This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
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 December. The list is unchanged this month, but one frequent flyer program announced an update that will likely impact valuations down the road. You’ll find more on those coming changes and 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||January 2017 (Cents)||December 2017 (Cents)||January 2018 (Cents)||Note|
Alaska's Air France/KLM partnership will end in April.
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||1.9||1.9|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5||
New seats and other updates coming in 2018.
ANA's recent flight to nowhere isn't as unusual as you might think.
Cathay Pacific launches nonstop service from Hong Kong to Dulles.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||-||1.0||1.0|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||-||0.7||0.7||
Take advantage of a Best Western status match.
|British Airways Avios||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Flexperks points switch to fixed redemption value.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Switch to revenue-based program coming in 2018.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||1.1||1.1||
Qatar A321 catches fire in Doha.
Review: junior suite at the new Ritz-Carlton Langkawi.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4||
CEO to step down in 2019.
Earn bonus points with Great Weeks, Grand Weekends promo.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||1.3||1.3|
Elevate program ends, folds into Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
Check out the rooftop igloo in London.
Movers and Shakers
Several frequent flyer programs announced upcoming changes in the past month. Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer imposed new award fees, and tweaked both mileage earning rates and upgrade award costs. Miles & More will follow the recent trend by shifting to a revenue-based program later this year, and the Virgin America Elevate program has now disappeared altogether. Meanwhile, U.S. Bank FlexPerks now have a fixed redemption value of 1.5 cents per point (instead of the range that was available previously). Finally, IHG announced changes that will cause me to lower my valuation when they go into effect.
Virgin America Elevate
December Value: 2.4 cents
January Value: not listed
Valuation: Back in March we learned the Elevate program’s days were numbered. Now that 2018 has arrived, the program is functionally non-existent. While Virgin America will continue to operate flights until April, passengers will earn Alaska Airlines miles instead of Elevate points for flight activity. Any remaining Elevate balances will be transferred to Mileage Plan (if they haven’t been already), and in a few months we’ll say goodbye to the Virgin America brand altogether.
Associated Credit Cards: You can’t earn Elevate points anymore, but you can earn Mileage Plan miles with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card. Mileage Plan is also an SPG transfer partner, so you can earn miles with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
Miles & More
December Value: 1.4 cents
January Value: 1.4 cents
Valuation: Unfortunately for award travelers, revenue-based frequent flyer programs have become much more common in the past few years. That trend continued recently: Following the news in November of Flying Blue’s “reinvention”, the Miles & More program announced last month that it too will switch to a revenue-based scheme, in March.
Beyond that point, mileage accrual will be based on the ticket price (with bonuses offered to elite members). We don’t yet know if award redemption rates will be affected, so my valuation remains unchanged for the moment.
Associated Credit Cards: Earn miles with the co-branded Miles & More World Elite Mastercard. The program is also a SPG transfer partner, so you can earn miles with the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards