Here Are My Valuations Of Miles & Points

If you check the blog’s Beginners Guide To Miles & Points, you’ll see that I have a section with my valuation of various points currencies. However, it has been a while since I’ve actually comprehensively gone through and adjusted my valuation of points, given how it’s constantly changing.

Last week I wrote about the struggle I had in valuing transferable points currencies, which was the biggest hangup I was having in publishing my new points valuations. While all my valuations can (and should) be disputed, I figured I’d share my updated numbers.

How do I come up with my value of points?

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 comes from.

A while back Travis wrote an excellent series about how to go about valuing points:

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 much, but at least it creates a framework by which everyone can value these points on their own.

Coming up with a valuation of points is both an absolute and relative exercise:

  • You have to decide the actual value of an individual point based on your typical redemption patterns
  • The relative values of currencies also have to be correct, which sounds simpler than it actually is, for reasons I can’t explain

I should also say that my valuation of points shouldn’t necessarily be your valuation of points. I prefer redeeming miles for international premium cabin awards, so a large part of my valuation is based around that. If you redeem points primarily for economy awards, you may take a different approach, which is fair.

When determining the value I get per mile for premium cabin awards, I base it on what I would have otherwise been willing to pay for a flight, and not the actual retail cost.

In other words, a roundtrip ticket in Cathay Pacific first class might cost $30,000 if paying in cash, when in reality I’d maybe be willing to pay $3,000 for it. Therefore the value I’m getting out of my miles is based on the $3,000 number, rather than the $30,000 number. If I used the latter method I’d be valuing miles at 20+ cents each. If anyone value miles that way, let me know, and I’ll gladly sell you some miles for 15 cents each (just kidding, since you can’t buy/sell miles). 😉

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-04
Cathay Pacific first class is awesome, but I can’t justify valuing it at $30,000

Why my general valuation of miles has decreased

In general you may notice that my valuation of miles is a bit lower than in the past. This is for two main reasons.

First of all, we’ve seen many award chart devaluations, which has had the worst impact on the cost of international first class redemptions. In most cases business class redemptions haven’t gone up by that much, while in some cases first class redemptions went up by 50%+.

Etihad-A380
The cost of Etihad first class awards recently greatly increased through American AAdvantage

Along similar lines, lately we’ve seen more promotions than ever before for discounted business class revenue tickets. If you’re nowadays mostly redeeming miles for business class, and if the cost of business class tickets is going down, the overall need to redeem miles for business class decreases as well.

For example, I’m not going to redeem miles when I can book a ~$1,200 roundtrip business class ticket to Europe, or a ~$1,300 roundtrip business class ticket to Asia.

British-Airways-Business-Class
British Airways 777 business class

Here’s my value of miles & points

With the above out of the way, here are my valuations of miles & points (and from now on I plan on always keeping the valuations I have updated on the blog’s resources page):

Value of Airline Miles

ProgramValue
Air Canada Aeroplan1.3 cents/mile
Air France Flying Blue1.2 cents/mile
Alaska Mileage Plan1.8 cents/mile
American AAdvantage1.5 cents/mile
Avianca Lifemiles1.4 cents/mile
British Airways Executive Club1.3 cents/Avios
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1.2 cents/mile
Delta SkyMiles1.3 cents/mile
Etihad Guest1.3 cents/mile
JetBlue TrueBlue1.3 cents/point
Korean Air SkyPass1.5 cents/mile
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1.5 cents/mile
Southwest Rapid Rewards1.4 cents/point
United MileagePlus1.4 cents/mile
Virgin America Elevate2.0 cents/point
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1.0 cents/mile

Value of Hotel Points

ProgramValue
Club Carlson0.4 cents/point
Hilton HHonors0.4 cents/point
Hyatt Gold Passport1.5 cents/point
IHG Rewards Club0.5 cents/point
Marriott Rewards0.8 cent/point
Starwood Preferred Guest2.2 cents/point
Wyndham Rewards0.8 cents/point

Value of Bank & Credit Card Points

ProgramValue
American Express Membership Rewards 1.7 cents/point
Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard Miles1.05 cents/point
Chase Ultimate Rewards1.7 cents/point
Citi ThankYou Points1.7 cents/point
Starwood Preferred Guest2.2 cents/point

Bottom line

The above are my valuations, though I’m curious to hear what you guys think. Let me know if your valuations are similar or not. Also, if you’re curious about my valuations of any other programs which I left out, let me know and I’ll get the post updated to add them as well.

Like I said, the above are my personal valuations, though it’s perfectly reasonable if you come to completely different conclusions. As we say, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Curious to hear what you guys think!

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Lucky, agree with most of the valuations. The only one I have a questions about is the Barclaycard Arrival Card Miles valuation of >2 cents per point. My understanding is that each point is only worth 1 cent when redeemed for travel, even though you can earn 2 points per dollar spent. Am I missing something here. I only ask because I’m thinking about signing up for this one shortly and a 2 cent per point valuation would make it worth much more than I had been considering.

  2. I’d put Jetblue at 1.4 cents as most redemptions are actually in the 1.4-1.6 cent range.

  3. Nice discussion!bthsnks!

    The only thing I would add is that the individual’s value consider how many points you have already as well as what you redeem them for. For example, even though I agree overall with your SPG vs UR relativity, I use SPG Amex even when CDP would be double bonused spend. I need SPG points desperately (I burn them as soon as I get them because they are my favorite chain) do I’d rather get 1000 star points vs . 2000 UR points as I have plenty and continue to earn.

    But if I was just 10k points shy of an SQ award, I would put the spend in CSP

  4. @Joseph When you redeem Barclay Arrival miles, you get 5% back, which is why his valuation is just over 2 cents a mile.

  5. Lucky,

    I agree that you cannot “sell” miles but most airlines will allow you to “gift” your miles to anyone, providing the person receiving the miles is also registered with the same airline.

    I recently “gifted” my partner 50K so she could fly FC for the first time, which cost me 1.65 cents per mile plus a minor administration fee.

  6. @David that doesn’t really answer the question. 5% back wouldn’t all of a sudden make a single point worth over 2 cents. If anything it would be worth slightly over one cent. The valuation seems completely off since its basically a cash back card. The card is worth 2.1% back on each dollar spent, but that is only because you are earning two points per dollar. There are non AF 2% cards out there so I fail to see why anyone would go for the arrival+ unless they just want the signup offer.

  7. @ Joseph — Sorry I wasn’t clear there. I was talking about the return per dollar spent rather than the return per mile. I updated the chart to reflect the 1.05 cents it should be on a per mile basis (one cent plus the 5% refund on redeemed points).

  8. @ DWT — The reason I don’t is because when you redeem points for JetBlue you don’t earn points. So at a minimum you’re giving up six points per dollar vs. the revenue airfare, which are worth ~10% of what you paid. That’s why I value them lower than the value each point gets you towards the cost of a ticket. Hope that makes sense.

  9. @ Rick — Yep, definitely true, but you still can’t accept compensation for it. Was a joke anyway. Just saying that there are people who say they’re getting 20 cents of “value” per point, which is an approach I generally disagree with.

  10. The valuations are fine as long as everyone understands that those are REDEMPTION values ONLY that cannot and should be compared across programs. For comparisons across programs, there are better metrics, like “spend per free night”, which takes into account both the EARN and SPEND or REDEMPTION values of points.

    When one adjusts those valuations for the relative earn rates of the various points currencies, differences vanish.

    For instance, one earns ~3x more HH points a pop than HGP points, or 6x more HH points than Starpoints, so that

    — in terms of HGP points, HH points are worth 0.4 x 3 = 1.2 cpp, which is not materially different from the 1.4 cpp estimate above.

    — terms of starpoints, HH points are worth 0.4 cpp * 6 = 2.4 cpp, which is not materially different from the 2.2 cpp estimate above.

    The above holds for virtually every pair of currencies, meaning that all loyalty points are worth about the same when both the EARN and the SPEND or REDEMPTION sides of the equation are taken into account.

    G’day!

  11. I think BA deserves a little better…. If you are using it for Oneworld partner within the Americas(North and South). Pretty crappy if you fly anywhere else

  12. Is the SWA valuation based on the “wanna get away fans” the cheapest fare on all routes? I have seen 1.8 before.

  13. Just to clarify on the Barclaycard rewards and my case. I get 10% points back if I redeem for travel, what would set the value at a clear 1.1 cent (it’s 2.2 cents per actual dollar spent). I thought the 10% back was the general rule, but I see that many sites mention only 5% points credited. Is it possible that the 10% is targeted?

  14. HI. I live in a small town. United has the only flight out of here. If I want to fly from here to San Diego it is at least $420 on cheapest flight. From San Francisco it is $200. But it uses the same number of miles. If I want to fly to New York it is at least $550 but from San Francisco $200. But is is the same number of miles. Finally on flights to Cebu in Philippines. I recently checked flying from San Francisco to Cebu at about $1000 cheapest flight. For flying from Arcata to Cebu on Expedia it was over $3000.
    It seems to me that the value of miles depends on where you are flying to and from which airport. They are worth a lot more to me than if I lived near San Francisco.

  15. You got some essplainin to do! Me and my man is often debating which credit card miles is worth the most, and I am frequently thinking to myself it depends on what you and your man plan to do with the miles. You know? The Chase points is much better if you looking to get a hotel room because they transfer with ease to Hyatt — my favorite hotel program in the whole wide world. (Me and my man has had so many nice stays at the Hyatts.) Amex and Citi does not really hit the mark on hotels though. The hotel they has, like Hilton, is ratchet and overpriced. Amex wins on the airlines though — so many more than the rest. Citi though. They ain’t full on checking the box in neither category. I can see giving it 1.6, since that the value you can get redeeming for American Airlines, but anything more seems overkill to me and my man. I’m fixing to hear your reply though!!

    XO – Shaniqua

  16. Better approach would be comparing relative value. No way that Skymiles = Aeroplan, yet with an absolute value of 1.3¢ that’s what you’re telling me.

    Since everyone’s uses of miles are different, what would be ideal is to get readers to rank the list individually and then average out all the data to get a crowdsourced ranking.

  17. It doesn’t matter that you’d only pay $3000 for Cathay business class. If the price tag says $30k and you can redeem 160k miles for it, then you are getting $0.1875 per point. Subtract a little for the cost to acquire points if you like.

    I think the car analogy is appropriate here. If a Ferrari costs $200,000, but you’re only willing to spend $20,000 on a car, that doesn’t make the Ferrari suddenly worth only $20,000.

  18. @ Mason — I’m saying that because it’s valuable for the purposes of deciding what your value of miles is. How else do you explain that someone shouldn’t buy miles for 15 cents each if they’ve flown Cathay Pacific before and would like to fly it again?

  19. @ MSC — If you applied a while ago then it was a 10% refund, but there were updates to the card where new cardmembers are only getting 5%. So that’s the number I’m basing it on.

  20. I agree with a lot of your valuations but I’d probably put “1.3? cents” for Delta Skymiles, given their love of dynamic award pricing and lack of award charts. 😉

  21. @mason, yes, it does “suddenly” make that car worth only 20k TO LUCKY. And that’s all he claims these ales are-what they are worth To HIM. I totally agree with his thought proess. I have slightly different value personally, for example I am a DL hub c as ptive, so i value DL miles a little higher, an aa and TY a little lower.

    Special request: can we please fix up DCS and Shaniqua? They’d make such beautiful little imbicil children together.

  22. @mbh — I have a man and I ain’t finna cheat, even if you think my children would be beautiful with that other man. Some of us still have morals.

    Also, you live in a DL hub that isn’t also an AA hub (i.e., not NYC), I’m so sorry. 🙁

  23. Thanks for adding Asia Miles, Lucky! As far as I’m aware, you’re the first to value them systemically like this!

  24. @mbh – lol great point…don’t want to heart any overly sensitive feelings around here though 😉

  25. Glad you had Citi TY Points worth higher than AA. I never understood why bloggers would rate Citi anything below 1.6cents, especially if they had AA at 1.8 cents.

  26. Lucky – I’m one who looks at the value of points as what I’d have to pay to get the same product. I don’t think whether I would part with cash for it is relevant. I look at the value of my redemptions each year vs. the *additional* money I spent to earn the points (annual fees, more expensive routings, etc.). That way, I can look at my free travel as a return on investment – if I spend $1,000 earning points in a year but get $30,000 in travel out of it, score!

    I sort of follow that the “value” of something is what you would pay for it – but by your formula, if you cashed in points for a first class ticket that you would not have paid for because you refuse to buy up front, that means you got no value out of your points?

    (This is my favorite topic ever. And love the blog!)

  27. @lucky, so if my goal is always to redeem via Singapore airlines, does that make my chase, citi and Amex points value as 1.5 cpp as well?

  28. Asia Miles is worth more than BA Avios, or at least not less.
    There are two sweet spots that honestly make AM actually one of the better mileage currencies out there. Yes I know the short haul redemption amount is not good but
    – the very low mileage requirement to upgrade a paid PEY fare to J class (frequently used by CX FFs)
    – the OW multicarrier award chart – with good use of this you can get TPAC J segments as low as 40-50k miles/each. Heck, even beats Mileage Plan.

  29. I’ve been trying to figure out something similar for Emirates Skywards miles. Any thoughts?

  30. Hi Ben…

    Great to see you in Vegas this weekend. Just curious on how you’ve increased your valuation of Marriott points to 0.8 cents. Is this because of the eventual combination with Starpoints?

  31. Lucky, I’m not sure if I missed it or not but I’m assuming valuations are in USD, so for Canadian readers Aeroplan points would be worth 1.3 cents/mile x 1.25 = 1.625 cents/mile CAD? John

  32. As noted, you can gift miles but not sell them. But what you can also do is “gift” them to someone you know and then they pay you “under the table”, as it were.

    A friend of mine was going to Australia and was quoted $1,200 round trip. I noticed an award available for 60K miles, which I sold to him for $600. We most gained $600 from the deal, since I didn’t anticipate using those miles myself.

  33. @Mason Imagine that you’re in the market for a new car but you’re only willing to pay $20,000. But then you find a deal, where for $30,000, you can buy a Ferrari. It’s 50% more than you wanted to spend but 85% cheaper than the regular retail price.

    So would you pay $30,000 to drive a Ferrari? If not, how about $25,000? You’re not placing a value on the Ferrari, you’re placing a value on your desire to have one over your regular margin.

    United had a sale on miles last year that I believe came out to 1.8 cents/mi. For $2,520, you could buy all 140,000 miles to fly from the US to Europe on partner metal in business class. Would you do it? If yes, then you value those miles minimally at 1.8 cpm. But if your limit is $3,000 then they’re worth no more than 2.1 cpm.

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