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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 March. The past month brought us an overhaul of Wyndham Rewards, award pricing updates from several major frequent flyer programs, the collapse of a low-cost carrier and the launch of the new co-branded Apple credit card. Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for more loyalty program news and other related posts.
|Program||April 2018 (Cents)||March 2019 (Cents)||April 2019 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||-||2.0||2.0||
Accor launches new 'Tribe" brand.
|Aeroplan Loyalty Program||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Get a 30% bonus for transferring hotel points to Aeroplan.
|Alaska Mileage Plan||1.9||1.8||1.8||
Earn double miles on transcon flights.
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.9||2.0||2.0|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5||
Earn double points for select spring travel.
|ANA Mileage Club||1.6||1.4||1.4|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||0.7||0.7||0.7|
|Capital One Credit Card Rewards||1.0||1.4||1.4||
Savor card adds 8% cash back on event tickets.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.0||2.0|
Buy points with a 50% bonus through April 22.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Register for Q2 5% bonus on Discover it card.
Second daily London Stansted service coming in July.
Another massive loss reported for 2018.
Kids Fly Free offer extended to fall.
Hawaiian pays out $31M in employee bonuses.
|IHG Rewards Club||0.6||0.5||0.5|
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.3||1.3||1.3|
|Korean Air SkyPass||1.7||1.7||1.7||
Korea stopovers ending in July 2020.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Lufthansa group orders 40 more wide-body aircraft.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||1.1||0.8||0.8|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||0.4||0.4||0.4||
Spirit launching Wi-Fi and refreshed cabin.
|Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles||1.3||1.3||1.3||
Review: the Turkish Airlines lounge at IAD.
|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|
|World of Hyatt Loyalty Program||1.8||1.7||1.7|
New award tiers are live.
Movers and Shakers
Several airline programs made moves in March. United introduced discounted awards from 5,000 miles one-way; that’s good news, though it could be a first step toward dynamic award pricing. Speaking of which, Delta raised award rates on flights between the US and Europe; the cheapest business class ticket will now cost you 105,000 SkyMiles each way. Finally, Korean Air announced that the SkyPass program will eliminate free stopovers in Korea beginning in July 1, 2020.
Several programs that aren’t on the list above also made headlines. Starbucks Rewards announced plans to get rid of its single award rate in favor of a tiered award structure. Conversely, Millennium Hotels launched a new program that aims to simplify loyalty by providing just one tier of rewards and a flat redemption rate. Finally, Chipotle launched its own rewards program nationwide after rolling it out to three test markets last fall.
The biggest news of the past month came from Wyndham Rewards, which introduced two new tiers for both its Go Free and Go Fast awards. Singapore Airlines also made a significant negative change, as the KrisFlyer program followed up a January devaluation with a similar price hike for Star Alliance partner awards. Finally, I lowered my valuation for Marriott Bonvoy due to the program’s ongoing saga of problems.
March Value: 0.9 cents
April Value: 0.8 cents
Valuation: When Marriott merged with Starwood Preferred Guest, it created the largest hotel loyalty program in the world. However, the integration has had numerous issues, especially for loyal SPG members, who felt some significant changes in the new program. We’ve also heard many reports from readers about customer service problems and ongoing IT issues. Add to all of that a massive data breach affecting hundreds of millions of customers and Marriott has lost the trust of many. At TPG, we’ve been debating whether (and to what degree) we should drop our valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points for some time — and that debate was particularly spirited this month.
On one hand, our research indicates the average redemption value hasn’t dropped significantly. There have been some harsh changes to award pricing, like the functional demise of Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages and the addition of a new top award category, but those aren’t the whole picture. The ability to transfer to airline partners, the flexibility of Cash + Points bookings, the Points Advance feature — for new reservations, as we know pre-March 5 bookings are still a challenge — and the sheer quantity of redemption opportunities keep the average value of Bonvoy points afloat. Some argue that if the bottom line hasn’t changed, then neither should the valuation.
On the other hand, rewards don’t exist in a vacuum, and they’re only as useful as the program that supports them. I value consistency, clarity and efficiency in loyalty programs, all of which Bonvoy has lacked recently. Between trouble spots like the toothless “no blackout dates” policy and the hassle of having to clean up Marriott’s mistakes, I don’t blame members for being frustrated or wanting to jump ship completely. Ultimately, when navigating a loyalty program becomes too much of a hassle, then its rewards become inherently less valuable.
I’m still hopeful Marriott can address its many issues, reinvigorate the program and regain the trust of its members in the process. If it does, then my Bonvoy valuation will rebound. However, it may also drop further depending how widespread peak award pricing proves to be (expected in the coming months). We’ll undertake a thorough revaluation of the program once peak and off-peak awards go into effect. For now, my valuation of Bonvoy points drops 11% to 0.8 cents apiece.
March Value: 1.2 cents
April Value: 1.1 cents
Valuation: Following an announcement in February, this month Wyndham introduced two new tiers to both its Go Free and Go Fast awards. The bad news is that 164 properties will double in price from 15,000 to 30,000 points per night. That’s fewer than the 200 originally advertised, but as expected, the properties moving to the higher rate are predominantly the program’s more luxurious ones.
The better news is that 2,462 properties will go down in price from 15,000 to 7,500 points per night. Unsurprisingly, Wyndham’s least glamorous brands comprise the bulk of that group, as over 1,800 of the entries in the new lower tier are Days Inn, Super 8 or Travelodge properties. The La Quinta Returns program has been fully integrated into Wyndham Rewards; most of La Quinta’s 916 properties now cost 15,000 points per night, with the 7,500- and 30,000-point categories claiming about 50 properties each.
As massive award chart overhauls go, this one is fairly balanced. The new 7,500-point tier adds value to the program, since many of those properties offer low nightly rates, and booking awards will now (at least sometimes) be viable where it wasn’t previously. However, I don’t think the lower tier is enough to counteract the devaluation of Wyndham’s best properties. I prize awards that offer a high-end experience for a bargain price, and fewer of those are available in the new Wyndham Rewards chart. As a result, I’ve lowered my valuation of Wyndham points to 1.1 cents.
Associated Credit Cards: the Wyndham Rewards Visa Card
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
March Value: 1.3 cents
April Value: 1.3 cents
Valuation: After devaluing awards on its own metal in January, Singapore Airlines announced it will raise rates for premium Star Alliance partner awards on April 16. The mileage cost of business and first class seats is going up roughly 10-15% in most cases, with a few award prices landing outside those margins. Economy awards will be unchanged, as will awards on Singapore’s partners outside Star Alliance (like Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic).
There’s no good news here, but I don’t think this devaluation compares to the one that hit KrisFlyer earlier in the year. Plenty of programs are useful for booking Star Alliance awards, and Singapore’s Star Alliance chart had only a few bright spots where it was superior to others. Many of the awards that are being devalued aren’t highly valuable anyway, so losing them isn’t a significant blow. In short, I lowered my valuation of KrisFlyer miles from 1.4 to 1.3 cents apiece in February, and I don’t think this round of changes justifies a further decline.
Associated Credit Cards: you can transfer points to Singapore Airlines at a 1:1 ratio from Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, and you can transfer Capital One miles to Singapore at a 2:1 ratio, so any card that earns points in one of those transferable programs offers a path to earning KrisFlyer miles.
Which programs would you like to see added to the list?
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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