Oddball airline miles (Southwest, JetBlue, etc.) are worth…

  • British Airways Avios are worth 1.17 cents each
  • Frontier Bonus Miles are worth 1.02 cents each
  • Hawaiian Miles are worth 0.81 cents each
  • JetBlue TrueBlue points are worth 1.46 each
  • LATAM Pass kilometers are worth 0.67 cents each
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards are worth 1.6 cents each
  • Virgin America Elevate points are worth 2.1 cents each

This is very much a work in progress.  For the latest and greatest info, please see:  What are oddball airline miles worth?

What this means

With British Airways Avios, it is reasonable to expect to get at least 1.17 cents per point value.  With JetBlue TrueBlue points, it is reasonable to expect to get at least 1.46 cents per point value. The actual value you get from your miles will vary depend upon how the miles are used.

Overview

With most frequent flyer programs, the value a person gets from airline miles depends entirely on how they’re used.  It’s often possible to get very high value (above 2 cents per mile) or very low value (less than 1 cent per mile).  By cherry picking the best opportunities, you should be able to get better value for your miles.

My goal is to identify a value with which it is reasonable to get that much value or better.  I call this value the Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV).

Please note that my goal isn’t to get the exact right number.  I don’t believe that such a thing exists.  Instead, my goal is to use logic and/or observed values to come up with reasonable point estimates.

Methodology

PonderingRedemptionValues_thumb.png

In a recent post I argued that with most airline miles it is “reasonable” to expect to get at least 1.4 cents worth of travel per mile redeemed. I call this the Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV). See: Airline Miles are worth 1.4 cents each. A simplified approach to Reasonable Redemption Values.

To get to that number, I had to make a number of BIG assumptions:

  • Most people in the US use their miles to book domestic economy flights.
  • Most frequent flyer programs offer 25,000 mile round-trip economy awards within the continental United States.
  • It is reasonable to assume that people who are flexible with their flight dates and times can find saver level awards (e.g. 25,000 mile round-trip).
  • The average domestic round-trip flight price is $361 (Found here, based on 2016 data).

Given the above assumptions, I calculated the Reasonable Redemption Value:

  • RRV = (Average Flight Price – TSA Fee) / (25,000 miles) = 1.4

The prior post’s argument applied only to airline loyalty programs that offer round-trip domestic award travel for 25,000 miles.

In this post, I used variations on the above methodology in order to calculate RRVs (Reasonable Redemption Values) for each of these airline programs:

  • British Airways Avios
  • Frontier Bonus Miles
  • Hawaiian Miles
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • LATAM Pass
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Virgin America Elevate

There are more exceptions, of course, but the programs listed above interest me because US issued credit cards offer miles in these programs.  And my goal is to estimate RRVs for all cards shown in my Best Credit Card Offers page.

As I mentioned above, this is very much a work in progress.  For the latest and greatest info, please see:  What are oddball airline miles worth?

British Airways Avios: 1.17 cents per Avios point

British Airways has a distance based award chart.  Points required for a flight depend upon miles flown and are tallied separately for each direct leg of travel.

Within the US, British airways charges the following rates for each direct leg of economy travel:

  • Between 0 and 1,150 miles: 7,500 Avios
  • Between 1,151 and 2,000 miles: 10,000 Avios
  • Between 2,001 and 3,000 miles: 12,500 Avios
  • Between 3,001 and 4,000 miles: 20,000 Avios
  • Between 4,001 and 5,500 miles: 25,000 Avios
  • Between 5,501 and 6,500 miles: 30,000 Avios
  • Between 6,501 and 7,000 miles: 35,000 Avios
  • 7,001 miles and more: 50,000 Avios

I believe that all domestic flights are less than 3,000 miles, so only the first three rows of the above chart are relevant for non-stop (direct, actually) one-way flights.  In other words, direct one-way flights range in award price from 7,500 to 12,500 Avios.

One-stop one-way award prices, then, would range from 15,000 to 25,000 Avios.  But, the higher end is unlikely since it would require two segments above 2000 miles each.  More realistically, one-way one-stop prices range from 15,000 to 20,000 Avios.

So, we now can say that round trip award prices range from 15,000 to 40,000 Avios.  Let’s somewhat arbitrarily assume that an “average” trip includes one-way non-stop at 12,500 Avios plus one-stop 10,000 Avios + 7,500 Avios.  That gives us a total round trip award cost of 30,000 Avios.

Using the methodology previously documented, we can then estimate British Airways Avios’ Reasonable Redemption Value:

  • The average domestic round-trip flight price is $361 (Found here, based on 2016 data).
  • TSA fees, round-trip = $11.20
  • Flight value = $361 – TSA fees (rounded down to $11) = $350
  • RRV = 35,000 cents / 30,000 Avios
  • RRV = 1.17 cents per Avios point

Note that this is a very conservative value estimate.  If you use Avios for short distance non-stop travel you can do much better.

Frontier Bonus Miles: 1.02 cents per Frontier Mile

Frontier is a low cost carrier that charges 20,000 miles per round trip award flight.  Since Frontier’s prices tend to be lower than traditional airlines, it doesn’t seem right to use the average domestic round trip flight price to calculate Frontier’s Reasonable Redemption Value.

Instead, I used FlightAward Insight to find Frontier’s median prices for undisclosed and unrestricted fare classes on several routes:

  • Denver to LaGuardia: $104, $141
  • Denver to Miami: $109, $120.50
  • Denver to LAX: $98, $99
  • Denver to Seattle: $104.25, $106.75

The unweighted average (mean) of the above flight prices comes to approximately $110.  Frontier’s round trip average price, then, can be estimated at $220.

  • Average domestic round-trip: $220 (as estimated above)
  • Award fees: = $5 (Frontier) + $11.20 (TSA) = $16
  • Flight value = $220 – $16 = $204
  • RRV = 20,400 cents / 20,000 Frontier Miles
  • RRV = 1.02 cents per mile

Hawaiian Miles: 0.81 cents per mile

Hawaiian Miles can be redeemed several different ways.  One option is to redeem for JetBlue flights as follows (found here):

use-hawaiian-miles-on-jetblue

The above chart gives us an idea of the value of Hawaiian Miles:

  • $99 ticket at 10,000 miles = .99 cents per mile
  • $100 ticket at 15,000 miles = .67 cents per mile
  • $179 ticket at 20,000 miles = .9 cents per mile
  • $180 ticket at 25,000 miles = .72 cents per mile
  • $259 ticket at 30,000 miles = .86 cents per mile
  • $260 ticket at 35,000 miles = .74 cents per mile
  • $339 ticket at 40,000 miles = .85 cents per mile
  • $340 ticket at 45,000 miles = .76 cents per mile
  • $419 ticket at 50,000 miles = .84 cents per mile

Mean value: .81 cents per mile

JetBlue TrueBlue: 1.46 cents per point

Wandering Aramean has a great post (found here) in which he found the median per point value of JetBlue points equals 1.46 cents.

LATAM Pass: 0.67 cents per kilometer

LATAM Pass Kilometers can be redeemed for American Airlines (and other OneWorld partners) flights at the following rates (found here):

latam-pass-award-chartIn the British Airways Avios calculations (above), we estimated that an average domestic round trip flight may include three segments, as follows: one long segment (2,000 to 3,000 miles), one medium segment (1,150 to 2,000 miles), and one short segment (less than 1,150 miles).

We can convert those segments to kilometers, as follows:

  • Long segment: 3,220 to 4,830 Km
  • Median segment: 1,850 to 3,220 Km
  • Short segment: Less than 1,850 Km

Award prices then would be:

  • Long segment: 3,220 to 4,830 Km = 27,000 LATAM Pass Km
  • Median segment: 1,850 to 3,220 Km = 14,000 to 27,000 LATAM Pass Km
  • Short segment: Less than 1,850 Km = 6,000 to 14,000 LATAM Pass Km

Let’s then pick the following point values:

  • Long segment: 27,000 LATAM Pass Km
  • Median segment: 17,000 LATAM Pass Km
  • Short segment: 8,000 LATAM Pass Km

Total award cost for round trip domestic flight = 52,000 LATAM Pass Km

  • The average domestic round-trip flight price is $361 (Found here, based on 2016 data).
  • TSA fees, round-trip = $11.20
  • Flight value = $361 – TSA fees (rounded down to $11) = $350
  • RRV = 35,000 cents / 52,000 LATAM Pass Km
  • RRV = 0.67 cents per LATAM Pass Km

Note that significantly better value should be obtainable when using LATAM Pass kilometers for LATAM flights.

Southwest Rapid Rewards: 1.6 cents per point

As found in the Frequent Miler post “The new true value of Southwest points,” observed values of Rapid Rewards points when used for Wanna Get Away fares ranged from 1.61 to 1.69 cents per point.  For this exercise I’ll simply use the minimum observed value and round down to 1.6.

Note that I am not using the post’s “enhanced valuations” that take into account the fact that Southwest points are earned only on paid flights.  The reason?  This trade-off has not been included in other RRV calculations, so I’m excluding it here too to remain consistent.

Virgin America Elevate: 2.1 cents per point

Using the Virgin America website, I randomly looked at many flight paid prices compared to point prices for the same flights.  After accounting for TSA fees, I found per point values ranging from 2.1 to 2.6 cents.  I’ll err on the conservative side here and pick 2.1 as the RRV.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. I’d like to add that I think Spirit miles can be worth anywhere from 0.2 cpp to 2 cpp… I’ve successfully redeemed a round-trip domestic flight from the northeast to Florida worth about $100 for only 5000 Spirit miles (requires that you have their cobranded BOA credit card and select an off-peak date, but it’s definitely POSSIBLE, albeit quite challenging). On the other hand, I’ve seen awful redemptions of 50,000 Spirit miles round-trip for similar flights during peak times, which would give you a value of 0.2 or 0.3 cpp on the opposite end of the spectrum. Flying Spirit is all about learning to work the system, once you figure it out, there really is quite a bit of value to be had for someone that doesn’t require top-notch luxury.

  2. I’ve been in this hobby long enough to know “my reward programs” pretty well, but I’m still very green on the programs I have participated very little in.

    My question is about the Virgin valuation. From reading previous articles, I thought Virgin miles were worth very little. I could swear posts about the 90,000 point opportunities with their CC always had the general overview of “They’re not worth very much, but 90,000 is still a LOT”.

    So question is: Have I been wrong about Virgin all this time? Or is there a difference between “Virgin” and “Virgin Elevate”, etc? I’m still learning it would seem…

    • No doubt about it: the Virgin stuff is confusing. Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia all have different frequent flyer programs. You’re thinking of Virgin Atlantic points. Virgin America points are worth much more.

    • I believe it’s the Virgin Atlantic points that aren’t worth much (the BOA card offers the 90,000 Virgin Atlantic points occasionally). I’m not very familiar with the Virgin America point system, but it’s completely separate from Virgin Atlantic, and now that Virgin America is merging with Alaska, it’s probably going to completely change within the next year or so (maybe sooner?).

      • That makes sense – I think you’re right it was the BOA card. Thanks for helping clarify this makes a lot more sense to me now.

  3. Any thoughts on getting the Virgin America card now that Alaska merger is approved? Is it worth a speculation app to get VAmerica miles to have them turn into Alaska?

    • I was thinking the same thing myself… until I google’d the Virgin America credit card and saw how god-awful hideously ugly it was and almost puked… not worth it for that reason alone… we have to have some standards!

    • Probably wouldn’t hurt. I’d go with the fee free version unless you have plans to use the extra features of the premium card.

      My expectation that the miles will convert at a good rate (e.g. 1 Virgin America = 2 Alaska) went down a bit when SPG started offering 1 to 1 transfers to Virgin America. But, it still could happen. I was shocked when Marriott announced 1 to 3 transfers to SPG, so you never know!

  4. I’m not sure I really agree with calling these the “reasonable redemption rate”. While I agree it’s a good idea to price miles out based on some reasonable value and not unicorn-handstand-backflip-first-class rates, this is simply too conservative. No reasonable person should redeem their miles at the prices you’ve listed! For BA, for instance, a sweet spot is in shorthaul coach flights. Lots of flyers will make several shorthaul flights a year and could expect to redeem them there. Why not provide an average price of shorthaul flights instead?

    • My intention is to pick a point in which an average consumer has a “reasonable” chance of getting that much value or more. I think that demands a conservative estimate. That’s different from saying that it is “reasonable” for a person to redeem miles at that rate.

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