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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – JetBlue Plus Card
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 June. This month I boosted one frequent flyer program after considering input from readers, while another airline announced some negative award changes coming later this year. 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||July 2016 (Cents)||June 2017 (Cents)||July 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||
Former Delta chief Robert Anderson named new CEO.
Recent IT meltdown cost the airline over $100 million.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||-||-|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||-||-||-|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.2||2.2||
Chase Freedom summer bonus categories announced.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.6||1.6||
ThankYou Premier Card decreases earnings on some gas purchases.
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Service returning to some US cities following electronics ban.
Updates to Flexperks program coming in 2018.
Korean signs new trans-Pacific joint venture agreement with Delta.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Lufthansa shifting LAX A380 service from Frankfurt to Munich.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||-||-|
Ritz-Carlton cruise line coming in 2019.
Southwest cutting some flights to Cuba.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4||
Baby born on Spirit aircraft gets free flights for life.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||-||-|
End dates announced for partnerships with airlines and other programs.
Free status match to Flying Club Silver or Gold.
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
Movers and Shakers
The biggest news for award travelers this month was United’s plan to raise the price of premium awards. Those changes represent a clear devaluation, and my valuation of MileagePlus miles could decline when they take effect in November.
Several loyalty programs also made small improvements. You can now book Iberia awards through the American Airlines website, which should make it easier to avoid surcharges on flights to Europe. Meanwhile, Delta and Amex launched an innovative program that lets co-branded cardholders borrow miles for upcoming redemptions. Those updates didn’t impact my valuations, but I did give JetBlue a boost after reassessing the redemption value of TrueBlue points.
June Value: 1.2 cents.
July Value: 1.3 cents.
Valuation: For years, my JetBlue valuation has been on the low side compared to most other frequent flyer programs. That’s partly due to the airline’s relatively limited route network and lack of partners, but also because TrueBlue awards are revenue-based, so redemption values are constrained. Furthermore, despite plans to add more Mint business-class service, JetBlue doesn’t offer many opportunities to use points toward a premium experience.
That said, several readers have reached out in recent months to argue that I don’t give TrueBlue points enough credit, and after some consideration, I think they’re right. You can commonly find awards for Blue and Blue Plus fares offering 1.5 to 1.7 cents per point, and sometimes higher, which means my previous valuation of 1.2 cents per point was a bit low. I still think most other airline rewards are more lucrative, but a small increase in my JetBlue valuation is justified.
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