What Are Points & Miles Worth? October Monthly Valuations

Oct 5, 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 September. Two hotel programs became more valuable this month, thanks to new transfer and redemption options. As always, you’ll find plenty of other program-related news 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 October 2015 (cents) September 2016  (cents) October 2016 (cents) What Changed/ News?
American Express Membership Rewards 1.9 1.9 1.9 New 5x bonus on airfare purchases. Transfer bonuses to British Airways and Alitalia. Get 4th night free offers at select hotels.
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 0.5-1.1 1.0 1.0 Increased sign-up bonus for Arrival Plus card.
Capital One 1.0 1.0 1.0 10% off HotelTonight with Capital One promo.
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.1 Increased sign-up bonus for Ink Cash. Chase Freedom Q4 categories announced. Android Pay adds Chase Visa cards.
Citi ThankYou 1.6 1.6 1.6 Citi adds limit for sharing points.
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
Alaska 2.0 1.8 1.8 New policy for companion upgrades.
American 1.7 1.5 1.5 50,000 miles with Citi AAdvantage card. Up to 30,000 bonus miles on flights to Europe. Earn 20 miles per dollar for supporting cancer research. First look at American’s 787-9.
ANA 1.5  1.6 1.6
Avianca 1.7 1.7 1.7
British Airways 1.6 1.5 1.5 Save up to $400 on transatlantic flights. Earn triple Avios through December.
Delta 1.2 1.2 1.2 Increased sign-up bonuses for Delta Amex cards. Sneak peek at the new Atlanta Sky Club. New partnership with Jet Airways. Special status program for Seattle flyers.
Emirates 1.2 1.2 New Cash + Miles awards. New fees for seat selection on some fares.
Etihad 1.4 1.4 20% bonus for partner transfers.
Flying Blue 1.3 1.3 1.3 New list of discounted Promo Awards.
Frontier 1.1 1.1 1.1
Hawaiian 1.2 1.2 Hawaiian eyes A380 and flights to Europe.
JetBlue 1-1.4 1-1.4 1-1.4 Possible expansion to Europe, South America. Buy TrueBlue points with up to 75% bonus.
Korean Air 1.7 1.7
Miles & More 1.4 1.4 1.4
Singapore Airlines 1.5 1.5 1.5 New service added between Jakarta and Sydney. Singapore bailing on original A380.
Southwest 1.3 1.5 1.5 New same-day priority for A-list members.
United 1.5 1.5 1.5 Earn 3x miles at select Hilton properties. College student earns 15 million miles for hacking United. Larger bonus and contest with MileagePlus Shopping.
Virgin America 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 1.5-2.3 Get Gold status by transferring points from Amex. 500 Elevate points for joining Virgin Hotels email.
Virgin Atlantic 1.5 1.5 1.5
Club Carlson 0.4 0.4 0.4
Choice Privileges 0.6 0.6
Hilton 0.5 0.5 0.5 Increased sign-up bonuses for Amex cards. Triple points on stays through end of 2016. 5,000 bonus points from Amex. Flash sale at select European properties.
Hyatt 1.8 1.8 1.8 25% bonus for transfers to American Airlines. 500 points for booking through app. Higher spending requirement for Hyatt card. Using Gold Passport status for MLife perks.
IHG 0.7 0.7 0.7 Get 1,000 points on your birthday. 50% bonus for transfers to United.
Marriott 0.7 0.7 0.9 SPG and Marriott members can transfer points and status.
Ritz-Carlton  0.7  0.7 0.9 Review of Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles.
Starwood 2.5 2.5 2.7 SPG and Marriott members can transfer points and status. Avianca added as new transfer partner. SPG Amex cards offer new sign-up bonus.
Wyndham 1.2 1.2  1.2
Amtrak 2.5 2.5 2.5 Amtrak responds to emergency request after seven months.

Movers and Shakers

There were a few interesting developments in the points and miles world last month. Emirates launched new Cash + Miles redemption options, and Citi ThankYou Rewards added limits to point sharing between members. However, the biggest news in September was the progress made in the merger between Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, which led me to increase my valuations of both programs.

You can read my rationale for those increases below, but check out these posts for more details on how to maximize the new partnership:

Marriott Rewards

September Value: 0.7 cents. October Value: 0.9 cents. Valuation: Starwood Preferred Guest has been the most valuable program on this list for some time. Now that you can link your Marriott and SPG accounts, that value is now available to a wider audience. Aside from gaining access to Starwood properties, Marriott Rewards members can also take advantage of other award options, such as transfers to airline partners or SPG Moments. This is a huge increase in value, and the fact that elite members will receive reciprocal status is just icing on the cake. As Ritz-Carlton points are equivalent in value, I’ve increased that valuation to 0.9 cents as well.

Associated Credit Cards: Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, Ultimate Rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants).

The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa. Image courtesy of Starwood.
You can now transfer points between Marriott and Starwood to book properties like The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa.

Starwood Preferred Guest

September Value: 2.5 cents. October Value: 2.7 cents. Valuation: The new partnership with Marriott is unique in that points can be transferred in both directions at a consistent ratio. One Starpoint gets you three Marriott Rewards points, which creates some great opportunities for SPG members. The most impressive is access to Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages — for example, 90,000 Starpoints will now get you seven nights at a Category 1-5 Marriott property and 132,000 United miles. Access to Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels also gives the combined program a huge global footprint, so Starwood loyalists will have plenty of quality properties to choose from when booking award stays.

Amazingly, hitching to Marriott’s wagon wasn’t the only positive move Starwood made in September, as SPG added Avianca to its roster of airline transfer partners. Best of all, it looks like both programs will be sticking around at least for the foreseeable future.

Associated Credit Cards: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

Aside from the Marriott news, SPG had a good month by adding Avianca as the program’s latest transfer partner.

Which programs would you like to see added to the list?


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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