What Are Points & Miles Worth? September Monthly Valuations

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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?” The answer 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 August. This month I adjusted my valuation of Starwood Preferred Guest, while I added one program to the list and kept another on notice due to some impending changes. As always, there’s plenty of other program-related news, which you’ll find noted in the What Changed/News column.

The Calculations

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 September 2014 (cents) August 2015  (cents) September 2015 (cents) What Changed/ News?
American Express Membership Rewards 1.8 2.0 2.0 Date announced for Small Business Saturday. Amex begins offering FICO scores.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.5-1.1 0.5-1.1 0.5-1.1 Barclaycard confirms changes to Arrival and Arrival Plus cards.
Capital One 1.0 1.0 1.0
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.1 Sapphire Preferred to lose First Friday bonus, but travel bonus not going away.
Citi ThankYou 1.6 1.6 1.6
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 2.0 2.0 2.0 Buy miles with 40% bonus. Boardroom members get full Admirals Club access.
American 1.7 1.7 1.7 New service to Cuba, and discontinued service to Tel Aviv.
ANA  1.5 1.5 Star Alliance search engine is back on line.
Avianca 1.7 1.7 1.7
British Airways 1.7 1.6 1.6 New service from London to San Jose, CA.
Delta 1.2 1.2 1.2 Targeted SkyMiles bonus for first class. Korean Air award booking bug resolved. New private jet upgrades.
Flying Blue 1.3 1.3 1.3 Paid access to La Premiere lounge in Paris (CDG).
Frontier 1.2 1.1 1.1
JetBlue 1-1.7 1-1.4 1-1.4 90-day Mosaic elite status challenge. Buy TrueBlue points with a 50% bonus.
Miles & More 1.4 1.4 Lufthansa A380 reviews in first class and economy.
Singapore Airlines 1.5 1.5 1.5
Southwest 1.4 1.3 1.3
United 1.5 1.5 1.5 Discounted awards to Brazil and Chile. Changes to United Club access.
Virgin America 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3
Virgin Atlantic 1.5 1.5 1.5
Club Carlson 0.6 0.4 0.4 Bonus for booking online.
Hilton 0.5 0.5 0.5 Bonus points with fall HHonors promo. New digital key feature.
Hyatt 1.8 1.8 1.8
IHG 0.7 0.7 0.7 Accelerate promo offers bonus points and free nights. Testing IHG Spire benefits. Kimpton loses 7 San Francisco properties.
Marriott 0.7 0.7 0.7 100 free points. Megabonus fall promo announced.
Ritz-Carlton  –  0.7 0.7
Starwood 2.3 2.4 2.5
New SPG Amex benefits and increased bonus now active. Sheraton unveils new brand. Korean Air added as transfer partner.
Wyndham 1.2  1.2
Amtrak  2.5 Big changes to Guest Rewards program coming in 2016. Partnership with Chase ending this month.

Movers and Shakers

This month I boosted my valuation of Starpoints thanks to some recent improvements and particularly stellar redemptions. I also added Amtrak Guest Rewards to the list in advance of changes coming to the program next year. Finally, Barclaycard Arrival miles remain on notice due to the impending decline of redemption values.

I keep getting exceptional value out of my Starpoints.

Starwood Preferred Guest

August Value: 2.4 cents. September Value: 2.5 cents. Valuation: Starpoints have been at the top of this list for a while now, but I keep finding new reasons to value them even higher. For starters, SPG recently added Korean Air SKYPASS as a new transfer partner, and the recent 20% transfer bonuses to American Airlines don’t hurt, either. However, my main reason for raising the valuation is the incredible redemption opportunities I’ve been finding through SPG Moments. I recently redeemed Starpoints for incredible seats at the US Open and got over 10 cents per point in value. If Starwood keeps dishing out astronomical returns like that, this valaution could go even higher.
Associated Credit Cards: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express).

Amtrak Train Days is stopping in 20 U.S. cities, starting in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Flickr/courtesy of Loco Steve
Amtrak Guest Rewards is shifting to a revenue-based program in 2016, but will still offer plenty of value.

Amtrak Guest Rewards

August Value: Not listed. September Value: 2.5 cents. Valuation: If you ride the train regularly or if you live along certain special routes, Amtrak Guest Rewards can offer excellent value of well over 4 cents per point. However, many redemptions offer a far lesser return. Amtrak just announced that Guest Rewards will transition to a revenue-based program in 2016. While this change will cap the value of Guest Rewards on the high end at about 2.9 cents apiece, it will also set a minimum redemption value of about 2.5 cents apiece. However, since you won’t be able to redeem for Saver awards, my valuation will slide a bit once the changes go into effect.
Associated Credit Cards: While the Amtrak MasterCard is no longer available, Amtrak remains an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner (for the moment), so you can earn points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Plus Business Card.

Barclaycard Arrival Miles

August Value: 1.1 cents. September Value: 1.1 cents. Valuation: In July, Barclaycard announced two changes that will negatively impact the value of Arrival miles. First, the redemption rebate will decrease from 10% to 5% in November for existing cardholders (as you can see above, the change has already taken place for new applicants). Second, the minimum redemption will increase from 2,500 miles to 10,000 miles, meaning you can’t redeem for purchases of less than $100.

While the Arrival Plus card still offers decent value, there’s much less separation between it and the top cash-back cards. It’s still worth getting for the sign-up bonus and a few other benefits, but if you’re sitting on a pile of Arrival miles, you should look for opportunities to use them before the lower rebate goes into effect for all cardholders. At that point, I’ll drop my valuation to 1 cent per mile.
Associated Credit Cards: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.

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