What are points and miles worth? December 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.
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To give you some context, I’ve included my valuations from one year ago and from last month. November and the early part of December were quite busy, with the official removal of award charts for a major U.S. carrier along with the announcement of forthcoming peak and off-peak pricing from a major hotel program. We saw a slew of deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (most since expired) along with a handful of bonuses from transferable point currencies as well as on purchased miles.
Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for more loyalty program news and other related posts.
|Program||December 2018 (Cents)||November 2019 (Cents)||December 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||
New buy miles promo.
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||2.0||2.0|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5||
Announces plans for expanded Acela service.
|ANA Mileage Club||1.4||1.4||1.4|
Improved mileage expiration policy.
|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||0.6||
New, higher award rates during peak travel times.
|Brex Exclusive Rewards||-||1.7||1.7|
|Capital One Rewards||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.0||2.0||2.0||
Earn 1,500 bonus points for contactless transactions.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Miles will no longer expire.
Announces new, monthly Promo Rewards.
Redeem Hawaiian miles for TSA PreCheck.
|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|
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
New requirements for elite status qualification in 2021.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||0.8||0.8||0.8|
Flash discount on award stays.
New discounts through Spontaneous Escapes.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|Spirit Airlines Free Spirit||0.4||0.4||0.4|
|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||1.7||1.7||1.7||
Adds Destination hotels and 56 new SLH properties. Launches bonus on purchased points and awards AA Executive Platinum to select Globalist members. Announces new, peak/off-peak pricing for March 2020.
Movers and shakers
November brought many of the usual bonuses on purchased miles — including offers from Alaska, American, Avianca LifeMiles, Hilton Honors and IHG Rewards. We also saw a couple of credit card bonuses launch, though instead of new welcome offers, these were targeted to existing cardholders from both Southwest and United. American Express also launched two notable bonuses for flights on Emirates and Etihad.
On the airline front, we saw the continued growth of basic economy, with JetBlue introducing this new fare option and American expanding it to South America. A popular Star Alliance carrier (Air Canada) migrated to a new system, causing a rash of issues for travelers, while two other non-U.S. carriers (Etihad and Cathay Pacific) improved or got rid of mileage expiration policies. Elite status also played a major role as we roll toward the end of 2019 — with both American and JetBlue launching opportunities to buy-up to status, Southwest adding a status match opportunity, United converting to PlusPoints and Lufthansa announcing changes to its Miles & More elite qualification requirements, though the latter of these won’t happen until 2021.
However, the biggest newsmakers from the month were a pair of hotel programs and one of the largest airlines in the world.
Best Western Rewards
November value: 0.7 cents
December value: 0.6 cents
Valuation: The Best Western Rewards program isn’t a popular one for many travelers. It doesn’t partner with any transferable point currencies, and it also doesn’t offer the same level of aspirational properties as the likes of Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors. However, the already-limited utility of the program took a major hit in November, as it implemented increased pricing for peak travel times. While reward nights were previously capped at 36,000 points, certain dates will now require up to 70,000 points — nearly double the old limit.
In surveying these properties, the increased award rates lower the overall redemption value to well under our existing valuation of 0.7 cents per point. And even when those properties fall back to the “standard” price level on non-peak dates, the value still struggles to climb above 0.6 cents. While the changes weren’t all negative — there are now properties available for just 5,000 points per night — you’ll have to search very hard to get the same value for your Best Western points now.
Given the lack of notice for these changes and the impact they have on awards, I’m dropping my valuation to 0.6 cents per point.
Associated credit cards: the Best Western Rewards credit cards from First Bank.
World of Hyatt
November value: 1.7 cents
December value: 1.7 cents
Valuation: The World of Hyatt program is a favorite among award travelers, and thanks to multiple rounds of integrations from Small Luxury Hotels of the World properties along with the addition of Two Roads Hospitality brands like Thompson, Alila and Destination hotels, the program is expanding its footprint rapidly. However, the program recently announced sweeping changes to its award chart — namely, the addition of peak and off-peak pricing starting in March 2020.
While this may dramatically affect the value of award nights once implemented, members still have a few months to book using the current award chart, so there’s no adjustment to the program at this time.
November value: 1.3 cents
December value: 1.3 cents
Valuation: The three major U.S. airlines have been slipping toward dynamic award pricing for years. Delta was the instigator when it removed award charts in 2015, but as of Nov. 15, 2019, United has followed suit (American still has published charts but is continuing to move in a dynamic direction). To add insult to injury, shortly after removing its online charts and eliminating the $75 close-in award booking fee, United suddenly started tacking on a mileage surcharge for flights booked within 30 days of departure. Depending on the flight and class of service, you could pay up to 3,500 additional miles in each direction.
This was an especially galling move for United Premier elites travelers, who previously enjoyed waived or discounted fees on award tickets — yet all members, regardless of status, are now required to use extra miles when booking close to departure.
That being said, United had already shifted to largely dynamic award pricing, so the actual award rates (aside from those within 30 days) remain relatively consistent. In fact, our initial data collection across over two dozen, United-operated routes shows that the expected value from using MileagePlus miles still hovers around 1.3 cents apiece.
So … in a move that will likely inspire some heated conversation, I’m keeping United miles where they are for now.
The future: New methodology
With all the changes in the air, our team will be diving into the data in greater depth for all airline and hotel programs in the coming months. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see future adjustments to our value for United miles — as well as other currencies. Stay tuned for that.
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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