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One of the keys to avoiding disappointment with points as much as possible is to collect transferable points currencies. These are currencies like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.
Why transferable points are valuable
The reason these points are so valuable is because you can transfer them to many partner programs when you’re ready to redeem, which is a great way to protect your points from devaluations. In my case, I take it a step further and collect all the major transferable points currencies, which protects me even further from devaluations, as it diversifies my points as much as possible.
What you generally want to avoid is collecting points in a single non-transferable currency, because when the program devalues your points could be worth significantly less overnight. I know that’s the situation a lot of us were in a few weeks back, when American AAdvantage devalued their award chart. The costs of some of my favorite redemptions increased by as much as ~67%. The same was true when Alaska doubled the cost of some Emirates first class redemptions overnight.
I have cards which accrue each of these transferable points currencies in my card portfolio.
I use the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express to maximize my earning of Amex Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to the following partners:
|AeroMexico Club Premier||British Airways Executive Club||Frontier EarlyReturns||Virgin America EleVAte|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|AirFrance/KLM Flying Blue||Delta SkyMiles||Iberia Plus|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||El Al Matmid||JetBlue TrueBlue|
|ANA Mileage Club||Etihad Guest||Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer|
I use the Citi Prestige® Card to maximize my earning of Citi ThankYou points, which can be transferred to the following partners:
|Air France/KLM | Flying Blue||Garuda Indonesia | Frequent Flyer||Qatar Airways | Privilege Club||Hilton | HHonors|
|Cathay Pacific | Asia Miles||JetBlue | TrueBlue||Singapore Airlines | KrisFlyer|
|EVA Air | Infinity MileageLands||Malaysia Airlines | Enrich||Thai Airways | Royal Orchid Plus|
|Etihad | Etihad Guest||Qantas | Frequent Flyer||Virgin Atlantic | Flying Club|
And I use the Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and Chase Freedom® Card in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to maximize my earning of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to the following partners:
|Air France KLM Flying Blue||IHG Rewards Club||Singapore KrisFlyer||United MileagePlus|
|British Airways Executive Club||Korean Air SkyPass||Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards||Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
|Hyatt Gold Passport||Marriott Rewards||The Ritz-Carlton Rewards|
How much are all these points actually worth?
I’m working on a post with my updated valuation of miles & points, which I haven’t done in a while. As I explain all the time, there’s not any science to valuing a non-revenue based points programs. Everyone values redemptions differently. So if I say a mileage currency is worth 1.6 cents, and someone else says they’re worth 1.9 cents, I can’t really prove them wrong, other than providing an explanation of where my valuation come from.
A while back Travis wrote an excellent series about how to go about valuing points:
- Miles Aren’t Free: How To Value Your Redemptions
- Miles Aren’t Free: How To Value What You Earn
- Miles Aren’t Free: Establishing An Overall Value
The idea is that points are worth somewhere between your acquisition cost and the redemption value you’re getting out of them. That of course doesn’t really narrow it down, but at least it creates a framework by which everyone can value these points on their own.
As I set out to value points, I had no problem assigning my values to various currencies. For example, American AAdvantage miles are worth 1.5 cents to me, Hyatt points are worth 1.5 cents to me, and Starwood points are worth 2.2 cents to me.
But then it came time to value the transferable points currencies.
Amex Membership Rewards points are worth 1.8 cents to me… hmmm, maybe they should be worth a bit less, since they can’t be transferred to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio anymore.
Transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer
What about Citi ThankYou points? Assuming you have the Citi Prestige® Card, they can be redeemed for travel on any airline. Or you can transfer them to Air France FlyingBlue, Singapore KrisFlyer, etc. Maybe they should be worth 1.6 cents each then, or slightly more to account for the transferability of the points?
And that brings us to Chase points. They can be transferred to Hyatt, Korean Air, and United. United devalued a couple of years back and Korean miles are great, though are also limiting, since you can only redeem them for family members. I value Hyatt points at 1.5 cents each, United miles at 1.4 cents each, and Korean Air miles at 1.5 cents each, so maybe Ultimate Rewards points should be worth 1.6.1-7 cents each?
Here’s what I decided
Call me crazy, but after pulling out a bunch of hair I’ve simply decided that the three major transferable points currencies are all worth (roughly) the same. That’s not to say that they’ll all be worth the same to everyone, but rather that they all have their relative advantages, so I can’t make a general suggestion and say “this currency should be worth more to you than that one.”
I value points very conservatively nowadays, so let’s just call it an even 1.7 cents per point. Going back and forth over 0.1 cents per point when everyone uses points for different things seemed sort of stupid. Given that all of these issuers have cards with great bonus categories, I think it’s easier to compare the bonus categories rather than go back and forth about very minor differences in points valuations.
What are the relative pros of each of these currencies?
- American Express Membership Rewards has the most transfer partners, the most valuable of which I consider to be Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, Delta SkyMiles, and Singapore KrisFlyer
- Chase Ultimate Rewards has some especially unique transfer partners, including British Airways Executive Club, Hyatt Gold Passport, Korean Air SkyPass, and United MileagePlus
- Citi ThankYou is the only transferable points currency which can efficiently be redeemed for revenue travel on an airline, given that you’re getting 1.6 cents per point; on top of that points can best be transferfed to Air France FlyingBlue and Singapore KrisFlyer
Ultimately valuing points is never a science, but instead I do it to give people a general sense of direction in deciding which points currency to accrue, or whether to accrue points at all.
While I can fairly easily choose a value for individual points currencies, I really struggle with valuing transferrable points currencies.
Am I wrong to come to the conclusion that they’re all worth roughly the same, at least in the big picture? Of course it depends on everyone’s individual redemption preferences, but “big picture” about 1.7 cents per transferrable point just sounds right to me.
Which transferable points currency do you think is most valuable? Vote in the below poll, and let me know in the comments section!
I’ll be out with my full valuation of points later this week.
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