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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 valuations of points from 2013 and from March, as well as explanations for any fluctuations in value. The past month brought some significant changes (like a devaluation from Southwest and changes to the ANA award chart) and lots of other program-related news, which you’ll find noted in the What Changed/News column. Last month saw the demise of the US Airways Dividend Miles program as it merged with American Airlines AAdvantage, so I’ll no longer be including that in the chart moving forward.
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)||March 2015 (cents)||April 2015 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||2.0||2.0||Business Platinum coming back with 30% points rebate. Earn 4x points on travel with Premier Rewards Gold Card.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1|
|Capital One||1||1||1||New Partnership with Uber.|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.2||2.1||2.1||Sapphire Preferred 2x points on travel is alive and well.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.3||1.6||1.6||ThankYou Premier offers 50,000 points.|
|Diners Club Rewards||–||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.9||1.6||1.6||Premium Economy redemptions now available.|
|Alaska||1.8||2||2||New service between SEA-JFK and double miles.|
|American||1.9||1.7||1.7||AAdvantage Executive card adds Global Entry credit. AA/US Air get single operating certificate. Bonus miles with Avis and Budget rentals.|
|ANA||–||1.7||1.7||New zone-based award chart in place.|
|British Airways||1.6||1.7||1.7||Devaluation looming next week. BA Visa bonus categories changing in May.|
|Delta||1.5||1.2||1.2||More partner awards on Delta.com. Bags on Time guarantee extended. Targeted shortcut to Gold status.|
|JetBlue||1-1.3||1-1.7||1-1.7||Double points on transcon flights.|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||How to fly Singapore First Class for (almost) free.|
|Southwest||1.8||1.4||1.3||Rapid Rewards devaluation. Southwest planes gets new seats.|
|United||2||1.5||1.5||United and American cracking down on mistake fares.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Possibly adding service to Hawaii.|
|Club Carlson||0.7||0.6||0.6||End of free night benefit on co-branded card. Targeted triple points promo.|
|Hilton||0.7||0.5||0.5||New Hilton HHonors Auction Platform. Double your HHonors promotion.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||Program changes including new top-tier status, points expiration. 70,000 points sign-up bonus for IHG Rewards Card.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Free night offer for new Rewards members.|
|Ritz-Carlton||–||0.7||0.7||Ritz-Carlton Okinawa review.|
||SPG Hear the Music contests.|
Movers and Shakers
This month saw a lot of significant program news; however, only one program did enough to merit a change in my valuations: Southwest Rapid Rewards. I remain undecided about the new ANA award chart.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
March Value: 1.4 cents. April Value: 1.3 cents. Why it changed: So far, the new dynamic pricing doesn’t seem catastrophic; reports indicate that awards are still pricing out at about 70-80 points per dollar. What concerns me more is the structure of the new system, which essentially enables Southwest to charge whatever it wants for awards without allowing members to predict the cost reliably. I think the program takes a hit on that basis alone, even if redemption values haven’t changed much (yet). I’m not a big Southwest flyer, but I’d be nervous if I were sitting on a pile of Rapid Rewards points right now.
Associated Credit Cards: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card (and business version), Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
March Value: 1.7 cents. April Value: 1.7 cents. Valuation: As I said last month, I was on the fence about whether to adjust my valuation of British Airways Avios due to the upcoming program changes. Avios are mostly useful for short-haul economy awards, which are untouched in the new chart. Whatever value there was for long-haul flights or in premium cabins is pretty much gone, but I still think you can pretty easily get 1.7 cents out of them from other good redemption options.
Associated Credit Cards: British Airways Visa Signature Card
March Value: 0.6 cents. April Value: 0.6 cents. Valuation: Earlier this month Club Carlson announced that its co-branded credit cards would no longer offer the free last night award benefit, which was one of the most valuable travel rewards out there. I didn’t factor this benefit into my valuation originally, so it remains unchanged here. However, it’s a huge blow to a co-branded card that was one of the best for everyday spending.
Associated Credit Cards: Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card
Programs on Notice
There’s good reason to keep an eye on these programs in the coming month:
- All Nippon Airways (ANA) — The new zone-based award chart went into effect on April 12th. As TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen pointed out when the update was announced, the new system appears to be mostly good news. However, I need to play around more with some award bookings before I decide how to reflect the changes in my valuation.
- Wyndham Rewards — Last month, Wyndham announced a complete overhaul of its Rewards program, including a new flat redemption rate of 15,000 points per night across all properties, with no blackout dates. This will create both impressive and terrible redemption options, and the TPG team will be diving into those as we get closer to the May 11th transition.
Know before you go.
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