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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 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 April. This month I dropped one of the domestic legacy airlines due to a lack of saver level award space. As always, you’ll find lots more program-related news in the Notes 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 feedback from TPG readers into consideration when I update the valuations next month. 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||May 2016 (Cents)||April 2017 (Cents)||May 2017 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||-||-||-|
|Aeroplan Loyalty Program||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Alaska Mileage Plan||1.8||1.9||1.9|
Earn 60,000 miles with Citi AAdvantage cards and 50,000 miles with DirecTV. Get a 25% bonus for transferring hotel points, or save 40% on AAdvantage miles purchases. Why I'm exiting the elite status hamster wheel.
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||2.0||2.0|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|ANA Mileage Club||1.6||1.6||1.6|
Cathay Pacific introduces dine-on-demand in business class.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||-||-|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0||
Barclaycard makes improvements to ancillary card benefits.
|Best Western Rewards||-||-||-|
|Brex Exclusive Rewards||-||-||-|
|Capital One Credit Card Rewards||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.2||2.2||
Sapphire Reserve wins the battle of premium cards.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.6||1.6|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Reduced service to US following bans.
Frontier jet tilts up while passengers deplane in Chicago.
|IHG Rewards Club||0.7||0.7||0.7||
New list of PointBreaks properties through July. Earn up to 35,000 bonus points with spring promotion. Buy discounted points (under 0.5 cents each). Credit card data breach reported at many properties.
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.2||1.2||1.2|
|Korean Air SkyPass||-||1.7||1.7|
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||-||-|
Register for the triple points spring promotion.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||-||-|
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||-||-|
|U.S. Bank FlexPerks||1.5||1.5||1.5|
Earn up to 4,000 miles with MileagePlus Dining. New Basic Economy routes announced. Fly 777-300ER with Polaris seats between Tokyo and San Francisco. Policy changes and settlement reached after #BumpGate.
|Virgin America Elevate||2.0||2.4||2.4||
Virgin America moving in with Alaska at LAX.
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
|World of Hyatt Loyalty Program||1.8||1.8||1.8|
Movers and Shakers
April saw several program updates that ultimately weren’t enough to sway my valuations. Delta increased the cost of partner awards, but the unpredictability of SkyMiles award pricing and Delta’s tendency to make negative changes without warning were already baked into my numbers. Also, American Express announced a big devaluation of the The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN, but that change doesn’t kick in until next month, so I’m leaving the Membership Rewards valuation alone for now.
On the positive side, Citi added Jet Airways as a transfer partner; there’s not much to get excited about with JetPrivilege, but it doesn’t hurt to have more options. Meanwhile, American Airlines didn’t announce any major changes this month, but a devaluation of the AAdvantage program was overdue.
American Airlines AAdvantage
April Value: 1.5 cents.
May Value: 1.4 cents.
Valuation: I recently asked readers for input about these valuations, and one of the most common responses was that the AAdvantage program is overvalued. You can still get a good return by booking premium seats on partner airlines, but MileSAAver awards are almost non-existent on many routes. This anecdote from TPG Points and Miles Writer JT Genter is a good example:
“I got a call from my Dad last night, asking whether 90,000 American Airlines miles is a good deal for a flight to Hawaii. I explained that’s not too bad considering the current state of the AAdvantage program. 90,000 miles is one-way in AAnytime Level 1 and the other way in AAnyTime Level 2. The round-trip flight is ~$900, so that’s about 1 cent per mile. Then my dad clarified: American was charging 90,000 miles one-way. That’s literally off the charts!”
Unfortunately, that experience is all too common. You can’t expect saver level availability at all times, but when it’s almost never offered, the award chart becomes meaningless. The AAdvantage program is in decline, and unless American Airlines reverses course, my valuation will continue to drop.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
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