What Are Points & Miles Worth? October Monthly Valuations
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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 September. One program took a hit this month, while several others are now on notice due to some impending changes, and will likely decrease in the near future. As always, there’s plenty of other program-related news, which you’ll find noted in the What Changed/News column.
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||October 2014 (cents)||September 2015 (cents)||October 2015 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||2.0||1.9||Lower transfer ratio now in effect for British Airways. No statement credits for Small Business Saturday.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1||Barclaycard confirms changes to Arrival and Arrival Plus cards.|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||End of Amtrak transfers announced. New bonus offers for Chase Ink Plus and Ink Cash.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||Virgin America added as 2:1 transfer partner. New 50,000-point offer for checking accounts.|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.6||1.6||1.6||Changes to award chart coming in December.|
|Alaska||2.0||2.0||2.0||Earn Mileage Plan miles on Icelandair flights.|
|American||1.7||1.7||1.7||Earn up to 125,000 miles on transatlantic flights. New fast track to elite status. Launch of live baggage tracking.|
|Avianca||1.7||1.7||1.7||Bonus Avianca miles from Rocketmiles.|
|British Airways||1.7||1.6||1.6||Earn up to 125,000 Avios on transatlantic flights. New offer for British Airways Visa Signature.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||$100 off Delta flights via Amex Offers. SunTrust SkyMiles debit cards return.|
|JetBlue||1-1.7||1-1.4||1-1.4||Earn TrueBlue points on Singapore Airlines flights.|
|Miles & More||–||1.4||1.4||New business class on long-haul flights.|
|Southwest||1.4||1.3||1.3||50,000-point bonuses return for Rapid Rewards cards.|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||New upgrade program for top elites. Holds available for award tickets. CEO Jeff Smisek steps down.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Earn bonus Elevate points for Hilton stays in Hawaii. Earn Gold status with transfers from Amex.|
|Club Carlson||0.6||0.4||0.4||30% bonus on points purchases.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||Hotel category changes coming. Bonus points with fall HHonors promo.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||Accelerate promo offers bonus points and free nights.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Megabonus fall promo now running.|
|Starwood||2.3||2.5||2.5||Easy 200 Starpoints. SPG fall promo now active. Statement credit at W Hotels via Amex Offers.|
|Wyndham||–||1.2||1.2||Discount and bonus points for advance bookings.|
|Amtrak||–||2.5||2.5||Big changes to Guest Rewards program coming in 2016. End of credit card partnership with Chase.|
Movers and Shakers
This month I lowered my valuation for American Express Membership Rewards due to the reduced transfer ratio for British Airways. I also put Chase Ultimate Rewards and Aeroplan on notice because of some recently announced changes to each program. Barclaycard Arrival miles also remain on notice due to the decline in redemption values scheduled for next month.
American Express Membership Rewards
September Value: 2.0 cents. October Value: 1.9 cents. Valuation: In June, Amex announced a 20% decline in the transfer ratio to British Airways and Iberia. Membership Rewards points used to transfer to Avios at 1:1, but as of October 1st, 250 Amex points gets you only 200 Avios. Practically speaking, Amex might as well have just dropped British Airways altogether, since both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest still transfer to Avios at 1:1. Long gone are the days of big bonuses at an even transfer ratio; if you’re a frequent user of the Avios program, it’s time to look at other partner options.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
September Value: 2.1 cents. October Value: 2.1 cents. Valuation: Ultimate Rewards are among the most valuable points on this list, but losing Amtrak as a transfer partner is going to bring them down a notch. While Amtrak isn’t the most popular redemption option, and Guest Rewards recently announced a transition to a revenue-based program in 2016, there’s still a lot of value to be had with these awards. Chase only has 11 transfer partners, and can’t expect to lose any of them (especially a unique one) without taking a hit. Look for this valuation to go down once transfers to Amtrak are discontinued in December.
September Value: 1.6 cents. October Value: 1.6 cents. Valuation: Despite pricey fuel surcharges, Aeroplan has been a good option for booking international premium awards like Lufthansa first class. Unfortunately, Air Canada recently announced changes to its award chart that will make those redemptions more expensive. While the program is making some improvements as well, these updates are mostly bad news for North American flyers, and are especially disappointing so soon after last year’s devaluation. I haven’t decided how far Aeroplan will fall, but I expect it to drop once again when the changes take effect in December.
Associated Credit Cards: While there are co-branded options (like the TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Card), Air Canada is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. That means you can earn points that transfer to Aeroplan miles with cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from Amex.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles
September Value: 1.1 cents. October 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.