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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. August brought us clarity on Marriott Bonvoy’s peak pricing, which launches on September 14. We also saw a new airline transfer partner added by Chase Ultimate Rewards, another one dropped by Citi ThankYou Rewards, and an improved mileage expiration policy from United Airlines. Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for more loyalty program news and other related posts.
|Program||September 2018 (Cents)||August 2019 (Cents)||September 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|
|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||
New first and business class suites coming to NYC.
Earn up to 60,000 miles with LifeMiles credit cards.
|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|
|Brex Exclusive Rewards||-||1.7||1.7|
|Capital One Rewards||1.0||1.4||1.4||
Data breach hit over 100 million customers.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.0||2.0||2.0|
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
Air France-KLM orders A220s, plans A380 retirement.
Frontier converts orders to A321neo aircraft.
|IHG Rewards Club||0.6||0.5||0.5|
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.3||1.3||1.3||
Lyft partnership ends September 9.
|Korean Air SkyPass||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Earn up to 75,000 miles with elevated bonus offer.
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||0.8||0.8||0.8||
A350 Qsuite service coming to Cape Town.
New partnership with Treasure Island Las Vegas coming in late 2019.
Singapore adds free Wi-Fi to first class amenities.
|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||
A350 service coming to JFK, LAX.
|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
Two transferable points programs updated their rosters in August. Chase added Emirates as a 1:1 airline transfer partner, and while the Skywards program has a few sweet spots (like first class awards to Milan or Athens), I don’t think it offers enough to affect my valuation for Ultimate Rewards points. Similarly, Citi dropped Garuda Indonesia from the list of ThankYou Rewards partners. Garuda’s frequent flyer program has evolved in recent years — awards had to be booked in person until late in 2016 — but I still view this move as negligible given the lack of high-quality redemption options.
British Airways made positive changes by reducing fees on select routes between the US and UK, and adding a carrier surcharge rebate benefit to the co-branded British Airways Visa Signature Card. Both moves will lower some of the high out-of-pocket costs that plague the Executive Club program, and when those costs go down, the value of awards goes up. That said, these updates seem like an admission of how frivolous award surcharges are to begin with; a bolder move would be to do away with them altogether.
United Airlines also made a positive change by implementing a friendlier mileage expiration policy. MileagePlus miles no longer expire even if your account is inactive, and United is offering members a chance to reinstate expired miles at a discount. Expiration policies only factor into my valuations when they’re a persistent obstacle to booking awards; that wasn’t the case with United previously, but this is still a welcome improvement.
The biggest news in August came from Marriott, which finally put a date on program changes award travelers have been dreading since last April.
August Value: 0.8 cents
September Value: 0.8 cents
Valuation: We’ve known for over a year that peak (and off-peak) awards were coming; now we know when. The new pricing scheme will kick in on September 14, creating three different rates for each Marriott Bonvoy award category, including for Cash + Points awards. Marriott maintains that peak and off-peak dates will be evenly distributed, and that standard rates will be available the majority of the time. Even so, the change represents a shift toward dynamic pricing, which is likely to cap redemption values on the high end. In addition, these date designations will be reviewed and updated monthly using an algorithm, so you could see fluctuation — and increased prices — for in-demand properties.
Two more negative changes are being rolled out on September 14. First, you’ll no longer be able to lock in award rates for Points Advance reservations. Instead, you’ll have to pay whatever rate is being charged when the booking is finalized, making this feature much less useful. Second, the fifth-night-free benefit (rebranded as Stay for 5, Pay for 4) is being devalued, as the free night will now be whichever one of the five is cheapest.
Unfortunately, there’s no good news to report alongside all of this. I’m leaving my valuation in place until we see the prevalence of peak and off-peak pricing, but don’t be surprised if Marriott drops in October.
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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