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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 loyalty currency. Still, some rewards are clearly worth more than others — my goal is to give you a sense of how they stack up.
To give you some context, I’ve included my valuations from one year ago and from December. This month I boosted one airline frequent flyer program thanks to some positive changes that went into effect this past month. 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 ones you’d like to see featured.
|Program||January 2016 (Cents)||December 2016 (Cents)||January 2017 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||-||-||-|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||-||-|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||-||-||-|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.6||1.6|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Online booking now available for SkyTeam awards.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||-||-|
Singapore A350 service coming to Houston.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||-||-|
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||-||-|
Google Flights adds direct booking option.
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
Several loyalty programs made changes in December, and others announced updates that will take place in the coming months. As usual, the news is mixed. Several partnerships are ending (like Starwood and Total Rewards, or Citi and Virgin America), while others are now active (like Delta and Jet Airways). Some programs weakened or removed benefits (like United upgrades to Hawaii) while others added or strengthened them (like IHG’s late checkout). All of these changes have a tangible effect, but in most cases I felt they were too small to impact my valuations.
Movers and Shakers
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
December Value: 1.8 cents.
January Value: 1.9 cents.
Valuation: Alaska had a particularly busy month. The Mileage Plan program launched reduced mileage awards starting at just 5,000 miles one-way, and finally began allowing members to book awards on JAL. Finally, the merger with Virgin America enabled a new transfer opportunity, as Elevate points can now be sent to Mileage Plan at a favorable 1:1.3 ratio.
The only negative was the announcement that Alaska and Delta are breaking up in 2017. The two airlines will end their codeshare agreement in May, and passengers will no longer be able to redeem miles or receive reciprocal elite benefits between the respective programs. That’s a big negative, but Alaska will still have a healthy roster of partners that includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and more. I credit Alaska for continuing to operate a distance-based loyalty program, and I think these changes are a net positive for Mileage Plan members.
Associated Credit Cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
December Value: 1.6 cents.
January Value: 1.6 cents.
Valuation: Citi recently announced that as of January 22, 2017, ThankYou Rewards will no longer transfer to Virgin America. That’s disappointing, especially for a program that’s already lacking in terms of domestic airline partners. However, due to the miserable 2:1 transfer ratio, Virgin America wasn’t a good transfer option to begin with. It would have been somewhat more attractive now that Elevate points can transfer to Alaska Airlines, but this change ultimately doesn’t affect my outlook on ThankYou points.
Starwood Preferred Guest
December Value: 2.7 cents.
January Value: 2.7 cents.
Valuation: Like Citi, SPG is losing Virgin America as a transfer partner, making it one of the most short-lived transfer options I can remember (the partnership started in April of 2016). Starpoints transferred to the Elevate program at 1:1, so this is a more significant loss. Starwood also announced the end of its partnership with Total Rewards (the loyalty program of Caesars Entertainment). That was useful for earning extra Starpoints during stays at Caesars properties, but wasn’t a good value on the redemption side.
On the plus side, Starwood elite members will now be able to earn Starpoints and receive select benefits when flying China Eastern Airlines. Furthermore, Starwood Platinum members will now be eligible for Comfort+ upgrades on Delta Air Lines. Those changes don’t make up for the others mentioned above, but they certainly don’t hurt. SPG still boasts an excellent roster of airline transfer partners, and while these program updates are a net negative, the impact isn’t enough for me to change my valuation.
December Value: 1.2 cents.
January Value: 1.2 cents.
Valuation: This past month, Delta announced that it will lose one airline partner, but gain another. As I mentioned previously, Alaska and Delta will part ways in May. However, Indian carrier Jet Airways has been added as a Group 1 partner. That doesn’t help domestic travelers, but it creates some good opportunities for international flyers to earn SkyMiles and Medallion elite credits on Jet Airways flights. You won’t be able to use SkyMiles for Jet Airways awards until March, so we’ll have to wait and see whether the partnership bears any fruits on the redeeming side.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
- 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 a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 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