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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 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.
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||-||-||-|
|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|
Cathay Pacific posts big losses for first half of 2017.
|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||
New restrictions on earning Sapphire card bonuses
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.5||1.5|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Save 50% on select awards to Europe, Dubai and beyond.
Stopovers no longer allowed on award tickets.
Shortcut to top-tier status with the Hyatt credit card.
Earn free nights with the fall MegaBonus promotion.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||1.1||1.1|
Launch date confirmed for new A380 suites.
60,000-point sign-up bonuses return for Rapid Rewards credit cards.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4|
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||-||1.3||
Everything you need to know about the Miles & Smiles program.
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||-||-||-|
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.
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 ThankYou 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?
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