What Are Points & Miles Worth? April 2017 Monthly Valuations

Apr 5, 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 March. This month I bumped up two of the big transferable points programs, and assessed recent changes to a major international airline. As always, you’ll find lots more 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 feedback from TPG readers into consideration when I update the valuations next month. (I’ve noted your recent feedback and have begun reevaluating valuations where appropriate.) This list doesn’t include every loyalty 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 April 2016 (Cents) March 2017 (Cents) April 2017 (Cents) Note
Accor Le Club - - -
Aeromexico Club Premier - - -
Aeroplan Loyalty Program 1.5 1.5 1.5

30% bonus for transferring hotel points to Aeroplan.

Alaska Mileage Plan 1.8 1.9 1.9

Alaska is adding Virgin America amenities, scrapping brand. Condor Airlines added as latest Mileage Plan partner. Companion certificates are now redeemable on Virgin America.

American AAdvantage 1.5 1.5 1.5

Up to 77% bonus for buying AAdvantage miles through April 13. New list of reduced mileage awards. American acquires stake in China Southern Airlines. Premium Economy seats now available for purchase.

American Express Membership Rewards 1.9 1.9 2.0

Centurion Lounge network updates guest policy and expands in Seattle. Amex Platinum Uber credits now available and targeted bonus for Pay Over Time. Business Platinum updates benefits.

Amtrak Guest Rewards 2.5 2.5 2.5

Double points on paid trips through May 20.

ANA Mileage Club 1.5 1.6 1.6

Early looks at the new A380 and Star Wars-inspired 777.

Asia Miles - 1.4 1.4

Cathay Pacific confirms 10-across seating on 777s, plans HKG-SFO service.

Avianca LifeMiles 1.7 1.7 1.7
Avios 1.5 1.5 1.5

Cuts to amenities in first class. New lounge in Boston. Some short-haul aircraft get more seats, reduced pitch.

Bank of America Premium Rewards - - -
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 1.0 1.0 1.0
Best Western Rewards - - -
Brex Exclusive Rewards - - -
Capital One Rewards 1.0 1.0 1.0
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.2

Sign up for Chase Freedom Q2 bonuses.

Choice Privileges 0.6 0.6 0.6
Citi ThankYou Points 1.6 1.6 1.6

Improvements to Citi Prestige 4th night free credits.

Delta SkyMiles 1.2 1.2 1.2

Earn 1,000 bonus SkyMiles with each partner activity. Standby and change fees increase by 50%. Moving to a different terminal at LAX. Delta voted top airline by readers.

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

Flying Emirates during the electronics ban. First class helicopter transfers to Monaco.

Etihad Guest 1.4 1.4 1.4

Flying Etihad during the electronics ban. Complimentary Wi-Fi and iPads on US flights from Abu Dhabi.

Flying Blue 1.3 1.3 1.3

New list of promo awards.

Frontier Miles 1.1 1.1 1.1
HawaiianMiles - 1.2 1.2

A look inside Hawaiian's new Airbus A321neo.

Hilton Honors 0.5 0.6 0.6

100% bonus for buying Honors points through May 3.

IHG Rewards Club 0.7 0.7 0.7
JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program 1.2 1.2 1.2

Earn bonus points when you fly between Boston and Atlanta.

Korean Air SkyPass - 1.7 1.7

Korean and Delta agree to transpacific joint venture. Where to sit on Korean's 787-9 in economy, business and first class.

Korean Skypass - - -
Marriott Bonvoy 0.7 0.9 0.9

Earn 100,000 points from Marriott Premier card. Redeem Marriott Rewards for TSA PreCheck. Platinum Premier elites now get United Premier Gold status.

Miles & More 1.4 1.4 1.4
Qatar Airways Qmiles - - -
Radisson Rewards 0.4 0.4 0.4
Ritz-Carlton Rewards 0.7 0.9 0.9
Singapore Krisflyer 1.5 1.5 1.5

500 KrisFlyer miles for new members.

Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5 1.5 1.5

New standby rules for elites. Details on first 737 MAX routes.

Spirit Airlines Free Spirit - - -
Starwood Starpoints 2.5 2.7 2.7

How to register for SPG status challenge.

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

Targeted bonus miles and PQMs for United flyers. New 777-300ER aircraft have issues with Wi-Fi and delayed seats.

Virgin America Elevate 2.0 2.4 2.4

Elevate program will cease to exist in 2018.

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

Register to earn double points. World of Hyatt unveils first experiential award. Program creates confusion even among employees.

Wyndham Rewards 1.2 1.2 1.2

Movers and Shakers

Singapore Airlines made some negative changes to its award charts this past month, but those changes were offset by reduced surcharges on award flights, so I left that valuation alone. Meanwhile, I gave both Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards a bump due to reader feedback and my own experiences with booking high-value awards lately.

The Business Platinum card makes it easy to get a good return on first and business class awards.

Amex Membership Rewards

March Value: 1.9 cents.
April Value: 2.0 cents.
Valuation: Last fall, American Express introduced a new feature on the Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN offering 50% points back on qualifying airfare purchases. There are some limitations: It only works in first and business class, or in economy on your designated airline; you have to book through Amex Travel; and you need enough points to pay the full amount (prior to the discount) before half of them get credited back to your account later. Nonetheless, after a few months of experimentation, it’s safe to say this benefit has changed the way I book premium airfare.

I can now easily get at least 2 cents per point when redeeming Membership Rewards, or much more when I find a high-value transfer opportunity. I recognize that not everyone has the Business Platinum Card, and you might stick with a lower valuation if you don’t. However, I think that feature alone makes getting the card worthwhile if you use Membership Rewards often, and I definitely value these points more because of it.

Associated Credit Cards: The Platinum Card from American Express, The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN, and others.

TPG readers and I have been getting great value from Ultimate Rewards lately. Image courtesy of the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

March Value: 2.1 cents.
April Value: 2.2 cents.
Valuation: I recently asked TPG readers for feedback about these monthly valuations, and I was happy to see that many of you are able to get an outsized return for your points by transferring to airline and hotel partners. This has long been my experience with Ultimate Rewards, as I (and the TPG staff) have had no trouble redeeming at well above our published value.

I also heard from readers who feel that the most expensive awards skew these valuations upward. While I agree that first-class flights and hotel suites get you a better return on average, there are plenty of opportunities to get excellent value for economy flights and lower-tier hotels. I put a premium on transferable points in general, and Ultimate Rewards have been particularly useful to me over the past year, so I’ve adjusted my valuation accordingly.

Associated Credit Cards: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, Chase Freedom and others. (The Chase Freedom is no longer open to new applicants)

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.