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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.
To give you some context, I’ve included my valuations from one year ago and from March. This month several airlines added a mixed bag of updates to their frequent flyer programs, while another initiated changes that may affect future valuations, and one hotel program made a negative adjustment to its award pricing. As always, you’ll find lots of other loyalty program 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||April 2017 (Cents)||March 2018 (Cents)||April 2018 (Cents)||Note|
New partnership with Aer Lingus announced.
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||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||1.0||1.0||1.0||
New Arrival Premier Card offers transfer partners.
|Best Western Rewards||-||0.7||0.7|
|British Airways Avios||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.2||2.1||2.1|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.6||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Check out the new and improved 777-200 business class.
Improved booking process for partner awards.
New award calculator launches as charts disappear.
See what Hyatt status is worth in 2018.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||-||1.1||1.1||
New QSuites routes announced.
See what Ritz-Carlton status is worth in 2018.
Review of new A380 business class.
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||-||0.4||0.4||
CEOs reveal international plans and more in interview.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||-||1.3||1.3||
Turkish offers "candlelit" dinner in business class.
How to get on the last Virgin America flights.
Economy class gets split into tiers.
GO FAST cash and points awards devalued.
Movers and Shakers
This month saw some positive news from airlines as Lufthansa’s Miles & More program introduced mileage pooling, and Southwest took a step toward Hawaii service by securing a permit to operate in Honolulu. Meanwhile, Etihad has made several updates to its process for booking partner awards that will make me reconsider my current valuation for the Guest program.
On the other end of the spectrum, Flying Blue released an award calculator for the new pricing scheme that will launch in June. Many awards are theoretically going down in price, but it’s hard to tell how available awards will be at those advertised rates. Southwest raised award rates for Wanna Get Away Fares yet again, and Wyndham made a subtle negative change to its cash + points awards that take some lucrative award redemptions off the table.
March Value: 1.2 cents
April Value: 1.2 cents
Valuation: Since the overhaul of Wyndham Rewards in 2015, I’ve rated these points toward the high end of hotel rewards. The fixed GO FREE rate of 15,000 points per night offers great value even though Wyndham’s portfolio is light on high-end, aspirational properties. The GO FAST cash and points rate is also highly valuable, with award redemptions over 4 cents per point available at some properties. Unfortunately, the formula for calculating GO FAST rates was tweaked recently, and the cash portion is now consistently proportional to the daily rate. There’s still plenty of value to be found, but you’ll have a hard time getting the same outsized return as before. (H/T Loyalty Traveler)
Associated Credit Cards: Wyndham Rewards Visa Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards
March Value: 1.5 cents
April Value: 1.5 cents
Valuation: Southwest recently made some unannounced changes to Rapid Rewards redemptions, raising the cost of Wanna Get Away awards by around 4 points per dollar of base fare. That represents a price increase of about 6%, and continues a series of similar devaluations in recent years. The only silver lining is that Anytime and Business Select awards are becoming less expensive, but that’s not much help since those fares offer relatively poor value to begin with.
Despite these changes, the average redemption value (calculated over a wide range of routes and destinations) remains around 1.54 cents per point. I think that’s still a fair assessment given Southwest’s friendly award change and cancellation policies, so I’m leaving my valuation intact.
Associated Credit Cards: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.
March Value: 1.3 cents
April Value: 1.3 cents
Valuation: Months after Flying Blue announced plans to “reinvent” itself, we finally got a glimpse of what the new award pricing will look like as the program unveiled its award calculator. While the base rate for some flights has gone down, we won’t know how much awards will really cost in practice until the new Flying Blue fully launches in June. As a result, I’m keeping my valuation the same for now.
Associated Credit Cards: Flying Blue is a partner of all the major transferable points programs, so you can earn miles with any card in the American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Chase Ultimate Rewards families.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
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