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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?” 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 January, as well as explanations for any fluctuations in value. The past month brought some significant program changes (like Delta once again doing all it can to undermine the SkyMiles program and Citi adding Qantas 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)||Jan 2015 (cents)||Feb 2015 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||2.0||Targeted PointsMatch transfer program. 20% transfer bonus to Aeromexico. Cutting ties with Costco and JetBlue.|
|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 transfer option returns. Travel sites gone from portal.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.3||1.6||1.6||Qantas added as new transfer partner.|
|Diners Club Rewards||–||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.9||1.6||1.6||Bonus miles for Best Western stays and for select Flex fares. New card offer for US flyers.|
|Alaska||1.8||2||2||Double Mileage Plan miles on select routes.|
|American||1.9||1.7||1.7||Launch of 787 service. Double miles on flights to Germany and Asia.|
|Delta||1.5||1.3||1.2||SkyMiles Award Charts pulled from website. Saver awards not found less than 3 weeks out. Medallions charged more for awards. Trial of checked baggage guarantee.|
|JetBlue||1-1.3||1-1.7||1-1.7||Earn double TrueBlue points promotion.|
|Southwest||1.8||1.4||1.4||Devaluation coming April 17. Companion Pass shortcut in certain cities.|
|United||2||1.5||1.5||Partner earning structure devalued.|
|US Airways||1.8||1.9||1.9||American and US Airways open Standard and AAnytime Awards.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Double Elevate points on select routes.|
|Club Carlson||0.7||0.6||0.6||Bonus points for Extend Your Stay promotion.|
|Hilton||0.7||0.5||0.5||Launch of lifetime Diamond status. Targeted 100,000 points bonus for elites. Double your HHonors promotion.|
|Hyatt||2||1.8||1.8||New Hyatt Diamond benefits announced. 20% discount on award redemptions.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||20% off with winter sale. Bonus points with Set Your Sights promotion. 70,000 points sign-up bonus for IHG Rewards Card.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Bonus earnings with MegaMiles promotion.|
||New Platinum Choice benefits. New partnership with Uber. Hotel category changes announced.|
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.
American Express Membership Rewards
January Value: 1.9 cents. February Value: 2.0 cents. Why it changed: It wasn’t a great month for Amex, with announcements that both Costco and JetBlue would be cutting ties with the card issuer. So why did I decide to bump Membership Rewards up? As I mention above, these valuations are somewhat subjective, and are based on what I’ve been able to get out of my own points and miles. With that in mind, I think my previous valuation was a bit low, as I’ve gotten some great value out of Membership Rewards lately, in particular from the recent 40% transfer bonus to British Airways.
Associated Credit Cards: The Platinum Card® from American Express, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Everyday Preferred Card, and others.
Delta Air Lines
January Value: 1.3 cents. February Value: 1.2 cents. Why it Changed: After bucking the trend of persistent devaluation, Delta finally turned it around last month with some positive changes. So much for that! The past few weeks have made me wonder if Delta really is trying to implode the SkyMiles program. First award charts disappeared from the website, followed closely by saver availability less than three weeks out. In the past week Delta was found charging Medallion members more for award redemptions. But at least there’s a new checked baggage guarantee (for the next month), so who needs a loyalty program anyway? Basically, SkyMiles still have some value over one cent (at least for the moment), but I would bank my miles elsewhere.
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
January Value: 1.6 cents. February Value: 1.6 cents. Valuation: Just this week, Citi ThankYou Rewards added Qantas as its eleventh airline transfer partner, following the addition of Virgin Atlantic last month. I’m excited that Citi is working to expand ThankYou Rewards, and I’m hopeful that the program will continue to grow, but these most recent additions are pretty forgettable. If I were Citi, I’d be going all out to add a major domestic carrier and another hotel partner. If, for example, American Airlines and Choice Hotels suddenly became accessible via ThankYou Rewards, the program would become massively more valuable.
Associated Credit Cards: Citi ThankYou Premier Card, Citi Prestige, Citi ThankYou Preferred Card.
Programs on Notice
These programs didn’t change in value, but there’s good reason to keep an eye on them in the coming months:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards — the news of another upcoming devaluation so soon after the last one is disappointing. Hopefully the changes will be minor.
- American Airlines and US Airways — Don’t be surprised if there are some “adjustments” as the impending merger runs its course. Keep in mind that the US Airways Dividend Miles program goes away forever in the next couple months; now is a great time to redeem, especially for sweet spot redemptions like 110,000 miles in business class to Australia and South Africa.
With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.
- Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 per calendar year for baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc.
- Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
- $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees