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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 April. The past month brought us major award pricing changes from several frequent flyer programs, a new transfer partner for Capital One Venture Rewards, the collapse of yet another airline and an assortment of new benefits from Mastercard. Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for more loyalty program news and other related posts.
|Program||May 2018 (Cents)||April 2019 (Cents)||May 2019 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||-||2.0||2.0||
Join the Accor Le Club program.
|Aeroplan Loyalty Program||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Hints of new partnership between Air Canada and Etihad.
|Alaska Mileage Plan||1.9||1.8||1.8||
Buy miles with up to 50% bonus.
|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|
Domestic award pricing gets tweaked.
|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||
Join the Best Western Rewards program.
|Capital One Credit Card Rewards||1.0||1.4||1.4||
JetBlue added as 2:1 transfer partner (with 50% bonus through May 31).
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.1||2.0||2.0|
Join the Choice Privileges program.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Emirates "tempted" to add more fifth freedom routes.
Get 2 free nights in Abu Dhabi with stopover program.
|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||
First class cuts coming on 27 international routes.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||1.1||0.8||0.8||
Qatar flights now eligible for TSA PreCheck.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Southwest could stray from an all-737 fleet.
|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|
|World of Hyatt Loyalty Program||1.8||1.7||1.7|
Join the Wyndham Rewards program.
Movers and Shakers
Several airlines and frequent flyer programs made moves in April. Avianca tweaked its award chart for flights within the United States, raising prices slightly on longer routes while lowering prices on short-haul flights. British Airways made a cryptic announcement of changes to its partner award chart planned for the end of May. Though few details were given, we did manage to piece together the expected award chart based on phone calls to customer service. Meanwhile, American Airlines ended its partnership with Radisson , so you’ll no longer be able to earn miles for eligible stays or transfer points from Radisson Rewards to the AAdvantage program.
In general travel industry news, Singapore’s Changi Airport opened a stunning addition known as The Jewel. The grounding of 737 MAX aircraft continued with no clear end in sight as airlines faced heavy losses from canceled flights. Finally, on a more personal note, I was thrilled to announce the launch of TPG UK this past week. The whole TPG team is excited to bring the points gospel to a new audience across the pond.
The biggest news of the past month came from United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, both of which made sweeping changes to award pricing that prompted a drop in their respective valuations. Chase Ultimate Rewards also made headlines with its first ever transfer bonus.
April Value: 1.4 cents
May Value: 1.3 cents
Valuation: Echoing Delta’s 2015 shift to dynamic award pricing, United announced its award charts will cease to exist for United-operated flights beginning on November 15, 2019. Beyond that date, the cost of awards will fluctuate freely, making the MileagePlus program much less transparent and predictable moving forward. Many flights are already pricing out higher (especially on international and premium itineraries), spelling a clear devaluation for flyers looking to maximize miles when cash prices are high.
The good news, such as it is, is that United hasn’t announced a similar devaluation for partner awards… yet. I’d be surprised if the other shoe takes long to drop, but at least for now you can book awards like Lufthansa first class and SAS business class at a good rate and with no fuel surcharges. United is also doing away with its close-in booking fee — a welcome change, but one that might prove to be trivial if dynamic pricing makes last-minute awards more expensive.
Since partner award pricing remains intact and roughly half the booking calendar is still available at the old fixed rates, my valuation for MileagePlus miles didn’t fall off a cliff this month. But as the clock runs out on the current charts, it’s almost certain to decline further. We’ll conduct a full revaluation of the program in the coming months as dynamic pricing becomes more prevalent, and as we learn more about the fate of partner awards.
April Value: 1.2 cents
May Value: 0.9 cents
Valuation: United wasn’t the only airline to add dynamic award pricing in April. With no warning, Hawaiian Airlines tossed its old award tiers and adopted a new chart that features a wide range of rates for each award. The changes look terrible on paper, since the cheapest awards have stayed the same or gotten more expensive, while the highest award rates have more than doubled overnight. The reality isn’t quite so grim, but it’s clearly bad news for HawaiianMiles members.
We priced awards for over 500 flights across a variety of routes and dates, including service on Hawaiian Airlines and award partners like JetBlue and JAL, and found a mean redemption value of 1.23 cents per mile (1.02 cpm in economy and 1.46 cpm for premium awards). However, those numbers were skewed heavily by first class awards from Hawaii to international destinations like Tokyo and Sydney, which offered a mean redemption value of 3.15 cpm. That appears to be the program’s lone remaining sweet spot, as the mean for all other flights was barely above 1 cpm. Unfortunately, it’s not a very useful sweet spot unless you live in Hawaii or plan to visit on the way to another destination.
On the bright side, the bottom doesn’t seem to have fallen out completely from HawaiianMiles, as fewer than 5% of all awards offered a return of less than 0.7 cpm. While 38% of awards priced out above the old Saver rates, only 4% exceeded the previous high set by the old Flex rates. As always, the problem with dynamic award pricing is that programs can raise rates surreptitiously; we can only wait and see whether the cost of these awards creeps further upward. For now, our data supports a valuation between 0.9 and 1.0 cpm, and I lean towards the lower end of that spectrum given how few opportunities there are to book high-value awards.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
April Value: 2.0 cents
May Value: 2.0 cents
Valuation: One bright spot in April came from Chase, which launched a 30% bonus for transfers to British Airways through June 16. This promotion creates opportunities to book discounted awards (like round-trip flights from the West Coast to Hawaii for just 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points), but the bigger news is what it might mean for the future.
Promotional bonuses are a staple of some transferable points programs — Amex and Citi have long offered bonuses as high as 50%, and even Capital One got in on the act recently with a 100% bonus for transfers to Emirates. However, this is the first time we’ve seen such a bonus from Chase. If it becomes the first of many, my valuation of Ultimate Rewards points is likely to go up, though upcoming changes to two of the program’s transfer partners (British Airways and United) could have the opposite effect.
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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