Points & miles changing fortunes. Which points are worth more (or less) than before?

I maintain point values (Reasonable Redemption Values) for each of the major travel and credit card points programs.  Most of the values are derived from a mix of empirical data and calculations based on logical assumptions.  The results are objective and unbiased.  Up-to-date numbers can always be found here: Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs).

RRVs made it possible for me to create objective estimates of the value of credit card signup bonuses.  From those estimates, I created unbiased credit card signup bonus rankings:

I also use Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs) to calculate credit card return on spend in order to publish pages that rank credit cards in this way.  See, for example: Best Rewards for Everyday Spend.

That’s all great, but the truth is that some points and miles are often worth more or less, due to factors that are not considered in my Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs).  Real world redemption opportunities change with the wind as award space increases or decreases, as award charts change, as promotions come and go, and due to many other miscellaneous factors.

Below you’ll find the current RRVs for a number of programs along with my subjective trend rating.  For each program that I’ve chosen to include here, I’ve added either an upward or downward trend arrow to indicate which way I think the value is going along with a brief explanation.

Transferable Points

Program Reasonable Redemption Value Subjective Trend

This does not show a change in the objective RRV rating, but rather a subjective “finger to the wind” view of whether I think that the points have recently become more or less valuable

Amex Membership Rewards 1.82 As their transfer partners increase in value, so does this program.  I’ve assigned upward trends to both ANA and Virgin Atlantic (see below).  That, combined with the fact that Amex often offers transfer bonuses for programs like these (See: Current Point Transfer Bonuses), makes Membership Rewards increasingly valuable.
Chase Ultimate Rewards 1.82 Don’t get me wrong, I still love Ultimate Rewards and I still think that it is reasonable to expect to get 1.82 cents per point value by picking the best available awards from certain transfer partners.  But one of their best transfer partners, United, recently devalued a bit, so Ultimate Rewards did too… a bit.
Citi ThankYou Rewards 1.82 Citi recently added Avianca LifeMiles as a transfer partner (see: Citi ThankYou gets more valuable and adds a way out).  I love to see new transfer partners, especially useful ones like this!

Airline Miles

Program Reasonable Redemption Value Subjective Trend

This does not show a change in the objective RRV rating, but rather a subjective “finger to the wind” view of whether I think that the points have recently become more or less valuable

Air Canada Aeroplan 1.4 Aeroplan continues to be one of the most useful mileage programs, but Aeroplan and Air Canada will part ways in 2020. Therefore, Aeroplan miles may become nearly worthless at that time.  Continue to use them now, but don’t invest in them for the future.
Alaska MileagePlan 1.4 Alaska miles were already incredibly valuable for many partner awards.  But now that they’ve merged with Virgin America, Alaska miles are more valuable than before for their own flights (or, rather, for legacy Virgin America flights).
American AAdvantage 1.4 AA only gets an upward arrow because they were subjectively in the toilet not long ago.  AA saver award space had completely dried up in almost all markets.  Recently, though, there have been confirmed sightings of useful AA saver awards.  It’s easy to get an up arrow when you start from the bottom.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club Not Scored The fact that ANA is now withholding some award space from their partners is not a good thing for us overall, but it does make ANA miles a bit more valuable when you want to fly ANA awards.
Avianca LifeMiles 1.4 In the past couple of years, Avianca has added mixed cabin awards to their online search tool and has added both SPG and, very recently, Citibank as transfer partners.  And they’ve continued to offer Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
Delta SkyMiles 1.4 Every few months it seems that we learn of a new secret devaluation.  The latest devaluations involved Delta charging more for partner flights than for their own, and now they even added increased partner award prices for flights within 21 days.
Korean Airlines 1.4 Korean Airlines continues to be an awesome option for first class flights to Asia thanks to releasing tons of award space.  And, now that they let you book partner awards online, they’re more valuable than ever for booking Delta flights.  See: Piecing together Delta awards for great value to Hawaii and Europe.
United MileagePlus 1.4 United recently increased award prices in several regions.  United is still a useful program thanks to offering one of the best online award search tools, and access to star alliance awards with no fuel surcharges, but with the latest devaluation they’ve continued an ongoing spiral toward mediocrity.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1.4 Thanks to the ability to book Delta awards online with Virgin Atlantic miles, and the finding that Virgin Atlantic sometimes has better access to Delta award space than Delta itself, Virgin Atlantic miles have become more valuable than before.

