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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 November. This month brought several changes, as award chart devaluations and new partnerships impacted several airlines along with two of the major transferable points programs. I also added a new hotel program to the list, and as always you’ll find plenty of other loyalty 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||December 2016 (Cents)||November 2017 (Cents)||December 2017 (Cents)||Note|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||1.0||1.0|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1||1.0||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||-||0.7||0.7||
Best Western launches new collection of independent hotels.
|British Airways Avios||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.2||2.1|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.5||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Revenue-based program coming in 2018.
A330 engine fire caught on video.
Earn 75,000 points from Hilton Surpass card. Citi Hilton cards will convert to Amex in January.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
First look at Lufthansa's new business-class seats.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||1.1||1.1|
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4|
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||1.3||1.3|
Clubhouse at LAX joins Priority Pass.
Movers and Shakers
November brought a lot of changes to the programs on this list, and most of them aren’t good. Singapore Airlines and United raised mileage requirements, and premium awards were hit especially hard. Flying Blue also announced that it will shift to a revenue-based program in April, with more details to come. Citi added one transfer partner and lost another, while Chase established a direct link to two airline programs. Finally, I added Best Western Rewards as the tenth hotel program to make to the list.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
November Value: 1.5 cents
December Value: 1.4 cents.
Valuation: Just eight months after increasing the cost of awards on its own metal, Singapore Airlines implemented its second major devaluation of the year by also making awards on Star Alliance partners more expensive. Many flights to and from North America will see a rate increase of 20% this month, and none are getting cheaper. No cabin has been spared, as the changes affect all classes of service from economy to first.
As was the case in March, the devaluation is tempered with a bit of good news. Namely, you’ll no longer have to book Star Alliance partner awards by phone; those tickets will be available to book online or through the Singapore Airlines app. That’s a welcome change, but the fact remains this program has taken a turn for the worse in 2017. I was tempted to lower my valuation even further, but I think a drop of 0.1 cents per mile is reasonable so long as premium award availability is unchanged.
Associated Credit Cards: Singapore Airlines partners with all the major transferable points programs, so you can earn KrisFlyer miles with cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starpoints.
United Airlines MileagePlus
November Value: 1.5 cents
December Value: 1.4 cents.
Valuation: In June United announced a new dynamic award pricing scheme called “Everyday Awards” for its own flights, accompanied by an increase in the cost of premium partner awards. These changes went into effect in November, and while they’re less severe than those made to the KrisFlyer program, the end result is that awards are likely to cost you more now than they did previously. Most flights have gone up by either 5,000 or 10,000 miles round-trip, with the lone bright spot being a new short-haul discount for international partner flights. Overall it’s a move in the wrong direction for award travelers.
Associated Credit Cards: Earn United miles with co-branded cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card, as well as those that earn Ultimate Rewards points like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
November Value: 2.2 cents
December Value: 2.1 cents.
Valuation: I put a premium on transferable points because they provide more opportunities to book high-value awards. Historically, you could get a truly outsized return through both the MileagePlus and KrisFlyer programs by booking first and business-class seats on Lufthansa or Thai Airways, among others. That’s still true, but unfortunately premium awards were the ones hit hardest by the devaluations outlined above. With two of Chase’s airline partners taking a hit, Ultimate Rewards points also lose some potential.
On the bright side, Chase added two new 1:1 transfer partners in Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus. Both programs were already accessible via British Airways Avios, but this direct transferability eliminates the hurdle of needing an active account more than 90 days old. That’s not enough to offset the negative changes, but it should prove useful to some award travelers.
Citi ThankYou Rewards
November Value: 1.5 cents
December Value: 1.7 cents.
Valuation: Citi had mixed results in November, as the ThankYou Rewards program both gained and lost a transfer partner. Following Hilton’s decision earlier this year to make Amex its exclusive credit card issuer, we learned transfers from Citi to Hilton Honors will no longer be available as of December 14, 2017. While Honors points are less valuable than most other rewards, losing that connection leaves Citi with zero hotel partners. That’s not a good look for a major credit card rewards program.
On the other hand, Citi added a new 1:1 transfer partner in Avianca LifeMiles, which is one of the more valuable frequent flyer programs. This move resets the baseline for ThankYou Rewards to at least 1.7 cents per point (to match my valuation for LifeMiles). However, Citi’s roster of transfer partners remains relatively lackluster overall, so I don’t put a premium on ThankYou points like I do with Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards and Starpoints.
Best Western Rewards
November Value: Unlisted
December Value: 0.7 cents.
Valuation: Best Western’s loyalty program is much like its hotel properties: solid but unspectacular. Despite efforts to broaden appeal with new “independent” brands, Best Western’s portfolio is stuffed with low- to mid-tier properties, and the lack of high-end redemption options limits the return you can expect to get from booking awards. In my experience it’s uncommon to get much more than around 1.2 cents per point.
That said, Best Western Rewards has some favorable rules that make the program more attractive. Points don’t expire, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your account active. You can also transfer points freely between accounts that share the same physical address, which makes booking awards a bit easier. Finally, award stays count toward elite qualification. Best Western’s elite benefits are mostly lackluster, and you may be able to attain those benefits through a status match anyway, but it’s nice that all stay activity is rewarded.
Associated Credit Cards: Best Western Rewards has its own co-branded card, and the program is an Amex transfer partner, so you can earn points with the Premier Rewards Gold Card and others that earn Membership Rewards.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
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