What Miles & Points are Worth: Airline Miles

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Introduction
Credit Card Points
Airline Miles
Hotel Points


Welcome to what will undoubtedly be the most controversial part of this series. There’s nothing quite as fun as valuing airline miles on the internet, because I’m about to be called an idiot by people that value their miles somewhere between 0.5 and 12.5 cents each. So I’ll once again make reference to my disclaimer in the introduction of this series by saying that these are my subjective valuations based on what I typically redeem my miles for, and based on what I value those flights at (not their retail value, because in virtually all cases I wouldn’t otherwise pay for first or business class). I’ve also added several programs below that I didn’t value last time, which I hope you guys find useful.

Since there’s a lot of information below, I figured I’d summarize my valuations upfront, which are as follows:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan – 1.3 cents/mile
  • Air France Flying Blue – 1.1 cents/mile
  • Alaska Mileage Plan – 1.6 cents/mile
  • American AAdvantage – 1.8 cents/mile
  • AviancaTACA Lifemiles – 1.2 cents/mile
  • British Airways Executive Club – 1.3 cents/Avios
  • Delta SkyMiles – 1.3 cents/mile
  • Korean Air SkyPass – 1.4 cents/mile
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – 1.6 cents/mile
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards – 1.4 cents/point
  • United MileagePlus – 1.8 cents/mile
  • US Airways Dividend Miles – 1.6 cents/mile
  • Virgin America Elevate – 2.0 cents/point
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – 0.8 cents/mile

With that in mind, here are my explanations:

Air Canada Aeroplan – 1.3 cents/mile (previously 1.3 cents/mile)

Going back a couple of years Air Canada Aeroplan miles were hands down the single most valuable mileage currency out there. Then after a devaluation of their award chart and the addition of fuel surcharges for travel on most of their partner airlines, they took a big hit.

There’s still some value in their program, though. Business class between the US and much of Europe, for example, costs just 90,000 miles roundtrip, and you’re allowed either one stopover and one open jaw or two stopovers. If you travel on Brussels, Swiss, United, and US Airways there won’t be any fuel surcharges either. So while Aeroplan miles aren’t what they used to be, they are still a good option for those with a Membership Rewards balance they’re looking to redeem for premium cabin travel.


Great use of Aeroplan miles without fuel surcharges

Best credit card(s) for earning Aeroplan miles: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which offers 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceries. Also the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offer one Starpoint per dollar spent on all purchases, and two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Points can be transferred to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re essentially earning 1.25 Aeroplan miles per dollar spent.

Air France Flying Blue – 1.1 cents/mile (not previously rated)

Flying Blue miles can be quite valuable in a limited set of circumstances. You can redeem them for one-way travel on Delta at half the price of a roundtrip (which you can’t do directly through Delta’s program), and as long as you’re originating in the US there are no fuel surcharges. Furthermore, they can be redeemed for travel on Aeromexico without fuel surcharges between the US and South America, which is another great option given how much award space they release. They even have lower pricing than Delta in many cases. For example, roundtrip business class on Delta between the US and Israel costs just 100,000 miles, assuming there’s award space at the saver level (while Delta would charge 120,000 miles for the same award).

These miles have also become more valuable for travel on Air France. Previously Air France gave their own Flying Blue members and Delta SkyMiles members access to the same saver award space. Nowadays they only give Delta access to a part of that inventory, to the point that they’ve blocked off Delta award redemptions for travel on Air France for just about the entire summer. So while Flying Blue does charge hefty fuel surcharges, it may just be the only practical option for redeeming on Air France.


Flying Blue business class award space between Washington and Paris for this summer (none of the space is being released to Delta SkyMiles members)

Though a word of caution — Flying Blue’s call center is indescribably useless and excruciatingly painful to work with. You’ve been warned.

Best credit card(s) for earning Air France Flying Blue miles: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which offers 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceries.

Alaska Mileage Plan – 1.6 cents/mile (previously 1.5 cents/mile)

Mileage Plan is one of those programs that’s sooo close to being awesome. They partner with many airlines across multiple alliances, so the flexibility of the miles is great, in theory. Unfortunately they have some rules that really prevent these miles from being more valuable. One of those rules is that you can’t mix partner airlines on an award ticket. This can be really tough to do given that multiple airlines are needed to get to some destinations, and that can require multiple award tickets. Furthermore as of now they don’t allow one-way awards on partner airlines, though rumor has it that one way awards will soon be possible on select partners.

That being said, Alaska recently unveiled their mileage redemption chart for travel on Emirates, and while it’s not amazing, it certainly adds some value to the program. First class to the Middle East or India is 180,000 miles roundtrip, while first class to Africa or Asia is 200,000 miles roundtrip.


Emirates onboard shower suite

Those are decent redemption rates though they aren’t amazing, Then again it’s one of Emirates’ few mileage redemption partners, so it’ll have to do. So I think the miles deserve a bit of a boost compared to last year, though I really can’t value them at over 1.6 cents each.

Best credit card(s) for earning Alaska Mileage Plan miles: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offer one Starpoint per dollar spent on all purchases, and two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Points can be transferred to Mileage Plan at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re essentially earning 1.25 Mileage Plan miles per dollar spent.

American AAdvantage – 1.8 cents/mile (previously 1.8 cents/mile)

The value of American miles remains unchanged for me over the past year, which is a great thing. For me their most useful single partner is Cathay Pacific, which continues to release a good amount of first class award space between the US and Asia. Not only is it a great value at 135,000 miles roundtrip for first class, but they release quite a bit of availability both 11 months out and within a couple of weeks of departure.


Five Cathay Pacific first class award seats available on a single flight

American miles are also great for travel to South America given both American’s route network and their partnership with LAN. Star Alliance and SkyTeam can’t even begin to compete on that front. And their partnership with Etihad is also great for travel to the Middle East and India.

Their other partners certainly come with some weaknesses, though are still useful in many instances.

American also has a distance based award chart which can be extremely lucrative for travel to multiple destinations, and is both one of the best kept secrets and values in the airline industry.

Malaysia Airlines recently joined OneWorld which opens up a lot of new destinations using American miles, and Qatar Airways is expected to join the alliance next year. These partnerships really solidify the value of American miles, and are really narrowing the gap between Star Alliance and OneWorld.

Best credit card(s) for earning American AAdvantage miles: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offer one Starpoint per dollar spent on all purchases, and two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Points can be transferred to AAdvantage at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re essentially earning 1.25 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. For the sign-up bonus it’s also worth considering the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, each of which offer 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within three months.

AviancaTACA Lifemiles – 1.2 cents/mile (not previously rated)

Last year a lot of attention was given to the Lifemiles program, given that AviancaTACA joined the Star Alliance. They have a rather unconventional award chart for a non-US frequent flyer program, if for no other reason than that they don’t impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions. What’s also quite interesting is that as long as you have 40% of the miles needed for a redemption in your account, you can purchase the remaining miles for 1.275 cents each.

So why am I not valuing these points more highly? Because of their ridiculous policy to not allow cabins to be mixed on an award ticket. If you book a first class award you can’t have any segments on the ticket in business or coach class, for example. So if you want to book a first class award and live in a small city with single cabin service you’re out of luck. Or if you’re connecting somewhere within Europe that’s only served by an aircraft with business class and coach… no soup for you! If they’d change that silly restriction I’d say their miles would go up in value by about 25%, but as it stands I just find these miles kind of impractical to redeem.

Best credit card(s) for earning AviancaTACA Lifemiles: Lifemiles Visa Signature Card, which offers one mile per dollar spent, and one additional mile per dollar spent on AviancaTACA.

British Airways Executive Club – 1.3 cents/Avios (previously 1.1 cents/Avios)

About 18 months ago British Airways devalued their award chart, which was a big blow to the value of their Avios. Instead they now operate exclusively on a distance based award chart, which I’ve come to appreciate more by the day.


Avios award chart

I’ve found myself redeeming Avios lately more than any other currency, because there are certain markets in which they’re invaluable. A one-way coach award for a distance of less than ~650 miles costs just 4,500 Avios one way, which is an incredible value, whether you’re trying to get from New York to Toronto or Lima to Cuzco.

My major frustration with Avios redemptions to Europe was that at the time they imposed fuel surcharges for all their transatlantic flights, though nowadays they don’t impose fuel surcharges on Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, or Iberia if you play it right.

So while Avios typically aren’t the best currency to have for aspirational redemptions, they’re extremely practical to have for everyday redemptions.

Best credit card(s) for earning British Airways Avios: British Airways Visa Signature® Card, which offers 1.25 British Airways Avios per dollar spent. For more flexibility the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are also good, given that they offer one Starpoint per dollar spent on all purchases, and two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Points can be transferred to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re essentially earning 1.25 Avios per dollar spent. Lastly, another great option is the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which offers 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceriesPoints can be transferred 1:1 to British Airways.

Delta SkyMiles – 1.3 cents/mile (previously 1.1 cents/mile)

It shocks me that I’m saying this given the lack of Air France business class award space using SkyMiles, though I think the value of SkyMiles has actually gone up lately due to a variety of factors. Generally speaking SkyTeam gets all the “sloppy second” airlines, so for the most part the airlines you can redeem your miles on aren’t all that exciting. Furthermore you can’t redeem your SkyMiles for international first class, so for me that makes SkyMiles less valuable than AAdvantage and MileagePlus miles right off the bat.

But we’ve seen some improvements lately that make SkyMiles much more attractive, including:


At least nine China Southern business class award seats available on a flight

So I do think the above has made SkyMiles more valuable. In my opinion they’re the most valuable mileage currency for travel to Australia and Tahiti (given that they partner with both Air Tahiti Nui and Air France), and have also become extremely competitive to Asia.

Best credit card(s) for earning Delta SkyMiles: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which offers 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceriesPoints can be transferred 1:1 to Delta SkyMiles.

Korean Air SkyPass – 1.4 cents/mile (not previously rated)

When most people think of SkyTeam frequent flyer programs Delta SkyMiles comes to mind. But if you’re like me and like to redeem your miles for international first class, it’s Korean Air’s SkyPass program you should be looking at.

They have reasonable first class redemption rates between the US and Asia. For example, flying to Japan or Northeast Asia costs just 160,000 miles roundtrip. What’s actually best about them is the amount of first class award space they consistently release. It’s common to see 2-5 first class award seats per flight, which isn’t the case for most airlines.



Tons of first class award space!

They also allow one way awards for travel on Korean Air at half the cost of a roundtrip, though for partner airlines roundtrip travel is required.

The one major downside of Korean Air is the booking process, which is unnecessarily complicated and restrictive. Still, for first class on SkyTeam airlines, this is the way to go.

Best credit card(s) for earning Korean Air SkyPass miles: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers double points on dining and travel, the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, which offer 5x points on office supply stores, cable, TV, phone, and internet, and 2x points on gas and hotels, and the Chase Freedom® Visa Card, which offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – 1.6 cents/mile (not previously rated)

The past year has been amazing for the value of KrisFlyer miles. Amazing. Early last year Singapore began making first and business class award redemptions in their new products available at the saver level. It’s ridiculous it took so long, given that their new product was nearly fleet wide, yet you couldn’t redeem for it at the lowest level since they were trying to “protect” the cabins. It wasn’t until early last year that they actually allowed KrisFlyer members to redeem for it at the saver level.

Then late last year they began allowing saver award redemptions in Suites Class, which was almost completely off limits with miles up until that point. Singapore Suites is probably the most aspirational airline product out there, so being able to redeem miles for it at a reasonable cost is awesome. Last May I wrote a post explaining all the basics of redeeming KrisFlyer miles for travel on Singapore Airlines (though note at the time Suites Class redemptions weren’t permitted, so that’s not reflected in the post).


Singapore Airlines Suites Class

Singapore has rather reasonable premium cabin redemption rates, and while they impose fuel surcharges, they’re quite mild. For example, San Francisco to Hong Kong roundtrip in first class costs 140,250 miles plus ~$371.30 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

Given that booking through KrisFlyer is one of the only ways to redeem miles for travel in Singapore Airlines longhaul premium cabins, I’d say these have quickly become one of my most coveted mileage currencies.

Best credit card(s) for earning Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which offers 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceries. Points can be transferred 1:1 to KrisFlyer.

Southwest Rapid Rewards – 1.4 cents/point (not previously rated)

Southwest has a revenue based frequent flyer program, where the cost of an award ticket is directly tied to the cost of a paid ticket on that flight. For “Wanna Get Away?” fares you can book an award ticket at the rate of 60 points per dollar — that’s a rate of ~1.66 cents per point. By booking an award ticket vs. a revenue ticket you’re giving up at least six points per dollar that you’d otherwise earn, which knocks about 10% of the value off. I also think it’s worth knocking a bit more off since redemption rates are higher for “Anytime” and “Business Select” fares, which brings me to my valuation of 1.4 cents per point.


Rapid Rewards redemption chart

Best credit card(s) for earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers double points on dining and travel, the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, which offer 5x points on office supply stores, cable, TV, phone, and internet, and 2x points on gas and hotels, and the Chase Freedom® Visa Card, which offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories.

United MileagePlus – 1.8 cents/mile (previously 1.8 cents/mile)

Fortunately nothing major has changed with United since the last time I valued them, so I think they’ve maintained their value pretty well. I still love United miles for how generous their routing rules are, for the fact that they allow one stopover and two open jaws on a roundtrip award ticket, and for how reasonable the change fees and policies are on award tickets compared to virtually any other airline.

United’s partnerships have more or less remained the same since last May, with the exception of Qatar Airways, which they lost as a partner. Some aspects of using United miles remain frustrating — Swiss doesn’t release any first class award space at all, Singapore doesn’t release any longhaul first class award space, and Lufthansa only releases first class award seats at most 15 days out, and I’ve found as of late they’re getting stingier and stingier even at that point. So that really does limit the aspirational redemptions using United miles, at least for those that need to plan in advance.


You can still redeem for Lufthansa first class within 15 days of departure

On the plus side a lot of Star Alliance carriers have improved their business class products lately, making for some attractive business class redemption opportunities.

So not only does United have amazing airline partners, but their miles are just so easy to use, between a (mostly) functional website, computers that automatically price awards (rather than leaving you at the mercy of clueless agents), extremely reasonable fees, and generous routing rules.

Best credit card(s) for earning United MileagePlus miles: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers double points on dining and travel, the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card, which offer 5x points on office supply stores, cable, TV, phone, and internet, and 2x points on gas and hotels, and the Chase Freedom® Visa Card, which offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories.

US Airways Dividend Miles – 1.6 cents/mile (previously 1.5 cents/mile)

US Airways, US Airways, US Airways… what can I really say? I love ‘em with a passion. I hate ‘em with a passion.

There’s no doubt with the upcoming merger my valuation will be changing soon, though as of now they still have a gem of an award chart. For 90,000 miles you can fly from the US to Asia via Europe as I recently did, and that’s an amazing value. In a way flying business class is more desirable lately, as we’ve seen more and more Star Alliance airlines introduce fully flat business class products.

Even though they got rid of off peak business class awards to Europe I still think the value of their miles has gone up, as we’re seeing more of a trend in Star Alliance whereby airlines release business class award seats instead of first class space.


Austrian’s new business class

Best credit card(s) for earning US Airways Dividend miles: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, which offer one Starpoint per dollar spent on all purchases, and two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Points can be transferred to Dividend Miles at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re essentially earning 1.25 Dividend Miles per dollar spent. It’s also worth considering the US Airways Premier World MasterCard® for the sign-up bonus, given that this card probably won’t be around for long given the upcoming merger.

Virgin America Elevate – 2.0 cents/point (not previously rated)

The past couple of weeks I’ve been focusing quite a bit on the value of Elevate points, as they have some really unique and lucrative partner redemption opportunities.

Virgin America has a revenue based frequent flyer program, meaning redemptions costs for travel on Virgin America are based on the revenue cost of a ticket. Regardless of what the fare is, each Elevate point gets you roughly 2.2 cents towards the cost of a ticket. Factoring in that you’re not earning the usual five Elevate points per dollar spent on airfare when redeeming points, I think it’s fair to value Elevate points at about 2.0 cents each.



Correlation between paid ticket and redemption ticket

In addition to that there are some amazing partner redemption options which have fixed pricing, especially for travel on Hawaiian, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic. The problem is that the “gems” on the chart are very limited in scope. For example, the Hawaiian award chart is most valuable for travel between the west coast and Hawaii, while the Singapore award chart is most valuable for travel on longhaul flights in coach. Certainly not a program that’s for everyone, though definitely a goldmine for some.

Best credit card(s) for earning Virgin America Elevate points: Virgin America Visa® Signature Card which offers one point per dollar spent. In comparison Membership Rewards points only transfer to Virgin America at a 2:1 ratio.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – 0.8 cents/mile (not previously rated)

There’s no polite way to say this, these miles are bloody useless. While British Airways has partner redemptions on which you can not only get decent mileage costs, but also not pay fuel surcharges, that’s not really the case with Virgin Atlantic.

You can redeem miles for travel on Virgin Atlantic with massive fuel surcharges, and those partners without fuel surcharges really aren’t a very good value.


High taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges for travel on Virgin Atlantic

One bright spot to their program has been that you can convert miles into Hilton HHonors points at a 1:2 ratio, but now that Hilton has destroyed the value of their program, the above valuation of miles is more reflective of my reduced valuation of Hilton points.

Best credit card(s) for earning Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles: Virgin America Visa® Signature Card which offers one point per dollar spent. In comparison Membership Rewards points only transfer to Virgin America ta  2:1 ratio.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offer one Starpoint per dollar spent on all purchases, and two Starpoints per dollar spent at Starwood properties. Points can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points transferred you get a 5,000 point bonus, meaning you’re essentially earning 1.25 miles per dollar spent. Lastly, another great option is the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, which offers 3x points on airfare and 2x points on gas and groceries. Points can be transferred 1:1 to British Airways. The Virgin Atlantic American Express is also worth considering for the sign-up bonus.

Conclusion

This has been a great couple of years for the value of airline miles. Without exception my valuation of miles has either remained the same or gone up from last year, which is extremely rare. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for hotels, which I’ll be valuing in the next installment. I definitely wouldn’t take the current mileage values for granted, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar slaughtering of airline award charts next year as we’ve seen with hotel charts this year.

So, release the hounds, I wanna hear what you guys think. Agree or disagree with the above valuations?

Editorial Note: Neither this post, nor the comments, are provided by the Issuing bank, or any other advertiser. The comments below have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not the bank or advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. Nick says

    @Lucky: I have to disagree with you on the value of Virgin America Elevate points, at least for anything more than an economy class redemption. I was an Elevate early adopter, and got the VA credit card years ago, only to discover that aspirational awards are completely out of reach. First class transcontinental awards are regularly 90,000 points EACH WAY, which is utterly useless. Worse still, VA has a good buy-up upgrade program where you can buy first class upgrades for $300 each way transcontinental, but you can’t use your Elevate points to redeem them– you have to use cash.

    So, in summary: first class awards are completely out of reach, and you can’t use points to upgrade — which would be an excellent use. Elevate points are good for redeeming short-haul travel, I suppose, but otherwise I’m not quite sure how they are useful.

  2. lucky says

    @ Nick — Revenue based frequent flyer programs typically aren’t very rewarding for “aspirational” travel. But each point gets you 2.2 cents towards the cost of a Virgin America ticket. So if you’d otherwise pay for a Virgin America ticket their points are actually pretty valuable.

    I agree they’re not your typical “aspirational” mileage currency, but they have their uses.

  3. gloreglabert says

    How about Hawaiian miles? I’m also curious what you recommend doing with these now, since the two most widely mentioned redemptions (transfer to Hilton and redeem on Virgin Atlantic) were both gutted by devals in the past couple of months.

  4. lucky says

    @ gloreglabert — I’d value them similar to Virgin Atlantic miles, at about 0.8 cents each. Best use is probably for travel on Virgin Atlantic or for Hilton transfers still.

