What are points and miles worth? January 2020 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. Despite the holidays, the last month was a busy one in the world of loyalty programs. The new year meant a new round of transfer offers from the major transferable point currencies, and several programs launched promotions on purchased miles. Most elite status trackers reset, though you may still have time to leverage some perks of your expiring status.
Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for more loyalty program news and other related posts.
|Program||January 2019 (Cents)||December 2019 (Cents)||January 2020 (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||2.0||2.0||2.0|
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|ANA Mileage Club||1.4||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||0.6||0.6|
|Brex Exclusive Rewards||-||1.7||1.7||
New offer on Brex Card.
|Capital One Rewards||1.4||1.4||1.4||
Launches point redemptions with Amazon.
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||2.0||2.0||2.0|
New all-inclusive resorts added for award stays.
|Citi ThankYou Points||1.7||1.7||1.7||
Launches targeted category spending bonuses.
Rollover MQMs start arriving for Medallion members.
|Diners Club Rewards||2.1||2.1||2.1|
|IHG Rewards Club||0.5||0.5||0.5||
Adds ability to use a password instead of pin to login.
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.3||1.3||1.3|
|Korean Air SkyPass||1.7||1.7||1.7||
Announces increased award rates.
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||0.8||0.8||0.8|
Launches monthly 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|
Movers and shakers
The frequency of bonuses on purchased points and miles continued over the last month, with offers from Alaska, American, Hilton Honors JetBlue, Southwest and United. We also saw a couple of new credit card offers launch in the new year, including Marriott, Southwest and United. Capital One added the ability to use your miles for Amazon purchases — though its something that we’d generally discourage here at TPG — while Citi launched a 5x category bonus promotion on select cards.
The major airlines were also quite active, with American chief among them. It shut down some accounts, gave away elite status and launched a new promotion for Hyatt stays. Some other news was positive — like Alaska’s award sale on Fiji Airways. We even saw Southwest surprise some customers with elite status, while JetBlue made some TrueBlue members’ holidays by closing the gap in their qualification for Mosaic status. Unfortunately, we did learn of an impending devaluation of Korean’s award chart as well as a (negative) change to JetBlue’s delay compensation.
Hotels had some isolated issues too, including Marriott’s rebooking of some award stays, but the majority news was positive.
Unfortunately, there were two well-known programs that launched significant changes in the last month.
November value: 1.4 cents
December value: 1.4 cents
Valuation: American initially launched web special pricing for economy award tickets in the economy cabin back in 2018, and it was clearly successful. These were added to premium cabin awards in early December 2019 and were expanded across the carrier’s entire network later in the month. Unfortunately, our initial wave of searches found some incredible prices for business- and first-class award tickets once this pricing went live — including a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) for 480,000 miles.
On the surface, this seems like a clear devaluation for those of us who typically redeem our points and miles for premium cabins. However, American has always been tight with saver-level awards in business and first class, and there are still a variety of ways to get value from the AAdvantage program. From reduced mileage awards to off-peak pricing, you can still put your miles to good use — especially for last-minute tickets, now that the carrier’s close-in award booking fee has been eliminated for all members.
We’re going to watch this one closely, as a sudden increase to nearly a half a million miles for a single, one-way award ticket is breathtaking. I strongly hope that this is the exception and that American uses web special pricing as a so-called “sweet spot” between saver- and standard-level award tickets, so for now, I’m keeping my valuation of 1.4 cents per mile.
Associated credit cards: the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select World Elite™ Mastercard®, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and others
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
November value: 2.0 cents
December value: 2.0 cents
Valuation: The other massive news of the month came from Chase, which confirmed that there were notable changes coming to the wildly-popular Chase Sapphire Reserve. Starting Jan. 12, all new applicants for the card will now incur a $550 annual fee — and existing cardholders will become subject to that higher fee starting with your next renewal on or after Apr. 1, 2020. In exchange, the card added a handful of additional perks:
- Lyft Pink membership (for one year) and 10x points on Lyft rides
- One free year of DashPass membership
- $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
Reaction was swift, with many threatening to cancel or downgrade their cards. While one TPG staffer is thrilled with the changes, others are looking hard at whether this premium travel credit card is still worthy of a spot in their wallets given the increased annual fee and new perks.
However, these changes don’t (as a whole) impact the redemption value you can get from using your Ultimate Rewards points. There are still some amazing sweet spots in the program, including transfer partners like Hyatt and United along with the ability to book travel directly through Chase’s travel portal. As a result, I’m leaving my valuation of Chase points alone.
The future: New methodology
As noted last month, 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. I wouldn’t be surprised to see future adjustments to our value for a number of popular currencies, so 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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