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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 July. This month I dropped one of the transferable points programs due to the loss of a key benefit, and added a new international carrier 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||August 2016 (Cents)||July 2017 (Cents)||August 2017 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||-||-||-|
Earn 75,000 miles with Executive card. New list of reduced mileage awards through November. End of partnership with Jet Airways, and codeshare agreements with Etihad and Qatar. New cap on award segments.
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5||
Amtrak considers airline-style seating.
Flights to Venezuela have been suspended.
|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||
Get 10 points per dollar for Walmart.com purchases.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.6||1.5|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Etihad lost almost $2 billion last year.
Three new routes announced for A321neo
New cancellation policy now in effect.
Earn up to 45,000 points annually by interacting on social media.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||-||1.1|
Save $100 on your next stay with targeted offer from Amex.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4|
Save 35% on awards at select properties.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||-||-|
Earn up to 3,000 bonus miles with MileagePlus Shopping, and up to 100% bonus for buying miles. United sets monthly record despite scandals. New plan to handle oversold flights. Next Polaris Lounge coming in 2018.
New joint venture between Air France, KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic.
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
New Wyndham Auctions offer experiential redemption options.
Movers and Shakers
The past month saw a shift in several airline partnerships. On the positive side, Delta now allows SkyMiles members to redeem for upgrades on Virgin Atlantic flights. I don’t expect those upgrades to be of great value, but it’s good to have the option available. On the negative side, American announced that it will part ways with both Alaska Airlines and Jet Airways, and end codeshare agreements with Etihad and Qatar. Award travelers should note those changes, but none of them are substantial enough to affect my valuations.
The big news in July was the loss of several key benefits from one of Citi’s premium credit cards. In particular, a new (lower) redemption rate for airfare caused me to drop my valuation for ThankYou Rewards.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
July Value: 1.6 cents.
August Value: 1.5 cents.
Valuation: It’s been over a year since Citi announced that it would remove several benefits from the Prestige card, and the transition is finally complete. Citi has tried to offset the negative changes with an increased sign-up bonus and a few other modifications, but the loss of the increased redemption rates for airfare purchases is an undeniable blow to the value of the ThankYou Rewards program.
Prestige cardholders could previously redeem points through the ThankYou Rewards Travel Center at a rate of 1.33 cents per point on most airlines, or an impressive 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines. That rate has now been reduced to 1.25 cents per point across the board, marking a decline from consistently good to mediocre value.
Despite the recent additions of JetBlue and Jet Airways, Citi’s roster of transfer partners remains unimpressive compared to Chase, Amex and SPG. That makes losing this solid baseline redemption option even more impactful, since there are relatively few opportunities to maximize ThankYou Rewards otherwise.
Associated Credit Cards: the Citi Prestige Card, Citi ThankYou Premier Card, and Citi ThankYou Preferred Card.
Qatar Airways Qmiles
July Value: Not listed.
August Value: 1.1 cents.
Valuation: Like its ME3 cohorts Emirates and Etihad, Qatar Airways offers a quality product. However, its frequent flyer program Privilege Club has several aspects that make it ineffective for most award travelers. While Qatar is part of the Oneworld alliance, its distance-based partner award chart is abysmal. Economy awards start at 12,500 miles each way for flights covering up to 500 miles, and the cost rises steeply from there. For example, domestic transcon awards (covering between 2,000 and 3,500 miles) cost an astounding 70,000 miles round-trip in economy, or 140,000 miles in business. Those rates are simply uncompetitive.
Awards booked on Qatar Airways offer better value. One-way flights from the US to Doha cost 35,000 miles in economy, 70,000 miles in business, and 105,000 miles in first class. Prices for other transatlantic awards (like US to Europe, India or Africa) are reasonable, but unexceptional. For example, one-way economy awards to Mumbai (via Doha) are 40,000 miles in economy and 80,000 miles in business — roughly comparable to what you’d pay by redeeming AAdvantage miles for those same flights.
The biggest problem is that booking those awards is a hassle. You can’t search for award space online unless you already have sufficient mileage in your account — that’s a huge obstacle for anyone who doesn’t earn Qmiles organically. You can transfer points from Citi and SPG, but the the miles may take a while to show up, and transferring seems risky if you can’t tell whether availability exists in the first place. Some more negatives are that Qmiles expire after about three years (even if you have continued activity in your account), and stopovers are not permitted on award flights.
The outlook isn’t all bad. Qatar dropped fuel surcharges on awards several years ago, and the airline has a relatively flexible change and cancellation policy. If you travel regularly to the Middle East, and if Qatar Airways offers convenient service from your home airport, then you can get decent value out of Privilege Club. Otherwise, I recommend crediting your Qatar Airways flights to other programs, even if you only earn a fraction of the rewards in the process. For more info, check out Richard Kerr’s recent deep dive into Qmiles and the Privilege Club program.
Associated Credit Cards: Qatar is a 1:1 transfer partner of both Citi and SPG, so you can stock up on Qmiles with cards that earn ThankYou Rewards (like the ones just mentioned above) or Starpoints (like the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express).
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