What are points and miles worth? October 2019 monthly valuations
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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.
These valuations are based on a combination of what I would pay to buy points if given the opportunity and the overall value I could get from redeeming them, factoring in variables like award availability, fees and change/cancellation policies. 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 each month.
To give you some context, I’ve included my valuations from one year ago and from last month. September saw the official arrival of Marriott’s long-awaited peak and off-peak pricing along with a shake-up of American Airlines’ partner lineup. We also saw a slew of transfer bonuses from some of the transferable point currencies and a devaluation to one of the best sweet spots in an under-the-radar program. Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for more loyalty program news and other related posts.
|Program||October 2018 (Cents)||September 2019 (Cents)||October 2019 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||2.0||2.0||2.0|
|Aeroplan Loyalty Program||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Alaska Mileage Plan||1.8||1.8||1.8|
Targeted promo for elite status. New bonuses on purchased miles and transfers from hotels. Earn miles with Vivid Seats and on in-store purchases. Book Cathay Pacific and Seaborne awards online. Alaska and American cutting redemptions.
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||2.0||2.0|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|ANA Mileage Club||1.6||1.4||1.4|
Cathay Pacific ending JFK-Vancouver flight.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||1.0||1.0||1.0||
Potential new restrictions on card applications.
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0||
Barclays removing some benefits as of Nov. 1.
|Best Western Rewards||0.7||0.7||0.7||
New promotion offers free night after two nights.
|Brex Exclusive Rewards||-||1.7||1.7||
Adds JetBlue as transfer partner.
|Capital One Rewards||1.0||1.4||1.4|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.0||2.0||2.0||
Activate Q4 bonus categories on Chase Freedom.
New status match offer.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Delay in rolling out premium economy.
Devaluation to Royal Air Maroc awards.
New promo rewards for October.
New 60-day window for free changes or cancellations.
Looking to launch joint venture with Japan Airlines.
100% bonus on purchased points.
|IHG Rewards Club||0.6||0.5||0.5|
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.3||1.3||1.3||
Schedule extension through June 2020.
|Korean Air SkyPass||1.7||1.7||1.7|
New PointSavers properties. Peak and off-peak pricing arrives, with interesting results. Bonus on purchased points. New welcome bonuses and targeted upgrade offers on Marriott credit cards. New dining program launches.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Best routes for Lufthansa first-class awards.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||0.8||0.8||0.8|
New promo offering double points and elite nights.
New award discounts through Spontaneous Escapes.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||0.4||0.4||0.4||
Discounts on award tickets.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||1.3||1.3||1.3|
|U.S. Bank FlexPerks||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|World of Hyatt Loyalty Program||1.8||1.7||1.7|
Movers and Shakers
September saw a host of new bonus offers — including multiple transfer bonuses from Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards along with an array of promotions for buying points and miles from programs like Avianca LifeMiles, Hilton Honors, United MileagePlus and World of Hyatt. This also impacted the credit card landscape, with new offers from the likes of Marriott, American Express and Virgin Atlantic. However, the most talked-about changes came from Delta and Amex, who announced a slew of changes on Delta’s cobranded cards that will take effect January 30, 2020 — and launched limited-time welcome offers the next day.
There were a number of shake-ups regarding elite status this month too. American launched another round of targeted free status to select members, while Alaska made some significant changes to its status match program and United eliminated its status challenge opportunity entirely. We also saw United create an entirely new method for upgrading flights in advance for elite members, one that I had a chance to discuss directly on my Talking Points podcast with Luc Bondar, United Airlines’ Vice President of Loyalty. Meanwhile, Choice Privileges launched a no-strings-attached status match offer — though reports indicate it’ll only get you mid-tier Platinum status.
From the hotel arena, we saw several positive updates — like IHG’s new partnership with Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Hyatt’s new collaboration with Lindblad Expeditions — along with new promotions from Best Western, Hilton, Radisson and World of Hyatt.
However, it’s another hotel program that saw the greatest changes in September, a month that also brought some notable turmoil to one of the legacy U.S. airlines.
September Value: 0.8 cents
October Value: 0.8 cents
Valuation: September 14 marked an important date in the history of the Marriott Bonvoy program, as peak and off-peak pricing finally took effect in the early evening hours. We noticed some interesting twists on these changes at first glance, and a deeper dive by our Points Lab team into the pricing led us to conclude that Marriott’s claims about the overall distribution of peak/standard/off-peak dates were accurate — even for top-tier, Category 8 properties like the St. Regis Maldives. While it’s frustrating to see prices jump during popular travel periods, the majority of dates appear to still be pricing at standard levels, and we’re seeing a higher number of off-peak than peak awards, so I don’t think this change represents an across-the-board devaluation.
The updates to Marriott’s Points Advance are a bit harder to stomach. Instead of locking in the award price when you’re short on points, you’re now only confirming the availability. Each month, when Bonvoy’s algorithm adjusts peak/off-peak dates “to reflect market conditions” (per Marriott), the number of points you’ll need for your stay may change. It remains to be seen just how significant these monthly adjustments will be, but you’ll only be able to maintain your originally-booked rate if you made your reservation prior to September 14.
Given the uncertainty around the calendar adjustments for peak and off-peak dates, I’m going to keep Marriott points where they are for now, but expect another data-driven analysis after the first wave of monthly changes to see if we’ll keep Bonvoy points at their current value in November.
September Value: 1.4 cents
October Value: 1.4 cents
Valuation: Another program that underwent some significant updates in September was American Airlines’ AAdvantage. This took a variety of forms. On the plus side, you now have new ways to earn AA miles for purchases with VividSeats as well as through the SimplyMiles portal — similar to Chase Offers and Amex Offers but limited to American’s cobranded credit cards. We also saw the program add two more carriers to its online award-booking engine: Cathay Pacific and Seaborne.
However, there were two major announcements from just the last week that overshadowed all of these. First, Delta announced that it was buying a stake in LATAM, an action that will ultimately result in LATAM leaving Oneworld and ending the ability to earn and redeem AAdvantage miles on the South American carrier. Then, Alaska and American announced a significant overhaul to their frequent flyer partnership: As of March 1, 2020, you’ll no longer be able to redeem American miles on Alaska flights (and vice versa).
So why am I keeping my valuation of AA miles where it is? It’s simple: timing. There haven’t been any immediate changes to American’s partnership with LATAM — despite reports to the contrary — and the Alaska-American partnership updates don’t take effect until next March. Once these details are ironed out and the changes take effect, we’ll reevaluate the AAdvantage program and determine if a change is warranted. For now, American miles stay where they are.
Associated credit cards: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® and others.
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This is The Points Guy’s permanent page for the most up-to-date valuations, so you can bookmark it and check back each month for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older valuations below.
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