What Are Points & Miles Worth? December 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 November. This month one program took a hit, while several others remain on notice due to upcoming changes. As always, you’ll find plenty of program-related news 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||December 2014 (cents)||November 2015 (cents)||December 2015 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9||Centurion Lounge coming to LAX. Preferred Rewards Gold card getting increased purchase protection.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||1.0||1.0|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||Amtrak transfers end this month. Minor changes made to transfer policy. Increased sign-up bonus for Sapphire Preferred card.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||25% bonus on transfers to Etihad. Citi launches new Smart Savings discount program.|
|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||1.5||Changes to award chart go into effect this month. Air Canada adding revenue component to elite status. Bonuses for transfers from partners.|
|Alaska||2.0||2.0||2.0||Use Alaska miles to book awards on Icelandair. Get a free third ticket to select ski destinations. New Premium Class section being added.|
|American||1.7||1.7||1.7||Major changes to AAdvantage program announced. Mileage earnings will decrease for Iberia and British Airways flights.|
|British Airways||1.7||1.6||1.6||End of short-haul awards planned in the US.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||Changes coming to economy Comfort+. Elite flyers can buy MQMs to earn 2016 status.|
|Flying Blue||1.3||1.3||1.3||KLM to begin charging for long-haul seating assignments.|
|JetBlue||1-1.7||1-1.4||1-1.4||Mint flights to Caribbean no longer just seasonal.|
|Miles & More||–||1.4||1.4||Lufthansa adds direct booking through Google Flights.|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||New seats coming to Premium Economy.|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||Discounted awards to Europe through December 8. DOJ blocks extra slots at Newark airport. United agents can now offer compensation.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||Earn points with Airbnb stays. Virgin America now serving Hawaii.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||Hilton matching status through 2017. Up to 50% off HHonors points.|
|Hyatt||1.8||1.8||1.8||Hyatt offering Diamond status matches. Points + Cash awards now available online.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||Priceless Surprises promo offers bonuses for stays.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Marriott acquiring Starwood Hotels.|
|Starwood||2.4||2.5||2.5||Marriott acquiring Starwood Hotels. Get 2,500 points for trying SPG Keyless. Design Hotels added to portfolio.|
|Wyndham||–||1.2||1.2||New elite program coming in 2016.|
|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 Aeroplan, and while Ultimate Rewards is losing a transfer partner this month, I left it unchanged for the moment. American Airlines is now on notice after the airline recently announced major changes in store for the AAdvantage program in 2016. British Airways Avios remains on notice due to the new short-haul award chart planned for US flyers beginning in February.
Marriott’s plans to acquire Starwood will likely impact both loyalty programs down the line. However, I plan to leave the valuations unchanged for both Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest until we have a better sense of what to expect.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
November Value: 2.1 cents. December Value: 2.1 cents. Valuation: Beginning this month, Amtrak will no longer be a Chase transfer partner. I had planned to lower my valuation of Ultimate Rewards even though I personally didn’t use this transfer option. However, feedback from readers tells me I’m not the only one. Amtrak redemptions offer good value on a cents-per-point basis, but that doesn’t mean much if people aren’t using them. I may change my mind about this, but I want to hear more from readers who actually transferred to Guest Rewards regularly.
Ultimate Rewards still offers plenty of great redemption options, and these points remain highly valuable. However, Chase is now down to 10 transfer partners, and while Amtrak is relatively unheralded compared to Hyatt, United and others, losing that transferability is a move in the wrong direction. With the elimination of 3x points on dining and British Airways dropping 4,500-Avios awards in the US, Chase needs to step up its game or risk giving up more ground to other transferable points programs.
Associated Credit Cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Plus Business Card, Chase Freedom Card, Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
November Value: 1.6 cents. December Value: 1.5 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 some of those redemptions more expensive.
As devaluations go, this one is pretty benign — only a handful of awards are increasing, and some are actually decreasing. However, business and first-class awards between North America and Europe have been among the best values for redeeming Aeroplan miles, and the new requirements are a definite knock against the program, in my opinion.
Associated Credit Cards: While there are co-branded options (like the TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Card), Air Canada is also 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® Credit Card from American Express.
British Airways Avios
November Value: 1.6 cents. December 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, in October 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 flights 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
American Airlines AAdvantage
November Value: 1.7 cents. December Value: 1.7 cents. Valuation: American dropped doubly bad news last month, announcing not only that the cost of many AAdvantage awards will increase in March, but also that the program will switch to a revenue-based earning system. Furthermore, American is shrinking the range of available dates for its valuable off-peak awards.
The news isn’t entirely bad: Some awards are actually going down in price, and the new system for earning elite miles will be more generous than its Delta and United counterparts. But with some awards increasing by more than 60%, there’s no denying this is a devaluation of the AAdvantage program overall. I haven’t decided how far AAdvantage miles will fall in my estimation, but they’ll definitely take a hit in 2016 as these changes go into effect.
Associated Credit Cards: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard.