What Are Points & Miles Worth? September 2017 Monthly Valuations

Sep 7, 2017

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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 August. This month brought us a new points transfer opportunity and some negative changes to the routing rules of one frequent flyer program. I also added a new Star Alliance airline to the list, and as always, you’ll find lots more program-related news in the last column.

The Calculations

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 September 2016 (Cents) August 2017 (Cents) September 2017 (Cents) Note
Accor Le Club - - -
Aeromexico Club Premier - - -
Aeroplan Loyalty Program 1.5 1.5 1.5
Alaska Mileage Plan 1.8 1.9 1.9

Earn and redeem miles on Singapore Airlines. Deadline extended for 10,000 free miles. Earn double miles on select routes through March. Elite members get upgrades on Virgin America.

American AAdvantage 1.5 1.4 1.4

Increased sign-up bonus from AAdvantage Aviator card. Shortcut to Platinum status from FoundersCard. New routes to Europe announced for summer of 2018. Basic economy goes nationwide.

American Express Membership Rewards 1.9 1.9 1.9

Redeem points for Hamilton tickets and more.

Amtrak Guest Rewards 2.5 2.5 2.5
ANA Mileage Club 1.6 1.6 1.6
Asia Miles - 1.4 1.4

Cathay Pacific posts big losses for first half of 2017.

Avianca LifeMiles 1.7 1.7 1.7

Check out this guide to Avianca Lifemiles and hidden gems of the program.

Avios 1.5 1.5 1.5
Bank of America Premium Rewards - - -
Barclaycard Arrival Miles 1.0 1.0 1.0
Best Western Rewards - - -
Brex Exclusive Rewards - - -
Capital One Rewards 1.0 1.0 1.0
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.1 2.2 2.2

New restrictions on earning Sapphire card bonuses

Choice Privileges 0.6 0.6 0.6
Citi ThankYou Points 1.6 1.5 1.5

Turkish Airlines added as transfer partner. Unlock special Citi Prestige benefits with Citi banking.

Delta SkyMiles 1.2 1.2 1.2

Earn 3 SkyMiles per dollar for Airbnb stays. Surcharges added to some A350 business-class tickets. Customer service adds video chat function.

Diners Club Rewards 2.1 2.1 2.1
Discover Rewards - - -
Emirates Skywards 1.2 1.2 1.2

Save 50% on select awards to Europe, Dubai and beyond.

Etihad Guest 1.4 1.4 1.4
Flying Blue 1.3 1.3 1.3

Stopovers no longer allowed on award tickets.

Frontier Miles 1.1 1.1 1.1
HawaiianMiles 1.2 1.2 1.2
Hilton Honors 0.5 0.6 0.6

Earn up to 100,000 points with elevated sign-up bonuses. Earn double points on all stays through the end of 2017.

IHG Rewards Club 0.7 0.7 0.7
JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program 1.2 1.3 1.3
Korean Air SkyPass 1.7 1.7 1.7
Korean Skypass - - -
Marriott Bonvoy 0.7 0.9 0.9

Earn free nights with the fall MegaBonus promotion.

Miles & More 1.4 1.4 1.4
Qatar Airways Qmiles - 1.1 1.1

Compare business class seats on Qatar Airways aircraft. Premium passengers can now pre-select meals.

Radisson Rewards 0.4 0.4 0.4
Ritz-Carlton Rewards 0.7 0.9 0.9
Singapore Krisflyer 1.5 1.5 1.5

Launch date confirmed for new A380 suites.

Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5 1.5 1.5

60,000-point sign-up bonuses return for Rapid Rewards credit cards.

Spirit Airlines Free Spirit - 0.4 0.4
Starwood Starpoints 2.5 2.7 2.7

Earn bonus points with the Explore More fall promotion. Get bonus miles for transfers to American Airlines.

Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles - - 1.3

Everything you need to know about the Miles & Smiles program.

U.S. Bank FlexPerks 1.5 1.5 1.5
United MileagePlus 1.5 1.5 1.5

Use Alexa for check-in and flight status. New invitation-only restaurant opens in Newark. New service coming next year to Everett, Washington.

Virgin America Elevate 2.0 2.4 2.4
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1.5 1.5 1.5
Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards - - -
WestJet Rewards - - -
World of Hyatt Loyalty Program 1.8 1.8 1.8

Shortcut to top-tier status with the Hyatt credit card.

Wyndham Rewards 1.2 1.2 1.2

Movers and Shakers

Two loyalty programs made significant changes in August. On the positive side, Citi added Turkish Airlines as a transfer partner. That addition isn’t enough to increase my valuation of ThankYou Rewards points, but it does create some interesting redemption opportunities. Meanwhile, Flying Blue altered its routing rules so that stopovers are no longer allowed on award flights. Getting outsized value on multi-city itineraries will be more challenging moving forward, but again I don’t think the change is drastic enough for me to lower my current valuation.

The Miles and Smiles program offers some exceptional rates, but booking partner awards isn’t easy.

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles

August Value: Not listed.
September Value: 1.3 cents.
Valuation: The Miles & Smiles program has mostly stayed off the radar of award travelers, since options for earning miles were limited to revenue flights and hotel transfers. That changed in August when Citi added Turkish Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, making it easily accessible to anyone with ThankYou Rewards points. The program has several major flaws, but the ability to book awards on Star Alliance carriers creates some lucrative redemption options.

Miles & Smiles has a region-based award chart with some bargain rates. Business-class awards within the US are just 25,000 miles round-trip — half of what you’d pay on most domestic carriers. The region definitions are also favorable: For example, Japan and the Maldives are both in the Far East region, and flights between the two destinations cost just 20,000 miles each way in economy. Similarly, Australia and Hawaii are grouped into the Oceania region, so you can fly between them for as little as 15,000 miles. Stopovers and open jaws are permitted in some circumstances, and Turkish Airlines has fairly reasonable mileage reinstatement fees if you need to cancel an award.

Sounds good so far, but unfortunately Miles & Smiles has a few drawbacks that spoil the fun. For starters, Turkish Airlines adds fuel surcharges to award tickets. These tend to be less egregious than what you’ll find on British Airways and some other carriers, but any added cost lowers the redemption value. Furthermore, Star Alliance award tickets typically have to be picked up in person from a Turkish Airlines sales office. With only a handful of offices in North America, that requirement makes booking many awards impractical.

The bottom line is that this program has tremendous potential, but booking awards isn’t easy. For more info, check out Richard Kerr’s recent look at Miles & Smiles, with more sweet spots and tips on how to redeem.

Associated Credit Cards: Turkish Airlines is a Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer partner, so you can use the Citi Prestige Card, Citi Premier® Card and Citi ThankYou Preferred Card to help boost your Miles & Smiles account.

Which programs would you like to see added to the list?

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