How Much Are American Miles Worth Post-Devaluation?

Today is March 22, which is probably the most dreaded day of the calendar for us American AAdvantage loyalists. American’s huge award chart devaluation just kicked in, and many of my favorite awards went up in price by 60%+.

2016-AAdvantage-Program

Doing an award search this morning and seeing that a US to Asia first class award now costs 110,000 miles one-way is pretty brutal, given that previously you could book such an award for just 67,500 miles.

American-Awards

Bye bye first class on Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, etc.

For reference, here’s what American’s new first & business class saver level award chart looks like for travel to/from the US:

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Business ClassFirst Class
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 25,00050,000
Canada & Alaska30,00055,000
Hawaii40,00065,000
Caribbean27,50052,500
Mexico27,50052,500
Central America27,50052,500
South America Zone 130,00055,000
South America Zone 257,50085,000
Europe57,50085,000
Middle East / India70,000115,000
Africa75,000120,000
Asia Zone 160,00080,000
Asia Zone 270,000110,000
South Pacific80,000110,000

With the above in mind, I figured I’d share how much I think American AAdvantage miles are worth post-devaluation. As a point of reference, before the devaluation I thought American miles were worth 1.8 cents each.

How to value miles

Before I share how much I think AAdvantage miles are worth, let me share my general methodology for valuing points. I provided this explanation when I talked about my valuation of SPG points the other day, and will share it again.

Aside from fixed value points currencies (where each point is worth a certain dollar value), there’s no scientific way to value points. Everyone will have different valuations based on their redemption patterns, so the best I can do is share how I value them, and then everyone can crunch the numbers for themselves.

Last year Travis wrote a series explaining how to value points based on your earning and redemption patterns. He’s much more of a scientific thinker than I am, so check out his series:

The simplest way to explain it is that miles are worth some amount between your acquisition cost and your redemption value. Where in that range your valuation falls depends entirely on how you choose to redeem points.

In a simple diagram, here’s how he explained his methodology for valuing miles:

redeeming and earning combined 3

In other words, in the instance of AAdvantage miles, I know people who value them at one cent each, and I know people who value them at three cents each, depending on how they earn and redeem them.

I think the important to keep in mind is that miles are only worth as much as you’d otherwise be willing to pay for a ticket. In other words, if you redeem 100,000 miles for a ticket which would cost $10,000 in cash, you’re not actually getting 10 cents per mile of value. The value you’re getting should be correlated to what you’d otherwise be willing to pay for the ticket.

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 1
Etihad’s first class is nice, but is it really “worth” ~$25,000 roundtrip?

What do I think American miles are worth now?

Previously I valued American miles at ~1.8 cents each, while now I value them at ~1.5 cents each.

You might be saying “wait a second, an award from the US to Asia in first class just increased from 67,500 miles to 110,000 miles, so shouldn’t the value of miles change correspondingly?

Not quite, because I think a large part of our redemption patterns are based around where the good values are. In other words, if awards to the Middle East on Etihad and Qatar had cost 200,000 miles one-way all along, I doubt many of us would basically feel like locals in Abu Dhabi. 😉

Mosque

Instead award chart changes often shift how we choose to redeem our miles. For example, more realistically, what will I be redeeming miles for now?

As I look at the chart, I’m realizing that most of my redemptions will be in business class from hereon out. When you look at the actual costs post-devaluation, they’re not that bad (all one-way in business class), at least compared to the first class increases:

  • US to Europe costs 57,500 miles (up from 50,000 miles)
  • US to Southern South America costs 57,500 miles (up from 50,000 miles)
  • US to Asia 1 costs 60,000 miles (up from 50,000 miles)
  • US to Asia 2 costs 70,000 miles (up from 55,000 miles)
  • US to Middle East costs 70,000 miles (up from 67,500 miles)
  • US to Africa costs 75,000 miles (unchanged)

Obviously first class redemptions have largely increased in price substantially, which sucks, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are still plenty of great uses of American miles.

A roundtrip LAN business class award between the US and Southern South America now costs 115,000 miles. At a valuation of ~1.5 cents per mile, that’s like valuing such a redemption at ~$1,725.

LAN-Business-Class-787 - 12

A roundtrip Japan Airlines business class award between the US and Japan now costs 120,000 miles. At a valuation of ~1.5 cents per mile, that’s like valuing such a redemption at ~$1,800.

A roundtrip Cathay Pacific business class award between the US and Southeast Asia now costs 140,000 miles. At a valuation of ~1.5 cents per mile, that’s like valuing such a redemption at ~$2,100.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-A330-40

A roundtrip Qatar Airways business class award between the US and Africa still costs 150,000 miles. At a valuation of ~1.5 cents per mile, that’s like valuing such a redemption at ~$2,250.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-30

Bottom line

A lot of my favorite AAdvantage redemptions are going up in price significantly, which I’m of course not happy about. But when there’s a devaluation I think it’s important to step back and look at the whole award chart and which redemptions become comparatively good values. In the case of this devaluation, first class awards were hit hardest, which is unfortunate, since that’s how many of us enjoyed redeeming our miles.

At the same time, there’s plenty of value to be had for business class awards. So with the devaluation in place, I’d say I value American miles at 1.5 cents each. There’s no science to that, but rather it’s just a number which feels right to me. Could I make an argument against 1.4 cents or 1.6 cents, or even 1.3 cents or 1.7 cents? Nope.

But that’s the beauty of miles — their values are very subjective.

How much do you think American miles are worth, factoring in the devaluation?

Comments

  1. Of course you are going to overvalue AA miles still… your credit card business model and award booking service both rely upon people wanting to accrue and spend them. This is not an unbiased review.

  2. @Tyler What would you value AA miles at then, if you think this is overvalued?

    Lucky, would your valuation change once more when AA goes revenue based?

  3. I have gotten exceptional cpp for redeeming AA miles.

    And the funny thing is the closer my trip approaches the more valuable the redemption has become. In fact perhaps the night before the trip the redemption value would be close to 20 c per mile.

    I just wish people were impressed by my genius.

  4. While we cannot eliminate bias from his review, I think the potential redemptions he listed along with the cash prices to compare for his valuation are completely reasonable.

    A roundtrip business class ticket to Japan costs far more than $1800, and I would be more than happy to pay such a cash price to obtain a ticket.

  5. @ Tyler — Huh? Did anyone bash American more heavily than I did about the devaluation?

    Curious what you value American miles at…

  6. @ David W — I don’t think so, given that my valuation is based on redemption rates and not earnings rates.

  7. @ Tyler – If you already assumed that this is an unbiased review, why did you even read it? In fact, why are you reading OMAAT at all? If this blog is decidely pro-AA as you say, then it must also have the backs of every other airline and hotel whose cc link has ever appeared here, as well as the backs of every airline that PointsPros ever made a booking for on behalf of its customers. By your own logic, that basically negates every single review that ever appeared here.

  8. I find it annoying that bloggers never take into account the miles or hotel points you would earn by spending money rather than miles. A revenue ticket accrues miles while an award ticket doesn’t so you have to take that into account if you are doing a complete analysis. (e.g. a 120,000 mile award ticket to Japan accrues no miles, but a $1800 revenue ticket to Japan will accrue lots of miles (up to 25k for exec platinum, which is worth about $320) I would shave about 18% off what the bloggers says in valuations (e.g. AA miles are worth ~1.2 cents instead of 1.5 cents)

  9. @ Dk — I always do factor that into my analysis. See the linked post, both about Starwood and about how to value miles.

    My valuation of miles factors that in. When I decide whether to pay cash or redeem miles, I’d factor in the revenue ticket along with the miles I’d earn against the cost of an award ticket (factoring in the miles I’d be forgoing).

  10. Now that most business class products have been improved to be on par or better than F class used to be in many cases, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. But it does suck of course.

    I would (and have) paid more than $1800 for a J class round trip to Japan and $2100 to SE Asia. So if anything I think you might be undervaluing them somewhat.

  11. @Lucky — Good analysis, I think your estimated value (1.5 c/mile) for AA miles is pretty reasonable. Feel very fortunate to have redeemed a bunch of AA miles to score some Qantas A380 tickets in First this October. I imagine that will be the first and last time we’ll have the opportunity to fly international first class.

    Also agree that Business is the new sweet spot on the awards charts. Hopefully the airlines don’t cut back on Business class award availability going forward… the cynic in me fears that’s exactly what they’ll do.

  12. I’m new to this “game”. When I looked at my AA points earlier this year, and realized that for under 135k points, I could fly to Australia (F one way, and J the return), I was excited.

    I didn’t think about the “value of the points as a $ figure, but rather, as you said – how much would you pay for a ticket? A return ticket to Australia in F is $16k, so I think I got a great bargain (since I actually bought most of my points when there was a bonus on offer earlier in the year), and my out of pocket expense was what I would consider paying to upgrade to first and business, rather than economy.

  13. I can still get over 2 cents of value. Even at 70k one way in business to Asia2, that’s a value of $1400 worth of flights you’re getting. I wouldn’t pay that much but $1400 one-way in business would be considered a great price by just about everyone.

    Coach is still a good value, if you travel during peak seasons the prices are very high, while award mileage didn’t go up.

  14. @lucky I reread it and yes you did. So I’m sorry about that. I know that TPG doesn’t seem to do that in his monthly analysis so I automatically assumed that you didn’t, which after I reread it, is not true.

    I still feel that bloggers overvalue miles for many reasons that are hard to quantify (Unregulated currency that can be devalued at any time, Low Premium Availability, residual miles that aren’t possible to redeem (I have 3797 AA miles now, what the heck do I do with them?))

    Anyway, I am a fan of your blog and I read every post.

  15. 80k JFK-NRT on JAL is still pretty great IMHO

    Also, I’d expect for those who generate millions of miles, it’ll become much easier to book awards in F now

  16. @ Dk — Thanks for reading, I appreciate it! Hopefully not all bloggers are created equal. 😉

    Out of curiosity, what did you/do you value American miles at?

  17. @anon Exactly…the amount of ANA F available on UA is insane, even when they release so much in advance

  18. With how cheap flights are these days and the AA devaluation, not too much.
    Goals:
    Domestic Economy: No more than 1.3 cents per point
    Premium International: No more than 1.8 cents per point
    As an example, I want to go to SE Asia next Nov/Dec. I have two options
    1) Alaskan and Hainan on $2880 business RT
    2) AA, JAL, CX for 140k RT ($2520 my valuations)

    I am pretty much indifferent between the two options above. 1) gives me alaskan miles, has good availability but is a slightly worse in-air experience. 2) would be a better experience but it’s harder to search, harder to find availability and gives me no miles.

  19. In your valuation you skip their gutting off off-peak intl economy flights. These were a huge value. Because of this, I’d say they are worth around 1.2-1.3 cents now.

  20. I don’t think EY 1st is still off limits. Yes, 115k sucks but if you have a AA card (which a lot of this blog readership probably does), the effective rate is really 105k which is close (ish) to the 100k EK will charge to get to India. CX tho, for sure is bye bye.

  21. Lucky, where can we find the intra region partner award charts?

    All the ones I’ve seen posted are “US to XXX”.

  22. Welcome to the reality most of us have had for a while with other programmes! At least you’ve still got decent value redemptions compared to the likes of BA. You’ve also still got incredibly generous credit card sign up bonuses! I probably value them similarly to you though given how difficult they are to accrue in the UK. By comparison I value Avios at 0.75p

  23. In real life, I cannot afford international first class on a top airline. Even premium economy is expensive for me. In the miles world, I can. Priceless.

    In the real world, I cannot gift my girlfriend an international business or first class ticket. In the miles world I can. Double priceless.

    To be honest, I like the bloggers estimates. They give me a metric to think about the value of miles. For me, the miles are worth more than they value them, because I use miles for international business to Asia. However, other people should make their own adjustments. Starting from scratch is way harder than making an adjustment.

  24. And one real intangible for people like me us that, but for having collected all these miles and points, I would never travel like I now do.
    I had a ton of aa miles, so stayed up until 2-3 a.m. for 4 consecutive nights to score a CX and JAL F and B ticket to Thailand. But for stumbling onto this blog 2 years ago, I would never have considered even going to Thailand, much less in F/B. Thank you Lucky.

  25. Even bigger change (devaluation) for Economy fliers, the dates for MileSAAver Off Peak levels were greatly reduced. In the old award chart MileSAAver Off Peak dates US to Europe were available Oct 15 to May 15 for a total of 212 out of 365 days (58%). Post devaluation March 22 the new MileSAAver Off Peak dates to Europe are Jan 10 to Mar 14 and Nov 1 to Dec 14 for a total of 107 out of 365 days (29%). That is a huge impact!

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