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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 June. Despite some important announcements from one frequent flyer program, this month didn’t feature any changes to the valuations. However, I added a new airline to the list, and as always, you’ll find plenty of other program-related news 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||July 2015 (cents)||June 2016 (cents)||July 2016 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||1.9||1.9||New Centurion Lounge open in Houston (IAH). Higher targeted bonus for Premier Rewards Gold card. Score cheap Hamilton tickets with Amex.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||1.0||1.0|
|Capital One||1.0||1.0||1.0||Capital One and Uber launch in-app loyalty program.|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||10x points on hotels and car rentals. Time to activate Q3 bonus on Chase Freedom card. TPG reviews the JP Morgan Palladium card.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||Citi Forward card lowers earning rates.|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Alaska||2.0||1.8||1.8||Changes to earning on American Airlines flights. Alaska might keep Virgin America brand after merger. Earn bonus miles when you fly on partner airlines.|
|American||1.7||1.5||1.5||More revenue-based changes to AAdvantage program. New Platinum status challenge from FoundersCard. Award flights to Cuba now bookable. Bonus and discount for buying miles. New reduced mileage awards.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||Elevated bonuses for Delta Amex cards. In-flight entertainment will be free for everyone. Details of the invite-only Delta 360 program.|
|Etihad||–||1.4||1.4||10% Amex discount extended through 2016. 25% bonus for transfers from Citi. New first class lounge opens in Abu Dhabi.|
|Flying Blue||1.3||1.3||1.3||KLM will phase out 747 from its fleet. Best uses of Flying Blue miles.|
|Frontier||1.1||1.1||1.1||Frontier and Spirit might finally join TSA PreCheck.|
|JetBlue||1-1.7||1-1.4||1-1.4||Complimentary TSA PreCheck for Mosaic members.|
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||New upgrade bidding for Premium Economy. Non-stop SIN-SFO service coming. No more KrisFlyer miles for some Virgin Atlantic flights.|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||500 MileagePlus miles for using Visa Checkout. 100% bonus for buying miles. New Polaris international business class unveiled. United’s puzzling transcon upgrade policy.|
|Choice Privileges||–||0.6||0.6||Free status match opportunity.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||10,000 points for authorized user on Hilton Amex. Increased sign-up bonus from Citi Hilton Visa. Earn double points with summer promo. Status matches offered through 2018.|
|Hyatt||1.8||1.8||1.8||Mid-year category changes announced.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||100,000 points with Marriott Business card. Earn bonus points with Summer 2016 promotion.|
|Starwood||2.4||2.5||2.5||Up to 10,000 bonus points for SPG business Amex cardholders. Earn up to 3x points with Triple Up promotion. Revisions to transfer policy.|
|Wyndham||1.2||1.2||1.2||Bonus points and more with current promotions.|
|Amtrak||–||2.5||2.5||New Chicago lounge unveiled.|
Movers and Shakers
American Airlines made some noise this month, announcing several changes that will further the shift toward a revenue-based program. By request from several readers, I also added Hawaiian Airlines to the list. It’s not a particularly useful option for award travel, but you should expect to get over 1 cent per mile with most redemptions.
June Value: Not listed. July Value: 1.2 cents. Valuation: I don’t discuss the HawaiianMiles program often, because there are generally better award options everywhere Hawaiian Airlines flies. For example, you can get from the West Coast to Hawaii for just 25,000 points round-trip using British Airways Avios (redeemed on Alaska Airlines), while Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 40,000 miles. Inter-island flights are just 3,000 points each way when you book with Virgin America, but Hawaiian charges 7,500 miles for the exact same service.
There are a few bright spots: Flights between New York and Honolulu or Kona tend to offer good redemption value even when there’s no saver level availability (which is often). This is true in both economy and first class, and while Hawaiian’s premium service is pretty tired, those awards will be a great option once the new lie-flat seats are installed in the A330 fleet.
Ultimately, I don’t see much to get excited about from this program, and I would prefer to bank paid flights to a partner airline. However, if you find yourself with leftover Hawaiian miles on your plate, you can get some use out of them.
Associated Credit Cards: The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Membership Rewards cards like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.
June Value: 1.5 cents. July Value: 1.5 cents. Valuation: In June, American released more information about upcoming changes to the AAdvantage program. For starters, mileage earning will become revenue-based in August, making it harder for many leisure travelers to accrue meaningful balances. Furthermore, American announced that it will follow Delta and United by instituting revenue requirements for elite status.
On the bright side, there will be a new Platinum Pro elite level beginning in 2017, which may be helpful to anyone who typically surpasses Platinum but can’t reach Executive Platinum. There will also be some changes to upgrade prioritization that you could see as good or bad depending on your situation. Most of these changes won’t take effect until next year, and I don’t think the new Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement alters the usefulness of AAdvantage miles, so my valuation remained the same this month.
Associated Credit Cards: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
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.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Know before you go.
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