What Are Points & Miles Worth? May Monthly Valuations

May 8, 2015

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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 valuations from one year ago and from April, as well as explanations for any fluctuations in value. I wanted to start releasing valuations closer to the beginning of the month, so it has only been two weeks since the last post. Still, those two weeks brought some significant changes (including massive hotel category changes from Club Carlson and IHG) and lots of other program-related news, which you’ll find noted in the What Changed/News column.

The Calculations
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 May 2014 (cents) April 2015  (cents) May 2015 (cents) What Changed/ News?
American Express Membership Rewards 1.7 2.0 2.0 Amex Travel waives booking fees for Platinum. Business Platinum coming back with 30% points rebate.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.5-1.1 0.5-1.1 0.5-1.1
Capital One 1.0 1.0 1.0 New Partnership with Uber.
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.0 2.1 2.1 New bonus offers for Ink Business Cards.
Citi ThankYou 1.1 1.6 1.6 New bonus offers for Citi Premier and Prestige Cards.
Diners Club Rewards 2.1 2.1
FlexPerks 1.33-2 1.33-2 1.33-2
Aeroplan 1.6 1.6 1.6
Alaska 2 2 2 New routes within U.S. and to Costa Rica. SEA-JFK double miles. Future of Alaska and Delta.
American 1.7 1.7 1.7 1,000 free AAdvantage miles. Executive card adds Global Entry credit.
ANA  1.7 1.7 New zone-based award chartin place.
Avianca 1.7 1.7 Avianca LifeMiles on sale.
British Airways 1.7 1.7 1.7 Award chart devaluation goes into effect. BA Visa bonus categories change.
Delta 1.2 1.2 1.2 Delta adds blackout dates to partner awards. Bags on Time guarantee extended. Targeted shortcut to Gold status.
Flying Blue >1.3 1.3
Frontier 1.2 1.1 1.1
JetBlue 1-1.3 1-1.7 1-1.7 7,000 TrueBlue points for new members. New partnership with Amazon for in-flight entertainment.
Singapore Airlines 1.5 1.5  How to fly Singapore First Class for (almost) free.
Southwest 1.4 1.3 1.3 Rapid Rewards devaluation.
United 1.6 1.5 1.5 Skiplagged lawsuit dismissed (for now). 40,000 points sign-up bonus for Explorer Card.
Virgin America 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3
Virgin Atlantic 1.5 1.5 1.5 New clubhouse opens at LAX.
Club Carlson 0.6 0.6 0.5 Major devaluation via category changes. End of free night benefiton co-branded card.
Hilton 0.5 0.5 0.5 New Hilton HHonors Auction Platform. Double your HHonors promotion.
Hyatt 1.8 1.8 1.8 40% buy points bonus.
IHG 0.7 0.7 0.7 Hotel property category changes for 2015. Program changes including new top-tier status, points expiration.
Marriott 0.5 0.7 0.7
Ritz-Carlton  –  0.7 0.7 Ritz-Carlton Chicago joins brand.
Starwood 2.1 2.4 2.4
Talk of merger between SPG and IHG. 25% buy points bonus. Targeted 7,500 point bonus for stays.

Movers and Shakers
The big change this month was to Club Carlson. IHG adjusted a lot of properties as well, but I thought that recategorization was more balanced. With the quick turnaround from last month’s valuations, I remain undecided about the new ANA award chart.

Radisson Blu Dubai room Club Carlson Rezidor featured
Club Carlson’s recategorization has turned into a revaluation.

Club Carlson

April Value: 0.6 cents. May Value: 0.5 cents. Valuation: Last 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 that benefit into my valuation originally, so I left it alone. However, in the last week Carlson released the list of hotel category changes for 2015, and it wasn’t pretty. Over 200 properties are moving up in the award chart, with almost 70 of them jumping to Carlson’s top-tier Category 7, including many European Radisson Blu properties. Club Carlson has dramatically reduced the value of its program for Gold Rewards members and co-branded cardholders alike, and Gold Points now sit alongside Hilton HHonors at 0.5 cents apiece.
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 12. 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 11 transition.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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