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.

So I figure it’s time for an update. While all my valuations can (and should) be disputed, I figured I’d share where I’m at with valuing points.

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, 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.

Redeeming AAdvantage miles for Etihad first class isn’t nearly 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 Blue1.2 cents/mile
Alaska Mileage Plan1.8 cents/mile
American AAdvantage1.4 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
Emirates Skywards1.0 cents/mile
Etihad Guest1.2 cents/mile
JetBlue TrueBlue1.3 cents/point
Korean Air SkyPass1.5 cents/mile
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1.5 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 Rewards0.8 cent/point
Radisson Rewards0.4 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
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

I also think it’s worth specifically calling out that I’ve raised my valuation of Hilton Honors points from 0.4 cents to 0.5 cents each. I find the program to generally be so useful, it’s so easy to earn Hilton status (which adds value for just about anyone thanks to perks like free breakfast), and it’s a pretty consistently solid deal to redeem those points.


I recently got a great deal redeeming points at the Hilton Tallinn

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. The one surprising thing about this chart to me is that you value Delta SkyMiles nearly the same as AA and United. I feel like Delta biz class redemptions have gotten so absurd that I often don’t bother looking. What’s redeeming about SkyMiles to keep them at 1.3 cents?

  2. Nice. Well balanced post with enough caveats. You will make a good scientist since your post shows enough humility to say other viewpoints could be right.

    Unlike Christian and moslem religious nuts who say only their views are right and everyone should adhere to them. They all should be in mental aslyum.

  3. Not vastly concerned about the absolute value you’ve given to each currency but i am surprised that relative speaking you value 1 avios higher than 1 virgin mile. They are quite similar but mile for mile virgin miles are better. Better on their own metal, less surcharges and usually less miles, and whilst the partners list is shorter, Virgins produces better opportunities there too – perhaps barring Hawaii-West Coast flights.

  4. I agree with @Kevin, I’m curious how you justify Delta being so similiar to AA/United.

    What current Skymiles redemption opportunities provide realistic value with any level of frequency that I am missing? AA/UA at least have partners with decent availability& products but I have the hardest time finding one way business awards that arent 200k miles that arent even direct (even offseason).

  5. Agree with the delta valuation some deals to be had domestically but international biz is absolutely insane these days. I’m closer to 1.5 United 1.4 American, 1.1-1.2 on delta

  6. I find your Ultimate Rewards valuation pretty reasonable, at least conpared to TPG’s absurd 2 cents.

    Delta and Flying Blue can switch numbers. Imo flying blue has more value than “skypesos”, especially for the promo awards.

  7. Can’t believe you value Alaska points more than Ultimate and Membership Rewards especially with your article yesterday stating that Alaska redemptions are becoming increasingly frustrating and difficult

  8. Any valuation is as ‘good’ as the next. One just has to remember not to compare the valuations across programs, e.g., by claiming that they show that a WoH point is worth 3x HH points, because that would be nonsense since it would fail to take into account the fact that one earns on average 3x more HH points than one does WoH points… …

  9. @Kevin — I don’t know if this played into Lucky’s considerations, but I find pretty consistent availability to redeem SkyMiles for domestic coach itineraries for 1.3+ cents per mile, and often in the 1.5-1.8 cents per mile territory. If you were only ever willing to redeem for international business class I can see the case to say there should be a bigger gap between DL and AA/UA, but for other redemption patterns it can be different (and indeed for domestic coach in many cases DL is probably worth more than AA/UA).

    @Lucky, the one valuation I would be curious to hear more about is Marriott points. I don’t dispute that they can sometimes be worth 0.8 cents per point or more, especially right now with the opportunities that exist to book top hotel categories. But for more run-of-the-mill redemptions, and especially if not taking advantage of 5th night free (not every stay can be 5 nights after all), I’m finding I rarely see that kind of value. So I’m kind of torn between whether I should be holding onto Marriott points hoping for those occasional 0.8+ cent values, or making my peace with burning the points at lower valuation rates.

  10. Add me to the list of people thinking Delta is overvalued at 1.3.

    While I think Bgriff gives a reasonable explanation as how to someone could value Skymiles that highly (domestic coach awards), they are only slightly better than garbage for the premium redemptions that otherwise serve as the basis for Lucky’s valuations.

  11. @Richard I’d agree with you if Avios were BA only. However, I’ve gotten good redemptions from both Iberia and Aer Lingus. And even though Lucky values based on international business class, for the rest of us there are a lot of sweet spots for short haul domestic, short haul european, and short haul Business/First Asian. Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand has only one sweet spot.

  12. I don’t think Lucky is that far off with Delta…

    1) We know Delta is worth at a minimum 1 cent per mile if you hold a Delta credit card (pay with Miles)
    2) Delta can be redeemed pretty consistently for 1.2 cents to 1.5 cents per mile for domestic trips, short trips, etc
    3) You can occasionally get good Delta international business redemptions at 2-3 cents per mile
    4) However, more often than not, Delta will require significantly more miles than United/AA for premium redemptions

    So I think Delta at 1.3 cents per mile (maybe 1.2 cents per mile) is right. The issue is that United and American are probably too low at 1.4 cents per mile for what most readers try to redeem them for. Taking the actual cash cost of tickets out of the equation, many readers will be able to redeem United business class flights to Europe at 60,000 miles on a consistent basis. In contrast, the same readers may be more lucky to redeem 100,000 Skymiles to Europe in business class. That suggests SkyMiles could be worth only about 60% as United Miles, which I think a lot of readers would agree with.

  13. Lucky,

    Also, I struggle to understand your Flying Blue valuation

    1) Flying Blue has a lot of availability to Europe
    2) Fuel surcharges are half as much as British Airways, yet the points cost can be the same
    3) Flying Blue has access to some Delta inventory at significantly fewer points
    4) Flying Blue can be used for short hops within Europe often at decent prices
    5) Some of the recent sales have been pretty attractive

    I redeemed 57,500 points + $250 from NYC to Paris in 787 business class recently and have seen similar pricing since then. That’s not an outstanding redemption but it is better than similar redemptions on Delta and Avios, both of which you rate higher

  14. In regards to Hilton and IHG, I have been struggling to use Hilton points as I rarely find more than a 0.4 cent value on them. On the other hand, I often am able to get in excess of 0.6 cents/point on IHG points.

    Could you elaborate more on why you value those two the way you do? I know that 0.5 is the rate that IHG sells them at, but I have found so often in practice that they are worth much more.

  15. I would value Southwest higher for the following nonmonetary reasons: (1) Great flexibility–Can cancel at any time before flight and get full refund. And can get advantage of a price reduction at any time. This flexibility is huge to me and my family whose plans are rarely made early and then can change. (2) Always availability, albeit can be high if ticket prices are higher.

  16. I think 1.3 cents for Delta is fair. There’s good value to be had for domestic economy tickets. Several times, I have redeemed 25k RT transcon tickets when the ticket prices were generally $350-450. Also, there is some value in USA-Asia J redemption’s for 85k on Skyteam airlines. The mainland Chinese airlines tend to be medicore experiences but redeeming on Korean Air or China Airlines has given me great value. Award availability also tends to be decent for those routes.

    Of course, if your intention is to redeem SkyMiles for longhaul premium cabins on Delta metal, good luck with that. I still prefer AA (lower longhaul redemption rates) and UA (similar cost but more/better partners) but I don’t think Lucky is far off with having Delta only .1 cent behind.

  17. @Lucky
    While your valuation is more realistic than many, I find your methodology is still a bit biased towards transferable currency. I know you padded more for immunity of devaluation for an airline, but you failed to account the devaluation of the card transfer ratio itself.

    Don’t you think you trust Chase Citi Amex too much? I personally value them at the highest ‘available’ transfer partner. Case in point when KE was gone, it hit my UR valuation, since my next best thing isn’t as good as KE. This doesn’t make my UR worth more (assume your UR 1.7 vs KE’s 1.5) or even the same, it becomes less.

    What is your thoughts on this @Lucky?

  18. @eskimo, my thoughts are that at least with Amex, if they ever significantly devalued MR points (such as by changing all 1:1 ratios to something like 3:2), I feel fairly confident that I could complain to my account rep and get granted a ton of MR points to make up for the devaluation.

    I couldn’t imagine that happening in any program other than MR though.

  19. @DCS: “One just has to remember not to compare the valuations across programs, e.g., by claiming that they show that a WoH point is worth 3x HH points, because that would be nonsense since it would fail to take into account the fact that one earns on average 3x more HH points than one does WoH points… …”

    Of course, one can also remember that the valuation of points probably takes the ease at which said points are earned into account, but ultimately, DCS needs something to argue for nothing more than the sake of reading his own words on the screen.

