What Are Points & Miles Worth? November 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 October. The hits kept coming this month, with one program decreasing and several others on notice due to upcoming changes. By reader request, I added a new hotel program to the list. 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||November 2014 (cents)||October 2015 (cents)||November 2015 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9||Amex and Best Western ending transfer partnership. Platinum Card now offers Hilton HHonors Gold.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||0.5-1.1||1.0||Changes to Arrival cards go into effect for many cardholders.|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||End of Amtrak transfers announced.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||Citi ThankYou Premier and Prestige cards get a makeover.|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|FlexPerks||1.33-2||1.33-2||1.33-2||$100 bonus for certain FlexPerks cards in branch.|
|Aeroplan||1.6||1.6||1.6||Changes to award chart coming in December. Air Canada offering perks for students.|
|Alaska||2.0||2.0||2.0||Alaska elites get perks on Emirates.|
|American||1.7||1.7||1.7||US Airways takes final flight. Earn bonus AAdvantage miles with National Car Rental and on flights to Australia.|
|ANA||1.7||1.5||1.5||More changes to ANA’s award chart.|
|British Airways||1.7||1.6||1.6||End of short-haul awards planned in the US. New A380 service to Miami.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||Korean Air limiting partner access to awards. End of SkyClub partnership with Alaska. Delta cutting Dubai service in 2016.|
|JetBlue||1-1.7||1-1.4||1-1.4||Free Wi-Fi coming on all flights in 2016. New rooftop garden open at JFK.|
|Miles & More||–||1.4||1.4||Lufthansa contemplating long-haul flights from Berlin.|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||Singapore to resume world’s longest flight.|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||Elites now get free drinks in coach. New United Clubs coming to SFO and ATL. No more service from JFK.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Earn bonus Elevate points for Hilton stays in Hawaii. Free Spotify streaming on select flights. Earn double Elevate points.|
|Club Carlson||0.6||0.4||0.4||US Bank offering free night certificates for keeping co-branded card.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||Hotel category changes coming. Bonus points with fall HHonors promo.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||New PointBreaks properties announced for winter.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Cash + Points awards and other program changes announced. Megabonus fall promo now running.|
|Starwood||2.4||2.5||2.5||Starwood CEO expects merger soon. Up to 10,000 bonus points at Tribute hotels. SPG fall promo now active.|
|Wyndham||–||1.2||1.2||New rewards program finding success. Advance bookings eligible for discount and bonus points.|
|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 added Choice Privileges to the list, and lowered my valuation for Barclaycard Arrival miles. I also put British Airways Avios on notice after the recent announcement that some short-haul awards will be unavailable in the US beginning in February. Chase Ultimate Rewards and Aeroplan remain on notice due to other impending changes.
October Value: Not listed. November Value: 0.6 cents. Valuation: Choice Hotels is one of the largest chains in the world, and while it doesn’t have the same level of prestige as Hyatt, Hilton and others, the Choice Privileges program does offer solid value. You can commonly find free night awards that get you over 1.5 cents per point, and you’ll have a range of options in many popular destinations. Best of all, you can use points to book almost any available room (suites may be excluded), making the program particularly useful for family travel. Overall, I think Choice points have a low ceiling but a high floor for redemption value.
One major quirk of Choice Privileges is that you have a limited window to book awards. Non-elite members can only make award reservations 30 days in advance in their country of residence, or 60 days elsewhere. Even top-tier Diamond members are limited to booking no more than 100 days in advance. That makes planning ahead more difficult, but on the other hand I find that Choice properties generally have decent last-minute availability.
The other downside to Choice Privileges is that points expire even when your account remains active, though you get at least two years before expiration becomes an issue. That’s one more example of why points and miles are a bad long-term investment, but with that long of a window, you should have plenty of opportunities to redeem them. I settled on a valuation of 0.6 cents per point, but I look forward to hearing feedback based on your experiences redeeming Choice Privileges.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles
October Value: 0.5-1.1 cents. November Value: 1 cent. Valuation: In July, Barclaycard announced that the redemption rebate for Arrival miles would decrease to 5% for many existing cardholders (the change has already taken place for new applicants), and that the minimum redemption would increase from 2,500 miles to 10,000 miles, meaning you can’t redeem for purchases of less than $100.
The rebate used to give Arrival miles an edge over the competition, but at this point there’s little to separate them from other fixed-value rewards like Capital One Venture miles or Bank of America Travel Rewards points. The Arrival Plus card is still worth getting for the sign-up bonus and a few other benefits, but beyond that I think you’ll find better value elsewhere. Note that I dropped the lower range of the previous valuation and simplified it to one cent per point, since there’s little reason to redeem for less than that.
Associated Credit Cards: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
British Airways Avios
October Value: 1.6 cents. November Value: 1.6 cents. Valuation: After British Airways devalued the Avios program earlier in 2015, short-haul economy awards were left as one of the few bright spots. Unfortunately, last week the airline announced that the lowest level awards (4,500 points for flights under 650 miles) will no longer be available on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines routes that begin or end in the United States. Those awards will increase to 7,500 Avios, and both business and first class awards will also increase along those routes.
There’s still plenty of value to be found from British Airways’ distance-based awards: You can continue to redeem at the lowest level outside the US, and level 2-4 awards remain good options for domestic flights. However, the Avios program is sure to drop in my valuations when the change goes into effect in February of 2016.
Associated Credit Cards: British Airways Visa Signature Card.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
October Value: 2.1 cents. November Value: 2.1 cents. Valuation: I had already planned to drop Ultimate Rewards down a notch, since the program is dropping Amtrak as a transfer partner in December. The British Airways changes mentioned above might cause me to lower the value even further. Chase only has 11 transfer partners (soon to be 10), so when one of them devalues, it has a greater impact on Ultimate Rewards than it might on Amex Membership Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest points.
There are still plenty of great redemption options, and Ultimate Rewards remain among the most valuable points out there, but the program hasn’t done much to differentiate itself lately.
October Value: 1.6 cents. November 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 American Express. With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.