What are points and miles worth? January 2021 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.
Note: These valuations are not provided by card issuers.
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I’ve included my valuations from one year ago and from last month to give you some context. However, given the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, we are leaving valuations alone. Despite some encouraging signs for the travel industry from the summer, we’re still seeing a lot of uncertainty — and some analysts are saying travel won’t fully rebound until 2024. As a result, it’s still too soon to analyze the long-term impact the outbreak will have on the value of the various currencies below.
That said, we’re currently hard at work on preparing a new methodology for these valuations that’ll kick in when travel ramps back up. Scroll to the bottom for more information.
Read on for more details, and check the last column of the chart below for some of the most important loyalty program news from the last month.
|Program||January 2020 (Cents)||December 2020 (Cents)||January 2021 (Cents)||Note|
|Accor Le Club||2.0||2.0||2.0|
|Aeroplan Loyalty Program||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Announced new partnership with Virgin Australia, to launch Jan. 19, 2021
|Alaska Mileage Plan||1.8||1.8||1.8|
|American Express Membership Rewards||2.0||2.0||2.0||
Launched new perks for personal and business Platinum cards.
|Amtrak Guest Rewards||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|ANA Mileage Club||1.4||1.4||1.4|
Devalued mileage earning on Avianca flights and revamped elite status qualification. Also added a new elite status tier.
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Barclaycard Arrival Miles||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|Best Western Rewards||0.6||0.6||0.6|
|Brex Exclusive Rewards||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Capital One Rewards||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|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|
Introduced new premium economy cabin.
Introduced four new routes to the mainland U.S.
Slashed status match requirements in half.
|IHG Rewards Club||0.5||0.5||0.5|
|JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program||1.3||1.3||1.3||
Added new Mosaic elite perks, including a temporary companion pass and complimentary Even More Space seating.
|Korean Air SkyPass||1.7||1.7||1.7|
|Miles & More||1.4||1.4||1.4|
|Qatar Airways Qmiles||0.8||0.8||0.8|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5||
Announced new routes from Houston and Long Beach.
|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||1.6||1.5|
|Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards||1.5||1.5||1.5|
|World of Hyatt Loyalty Program||1.7||1.7||1.7|
Key points and miles news
As noted above, the biggest news of the past couple of months has been the coronavirus outbreak. Some airlines have completely suspended operations during the pandemic, while others have filed for bankruptcy — which may or may not affect their respective frequent flyer programs. We’ve also seen elite status extensions from almost every major airline and hotel program, ensuring that loyal members can retain their benefits in 2021.
December was a very slow news month on the points and miles front. Granted, this is generally the case during the holidays. Regardless, we saw a couple of interesting things come through the TPG newsroom.
The biggest piece of news was JetBlue adding new Mosaic elite benefits. These perks include complimentary Even More Space seating and a companion pass. Between Jan. 1 and May 20, Mosaic members can bring a guest with them on all paid flights. This is an excellent deal for elites looking to travel with a companion.
We also saw Alaska Airlines and Qatar Airways partner. This partnership will soon allow Alaska Airlines members to earn and redeem miles on Qatar Airways flights and vice-versa. This announcement was made alongside Qatar’s addition of a Doha (DOH) to Seattle (SEA) flight. It also comes months ahead of Alaska’s admission to the Oneworld alliance of which Qatar Airways is a member.
Finally, we saw Avianca make big changes to the LifeMiles program. Thankfully, these changes don’t affect U.S. flyers as nothing has changed on the redemption side. That said, the airline moved to revenue-based mileage and elite status earning on its own flights. It also introduced a new entry-level status tier.
January, however, has already been a hectic month for points and miles. We saw Virgin Atlantic devalue its Flying Club program by removing low-cost Delta award tickets. The carrier used to offer a very reasonably priced region-based award chart on these flights. Earlier this month, prices skyrocketed when it switched to a distance-based award chart.
Thankfully, Virgin Atlantic backtracked on rolling out the new pricing on flights from the U.S. to Europe. You can still book these flights for 50,000 Virgin points one-way in business class, keeping the old award pricing for the time being.
With this in mind, we’ve lowered the value of Virgin points to 1.5 cents apiece from 1.6 cents. One of the most valuable Virgin Atlantic redemptions — Delta One from the U.S. to Asia — is now significantly more expensive than it was in the past. You’ll also now pay more for economy Delta-operated flights that cover more than 2,000 miles in distance — which includes all transcontinental flights from New York-JFK.
Thankfully, other sweet spots like low-cost ANA first and business class flights remain.
The early weeks of January also saw various rollover miles and other perks begin to arrive in members’ accounts — including those from American Airlines, United Airlines and World of Hyatt.
Finally, we saw a few programs make significant announcements for 2021. Marriott will (again) be depositing elite nights in many members’ accounts and has launched discounts on award stays along with new promotions for stays from Feb. 16 through April 27, 2021. Shortly thereafter, IHG Rewards announced a number of updates for the year — including reduced elite-qualification requirements, a new promotion and further extensions of free-night certificates.
New Travel credit card offers
During the pandemic, we saw a number of credit card issuers struggling with assessing creditworthiness. However, we also saw various bonuses and new perks launch for existing cardholders, aimed at keeping them engaged. Now, as we move into the new year, we’re seeing some incredible new welcome bonuses on some popular cards — including the following:
One of the most popular cards for TPG staffers during the pandemic, the Amex Gold is awarding 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months from account opening. This bonus is worth $1,200 based on our valuations, but be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for an even higher offer (subject to change at any time).
The card is also great for many everyday purchases. You’ll earn 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x) and 4x points at restaurants worldwide. The card has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
For more details, check out our full review of the Amex Gold card.
The Amex Platinum is offering one of the best welcome offers we’ve seen all year. You can currently earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
Even better, you’ll earn a huge 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases, during your first six months of card membership. That’s equivalent to a 20% return on gas and groceries, which is hard to beat.
Of course, the card is jam-packed with other benefits too, like airport lounge access, hotel elite status and more. These benefits can make your post-pandemic travel experience smoother and more luxurious than ever before. The card has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
For more details, check out our full review of the Amex Platinum card.
Meanwhile, the Platinum card’s business version is also offering an enhanced bonus: 85,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card in the first three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 5x points on eligible U.S. purchases on shipping, wireless telephone services, advertising in select media, office supplies and gas stations, with the card in the first three months — up to 80,000 bonus points per category.
The card also provides a slew of additional perks similar to (but slightly different from) the personal version — you can compare the two cards in this guide to see which one would be a better fit for your wallet.
For more details, check out our full review of the Amex Business Platinum card.
Hotel credit cards
There are several solid hotel credit card offers, providing a simple way to boost your point balances when travel returns in full-force. Here’s a snapshot of what’s currently available:
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Earn 140,000 IHG points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you use your card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership — plus a TPG-exclusive offer of a one-time, $100 statement credit after using your new card to purchase an ExpertFlyer Premium annual subscription ($99.99 plus applicable taxes, followed by automatic renewal) within your first year. ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures.
All of these new offers put you in a great position to earn a ton of bonus points or miles as you get ready for a (hopeful) return to travel in 2021, and there may be more to come. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign-up for our daily newsletter. You can also bookmark our coronavirus hub page for up-to-date information on the pandemic and its impact on the travel industry.
The future: New methodology
As the travel industry continues to rebound from the coronavirus outbreak, our team is already diving into the data in greater depth for all airline and hotel programs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see future adjustments to our value for several popular currencies, so stay tuned for that.
Illustration by The Points Guy
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.
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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.