  20. Marriott at 0.8 seems out of line with the other currency valuations. Outside of the next two months, Marriott redemptions will be similar and, in most cases, slightly more expensive than Hilton redemptions, which should value them very similarly to Hilton points. As in the past with SPG points, they are likely to be more valuable as airline points, so could be most comparable to the transferable points, however, at 0.8, and a 3 to 1.25 transfer ratio, that makes their equivalent value in a transferable points currency at 1.92 cents, a 13% premium to any other transferable points. For a currency that requires a minimum 60,000 to make even this valuation work, it seems considerably too high in comparison. With a huge balance and the assumption that you would never use them as Hotel points, only as airline miles, 0.7 might make sense. Any other situations probably make them worth more like 0.6.

  21. My humble opinion on MR…
    when a country has an unstable political situation, its currency loses value simply on fears of some future disaster…same with Amex…when it promises and then refuses bonuses, claws back its own offers and MRs, shuts down accounts left and right for real or perceived misdeeds of cardholders, and generally acts paranoid…well…sure, MR is useful currency, but the “country” that issues this currency is very unstable at the moment…and for this reason, I would value it quite a bit lower…

  22. I think valuations are still too high. Two examples:
    1) Marriott: I don’t think you take into account the value of the points/rebates of making a cash reservation. I’m Plat Premier so I get 17.5 marriott points per dollar spent plus 6 points from credit card plus usually around 7% rebate from a cash-back portal. This is about a 20% value for cash. This basically reduces your .8 value by 20% which is .64.
    2) Chase Ultimate Rewards. I usually use these for hotels at 1.5 cents per 100 points, but value is less because I can usually find rates of 5-10% less at hotel site and it doesn’t earn 3 points per dollar. Probably 1.3 is a better valuation.

  23. @T. — AMEX MR is not an unstable currency– AMEX is just wary of card churners (imagine that after reading this blog!). Try steady spend over years across one or two accounts instead of tricks and games– opening and closing accounts galore– and I doubt they close your accounts or claw back a bonus. AMEX is not Venezuela– they don’t want to become it either by handing out free bonuses for questionable behavior.

  24. To achieve comparability, you should provide valuation for $1 spend, not per mile/point.
    To be really useful, you should have separate values for:
    a. economy cabin
    b. premium cabin
    c. basic hotel property
    d. luxury property
    The same points are useless to me if I want to stay in a suite, but the value being offered is the opportunity to stay at low budget hotels.

  25. @Ari – I personally have only had one Amex card (despite reading this blog regularly – imagine that!) – Platinum; had it for many years and have been putting a decent amount of spend on it…by all other parameters I might be their ideal customer, but having read and heard all the horror stories about Amex (and not just from Ms-ers but from regular customers), I am in no rush to open any of their cards…in fact, this turns me away from them altogether…I know we all have our own opinions and value different things, so you might find Amex fine…as for me – from all I’ve read and heard – I think they are becoming petty, vindictive and paranoid…I still keep Platinum for 5x airfare and FHR…for the time being…but with Virtuoso bookings and now Prestige that might give same 5x airfare, I won’t miss it…to each their own, I guess…

  26. @ JimLovejoy

    I would agree with you if this way a TATL business class off. But if lucky is primarily using avios for TATL business then woooow. The kicker is the intra asia route that are good on avios are better done by an alaska award, or an aegean intra zone award. On short haul European avios MIGHT be good last minute but the rest of us (I am european) we get much better value on Lcc usually.

    Hawaii is the only route that avios has an advantage on.

  27. @Mike is back just to argue about something that is so clear, simple ans inarguable, while he ludicrously accuses me of stating it just to argue. I cannot say I missed your absence…

  28. Asia Miles at 1.2 vs SQ at 1.5 and Delta at 1.3 really looks odd. CX award chart is consistently cheaper than SQ, and availability is the same.

  29. Shouldn’t AMEX MR be worth at least the amount of the highest transferable partner? (Alaska in your scenario)?

    So if Alaska is 1.8, MR should be worth AT LEAST 1.8.

    Until it’s partners devalue.

    I say AT LEAST because 1) 1.8 is worst case scenario, but if you find a great deal by transferring elsewhere to redeem relatively instantaneously, then in increases the value, and 2) the potential for transfer bonuses that increase it (at least temporarily) even more.

  30. @ Oliver — The difference is that there are in a vast majority of cases better options to book Cathay Pacific awards. Meanwhile in the case of Singapore, they don’t typically release award seats to their partners, which is why I value them more.

  31. @Lucky First of all, thank you for all the great posts, I’m an avid follower of your blog. Love your trip reports and they have inspired me in the past. You’re impartial and adventurous… At times too much! Glad you decided to avoid a certain trip… But that’s another discussion…

    I only got into this hobby/game to experience International Premium Travel. That’s it. Nothing else. Once it was clear to me the value I could get out of these on certain specific routes, that’s all I’ve been focusing on.

    With that said my personal value of points miles and points is based only on the maximum return I can get out of them.
    If I can’t book “the value” I’m seeking, I just won’t go. That’s it. Why waste 25,000 miles to go to Hawaii when I can use 3 times that amount to sleep comfortably on my way to Europe?? Right?

    So, for me for example:

    – Korean Skypass Miles are worth to me 9.5 cents each. Why? Because the only way I would use them is to take my wife to the Maldives in first class from the West coast. One way, because I’d be coming back with another product for fun.

    – Skyward Miles are worth 8.3 cents in First Class SFO to CPT.

    – Krysflier are worth between 2.6 and almost 8 cents, depending on the redemption.

    Anything else is just not worth the hard work of stacking up these miles and bank points in my opinion.

    Yes it’s true that one can “wait” for a Fare Error, or Promo, and buy similar round trips for a couple thousand dollars, thus lowering the “potential best value” of such trips, but it’s also true that if one’s life does not revolve only around miles and points, getting those kind of deals is like winning the lottery. You need to either spend most of your time searching or know the right person, that tells you the right piece of information at the right time AND not have any other impediment that prevents you from then traveling when the deal is available. Lots of freedom is needed. We are not all like that. That’s why there’s bloggers and then there’s us.

    I’d rather take my chances in the actual lottery, than wait for that lucky event for a silly Premium Intl. Flight.

    What I am appreciative about is that finally “competition” between miles value and points value is helping us busy mortals…

    The more airlines devalue their award programs, the more banks are willing to increase the way their clients and spenders earn and value these points.

    Who would have thought just 2 years ago that a bank would pay their customers 3x for a dollar? Then Chase came with the CSR (after United changed to revenue from distance.) And now 4x/5x (MR) and soon 5x (TYP) for a $1 spent?? Crazy right?
    The more the devaluations the higher the banks will pay for us to stay in the game… They want us to play, they make lots of $$ out of us. Well I need to feel I’m making $$ off of them too… That’s why only certain redemptions are in my horizon.

    The day AA or UA or any airline charges what Etihad charges for redemptions to its members will be the day Amex/Chase/Citi will offer 30x…
    The correlation between the two will never change….

  32. @DCS: Your inability to believe that anyone can come up with a logical argument besides you is no one else’s issue than your own. Stop deluding yourself into thinking that you’re the only one who can do so.

  33. @LeoM

    Are you going to pay $15k to go to Maldives in First? If the answer is yes, your valuation is correct. If the answer is no, then how much would you pay for First to Maldives? That is how @Lucky based his valuation on, not on mistake fares or promos etc. If you are willing to pay just $5k for the same ticket, then your valuation just got cut to 1/3.

    @Lucky is trying to be realistic with the valuation and eliminate the ‘maximum’ I won from the equation. Yes, the First Class ticket probably cost $15,000 on the day of departure. But how many people would actually pay that much.

    Again if you are always paying $10k+ for First Class ticket, then your valuation is correct. For us busy mortals, we probably would pay 1/4 of that for premium travel, hence we’re busy chasing miles/points to help keep flying premium within reach.

  34. Hi Lucky,
    I’m a relatively new subscriber to the OMAAT newsletter so as well as reading your article above I also read the three previous ones about how you calculate and value miles. It was fascinating and very informative reading. In your Delta example you get more value by using miles to book the business class ticket instead of the economy ticket as you said. However, the point you didn’t make is that many people don’t have an infinite (or very high) number of miles to use for various reasons. So, even though I’m Star Alliance Gold and have a credit card that gives me SAS Eurobonus miles for all my spending my points don’t last forever. So, it can well be the case that it’s better to book the economy ticket instead of the business class one (for a short haul) flight because you end up getting more flights for the points that you have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *