Here Are My Valuations Of Miles & Points [2019]

Filed Under: Advice

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, every so often I like to go through and comprehensively adjust my valuation of points, given how it’s constantly changing.

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

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 value of miles & points

With the above out of the way, here are my valuations of miles & points (and I always keep these amounts updated on the blog’s resources page):

Value of Airline Miles

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

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

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

One final note

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

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.

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. Lucky,

    Great post and useful information as always. I wonder if you’d consider doing a post specifically about how you value the universal points currencies (and especially the big 3, Chase, Amex and Citi). I am trying to decide which of those 3 to focus on and also get asked frequently by friends only looking to carry one “premium” card which of those programs is the best. Also it seem your 1.7 cent valuation is largely based on premium international redemption opportunities. What are your throughts on these programs and their respective point values for people who primarily travel domestically? Thanks!

  2. I value my miles similar to yours so thank you for doing an updated post on this. Would you say using miles for economy redemptions is a bad use of miles or is it just something you don’t personally do? If I were to use miles for economy, which programs have the best redemptions?

  3. While I understand the added value in the versatility of credit card points, how are you able to value them higher than what the transfer rates are. Once you make that transfer, shouldn’t the value be of what that new currency is? If this highest value you can get from UR is transferring to Singapore at 1.4 then how can UR be worth 1.7?

  4. Hey Lucky – Just curious why there’s no valuation of Asiana miles? Seems like a pretty valuable program and probably more commonly used than something like Malaysian or Emirates miles?

  5. Not sure how you have UA the same as AA? AA I’m guessing based solely on OW redemption, but CX is likely to take a hit this year availability-wise. And while UA isn’t great own-metal it seems to be better than AA. And there are more / higher quality Star partners.

  6. 1) I see you bumped up Hilton by 0.1 cent. Agreed
    2) Aren’t Delta, AA and United too bunched together? Most people would seem to agree that you can usually get more value from AA and United miles than Delta miles. Seems like there should be more than a 0.2 gap between the two
    3) If most mileage currencies are worth 1.2 to 1.4 cents per point, why are AMEX, Chase and Citi points worth 1.7 cents per point?

  7. For those that question having a transferable point currency higher than any of the partners, it is because you can choose to transfer to a given currency only when it is particularly valuable. Basically, the extra 0.3-0.5 cents is the option value, same as options in the financial markets. In effect, you can use them when they are most opportune, not for just average redemptions.
    For those that are asking about the best ones to collect for domestic flying, your best points to collect are cash. You will pretty much always be better off with cash back card than any points. Because of their new flexibility, probably the best cash back points to collect would be Capital One, because if you change your mind, they give you other options as well.

  8. @ Anthony — Regarding point two, I see where you’re coming from, but what do you recommend? Should AA and UA be worth more, or should DL be worth less? I do think DL is worth more than a penny, but I also don’t think AA or UA are worth more than 1.5, so that leaves a fairly narrow range.

    As far as point three, transferrable points currencies get extra value because they’re hedged from devaluation. My valuation is intended to at least somewhat take into account the volatility of these currencies, and the more good uses there are of points, the more valuable they are.

  9. @ UA-NYC — It all depends where you’re trying to go. My valuation of AA miles is heavily based on redemptions on QR, EY, and JL. For travel to India, the Middle East, Africa, etc., I think AA miles have a big edge over UA miles, given the significantly better products you have access to. Of course if you’re looking to go to Europe using miles, it’s a very different story.

  10. @ Debit — I know you’re a professional troll, but I’d like to address that nonetheless. 😉

    I actually agree with you, I think some other bloggers intentionally inflate the value of points (by valuing transferrable points at more than two cents each, for example). I’m not one of those, though.

  11. @ ah — The highest value you can get with UR is actually World of Hyatt at 1.5 cents. But the reason they get the edge is because of the flexibility you have in the event of a devaluation. It’s intended to account for that. In the case of other transferrable points currencies, there are also sometimes transfer bonuses that can get you more value.

  12. @ah there’s value to flexibility. If you value UR at 1.4 and Singapore at 1.4 then are you indifferent to holding 100,000 Singapore miles vs UR? It’s also a 0.3 cent hedge against any one currency devaluing.

  13. Another note, I have no idea how you can still value Marriott at 0.8. I think this is the same as you had them before the massive devaluation. Their award chart, beginning in a couple of months, will be just slightly worse than Hilton, which you value at about 40% worse. Previously, I would have said that you were valuing it based on the value of transferring them to miles, however, transferring 60,000 ($480 worth) of them to 25,000 miles makes the cost of each mile 1.92 cents, which is 15% higher than any other transferable currency. And that is optimal transfers, anything other than 60,000 transfers puts the cost at 2.4 cents per mile. At 0.7, the value generally still doesn’t make sense for hotel redemptions, but would translate to a cost of 1.68 cents per airline mile with the bonus, right in line with the other transferable point currencies. With your dropping value of airline miles and the flexible points, the gap with Marriott has increased from your previous values, despite the devaluation of their hotel award chart.

  14. @ farnorthtrader — My valuation is based on the current value you can get from these programs. In a couple of months my valuation of Marriott points will be reduced. 🙂

  15. What is the logic behind Wyndham at 0.7? I value mine at 2 to 3 cents. 99 percent of the properties probably make for 0.1-0.3 in terms of value so I think you need to focus more on the high end redemptions.

  16. “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.” – I disagree with that. I think Marriott is going to drop the hammer. For the valuations I think its best to use the number the most people will be able to reliably redeem at. I tend to use your valuations as a base level and if I am not getting at least that return per point then I look much closer at if the redemption is worth it. Most of my point redemptions on flights are for premium international travel, since I don’t really want to waste points on domestic economy travel.

  17. Hey Lucky, curious about your Southwest valuation. I almost always get a value of > 1.5 cents per point (Actually 3-4 cents with companion pass – but I know that’s the minority of people).

    Are you lowering the value because of the opportunity cost of flying another airline that has a cheaper priced ticket?

  18. Miles and More miles are worth significantly more than posted here in my opinion just due to the sheer amount of availability they give to their own members.

  19. @ David — I agree you can get about 1.5 cents of value per Southwest point, but I lower the value a bit since you need to account for the points you’re forgoing by redeeming Rapid Rewards points rather than booking a cash ticket. If you booked a cash ticket you could earn 5x points on the Citi Prestige or Amex Platinum (an 8.5% value), plus you’re earning a minimum of 5x Rapid Rewards points (a 6.5% value, using my conservative valuation).

    So you’re forgoing a minimum of 15% value by redeeming rather than booking a revenue ticket, which is how you’re really only getting about 1.3 cents of value when you redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards a ticket.

    Hope that makes sense. 🙂

  20. @ Joe Chivas — The problem is how few high end properties are are. And if you’re saying three cents, I’m curious what Wyndham properties you’re redeeming at regularly that cost $450+ per night?

  21. @ Omar — While access to more awards on Lufthansa is nice, the issue is the lack of redemptions without carrier imposed surcharges. Lufthansa’s surcharges are hefty. So for some the miles are definitely more valuable, but personally I can’t value them that much higher taking into account average redemptions.

  22. Today is a landmark day in OMAAT, as Lucky actually engaged Credit/Debit, and AGREED with them. 500 skypesos for everyone!

  23. I don’t understand how you value chase and ty points at 1.7 when it seems like most of the travel partners are valued at less per point? Are you just inflating those numbers due to their inherent flexibility? I can understand the suggestion with amex since they have transfer bonuses on occasion.

  24. @ Bill — Correct, I value them more highly for the flexibility. I discount the value of all currencies due to the risk of holding onto them. Transferable points currencies are less risky, and therefore more valuable.

    After all, I think just about anyone would rather have one UR point than one point with one of their partners, and that’s accounted for in my valuation.

  25. @Lucky, I’m curious to know how you came to 0.3c for Radisson. I think you previously had it at 0.4c. AFAIK, they haven’t devalued the redemption options, and the highest categories are still 70k. IME, their premium room redemptions are awful, but the standard room redemptions usually get 0.4-0.5c/point (or more) in value. Also, their cash and points (at least for categories 1-5) seem to provide a value of at least 0.5c/point.

  26. While it might not make sense to address every airline, it probably does make sense to address the outliers. Why Alaska at 1.8 cents? Korean at 1.5 cents?

  27. Can you talk about the world of hyatt point valuations? I often get .025 or even .03 per point. it just feels like .015 is a bit low. Granted I use hyatt points for high end properties and maybe that is throwing my valuation out of whack.

  28. @Robert Look at the website awardhacker.com. You can see that Alaska air almost always has the best (least points) redemption options for business and first class. Same is true to a lesser extent for Korean Airlines. For example, I got my mother in-law a round trip business class ticket on KLM and delta from Lagos, Nigeria to the USA for 120k Korean miles and ~$700 before they ended their partnership with Chase. That flight would normally cost around $5000 (not that I would pay that, but still). The nominal value I got for my redemption was around 3.5cpp. A different FF program might charge almost double the number of points for the same flight. So in general it’s excellent business/first charts that are driving his valuation up.

  29. I value KE points higher. They’re just impossible to get now without doing a lot of KE flying (or spending a lot on the US Bank card). I’ve found them extremely useful for getting to Asia from IAD in F or C at reasonable redemption rates.

    The value of AS miles is that they have so many partners in so many alliances and charge pretty cheap redemption amounts still for many things…like CX business to/from Asia for 50K miles one way with free stopovers. That makes them more valuable than the run of the mill programs that are limited more by alliance partners

  30. One thing that you don’t say particularly clearly, but perhaps should, is whether your valuations are based on

    a) the historic value per point you believe you received in 2018, or

    b) the prospective value per point you expect to achieve during 2019

    Also, are your valuations likely to be more “accurate” in something like AA points you have and regularly use than, say Qatar points where your involvement is simply theoretical?

  31. Lucky, surprised that Qantas didn’t make the list.

    Particularly with Ben / James coming onboard, ou have quite an engaged Australian audience, and it’s generally very easy to earn QF points over here.

    And while most US based bloggers knock the program, there are still some good sweet spots to be had (e.g. using them for Oneworld Classic 35,000 mile J and F awards, EK J and F when you can book a route with low taxes). Maybe one to consider for next time?

  32. I have found UA to be the best to Europe because their partners have more availability at lowest points. Delta and American are well behind.

  33. @ Lucky and others.

    I would love to know how you come up with your valuations of hotel points. There seems to be such a big difference between Hyatt and the others. Is your valuation based upon assumed redemptions at high end properties? I am a World of Hyatt fan and they are my go to when in the US. However, looking at potential redemptions in Europe for next summer has me somewhat frustrated. There are very few Hyatt’s in Spain. Just the size of their footprint alone makes me think the 1.5 valuation maybe a little high.

  34. @farnorthtrader sez: “[Marriott] award chart, beginning in a couple of months, will be just slightly worse than Hilton, which you value at about 40% worse.”

    The “…which you value at about 40% worse” in that statement is utterly meaningless.

    Always remember:
    The values of points or miles currencies peddled by travel bloggers cannot be compared directly magnitude-wise. For instance, one cannot say that at 1.8 cents a piece, Hyatt points are worth more or are more valuable than Marriott points (@ 0.8cpp) or Hilton points (@ 0.5cpp), because ‘cpp’ stands for ‘cents per point’, and while a CENT is a CENT, a POINT is not POINT when since different programs award a different number of POINTS for the SAME number of CENTS spent. Hilton awards more POINTS per CENTS spent than Hyatt does, so it you divide CENTS spent per Hilton POINTS earned, the value will be smaller than if you do the same with Hyatt POINTS. Simple common sense should tell you that is true.

    Thus, to be able to compare the peddled AVERAGE redemption values of points currencies directly, a “conversion factor” [the ratio of EARN rates works nicely] is needed. When that’s done, one finds that all hotel points currencies or airline miles currencies are worth almost exactly the same.

    The preceding then says that, if a blogger values a Hyatt point at 1.8cpp, then for consistency, the same blogger must value a Hilton point at 1.8cpp/3 = 0.6cpp, where 3 is the points currency “conversion factor” that takes into account the fact that one earns on AVERAGE about 3 times more HH points per cent spent than one does WoH points…

    G’day!

  35. @Lucky yes that totally makes sense! I’ve read that in other posts you’ve made. Thanks for clarifying!

  36. I agree with your calculations, but it is also a very personal valuation, which gives higher or lower values. For example a business round trip on LH to North America in average is about 3000€. When using miles I have to spend 105000 miles and the high fees of about 500€. So for me these 105000 miles are worth 2500€ or 2.x cents per mile. With the highest tier on LH (HON) their is a guaranteed seat (incl. 3 companions) up to 14 days before the flight.

  37. @ James that’s probably a fair valuation

    @ Lucky, based on what’s just come out at Loyalty Lobby about TG and SQ redemptions being restricted until further notice (which looks to be the case when searching for space online), you may want to look at cutting your UA valuation further!

  38. “[Marriott] award chart, beginning in a couple of months, will be just slightly worse than Hilton…”

    BTW, the MR award chart will get worse, not because the costs of awards in RAW POINTS will be much bigger (even bigger than Hilton’s), but because the SPEND REQUIRED TO AFFORD A FREE NIGHT, even including CC spend, will be the higher with the new chart. The “spend per free night” metric, LITERALLY the monetary cost of an award night. On the bright side, the new chart will dramatically bring down the award costs of former Starwood hotels (especially their top tier) relative to what they were before the merger. So, ironically, the much touted aspirational SPG hotels, which only few could actually afford, will, at long las, become much more affordable under the much-maligned Marriott management…just sayin’ 🙂

    Based on the ‘spend per free night’ metric, WoH and HH awards cost exactly the same, except when one includes bonus points from co-brand CC spend, in which case HH awards are among the cheapest (that is right, CHEAPEST).

    Bottom line: the relative magnitudes of award costs in RAW POINTS are usually meaningless on their own because they have nothing to do with the relative monetary costs of awards. You need to estimate the ‘spend per free night’ in order to have a better sense of the monetary costs of awards in the various programs.

    G’day!

  39. I am still trying to figure out what algorithm OMAAT has been using of late to ‘moderate’ comments, which they seem to be doing with extreme high frequency (at least with regards to my comments). Is it really necessary? Aren’t you getting in the way FREE exchanges of ideas?

  40. @ DCS — If you saw the small handful of comments that are flagged by the filter and not manually approved, you’d more than understand the necessity.

  41. @ah and @Lucky
    Valuing transferring currencies above the highest single partner value is about more than transfer bonuses. It’s just like managing a stock portfolio – diversification reduces variability. In this case, each partners’ redemptions have a range of values that will follow a normal distribution. When you have transferable points, you multiply your ability to capture a “right tail” (of the distribution) that matches your travel needs. You could probably make an equation to more precisely capture this added value, but a 20% premium (1.7 vs 1.5) seems fair, if not a little conservative.

  42. Aegan made the list but Qantas didn’t Aegan doesn’t even own a widebody plane and no one could care less their frequent flyer program yet Qantas a global airline in one world doesn’t make the list huh.

  43. @Adrian, I would imagine Aegean made the list a long time ago when it was quite lucrative to credit star alliance flights to them to get status. I doubt it would get added to the list any more

  44. Lucky this is helpful but

    A) Valuations of Citi/Amex should be higher than Chase, for obvious reasons, after SkyPass was removed from Chase Ultimate Rewards has gone to having far fewer and more ‘run of the mill’ transfer partners, with the lone exception of Hyatt

    B) Valuations of Citi/Amex/Chase should be higher in general; how could Citi points, which are transferable to a dozen partners, be less valuable than Alaska miles?

    Just a few thoughts

  45. Lucky as always this is one of your best posts of the year. I suppose the intent is to spark a debate but I find that silly as the point values will always vary depending on the intended usage. i find the best use of the chart (which I use in conjunction with TPG & VFTW charts) is for quick reference when contemplating an airline redemption. If I’m getting .02 on a UA MP redemption then I know I’m doing well. Hotels are much easier as I mostly use them for properties that I could not otherwise afford at cash rates.

    That being said it’s often a tough choice on $ v. points. Do I spend $1200 x 4 to fly my family back from Europe or 4 x 70k Chase points? Thats a lot of cash but I’d prefer to save my valuable UR for really expensive tix. It’s much easier to spend points that you earned flying rather than those earned via credit card spend. Under this valuation chart, all non bonus spend should go to a 2% card.

  46. Way too generous with Malaysian Enrich. Their redemption is bananas bad and I’d give it 0.7 cents or so. (Although earning on own metal makes it back littlt bit……
    But still wished got on the train about 3x miles late 2018, too bad time doesn’t work for me.

  47. Suggest updates based on recent devaluations:

    – Avianca Lifemiles: 1.3 cents
    – United Mileage Plus: 1.2 cents, the program is no better than Delta at this point
    – Singapore KrisFlyer: 1.3 cents based on recent devaluations

    Also, you’re missing Jet Airways JetPrivilege valuations 😉

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