What Are Points & Miles Worth? January 2017 Monthly Valuations

Jan 4, 2017

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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.

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 ones you’d like to see featured.

Program May 2021 (Cents) December 2016 (Cents) January 2017 (Cents) Note
Accor Le Club 2.0 - -
Aeromexico Club Premier - - -
Aeroplan Loyalty Program 1.5 1.5 1.5
Alaska Mileage Plan 1.8 1.8 1.9

New award prices and other updates. Transfer from Virgin America to Mileage Plan. Redeem miles on JAL.

American AAdvantage 1.4 1.5 1.5

Aviator Red Card open to new applications. New JFK Admirals Club open for business. Extend or boost elite status.

American Express Membership Rewards 2.0 1.9 1.9

Amex teams up with Pharrell to design Platinum benefits. Pop-up Centurion Lounge at LAX. Bonus points for business referrals.

Amtrak Guest Rewards 2.5 2.5 2.5
ANA Mileage Club 1.4 1.6 1.6
Asia Miles 1.3 - -
Avianca LifeMiles 1.7 1.7 1.7
Avios 1.5 1.5 1.5

Award sweet spots to Ireland. Earn triple Avios this winter. 10% Visa discount extended through 2017.

Bank of America Premium Rewards 1.0 - -
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 1.0 1 1.0
Best Western Rewards 0.6 - -
Brex Exclusive Rewards 1.7 - -
Capital One Rewards 1.7 1 1.0
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.0 2.1 2.1

Sapphire Reserve bonus will decrease soon. Activate new bonus categories for Chase Freedom Card.

Choice Privileges 0.6 0.6 0.6
Citi ThankYou Points 1.7 1.6 1.6

Citi is losing Virgin America as a transfer partner. Transfer bonus to Hilton HHonors.

Delta SkyMiles 1.1 1.2 1.2

SkyMiles adds Jet Airways as latest partner, but will lose Alaska Airlines. Comfort+ upgrades for SPG elites. Check out renovated Sky Club at RDU.

Diners Club Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.1
Discover Rewards 1.0 - -
Emirates Skywards 1.2 1.2 1.2

Bonus miles and elite status with current promotion. Get a discount for first class fares.

Etihad Guest 1.4 1.4 1.4
Flying Blue 1.2 1.3 1.3
Frontier Miles 1.1 1.1 1.1
HawaiianMiles 0.9 1.2 1.2
Hilton Honors 0.6 0.5 0.5

Earn 5,000 bonus points on all stays. Category changes at 11 properties. New criteria for lifetime Diamond status.

IHG Rewards Club 0.5 0.7 0.7

Q1 Accelerate promotion now open. 2017 category changes announced. Elite members get late checkout benefit.

JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program 1.3 1.0 1.2
Korean Air SkyPass 1.7 1.7 1.7

Online booking now available for SkyTeam awards.

Korean Skypass - - -
Marriott Bonvoy 0.8 0.9 0.9

Referral bonus for Marriott Premier card. Double points promotion (includes Starwood and Ritz).

Miles & More 1.4 1.4 1.4
Qatar Airways Qmiles 0.8 - -
Radisson Rewards 0.4 0.4 0.4
Ritz-Carlton Rewards - 0.9 0.9
Singapore Krisflyer 1.3 1.5 1.5

Singapore A350 service coming to Houston.

Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5 1.5 1.5

Hotel transfers will no longer count toward Companion Pass. Newest routes to Mexico hit a snag.

Spirit Airlines Free Spirit 1.1 - -
Starwood Starpoints - 2.7 2.7

End of partnerships with Caesars and Virgin America. Elite members get benefits on China Eastern Airlines.

Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles 1.3 - -
U.S. Bank FlexPerks 1.5 1.3 1.5
United MileagePlus 1.3 1.5 1.5

Comparing Polaris premium cabins. Fewer upgrades on Hawaii flights. United’s first 777-300ER delivered. Check out the new United Club at LAX.

Virgin America Elevate - 1.5 2.0

Google Flights adds direct booking option.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1.5 1.3 1.3
Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards 1.5 - -
WestJet Rewards - - -
World of Hyatt Loyalty Program 1.7 1.8 1.8

Major changes coming to loyalty program. More details about lifetime Globalist status.

Wyndham Rewards 1.1 1.2 1.2

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 made several positive changes to its frequent flyer program in December.

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 is losing Virgin America as a transfer partner, but it’s not a big loss because of the 2:1 transfer ratio.

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.

Associated Credit Cards: Citi Prestige Card, Citi Premier® Card

Starwood is ending its partnership with Caesars and Total Rewards.

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.

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

Delta and Alaska Airlines are breaking up, but not until May.

Delta SkyMiles

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.

Associated Credit Cards: Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.

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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