Hotel Points

Program Reasonable Redemption Value Subjective Trend

This does not show a change in the objective RRV rating, but rather a subjective “finger to the wind” view of whether I think that the points have recently become more or less valuable

Choice 0.81 I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that in the past 6 months or so I’ve increasingly found very good uses for Choice points.  Maybe nothing has changed other than the fact that I’m looking more often?  I don’t know, but I’ll take it.
Club Carlson Gold Points 0.38 Again, this might just be me, but I’ve found it extremely rare to find good uses for my Club Carlson points.  This has been true for years, though, so I won’t add a trend arrow in either direction here.
Hilton Honors 0.45 When Hilton updated their program this year (details here), they added valuable features such as point pooling (share points with others, for free) and the ability to book all awards with a combination of points and money.  Perhaps the biggest positive change, though, is that, on average, they lowered the chance of getting a very poor value award.  The program improvements are modest, and some are negative, but on a whole I think that the program has improved a tad.
Hyatt Gold Passport 1.74 There’s a lot to love and a lot to hate with Hyatt’s new “World of Hyatt” program.  But, ultimately they didn’t recently change the value of their points one way or another.  No trend in either direction.
IHG Club 0.57 Is there a trend here? I don’t see it.
Marriott Rewards 0.72 Against everyone’s expectations, Marriott’s merger with SPG has led to lots of good things (see: Marriott SPG Complete Guide to Sweet Opportunities).  That said, I wouldn’t say that the value of Marriott points has changed much due to the merger, but we do now have the ability to convert Marriott points to SPG points at a 3 to 1 ratio.  More flexibility is always a good thing.
Starwood Preferred Guest 2.16 The ability to freely convert SPG points to Marriott at a 1 to 3 ratio has been incredible.  It means, for example, that the highest category Marriott properties cost only 15,000 SPG points per night.  And Marriott Travel packages, which were previously unobtainable by many due to the huge number of Marriott points required, are now available to almost anyone with a healthy stash of SPG points.

 

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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    • Yeah, it seems odd that every airline mile is worth the same (1.4 cents Certainly Delta should be worth less.

      Also, what about Southwest and JetBlue?

      • It’s called collusion. 🙂

        It’s just like gasoline prices. It’s the same at every station in my town, except for the off-brand independent station, which is always 2 cents less.

    • I agree – I find it very odd that Delta, AA and United have the same value per point as Alaska. And somehow Avianca has the same value as everyone else?

      I know that the changes to the industry have not been favorable to the consumer, but to equalize all airline loyalty currencies across the board is very odd.

  1. RE; AAdvantage, there is a little known program where, if you have one of the listed AA credit cards, you can get a discount of 7,500 miles, so you can fly to selected destinations for just 17,500 round trip.

    I recently flew PHX ot PBI for just 17,500 miles.

    This makes AA miles potentially worth a lot more than other airlines.

    Details of the discount award program are here: https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-program/miles/redeem/award-travel/reduced-mileage-awards.jsp#plan

    But be warned that most AA representatives are not familiar with this program. You have to book it by phone and it takes a long time as they put you on hold every 5 minutes as they have to check with a supervisor about how to actually book it. But ti’s well worth the effot.

    • And if you have an AA credit card that gives a 10% rebate on miles spent, that tacks on so you can get a round trip for 15,750.

  2. Thank you again for the analysis.
    Curiously, I have found that I have inadvertently almost become a contrarian, in part due to the fact that between learning the tricks you share, and, having the kind of business that enables me to accrue miles and points, so, it boils down to me to say that what makes any points or miles the most usable. It literally is like some currencies overseas a few years ago. You literally could not give some of them away.
    AA is an example. If you literally cannot find ANY saver space, the currency is worthless (or worth 0.03 cents per mile) considering the cost of some of the airfare vs. mileage price. Just as an intellectual exercise, would you transfer SPG to AA?
    So, Citi and Barclay seem to have been suckered into buying a worthless currency on behalf of their customers.

    • Agree,
      AAdvantage went from the most useful to the least useful in a short course of 2.5 years.
      The CC 10% rebate we did use because we had been burning the large stash from years back.

      The reduced miles flights are not an unknown benefit at all. It is just very difficult to use because the city pairs have to work for your own travel needs / preferences.

      Matter of fact, the reduced miles flights are confined to city pairs that of decades we have owned the Citicard, we have not once used such benefit because the city pairs never work for us. We are not those who would take a trip just because the miles required is cheap. By and large the city pairs do not include either our previous home city nor our current home city, or to destinations we could not care less.

      • My understanding, at least from talking to the AA reps, is that the reduced mileage awards are not based on pairs. Only the designation city is relevant. that’s why only destinations are listed on that page, not pairs.

        You can fly from any point of origin in the US to that destination.

        • It just has to be departure city or destination city on the list…. either work. I’ve been lucky that my small regional airport has been on the list for the last six months… much easier than driving 3 hours to a hub. I’m just waiting for first week of December for the new list to come out and hope that we’re still on the list so I can book some flights for March that would otherwise cost $500 out of my airport.

        • May be I have not made it clear.
          By city pairs I mean our home city is not on the list, or the destinations on the list dont interest us.
          So, I cannot find a destination we want to go, so that is useless.
          Also, our home cities are never on the list, that means we cannot fly from our home cities to places we like to go.

          Do the above make more sense?

          Long before many have known about cobrand CCs, we have the Citi AAdvantage cards – that was like over 20 years ago. The reduced miles benefit has been there from the beginning. We have never been able to find anything and just no longer pay attention any more.
          In the past I always said CX was the only saving grace AA had. Now after the latest huge devaluation in CX F, I say QR is the only saving grace AAdvantage has. All our AA redemptions the past 2 years were on QR with only 1 single AA metal MIA-LHR with the misfortune of aircraft downgrade at the departure!
          With the devaluation, even BA Avios is cheaper for MIA=YYZ at 10K versus AA 15K in coach.

  3. For those curious about why the airline miles all have 1.4 RRVs, please see this post: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2016/12/02/airline-miles-worth-1-4-cents-simplified-approach-reasonable-redemption-values/

    Airlines without domestic 25K roundtrip awards like JetBlue, Southwest, etc. are covered here: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/oddball-airline-miles-worth/

    Also keep in mind what RRV means. It is the amount at which it is reasonable to expect to get that much value or more. You may get more or less depending on how you use the miles. And it is based on the idea that most people (not necessarily Frequent Miler readers though!) use miles to book domestic flights. In many/most cases you can get MUCH more value by cherry-picking the best awards or deals and by booking higher value types of awards such as international business or first class (Alaska miles used for Cathay Pacific flights, to name one example).

  4. AFAIK, AAdvantage is the only mileage program (at least of the Big Three) that allows UNLIMITED FREE itinerary changes once a frequent flyer ticket has been booked, as long as the origin and destination airports remain the same. Different airlines and stopover(s) – or changing from stopover to direct flught or vice-versa – are all fine.

    I’ve used this amazing benefit many, many times over many, many years. No credit card of any type need be in possession of the traveler to use this benefit. Throw in the reduced mileage awards, and this is the best frequent flyer program, IMO.

    • The allowed free changes have more requirements to make it free than what you said. Certain conditions must be met. If the carrier involved is NOT a OneWorld member, such as EY or AS, the change is NOT free, just FYI,

      Plus AA has eliminated stopover for many years now. There is NO stopover allowed on an AAdvantage award.
      You may be confuse a layover (connection) with a stopover. They are 2 distinctly different things. Yes you can change from a connection itinerary to nonstop flight and vice versa – again, certain conditions must be made. You may not be aware AA has a very peculiar routing rule that no other airlines have – the award routing must have a published fare by the over the water carrier (or the governing carrier), otherwise the award would “break” into 2 awards.

      It is not as simplistic as you said.

  5. 1) “Most of the values are derived from a mix of empirical data and calculations based on logical assumptions.”

    2) “The results are objective and unbiased.”

    Statement 2 cannot be true if statement 1 is true. “Most” (but not all) “assumptions” (however “logical”) do not equate to “unbiased”.

    That said, I agree with most.

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