  5. Denis says

    I don’t understand why Flying Blue miles are worth less than SkyMiles. Don’t they have access to the same award space (plus Air France’s own)? Or do they charge more miles than Delta?

  6. lucky says

    @ Denis — Because in many cases Flying Blue imposes fuel surcharges when Delta doesn’t. Also, their redemption rates are higher in many markets and routing rules not as generous.

  7. says

    Seems right on the dot to me – strong arguments for the value. Also interesting to see how airline co-branded cards can be essentially useless except for their sign-up bonuses…

  8. Antonio says

    “Without exception my valuation of miles has either remained the same or gone up from last year”

    Well, with the exception of VA, if you had valued them before. They would have been 1.6cpm with your prior HHonors point valuation. But like you mentioned, that’s more due to the hotel devaluation than anything the airline did.

  9. Miro says

    RE: Flying Blue, I would value them probably at par with Delta. I know, I know, the surcharges are awful. But there are 2 upsides to Flying Blue: you can redeem one-way and they have promo awards, both of which Delta doesn’t have. Also, no surcharge on redeeming Flyig Blue on Delta domestic tickets, so in this last respect they are the same as Delta.

  10. Miro says

    @ Lucky – well, yes, on an Olympic cycle, once every 4 years :-) . But I did redeem 3x 12,500 FB miles just last month for a domestic one-way that would have cost $200. Granted, small sample size, but still…

  11. Dave Op says

    Miles valuation is very subject, depending upon how one uses it. I actually like to see valuation base on profile of traveler. I don’t know if this is too complicated or not, but the above values can be use as a starting point. Here thoughts off the top of my head.
    *Domestic economy class traveler – comparison is against cheapest fair
    *International economy
    *International premium
    *Mixed – I would the above is here.

  12. Dave Op says

    I took a look at Continental/United trips taken since 2010, as I travel most with this airline. I value it as if I had to buy economy ticket on my own. So, if I had flown business class at 50,000 points, I value those at the economy ticket price + baggage fees. Range was from 1.2 cents to 3.2 cents per mile. Excluding the low and high, it ranged was 1.6 to 2.0 cents per mile, with the median at 1.7 cents.

  13. FindAWay says

    @Lucky – With respect to the value of Southwest Rapid Reward points, you didn’t mention a few things that might increase their value in the minds of some:

    1) Option Value – anyone can change or cancel an award booking without penalty (other than paying the fare difference; even the $2.50-$5.00 9/11 fees can be refunded if cancelled) up until departure (not only elites as with most other programs). And, if you miss a flight, the points are returned to your account and the security fees remain available as Ticketless Travel Funds (good for 1-year from the original purchase date). I find this is great for positioning flights for international premium award travel since those flights may change and I can change my positioning flights easily.

    2) Recapture of Points upon Fare Decreases – since the price of each redemption is based on the price of a paid ticket and there are no change fees, if the price of the paid ticket for an already booked award reservation decreases, anyone can simply “change” that already-booked award to the exact same now-cheaper award itinerary and the difference in points between the fares is immediately refunded to their account.

    3) One-Ways & Hidden City Ticketing – there are really no penalties for these on Southwest award bookings (and HCT comes into play since the redemption rate is based on ticket cost). The only issues arise in connection with WX and MX delays and 3+ segment one-way itineraries.

    4) Companion Pass – Just a note that since this is available for use with award itineraries and many folks have utilized credit cards and other means to obtain a Companion Pass, many folks get double the value out of redemptions.

    5) The stated redemption value of ~60 points per dollar actually varies in practice as Segment Fees and Passenger Facility Charges are not applied to award redemptions; so, especially with respect to less expensive fares, the value redeemed (before deducting for foregoing the earning points) on Wanna Get Away fares often exceeds 1.8 cpp.

    Of course, redemption rates for Anytime and Business Select fares is far worse.

  14. Diamond Vargas says

    Do you know if there’s any advantage to using Korean Air Skypass over Delta Skymiles for Air France flights, in terms of fuel surcharges or availability?

  15. lucky says

    @ Diamond Vargas — In some cases their redemption rates are lower (like between the US and Tahiti), though I believe they get access to the same space and they always impose fuel surcharges.

  16. Diamond Vargas says

    @ Lucky – Thanks for the response. Just to clarify in terms of space availability, so you’re saying that Air France allows access to only the same subset of its inventory for Skypass as it does for Skymiles? I.e. I would have the same trouble trying to redeem Skypass for a summer Air France flight as I would using Skymiles?

  17. Lantean says

    this is sort of OT, but once i redeemed AA miles at 22 cents per mile on a ticket combing CX first & business and AA first class. obviously, i would never have paid $27k for that ticket but it was fun in concept.
    plus the opportunity cost of 21k miles i would have earned on a revenue ticket would lower it to 18 cents per mile… still pretty cool.
    ;)

  18. Jason says

    @ Lantean – It is definitely fun to look at the “Book” cost of your award redemption. Being able to say you are taking a trip that would cost out of pocket $20k or more is great. That being said, its not exactly a fair valuation technique, lol.

  19. Daniel M says

    Hi Lucky.

    Regarding United, you emphasized how “how reasonable the change fees and policies are on award tickets compared to virtually any other airline.

    However, I have to disagree with you in that I think AA’s policies are more consumer-friendly. For one, United charges Silver elites $50 and Gold elites $25 to make award bookings within 21 days, whereas AA charges $0 to all its elites.

    Secondly, United no longer allows award ticket holds, whereas AA still does five day holds.

    Of course AA’s website is less partner-booking friendly than UA and AA does charge fuel surcharges on BA, but I would still say that AA beats out UA and therefore AA’s miles need to be valued slightly higher than UA.

  20. lucky says

    @ Diamond Vargas — That’s correct, at least that’s my understanding. They have award space for Flying Blue members and then all partner award inventory is the same, as far as I know.

  21. Nab says

    How about JAL miles? How much would you value them? Also, I have a lot of MR points. Is it worth transferring MR to US Airways through points.com. How long do you think it’ll take US Airways miles to transfer to American?

  22. lucky says

    @ Daniel M — I agree American is also strong on that front, and I love the courtesy holds (though wasn’t factoring that into my valuation).

    That being said, American’s redeposit fee is $150 for the first passenger, while United’s is half that (though American’s numbers look better when there are multiple passengers since they only charge $25 for every subsequent passenger to be redeposited).

    But with policies I was also factoring in the actual routing rules and double open jaw/stopover policy, where I think United kicks American’s butt. But I’m not playing favorites here, because as you can see I value them equally. :)

  23. lucky says

    @ Nab — Japan Airlines is tough to say, and I didn’t value them simply because how tough it is to earn them, and that they only partner with JAL. I think their one “gem” is Emirates redemptions, so for that alone I’d probably value them at 1.5-1.6 cents each. That being said if that option were to get devalued at some point, their value would drop substantially.

    As far as transferring Membership Rewards to US Airways through points.com goes, in some cases it can make sense. It’s anyone’s guess when American and US Airways miles can be swapped. I’d guess sometime within the next six months or so, though it could be longer or shorter. I probably wouldn’t speculatively do it for now in hopes of them becoming American miles, though if you have a specific redemption in mind I’d go for it.

  24. Euro says

    Good to see an updated post and how you have included some of the mileage currencies for overseas carriers. I would have thought you would wait until AA and US Airways update their mileage charts due to the merger before a post like this would show up.

    I remember you saying how Lufthansa and Swiss follow Singapore’s lead and don’t release award space to a majority of their partners. However, you haven’t listed their FF program here. Is it not viable to accrue points with their FF program to have better availability versus United/US Airways/Aeroplan?

  25. lucky says

    @ Euro — Thought this post was going long so ended up not including more programs, though I’ll include even more in my next installment.

    I think one of my main criteria for including non-US programs was that their miles had to be easy to accrue. In other words, they have multiple transfer partners. Without that it can be really tough to build up a substantial balance.

  26. Yucci says

    Lucky, thanks for that. A list I have been waiting for.
    I am not so sure about the virgin American miles. For the rest of the miles, it is calculated based in how much you are willing to pay for business / first class, not calculated based on how much the airline charges.
    For Virgin America, it’s 2.2 since that’s roughly the value you get, shouldn’t it be much lower for premium redemption as they will require a lot more miles than other programs?
    Otherwise we can say AA miles is about 10c each since that’s how much the tickets cost…

  27. lucky says

    @ Yucci — But I think there’s a big difference between revenue based frequent flyer programs and fixed cost frequent flyer programs. For a revenue based frequent flyer program you redeem miles for trips you’d take anyway, while for fixed cost frequent flyer programs you redeem your miles for aspirational awards.

    If American had an option to get 2.2 cents of value per mile applied towards a revenue ticket, I’d value them even more highly. Because I’d be redeeming those miles for trips I have to take, and not for trips in Cathay Pacific first class.

    But keep in mind Virgin America has some great fixed cost award redemptions as well. For example, coach on Singapore between the US and Asia is just 35,000 points, so I’m valuing them at $700, which I think is fair.

  28. chemist661 says

    For many years I overlooked Southwest as an airline. I recently got approved for the Personal & Biz cards. Add to that a transfer of hotel pts to SWA to get to 110K pts for the companion pass. Since I have medical issues, we (wife & I) will be flying SWA for the shorter haul flights in the western USA with the companon pass.

    My wife & I have 1.3MM AA miles between us (I am lifetime AA gold) so I can redeem last min tickets out of my AA account (900K) for no extra charge.

    For us, I value the SWA pts >1.8 cents/pt with the companion pass. That assumes that SWA gives me the companion pass w/110K pts. If not, getting $1600 SWA value ($1000 GC’s if I can’t fly by Dec 2014) for 2 CC’s is so worth. If I get companion pass, the value jumps up alot.

    Like anything else, SWA works for me for the short haul flights. For longer haul (transcon & intl), AA will do very well.

    The AA One world distance awards are great!!

  29. Justin says

    Personally, I’d value AA a bit higher than UA for a couple reasons.

    1) Harder to earn. If you’re not earning at least 10-15k UR per month [in my best Katt Williams voice] I do not know what you are doing with your life.

    2) More aspirational products available in reasonable booking time frame.

    As someone who doesn’t get tons of time off to travel, I need to plan my trips in advance, and I earn enough miles that I prefer to travel in F since otherwise (and even still), I’m just hoarding miles.

    The ability to book CX, EY, BA, MH and (theoretically) QF is pretty cool as all of their F products interest me. QF is obviously very hard on the USA routes, and I’ve not booked MH yet, but the rest are very generous.

    With *A, of those that are bookable, really only LH, NH, OZ and TG’s 388 interest me. And of them, LH is impossible to plan for, NH is hard to plan for with 2 people except in winter, OZ suites requires booking 300-330 days out and TG only has a few 388’s.

  30. UAPhil says

    Lucky, what fees are charged when booking short haul domestic awards using BA Avios (example: up and down the West Coast on AS)?

  31. ffi says

    Lucky, you forgot JetBlue and Frontier.
    And Miles and More; as a German speaker I thought that would be on your list as well. The availability is excellent for LH F awards and you can get it via a Barclays card here, or transfer from Wyndham or SPG.
    What about Aegean – great cancel fees.
    Same for SQ; 40$ fees to cancel is great for the same UA award that you may pay 150 to cancel.

  32. lucky says

    @ UAPhil — There are no close-in ticketing fees and if you book online you just pay the taxes. If you book by phone there is a $25 ticketing fee, and Alaska award tickets using Avios can only be booked by phone. That being said I’m BA Gold so don’t end up having to pay those, and many report getting them waived.

  33. beachfan says

    I can’t see the discrepancy between USAir miles now and AA when USAir miles will become AA miles in a year or so.

    You could book Star Alliance now or One World in 2014/2015.

  34. lucky says

    @ beachfan — Because we have no clue what the award chart of the new American will look like if/when it’s released. It could be that prices go up across the board, or it could be they remain the same. You can really only value miles for what they can be redeemed for today.

  35. says

    Another great post Ben……..would defly have to agree with you on these. btw..thanks for giving me hope on redeeming for CX F flights…I didnt know they release that many award seats in F.

  36. Vijay says

    Old enough to have booked award tickets on the Concorde ( lounge served as departure gate back in 1987) yet have NEVER been able to book award tix on Delta. Finally started using those miles on hotel rooms. Bad deal I know. I value delta miles at .8 c per mile based on average hotel rates and miles required.

  37. Brian says

    How can UR points be of equal value to united miles with the extra flexibility of transferring to other partners?

  38. Alan says

    Of course if based in the UK then BA Avios are much more useful given they include the Reward Flight Saver option – 9k Avios and £30 return including domestic connection – amazing value! Distance based awards are also on partner awards, for their own metal it’s still zones. Also if you Upgrade using Avios from World Traveller Plus to Club World then it’s not nearly such an issue re taxes/fees as you still earn on the underlying fare. I value them at 1p/1.5c per Avios. Of course in the States you can actually earn much easier than us with your massive credit card bonuses!

  39. vincent says

    Lucky you should have added for Flying Blue miles the Promo Awards (50% off).
    The value of miles is hugely increased (RT Europe to NAmerica: 50 000 miles in C, 25 000 in Y , 80 000 miles to Asia in C and 40 000 in Y, F called P on Air France not bookable unless fully flexible and elite. And thats usually the only time the huge airport taxes and fuel surcharges are worth paying for.

    A business class ticket from paris to the East/ West Coast is only 50 000 miles + 500 dollars in taxes . And they’re even really liberal when it comes to the originating/ destination city in Europe (europe covers all Western, Central and Eastern Europe + Western Russia, Israel and North Africa with Morroco and Tunisia). Amazing value for miles and it helps recover from the hefty taxes.

  40. A. S. says

    I find your valuations low across the board. I don’t think you give enough weight to the value of the actual paid ticket which these miles represent. This might not be important to you, because you earn miles incredibly easily and also when you fly it doesn’t seem that your’e going anywhere — just flying for the sake of it and to blog. But for 98% of the public — that family that’s saving up to take their yearly vacation — the amount of money they save by using miles is of absolute importance.

  41. beachfan says

    Hi Lucky;

    If you are only valuing miles for what they can be redeemed for today, then you are overvaluing the miles. It would take me a few years to use up all my miles even if I didn’t accrue anymore.

  42. lucky says

    @ Brian — Well because I don’t think any other transfer partners give you 1.8 cents (or more) of value. Hyatt would be a close second, while it goes downhill in value pretty quickly after that. I trust that if United were to change their award chart they’d give some advance notice, so you should still be able to make bookings at that point at the old prices.

    And this is why valuations are so subjective. If you have 150,000 Ultimate Rewards points you should value them differently than if you have 15 million Ultimate Rewards points, given that you probably couldn’t redeem them fast enough to protect against inflation.

  43. lucky says

    @ A. S. — Fair point, and I think it depends on what you’re comparing the value of those points to — a paid coach or business/first class ticket? I think the above valuations if redeemed for business/first class tickets do still represent paying a premium over coach tickets.

    For example, say you use United miles for travel to Europe over summer. A paid ticket might be $1,000, while 100,000 miles are “worth” $1,800. $400 per direction seems like a reasonable valuation to me for a transatlantic upgrade. I know I certainly don’t value a transatlantic upgrade at a whole lot more than that, and I doubt most others do either.

  44. lucky says

    @ beachfan — As I commented to Brian, this is why the valuation of miles is so subjective. Most airlines give some advance notice of award chart changes, so you have some time to redeem your miles.

    My philosophy with miles is to never have more than enough miles for two first class tickets to anywhere in the world in a given account. This sort of kind of protects you against inflation.

    And you’re right, someone that has 150,000 Ultimate Rewards points should value them differently than someone that has 15 million Ultimate Rewards points.

  45. beachfan says

    @lucky, I assume a roughly 20% annual devaluation (although I don’t convert it into cents).

    I also assume aspirational level rewards. Sure, I was caught off guard by HHonors, but Marriott fit in.

    I’m closer with 20% per year than 0% per year!

    Given your philosophy, would you advise someone not to pursue a particular bonus if they already have their current year travel accounted for and they already have enough for two first class RT trip tickets?

  46. lucky says

    @ beachfan — Yes and no. I guess it really depends on someone’s travel patterns. For example, would I buy American miles at 1.6 cents each if I had 100,000 in my AAdvantage account? Probably. Would I buy them at that rate if I had a million in my account? Probably not.

    So I don’t think you should automatically dismiss an opportunity to earn miles just because you have enough for two tickets in that account, but the threshold for taking advantage of a promotion should be higher.

  47. says

    Sorry I posted in the wrong section. I meant to post here:

    Hey, Lucky,

    Thanks as always for your stellar advice. Last time I asked you about whether I should credit my miles to MileagePlus or with KrisFlyer. Although I agreed with you that it would be better to go with MileagePlus, provided I could get to the 100K Premier status. I take two trips to Australia a year. That’s still 50,000 miles short. I would definitely be Star Alliance Gold though. I’m going again in May so when I return, I will be Gold.
    I decided to stick to KrisFlyer especially because I wanted to see what the SQ product was like.
    You were absolutely right! It blows my mind that this is what they consider coach class. I was pampered, everything was clean, the staff was super-efficient and the food was gastronomically amazing. I chose the low lactose meals. Qantas got rid of those so I’d end up starving because their food makes me sick.

    I’ve been very happy with SQ and all my flights in the US have gone so smoothly with United. Sometimes, I think I’m the only one who likes United. They even upgraded me to E+ a couple of times and on my first flight with them, I gave up my seat on an oversold situation so they gave me a $400 voucher and just like that, they put me in first class on the following flight!

    I see now that you’re saying that my least favorite, and most painful US based airline, Delta, is best for getting upgrades from the US to Australia. Do you mean on Virgin Australia?

    Again, I don’t know if I could go back to flying anything else but SQ after my magnificent flights. Plus, I fly to Perth and not to Sydney or Melbourne. What’s convenient is that my port of exit is New York, and my port of entry is Perth. No need to mess around with luggage at all.

    I’m intrigued by your latest findings. So stick to KrisFlyer or see what I could do with Delta? If it involves having to take Delta Airlines to Australia, I’m not prepared to do that. ;p Thanks in advance for your reply!

  48. lucky says

    @ Jim — Happy to hear you’ve been enjoying Singapore — if you’ve gotta fly coach they are indeed the best.

    When I referred to using Delta miles for business class to Australia I was referring to outright redemptions for travel on Virgin Australia. Unfortunately upgrades on Delta are expensive and a pain, though if you have 150,000 SkyMiles you can’t beat the availability that Virgin Australia has in business class.

  49. Bgriff says

    Would love to see ANA added to this list … their award chart is odd and can sometimes be better than anything else out there. For example they are the best option for VS Upper Class reservations between the US East Coast and London (and especially a better option than transferring MR points to VS since ANA is also an MR partner). They can also be outstanding for round-the-world tickets (I did JFK-NRT-PEK-HKG-SIN-AMS-CDG-FRA-JFK in business once for 125K miles).

  50. Marty says

    wait so if all these miles are valued less than $2 per mile is it better to get the capital one venture card?

  51. says

    Lucky,
    Planning a trip to Australia and NZ in 2015 and want to fly united business by buying economy and then using miles to upgrade. Do you have any info as to how many seats united releases for this and far out they are released?
    Thanks!
    Ron R.

  52. says

    @ Ron — The number of seats they release does very substantially, as there’s no “rule” in that regard. It can be all over the place. Best you can do is call and see if they have any confirmable upgrade space, as they do often open up some as soon as the booking window opens.

  53. Traveler says

    I’m not sure if the rules have changed or what the deal is but I recently booked a flight on Avianca with rewards points and the trip there was business and the return trip was coach–no problems with booking. The only thing it warned about was that the most limiting segment rules apply to all segments. That is, if one part of the trip was bought at the refundable rate and the other at the non-refundable rate BOTH segments are now non-refundable.

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