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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||-||-||-|
|Aeroplan Loyalty Program||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Alaska Mileage Plan||1.8||1.9||1.9|
|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.
|ANA Mileage Club||1.6||1.6||1.6|
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||-||-||-|
|Capital One Credit Card Rewards||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|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.
|IHG Rewards Club||0.7||0.7||0.7|
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.2||1.2||1.3|
|Korean Air SkyPass||-||1.7||1.7||
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 Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5||
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||-||-||-|
|U.S. Bank FlexPerks||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Updates to Flexperks program coming in 2018.
|Virgin America Elevate||2.0||2.4||2.4||
End dates announced for partnerships with airlines and other programs.
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Free status match to Flying Club Silver or Gold.
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
|World of Hyatt Loyalty Program||1.8||1.8||1.8|
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?
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees