How Much Are Miles Worth? (The Value of Points)

Updated: 2 days ago

One of the most frequent questions I get from people getting started in miles and points is “what is a ____ mile worth?”

This is very subjective, as it’s hard to assign an absolute value to miles in many cases, and everyone has different travel goals and priorities. However, every so often I like to go through and comprehensively adjust my valuation of points, given how it’s constantly changing. I try to update these at least annually, or whenever there are major program changes.

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
  • It can be tougher to decide on the relative value of currencies, since which points currency is more valuable is largely dependent on your specific redemption patterns; for example, I may feel comfortable saying I value X points currency at 0.5 cents and Y points currency at 0.6 cents, but when I step back and look at the big picture, I may actually say “but I prefer X currency to Y currency”

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 (unless you’re booking from Vietnam to North America, in which case it’s $800 😉 ), 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 is awesome, but I can’t justify valuing it at $30,000

One other variable

While I won’t go through and explain my valuation of each points currency, if there are any you guys are specifically curious about, I’m happy to write a more detailed explanation with my logic.

One challenge I have in valuing points is deciding whether to value them based on the absolute best redemption, or best on overall usability. There’s no currency where this is more evident than with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

You can redeem Flying Club miles for travel in ANA first and business class at an incredible rate. If I were valuing points based on a single redemption opportunity, I’d say the miles are worth 50%+ more than I’m valuing them. However, this is a single redemption opportunity, so if that gets devalued and/or you don’t want to redeem for ANA first or business class, the value would be materially different.


Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for ANA first class is a phenomenal value

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, at least in some cases. 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. As frequent flyer programs devalue redemptions, the value you can get from your miles decreases.

On the plus side, I feel like most of the worst devaluations are behind us, and programs have now largely stabilized, at least here in the US.

Redeeming AAdvantage miles for Etihad first class isn’t as good of a deal as it used to be

Along similar lines, in many cases we’ve seen airlines price first and business class tickets more reasonably when paying cash. This means that while a business class ticket may usually cost $10,000, we sometimes also see the tickets bookable for about $2,000.

Delta often publishes reasonable business class fares

Here’s my current valuation of all the major miles & points currencies

With the above out of the way, here is how much I think various miles & points are worth:

Value of Airline Miles for October 2019

ProgramValue
Aegean Miles+Bonus1.4 cents
Air Canada Aeroplan1.4 cents/mile
Air France-KLM Flying Blue1.3 cents/mile
Alaska Mileage Plan1.8 cents/mile
American AAdvantage1.4 cents/mile
Asiana Club1.4 cents/mile
Avianca Lifemiles1.4 cents/mile
British Airways Executive Club1.3 cents/Avios
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1.2 cents/mile
Delta SkyMiles1.2 cents/mile
Emirates Skywards1.0 cents/mile
Etihad Guest1.2 cents/mile
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank1.3 cents/mile
JetBlue TrueBlue1.3 cents/point
Korean Air SkyPass1.5 cents/mile
Lufthansa Miles & More1.2 cents/mile
Malaysia Airlines Enrich0.9 cents/mile
Qatar Privilege Club0.9 cents/mile
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1.4 cents/mile
Southwest Rapid Rewards1.3 cents/point
United MileagePlus1.4 cents/mile
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1.2 cents/mile

Value of Hotel Points for October 2019

ProgramValue
Hilton Honors0.5 cents/point
IHG Rewards Club0.5 cents/point
Marriott Bonvoy0.7 cents/point
Radisson Rewards0.3 cents/point
World of Hyatt1.5 cents/point
Wyndham Rewards0.7 cents/point

Value of Bank & Credit Card Points for October 2019

ProgramValue
American Express Membership Rewards 1.7 cents/point
Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard Miles1.05 cents/point
Capital One Venture/Spark1.1 cents/point
Chase Ultimate Rewards1.7 cents/point
Citi ThankYou Points1.7 cents/point

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.

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).

Comments
  1. Need to get my and my husband’s total sky miles. Our last flight was on June 30, 2014 from Philippines to New York.

  2. How about adding Diners Club to the credit card points?
    It is really useful to see that the Delta Skymiles are valued lower as that helps sort my earning plans in perspective. Also, the comparison on the hotel points which have such a huge range of value is super.
    Thanks!

  3. @ Andrew — Ultimately not really since I didn’t factor the second night free benefit into my valuation (since not everyone has access to US credit cards). That being said, I’ll have a post with an updated valuation very soon.

  4. @lucky
    Is it possible to add a “last updated date” to this as it’s hard to tell if this is end of 2014 or current 2015 valuation?

    Also, I guess Club Carlson value will devalue with the new changes
    so maybe it’s a good idea to update it every 3 or 6 months instead of 12 months

  5. Hey Lucky,

    What is the most exclusive frequent flyer club/status in your opinion?

    Cheers,
    Rolex

  6. How do I find out my total number of points and if sufficient, use them for my Aug 18 reservation?

  7. I read your interesting article about your first class flight with Lufthansa (paid with Aeroplan miles).
    How do you see the value of Lufthansa miles (Miles & More)?

    You have mentioned M&M in your Lufthansa category, but not here in the table.
    Are you not using it?

  8. Lucky:

    You may publicly scold me ;-), but can you help me understand something? This shows how little I “understand the system” on air miles collecting.

    This year I just missed platinum elite status (by 9,000+ miles) on AA. For weeks afterward I kept getting emails telling me for $1750 +/-, I could purchase that premium status. I declined. Now I realize I could have probably flown the 9k miles more cheaply and made status. But can you use this scenario to explain to me and others, What have I actually “missed” by ignoring a chance to pay up or “fly-up” to the premium tier of AAdvantage? I know everyone’s motives and reasons are different but, what kind of perks have I missed out on (between platinum and platinum elite)? Perhaps it’s ignorance on my part, but it wasn’t until just recently that I figured out I was entitled to lounges when traveling internationally and a few other “perks” like this. Maybe your response could help flyers like myself who just don’t know all the details make an informed decision. Thanks

  9. Lucky,

    I’m frequent traveler as well with international travel once / week in Asia. Your blog is very helpful and some topics I figured out by myself after leaving a lots of points on the table. It’s awesome to make this a profession. I share your passion.

    As German working for an American company located in Asia I would appreciate more international programs. E.g. It’s easier to get Gold on Asiana or Thai as collection of less necessary miles in 2 years. Though I not made the full math if the payback comes for redeeming miles. Means a cpm would be great for a bigger scale.

    Thanks, I will enjoy your blogs further.

    Regards
    Marko

  10. Very interesting blog for me as newbie, Lucky! Great job!

    As a member of Miles & More program, I would like also to know, what do you think about M&M and if you use it?

  11. I am an international flight attendant with a major US carrier. We get to fly for free on a stand-by basis anywhere within my airline network internationally = First class included when available.
    We have mostly one night lay-overs but sometimes up to seven like when we flew to Accra, Ghana, or Koweit City. Our hotels fit in the luxurious category. We get paid for this lifestyle. The other side of the coin is the ever present jetlag and fatigue as you correctly mentioned. I am not 25 unfortunately and I think you are doing this at the right age, the right time, before you settle down with the lady of your choice and decide to have a family, if this will ever be your inclination. Well done and Bons Voyages!

  12. I have a delta gold AX skymiles and fly twice a year to France…difficult to get free economy tickets…Should I get a different card ’cause this one is expensive –
    thanks

  13. Hey! Do you have any suggestions for European people or Germans ? Maybe someone you now who does the same here and have tipps like you?
    I have Lufthansa miles and more but you seem to have way better mile offers in the US

  14. Hello, I wonder if you have any recommendation … would travel to Europe with my miles of advantage, I could leave from Miami or NYC, what would be the best time to redeem miles.

    Kind regard

  15. Thanks lucky for this great website and the compilation of the theoretical value of the points.

    I hope you don’t mind sending me a tiny amendment concerning the valuation of the Hyatt points:
    The upselling for 3,000 points per night from the standard room to the Club room including a breakfast and a coffee hour is a unique proposition of Hyatt’s programme. I would value this “upslling” with approx. 80 Euros for European properties (-> approx. 90 US-Dollar). Resulting in a point value of approx. 0,03 USD.

    Best regards gum

  16. The value per point is only one part of it especially for hotels: hotels earn you very different numbers of points per dollar. While SPG are clearly worth the most, you can earn a maximum of 3-4 per dollar on actual stays, so each dollar earns $.06 – $.08.

    Club Carlson are worse the least, but you can earn 20/$ with a maximum of about 35/$, so for every dollar at the highest level, you earn $.14.

    While SPG are clearly the most flexible points, if you are earning them through actual stays and not bonus offers and intent to use them for free nights, you are, in effect, paying a convenience fee of 6-8 cents every dollar that you aren’t taking advantage of.

  17. I have a general comment about valuations, and let me lead by posting a real-world example:

    Let’s say I want to go from RDU to Seoul on AA. Biz fare is $4,282.

    If I buy and upgradeable econ fare at $1,322, use 50k miles and spend $700 to upgrade to Biz round trip, those 50k miles net me $2,260 in cash savings versus buying a business fare. That’s about 4.5 cents per miles.

    Is that not a legitimate valuation for those miles used?

  18. Thank you very much for this helpful and interesting blog, Lucky!
    I have to fly very often with Lufthansa (iwithin Germany and Europe). Should I use the Miles & More program for my Lufthansa flights or is there any other better options for this case?
    Thank you very much!

  19. Hello Lucky,

    I was recently in NY on a business trip and a colleague there told me that he books all his tickets through this broker who purchases airline tickets with miles and sells them for a fraction (of course making a handsome profit) I understand that this is against airline policy in general while only illegal in Utah if I am not mistaken. In your opinion is this okay or is there any substantial risk associated?

  20. I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Through Ultimate Rewards Travel, I can redeem points for 1.5x. Assuming that the price of flights are the same, would it be better to transfer to the airline and use miles or book through Ultimate Rewards Travel? I frequently fly Southwest and Virgin America (now Alaska). But I’m not opposed to using other airlines if transferring points will provide a better value.

    As far as hotels, how is Starwood’s valuation so high?

  21. @Jeremy, Starwood’s SPG points are transferable to MANY airlines, at 1:1 ration, except a bonus of 25% if you transfer in 20,000 amounts (20,000 -> 25,000 miles) – just not for United which is a terrible conversion rate. So they have this extra value for flexibility.

    Don’t know how this will work when they are fully integrated within Marriott.

    I have tons of Ultimate Rewards points but I use them by transferring to airlines rather than buying tickets through Chase.

  22. I’m new to this site. Could you please tell me how to transfer frequent flyer points from one plan to another, i.e. United to Aeroplan. thank you

  23. I suggest you add Accor Hotels to your reviews. They have a huge network, except in the US. Their private 40% off sales are great and have several options (Raffles, Sofitel, Grand Mercure) which are conspicuous by their absence.

  24. British Airways enables using Avios for a discount on a regular ticket. True, they credit (according to my calculations) only 0.7 to 1.0 cents per Avios, however due to the fact that you receive full Avios and full Tier Points it sounds better that the “free” bonus tickets for which you pay a significant amount for “taxes and charges”, where the availability is much more limited, and where of course you get zero Avios and points. Would appreciate a comparitive analysis – particularly in Premium Economy & Business where it seems better.

  25. Lucky,

    First of all, many and more thanks to you for your fantastic website / blog / resource. I have learned so much from “OMAAT.” If it weren’t for your insights, I would not be flying int’l longhaul premium cabins so frequently, while paying so little, and enjoying elite status in multiple airline and hotel programs, etc.. Keep up your great work!

    My question is a routine “what about the value of” … Shangri-La Golden Circle points. What is their approximate dollar value? Is their current targeted (?) 40%-off-on-redemptions promotion a good deal, or a don’t-bother?

  26. Hi
    I had recently traveled to USA from India through Korean Air. I am happy with the Airlines service. Intent to use in future Korean Airlines for my travel
    I want to have Mileage points to gather for my next journey. Please suggest the procedure for registration for the scheme/ Mileage Points to be earned & redeem in future.

    Suggest suitable travel plan too.
    Thank you.

  27. Yes for Flying Blue, I consider an average of 1ct euro / mile
    For Air France it’s 2.65 times more, because they sell 2000 miles for 53 euros, that is 2.65 Euro cents for 1 mile. If you buy their promotion with 50% more for free, it’s still not interesting to my use.
    The best way to use Flying Blue Miles is on 1 way ticket international flight, depends the journey.
    For example, TAIPEI-BALI is 10000 miles + 20 euros airport tax. The best is the promo awards even if they re less interesting than before.

    Ray

  28. big mahalos for posting this. i’m a little late in finding it, altho i have been searching for the value of an airline mile off and on for a while. the reason i like yours is it seems very close to my overall experience, 0.9 – 1.5 cents per mile coach with a particular airline card. i’m hesitant to get 1 or more general airline miles card because i don’t know how that redemption works. can i pool the miles from chase, amex, capital one? and how about that double miles thing, do redemptions cost twice as much as elsewhere?

  29. Interesting no reference for Qatar.

    So I assume worthless, which I agree with

    The bastards devalued the program overnight on May 27 this year, without warning, without notice.

  30. Is this still being updated? If so I would suggest posting the most recent update at the top or bottom of the page. Thanks for all of the work you put into it either way!

  31. @ Hugh Hawkins — Yes, we update it whenever something changes with a program (sometimes as often as every few weeks). We keep it alphabetical to make it an easier reference.

  32. I love using transfer partners to enhance the value of Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards even more (well past 2 cents per point). I’ve yet to test out the Capital One transfer partners, but will shortly thanks to my recent Capital One Venture.

  33. @Tiffany — I think @Hugh Hawkins’s point was more that you all could, in Github fashion, put a little note at the top that has the date of the most recent update and the thing that was updated.

    E.g:
    Update 7/29/2019: You can no longer purchase Delta flights using the Virgin miles portal making our valuation of American Express Membership Rewards points and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points go down from 1.7c/point to 1.5c/point and 1.3c/point to 1.1c/point respectively.

    It would be immensely helpful for three main reasons. One, it would enable us to see the last time the list was updated (and ease any people worried that it hasn’t been updated since the 2013 post about Chase Ultimate Rewards. Second, it would help longtime readers know where to look and what is happening in the miles landscape with a one stop place. Finally, it would enable us to see more clearly what a certain change does to your mile evaluations so that we can see how the experts view things.

    Thanks a ton!

  34. hey, thanks for that hotel and airline valuations for aug 2019. I am literally looking at the value of hotels and airlines in regards to transferring points. Hilton currently has a 1 MR = 1.5 HH, but I never really thought that Hilton properties were that great. This article is super helpful.

    Thanks!

  35. Alaska Mileage Plan 1.8 cents/mile
    American AAdvantage 1.4 cents/mile

    Why AA is so lower? Based on recent miles sales 250k miles for 4318usd, it’s 1.72cents/miles

    What’s your thoughts on Mexico and jet Airways miles.

    How about HSBC credit card points?

    Thanks

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