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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 October. This month we heard some great news from Southwest Airlines and IHG Rewards, while Avianca LifeMiles added a useful region-based award chart for flights within the US.
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||November 2016 (Cents)||October 2017 (Cents)||November 2017 (Cents)||Note|
You can now pre-order meals in first class.
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
New short-haul awards in the US.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||1.0||1.0|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0||
Barclaycard introduces new no-fee Uber Visa.
|Best Western Rewards||-||-||0.7|
|British Airways Avios||1.5||1.5||1.5|
New Savor Card offers 3% back on dining.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.2||2.2|
Maximize Choice points in Europe and Japan.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.5||1.5|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
More (temporary) cuts to US service.
Earn double SkyMiles and MQMs for Hilton stays.
5 things to know about Korean Air SkyPass.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Lufthansa set to buy parts of Air Berlin.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||1.1||1.1|
Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4||
Spirit helps deliver Puerto Rico relief aid.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||1.3||1.3|
Review: Virgin Atlantic A330-300 economy from Miami to London.
Movers and Shakers
October brought us great news from Southwest Airlines, which announced it will begin flying to Hawaii in the not-too-distant future. Both Barclaycard and Capital One launched intriguing new credit card products, while Delta announced plans to lower partner earning rates in 2018. However, the most impactful news of the past month came from an unexpected improvement to the Avianca LifeMIles program, and an overdue one to IHG Rewards.
October Value: 1.7 cents
November Value: 1.7 cents.
Valuation: In October Avianca introduced new award pricing for flights within the US starting at 7,500 miles one-way. These short-haul awards are similar to those offered by British Airways, but they have two important advantages.
First, British Airways prices awards based on the distance flown, so the cheapest economy rate is only valid on flights that cover up to 1,151 miles. Avianca uses zones instead of flight distance, so you can travel a bit farther for the same number of miles — for example, Boston to Miami is 1,259. miles — that would cost 10,000 Avios through British Airways, but just 7,500 LifeMiles through Avianca.
Second, Avianca’s awards are priced from origin to destination, whereas British Airways charges you for each flight segment. That makes booking with LifeMiles the more attractive option if you can’t find award availability with non-stop service.
This change is a win for award travelers in the lower 48 states, though I don’t think it’s enough of an improvement to increase my valuation. Check out Richard Kerr’s recent post for other sweet spots in the LifeMiles program.
Associated Credit Cards: Avianca Visa cards (read more about those in our overview of the LifeMiles program), and cards that earn Starpoints like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.
October Value: 0.7 cents
November Value: 0.7 cents.
Valuation: After IHG aquired Kimpton in late 2014, their two loyalty programs were kept entirely separate. That’s finally set to change, as IHG recently announced Kimpton Karma Rewards will join IHG Rewards in early 2018. At that point you’ll be able to book rooms at Kimpton properties using IHG points with no blackout dates, and Kimpton elite status will be matched to corresponding IHG status.
This is good news for IHG Rewards members, as Kimpton offers an upscale, boutique experience that’s hard to find elsewhere in the IHG portfolio. However, the overall impact is too small to affect my valuation, since Kimpton’s roster includes just 66 properties in 32 cities (almost entirely in the US). It’s also too early to tell if Kimpton’s hotels will provide good value for awards, since we don’t know yet what the redemption rates will be.
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.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can 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.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees