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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 July. There are no changes to the list this month, but one transferable points program announced plans to eliminate a lucrative redemption option, which will likely affect my valuation in the future. 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||August 2015 (cents)||July 2016 (cents)||August 2016 (cents)||What Changed/ News?|
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||1.9||1.9||Save $80 on travel with Amex Offers. Targeted promotion for 250,000 points on Business Platinum card. Targeted free membership at Sam’s Club.|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||0.5-1.1||1.0||1.0|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1||A look at how the 5/24 rule has expanded to co-branded cards. Lower redemption values for Amazon purchases.|
|Citi ThankYou||1.6||1.6||1.6||Negative changes to Citi Prestige Card coming in 2017.|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Aeroplan||1.6||1.5||1.5||Bonus miles for transferring points to Aeroplan. Reduced prices for short-haul Market Fare awards.|
|Alaska||2.0||1.8||1.8||New flights from West Coast to NYC. Earn bonus miles when you fly on partner airlines. Earn double miles on JAL.|
|American||1.7||1.5||1.5||Drastic changes to partner earning rates. Details emerge for new credit card agreements. Domestic 787-9 service coming this fall.|
|British Airways||1.6||1.5||1.5||Adjustments to Avios payment program. Discount extended for AARP members. Club World amenities disappearing.|
|Delta||1.2||1.2||1.2||Use global upgrades on Virgin Atlantic. 1,000 free SkyMiles for Delta Reserve cardholders. Improvements to amenity kits.|
|Etihad||–||1.4||1.4||A380 service to JFK to be offered twice daily. 10% Amex discount extended through 2016.|
|Flying Blue||1.3||1.3||1.3||Heineken draft will soon be available on select KLM flights.|
|JetBlue||1-1.4||1-1.4||1-1.4||Flights to Europe could be coming, while flights to Cuba are available to book. Mint service expanding to Grenada and between LAX and FLL.|
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Singapore Airlines||1.5||1.5||1.5||Nonstop MAN-IAH service coming this fall.|
|Southwest||1.3||1.5||1.5||Targeted shortcut to Companion Pass. Get TSA PreCheck with Rapid Rewards. Nonstop service from Newark to Puerto Rico starts in December.|
|United||1.5||1.5||1.5||Billion mile giveaway now open. Automated security lanes to be tested this fall. 500 MileagePlus miles for using Visa Checkout. 100% bonus for buying miles.|
|Virgin America||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||1.5-2.3||50% bonus points on flights through August. More flights from West Coast to Newark.|
|Hilton||0.5||0.5||0.5||Targeted 10,000 bonus points for Hilton Amex cardholders. Stays now required for status matches. Earn double points with summer promo.|
|Hyatt||1.8||1.8||1.8||10% back on awards for Hyatt cardholders.|
|IHG||0.7||0.7||0.7||New PointBreaks list for stays through October. Save 15% on Points and Cash awards.|
|Marriott||0.7||0.7||0.7||Examining the Marriott Rewards Experiences marketplace. Earn bonus points with Summer 2016 promotion.|
|Starwood||2.4||2.5||2.5||20% bonus for transfers to American. New partnership and reciprocal benefits with China Eastern. 2,500 points for adding authorized user. Double Starpoints at Tribute Portfolio properties.|
|Wyndham||1.2||1.2||1.2||Bonus points and more with current promotions.|
Movers and Shakers
The past month brought some good news, including a new partnership between Starwood Preferred Guest and China Eastern Airlines, and the option to use Delta Global Upgrades on Virgin Atlantic. Unfortunately, the biggest news was bad news, as Citi revealed plans to downgrade several key benefits on one of its premium travel rewards cards.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
July Value: 1.6 cents. August Value: 1.6 cents. Valuation: Last month, Citi announced several negative changes to the Citi Prestige Card, which has been one of the top travel rewards cards since its benefits were updated back in 2014. In addition to a reduced sign-up bonus, Prestige will see several of its most lucrative perks whittled down or eliminated entirely, including Admirals Club access, free rounds of golf, and the 4th Night Free benefit.
Most pertinent to valuations, cardholders will no longer be able to redeem ThankYou points for 1.6 cents apiece on American Airlines; a standard rate of 1.25 cents per point will now apply to all flights booked through the ThankYou Travel Center. While Citi will maintain its roster of airline and hotel transfer partners, this change wipes out a lucrative and practical redemption option, making it a little more difficult to get good value from your points.
On the bright side, this change won’t take effect until July of 2017, and it only affects a small subset of ThankYou Rewards members. Ultimately, I don’t think it will cause me to adjust my valuation, but as a Prestige cardholder and AAdvantage elite, it definitely lowers my long-term interest in the program.
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