What Are Points & Miles Worth? April Monthly Valuations

Apr 6, 2016

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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 March. Two airline programs took major hits this month, while another made some changes that has me contemplating an increase to its valuation. As always, you’ll find plenty of program-related news 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 April 2015 (cents) March 2016  (cents) April 2016 (cents) What Changed/ News?
American Express Membership Rewards 2.0 1.9 1.9 Platinum card annual fee waived for targeted Morgan Stanley clients. Double points at Target and Best Buy in 2016. Targeted 50% points bonus for Platinum Business card.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.5-1.1 1.0 1.0
Capital One 1.0 1.0 1.0 New credit tracker now available.
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.1 New Freedom Unlimited card is now available. Time to activate Q2 bonus for Freedom card.
Citi ThankYou 1.6 1.6 1.6 Targeted 10,000 points for ThankYou Premier cardholders. Lower earning rates for Citi Forward card coming in June.
Diners Club Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.1
FlexPerks 1.33-2 1.33-2 1.33-2
Aeroplan 1.6 1.5 1.5 Bonus for transferring points from partners.
Alaska 2.0 2.0 1.8 Massive increase in the cost of Emirates awards. Virgin America acquisition moving forward. Mileage Plan program won’t go revenue-based (for now).
American 1.7 1.7 1.5 New award chart now in effect. Updates to policy for reduced mileage awards. 24-hour reservation holds changed to refunds. Up to 115,000 bonus miles with mileage purchases.
ANA 1.7  1.5 1.5 Reduced fuel surcharges on ANA awards.
Avianca 1.7 1.7 1.7
British Airways 1.7 1.5 1.5 Baggage allowance decreasing for Club World passengers.
Delta 1.2 1.2 1.2 Awards to Israel going up in price. More options for Diamond Medallion Choice Benefits.
Emirates 1.2 1.2
Etihad 1.4 1.4
Flying Blue 1.3 1.3 1.3
Frontier 1.1 1.1 1.1
JetBlue 1-1.7 1-1.4 1-1.4 Barclaycard launches new JetBlue cards. Mint service expanding to new routes. Mosaic members get free same-day changes.
Miles & More 1.4 1.4 50,000 miles with Miles & More MasterCard. Triple miles on Lufthansa flights from Germany.
Singapore Airlines 1.5 1.5 1.5 Discounted premium economy on A380. Flights on A350 are now bookable.
Southwest 1.3 1.5 1.5 1,100 Rapid Rewards points for new Lyft users. EarlyBird check-in prices increasing. Targeted status match opportunity.
United 1.5 1.5 1.5 Coach seat downgrade on domestic 777 flights. 747 fleet to be retired by 2018. Bio-fueled flights from LAX.
Virgin America 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 New status match/challenge opportunities. Alaska and JetBlue bid to acquire airline. Unlimited itinerary changes with lower fee. New daily service from LAX to Hawaii.
Virgin Atlantic 1.5 1.5 1.5
Club Carlson 0.6 0.4 0.4
Choice Privileges 0.6 0.6
Hilton 0.5 0.5 0.5 2x points for stays in early 2016.
Hyatt 1.8 1.8 1.8 Up to 75,000 points with new promotion. Launch of Unbound Collection.
IHG 0.7 0.7 0.7
Marriott 0.7 0.7 0.7 Reduced rates for Rewards members. Marriott remains sole bidder for SPG.
Ritz-Carlton  0.7  0.7 0.7
Starwood 2.4 2.5 2.5 1,000 points for referring a friend. New properties coming to Cuba. Up to 40% off redemptions at Caesars.
Wyndham 1.2  1.2
Amtrak 2.5 2.5 Double points on spring travel.

Movers and Shakers

As changes to the AAdvantage award chart went into effect, it was finally time to drop American Airlines. I also decided to drop Alaska Airlines after awards on Emirates increased with no warning. While I didn’t make any other changes this month, I’ll be keeping an eye on the price of ANA awards to see if decreasing surcharges warrant an increase in my valuation of Mileage Club miles.

Hopefully you were able to book your awards before the new chart took hold in March.

American Airlines AAdvantage

March Value: 1.7 cents. April Value: 1.5 cents. Valuation: The new AAdvantage award chart went into effect in March, marking a substantial increase in the cost of many awards, fewer flights available for off-peak travel, and the switch to a revenue-based earning system. With these changes, I think the AAdvantage program has lost its edge over United MileagePlus, as many awards are now priced similarly between the two. While there are some important differences (American continues to offer free award schedule changes, and United doesn’t tack on fuel surcharges), I think the overall value is about equal.

I remain a fan of the AAdvantage program — partly because I live in an American Airlines hub and I get great benefits from my Executive Platinum status, but also because the new award chart still offers decent value on an extensive partner network. The days of flying in Cathay Pacific first class for 67,500 miles may be gone, but plenty of other award redemptions will give you a good return for your miles.

Check out these posts for more tips on maximizing AAdvantage miles after the devaluation:

Associated Credit Cards: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

Premium awards on Emirates used to be a sweet spot of the Mileage Plan program, but prices just went up dramatically.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

March Value: 2.0 cents. April Value: 1.8 cents. Valuation: Last week, one of Alaska Airlines’ best award opportunities was massively devalued when first-class awards on Emirates increased by as much as 100%. What was once a highlight of the Mileage Plan program is now a below-average option for experiencing an international premium cabin.

Some of you might be wondering whether that single change warrants such a precipitous drop in my valuations — after all, there are still plenty of other valuable Mileage Plan awards. However, my concern moving forward is about not only the changing award prices, but also how those changes were handled. No advance warning was given to members, and while the Mileage Plan terms and conditions specify that partners may change the cost of awards without notice, that doesn’t make it right.

Alaska is at least willing to offer a refund for recently purchased miles and will allow a one-time change to existing Emirates awards. Still, if this can happen once, then it can happen again. That makes me anxious about the future of the program, and may deter me from banking miles to Alaska Airlines moving forward.

Associated Credit Cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card.

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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