properties join Marriott Rewards.|
|Ritz-Carlton||–||0.7||0.7||140,000 points sign-up bonus for Ritz-Carlton Visa. Double elite night credits for 2015.|
||Bonus points with Double Play promotion.|
Movers and Shakers
Just one program changed values this month (Delta SkyMiles); Ultimate Rewards would have also, but was saved by the bell. Citi ThankYou Rewards also made noise, though I decided to let the previous valuation stand. Read on for more details.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
December Value: 2.1 cents. January Value: 2.1 cents. Valuation: In November, 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 that was two months ago, and anyone waiting to book an award has been left twiddling their thumbs. I strongly considered knocking Ultimate Rewards points down a notch, but it looks like Korean Air is finally set to return in the next few days (hat tip: One Mile at a Time).
Associated Credit Cards: Ink Plus, Sapphire Preferred, Chase Freedom.
Delta Air Lines
December Value: 1.2 cents. January Value: 1.3 cents. Valuation: After several devaluations and a string of negative program changes, Delta seems to have hit bottom and rebounded. I had already factored the new award search engine into last month’s valuations, but I’m pleased with the improved level of award availability, and the fact that some partner awards are showing up on the website.
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
Citi ThankYou Rewards
December Value: 1.5 cents. January Value: 1.6 cents. Valuation: Just this week, Citi ThankYou Rewards added Virgin Atlantic as its tenth airline transfer partner. The program has improved enormously over the past year, and I don’t think it’s done growing; however, I don’t think this new partnership adds enough to warrant a change in my valuation. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t bring a lot of good options to the table that weren’t already there, especially considering the fuel surcharges added to many awards. For now, I’ll leave ThankYou Rewards at 1.6 cents apiece, but I’m optimistic about the program’s future.
Associated Credit Cards: Citi Premier Card, Citi Prestige Card, Citi ThankYou Preferred Card.
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