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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 May. This month I dropped one of the major credit card rewards programs, and I added a domestic frequent flyer program to the list. As always, you’ll find lots more program-related news in the last 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||June 2016 (Cents)||May 2017 (Cents)||June 2017 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||-||-||-|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||2.0||1.9|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5||
Stranded passengers get pizza delivered to train.
Check out our guide to the Asia Miles program.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||-||-|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||-||-||-|
50% off Spotify subscriptions with Capital One Quicksilver.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.2||2.2|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.6||1.6||
Three months left to maximize Citi Prestige benefits before changes.
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
New SKYPETS frequent flyer program for pets.
Earn bonus points with summer promotion.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||-||-|
Earn bonus points with summer promotion.
Singapore Airlines to operate biofuel flights to San Francisco.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||-||0.4|
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||-||-|
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
New partnership with Total Rewards offers points and matched status.
Movers and Shakers
Alaska Airlines added a new airline partner this past month, while Delta added some uncertainty to the SkyMiles program by tacking steep surcharges on to Virgin Atlantic awards (and later rolling them back). These updates weren’t impactful enough to alter my valuations, but that could change depending on how each situation plays out. Meanwhile, I decreased Amex Membership Rewards thanks to a recent downgrade of a lucrative card benefit, and I added Spirit Airlines to the list.
Amex Membership Rewards
May Value: 2.0 cents.
June Value: 1.9 cents.
Valuation: In April, I boosted Membership Rewards to 2 cents apiece after I saw how much value I was getting from the 50% points rebate on the Business Platinum Card. Sadly, American Express then decided to trim that benefit even though it had only been offered for less than a year. As of this month, new cardholders will only receive a 35% rebate on qualifying flight redemptions. Existing cardholders will still get the higher rate until their next account anniversary, but the benefit has effectively been nerfed. It’s only fair to drop Membership Rewards back to its previous valuation accordingly.
Spirit Airlines Free Spirit
May Value: Unlisted.
June Value: 0.4 cents.
Valuation: Spirit finished at the bottom of our recent airline rankings, partly due to the airline’s tragedy of a frequent flyer program. For starters, Spirit’s award chart is nothing special: You’ll often need more than 25,000 miles for a round-trip flight, and the program isn’t particularly generous when it comes to earning miles either.
Free Spirit also lacks the upside of other major frequent flyer programs, since the airline doesn’t offer first or business-class products. Even Spirit’s version of a premium cabin (the Big Front Seat) requires a paid upgrade. The one sweet spot in Spirit’s award chart is the off-peak rates available to co-branded cardholders, but those are limited to about one third of the calendar year.
Unfortunately, an uninspiring award chart is far from the worst of it. Spirit adds a $15 award booking fee for mileage redemptions up to 179 days in advance. That fee increases to as much as $100 when you book closer to departure, but the smaller fee is perhaps the most damaging, since not many people book domestic airfare more than six months in advance. Finally, perhaps the biggest knock against the program is that Free Spirit miles expire after just three months of inactivity. That’s insanely short unless you fly Spirit regularly or use the co-branded credit card. Otherwise, it’s hard to put much stock in miles that are likely to end up down the drain.
Ultimately, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to get a return above 0.8 cents per mile for standard awards. The booking fee and expiration policy make the program much less valuable, and kill any long-term interest most people would have in accumulating those miles to begin with. If you have a rosier outlook on the Free Spirit program, I’d love to hear why.
Associated Credit Cards: Spirit Airlines World MasterCard.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees