Fair Trading Prices

“Fair trading prices” are the prices by which it is relatively easy or common to acquire points and miles.  More specifically, Fair Trading Prices are estimates of the amount of cash given up by using a points earning credit card rather than a no-fee 2% cash back card.  For more about this, please see: Fair trading prices for points and miles.  Still confused?  Please see Fair trading prices explained.

How much are points worth?

If you want to know how much value you can get from your points, Fair Trading Prices are not the answer.  Instead, please see Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs).

What are elite qualifying miles worth?

Shown below are fair trading prices for redeemable points and miles.  Fair trading prices for Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) are determined differently.  Currently, the fair trading price for airline EQMs = 3 cents per EQM.

FTP Tables Revision History

  • 5/20/2017: Added Sapphire Reserve and Altitude Reserve.  The former leads to very different values for Ultimate Rewards points and its transfer partners.  Also fixed errors in FTPs for Amtrak and British Airways.
  • 3/22/2016: Added price to top up Aeroplan miles
  • 10/12/2015: Several changes…
    1) SPG: Since the SPG card annual fee increased to $95, SPG cost per point increases from 2.16 to 2.26 (the annual fee is included in the calculation as of 3/19/2015).  This caused many FTP values to change upward including SPG transfer partners and hotels (since SPG is used as an index for hotel values along with Hilton)
    2) Added Amtrak
    3) Added several airline programs (LAN, Southwest, etc.)
  • 9/3/2015: Updated Ultimate Rewards FTP and associated FTPs (United) based on latest calculations from the credit card analysis spreadsheet.  Lowered FTP from 1.32 to 1.22.
  • 3/20/2015: Updated Delta FTP. Added cost to transfer Membership Rewards to Delta
  • 3/19/2015: Recalculated everything. Now include credit card annual fee and new category bonuses for some cards.  Added Choice Hotels.
  • 3/9/2014: Updated Ultimate Rewards value. Added Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa, Citi ThankYou, US Bank FlexPerks
  • 4/24/2012: Recalculated hotel values and split from main table

Flexible Use Points

Bank Points Cost to Buy Direct
(cents per point)
Fair Trading Price
(cents per point)
Credit Card*
Amex Membership Rewards (MR)  2.5 1.00  EveryDay Preferred
Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) N/A 1.14 Freedom + Sapphire Reserve
Citi ThankYou Rewards (TYP) N/A 1.25 ThankYou Premier
Diner’s Club (DC) N/A 1.58 Diner’s Club Elite
Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) 3.5 2.26 Amex Starwood
US Bank Altitude Reserve (AR) N/A 1.18 Altitude Reserve
US Bank FlexPerks (FP) N/A 1.32 FlexPerks Amex

* Fair Trading Prices are calculated by assuming that an “average” person puts all spend on this card instead of a no-fee 2% cash back card.  Category bonuses make the Fair Trading Price less than 2 cents each.  In most cases, I assume just one credit card is used for all spend.  The one example is with Ultimate Rewards where I allow two cards for the calculations.  Calculations and assumptions can be found in this Google Docs spreadsheet.

Airline Miles

Airline Miles Cost to Buy Direct (cents per point) Fair Trading Price (cents per point) Transfer From:
Air Canada Aeroplan 3.0 CAD 1.00 MR
Alaska 2.75 1.81* SPG
American 2.95 1.81* SPG
British Airways 2.3 1.14 UR
Delta 3.5 1.06 MR
JetBlue ? 1.31 MR
Korean ? 1.14 UR
LAN ? 1.21* SPG
Lufthansa Miles & More 3.2 1.81* SPG
Southwest ? 1.14 UR
United 3.76 1.14 UR
Virgin Atlantic ? 1.00 MR

* Assumes transfers from SPG are executed 20,000 points at a time in order to get 5,000 point transfer bonus.

Amtrak

Amtrak Guest Rewards Cost to Buy Direct (cents per point) Fair Trading Price (cents per point) Transfer From:
Amtrak 3.77 2.26 SPG

 

Hotel Values

Prices are cents per point Points earned per $ for stays SPG Index Hilton Index Fair Trade Price (Average SPG & Hilton Index) Buy Direct
SPG 2 2.26 N/A 2.26 3.5
Hilton 15 N/A 0.45 0.45 1
Best Western 10 0.45 0.67 0.56 1
Choice 10 0.45 0.67 0.56 1.1
Club Carlson 20 0.23 0.34 0.28 0.7
Hyatt 5 0.9 1.34 1.12 2.4
IHG 10 0.45 0.67 0.56 1.15
Marriott 10 0.45 0.67 0.56 1.25
Wyndham 10 0.45 0.67 0.56 N/A

SPG and Hilton values are computed from credit card earnings with the same methodology as bank and airline miles above.  The rest of the hotel values are computed relative to SPG and Hilton.  For example, if a hotel offers 5 times as many points for a stay as with SPG, then the fair trade price for that hotel using the SPG index is the SPG fair trading price divided by 5.  For each hotel chain, two Fair Trading prices are calculated: the SPG Index and the Hilton Index.  The chain’s Fair Trade Price, then, is the average of the two.  For more details about this approach, please see this post.

Notes

  • The “Buy Direct” column is the advertised price to buy points or miles directly from each specific program. The price does not include any specials that may be running.
  • The “Credit Card” column lists the best price you could get by trading points from one of the three listed flexible points programs. In each case I tried to find the transfer option that led to the lowest cost.
  • For details on how this table was first compiled, please see: Fair trading prices for points and miles
  • Tricks, hacks, and promotions that allow points to be purchased less expensively are not included in the estimates above.  If interested, please read “When should a hack determine the fair trading price of points and miles?
  • Fair Trading Prices will be updated regularly.  Please check back often.

Publishers

You may re-publish the above table under the condition that credit is given to Frequent Miler along with the web address for this blog (http://thefrequentmiler.com/).  Please also include a link back to this page so that readers can always see the latest updates.

Comments

  1. From a asian that had math drilled into him from his rents. RESPECT on the break down of values per points and the ppm. I am always thinking of the numbers behind purchases to maximize my returns but there is one negative I can no longer sleep at night. 🙂

  2. hey FM, so MR points are almost the same as UR? Why’s that?…i feel like UR points are best esp for Hyatt hotels and going to United. MR points are good for only BA transfer bonuses and maybe ANA if you want to pay the mileage fees…but i’m relatively new to this so maybe you can clear it up? thanks man 🙂

    • Ryan from MA: Great question. The fair trading prices chart shows the usual cost for acquiring points and miles. It doesn’t say anything about the value of redeeming them. I agree with you that UR points are usually more valuable than MR points, but since both can be redeemed a million different ways, there is no good way to estimate their redemption value. The basic idea of the chart is that you can use these numbers as a benchmark against your redemption choices. For example, if you’re thinking of using MR points in a way that will give you 1 cent per point value, you can see that that’s not a great deal since 1 cent per point is less than the usual cost of acquiring MR points.

  3. The calculation is based on being able to get 2% cash back from credit card. Which card gives you 2% cash back across the board?

    Thanks.

    • Ford: Since you can transfer from Ultimate Rewards, the fair trading price would be the same as the other Ultimate Rewards partners: 1.31 cents per point. On the redemption side, Southwest points are different in that they have fixed redemption values: 1.67 cents per point for Wanna Get Away fares and 1 cent per point for Anytime fares.

  4. I’m not sure I agree with the chart. For example, I value a United point at 1.9 cents per dollar, and a Starwood point at 2.4 cents because the best value from SPG comes from C+P and not airline conversions. What you’re suggesting is I should take the 2% cash back a Citi or Cap 1 card gives and buy UR or SPG points and come out ahead, and I don’t see how thats possible w/o Chase or Amex shutting down for abuse. How do you consistently and safely accrue URs for 1.31 cents per point?

  5. David: the values given in the chart have nothing to do with redemption values. For airlines, they are based 100% on an estimate of what it costs to acquire the miles through daily spend using credit cards (and giving up 2% cash back). I am NOT saying you should use a cash back card and buy points with your cash! Please read the original post for details: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2011/12/13/fair-trading-prices-for-points-and-miles/

  6. FM, 6 months ago I would have said that you’re right using a 2% cash back card as a good benchmark for determining the value of points. But now that I can essentially get 5% cash back for each purchase (“One Card to Rule them All”), I’d argue 5% is the new benchmark.

  7. Brad R: I get your point, but I made a deliberate decision when developing the chart to ignore tricks, hacks, and short-term deals when establishing the “usual price”. Getting 5X everywhere is a great trick that lets you accumulate points at a much lower cost than other people do. I do not see it as the new benchmark.

  8. pumkinM: I have quite a few. My strategy about annual fees is this:
    * If a card has benefits that are worth the annual fee, then I happily pay it. One great example is the Priority Club card that gives you a free night at any Priority Club property (including Hotel Intercontinentals!) for just the $49 annual fee.
    * If the card’s benefits aren’t worth the fee then I’ll cancel the card when the fee comes due OR I’ll downgrade to a no-fee version of the card. The latter is a good way to keep up a long credit history (which is good for your credit score). Its also sometimes a good way to keep points that you haven’t redeemed yet.

  9. You define “fair trading prices” as the prices by which it is relatively easy or common to acquire a given point or mile.

    In the case of Hyatt, the FTP of a GP point is just under 1 cent. How would I go about acquiring Hyatt points for 1 cent per, without resorting to tricks, hacks or promotions?

  10. Thanks for replying. I read that article too, and I understand how you come up with the numbers. I’m just struggling with the application of the theory 🙂

    Case in point, I had a bunch of Hyatt stays queued up and decided to sign up for the Diamond Trial. Now I’m trying to figure out how much to invest, that is, whether I actually do mattress runs to complete the 12 nights required for Diamond and/or the 15 or 20 nights required to hit the various tiers of the fall promo.

    You have a great article on this 😉 [1] and I follow your point exactly, but you base your final decision on the FTP of Hyatt points, i.e. 1 cent each. You also discourage, in that same article, using the expected redemption value as a metric, but rather some type of trading price or acquisition price. To me, this makes perfect sense if you can actually easily or commonly acquire GP points for that price, but I’m not sure that is the case here. Thus my original question.

    It seems like basing the FTP for Hyatt GP points off of those for Hilton or SPG is only useful if there is some kind of way to transfer between those programs and Hyatt and also takes into account losses and transfer costs.

    With a specific redemption in mind, it strikes me that my true value for Hyatt points is somewhere between the cost of a UR point and the per-point value of my redemption. In other words, significantly higher than your current FTP.

    I apologize for rambling here but I’m simply trying to understand how useful the FTP is, at least in the case of Hyatt. Any guidance would be appreciated. Maybe there’s a follow-on post in here somewhere 🙂

    [1] http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2013/08/23/is-it-time-for-the-hyatt-diamond-trial-offer/

    • SBC: I’m sorry for taking so long to respond! I love the complexity and thought that went into your comment and so wanted to think through a response. I tend to use FTP (Fair Trading Price) as my metric to estimate the cash equivalent rebate value of points earned. That works reasonably well when not working towards a specific redemption. If you’re trying to get enough points for a specific redemption, though, its completely reasonable to base the value of points earned on your expected redemption value. Let’s say you are looking at a 22K per night Hyatt stay where room would normally be $660 per night. In that case, it looks like you would get 3 cents per night value. However, you won’t earn Hyatt points on an award stay, and you can’t use a confirmed suite upgrade on an award stay, so the award is worth less than $660 per night. maybe discount the value by 1/3? Then the value is $440 per night or 2 cents per point. Of course, I used easy numbers here, but hopefully you can apply similar logic to your situation? What do you think?

  11. Nice chart. However, I travel a lot internationally and find the value of my SPG points worth less when using the card overseas as they charge a 2.7% foreign transaction fee for those purchases. Does your chart take into acct fees charged which reduce the initial value you earn?

  12. Now that AMEX membership rewards points can be transferred to SPG at a 2:1 value, shouldn’t you raise the value of AMEX points to half of SPG points, the new value being not 1.0 cpp but 1.08 cpp. Small change, I know, but, you know, for accuracy’s sake… 🙂

    • Where did you get the idea that you can transfer MR to SPG at 2:1? I see 3:1, as usual. Regardless, this chart shows the cheapest way to get points so, if anything, a 2:1 transfer ratio would make me lower the FTP of SPG.

  13. You should do the cost per point assuming a person just does the minimum spend to get the sign-up bonus as many who follow you do. Those same people may also just use 2% card for all other purchases. Another column for that would be interesting.

  14. You could just do it for the most common sign up offer. You’d cover the majority that way. If anyone got a better sign-up it would be only upside!

  15. Note: Lowered Ultimate Rewards FTP (and United) to 1.22 cents per point from previous 1.32 cents per point. When I wrote a series of posts about best credit card combos, I had updated the credit card analysis spreadsheet which resulted in a new FTP for UR, but I had forgotten at the time to update it here.

  16. Made a number of changes to FTP calculations:

    1) SPG: Since the SPG card annual fee increased to $95, SPG cost per point increases from 2.16 to 2.26 (the annual fee is included in the calculation as of 3/19/2015). This caused many FTP values to change upward including SPG transfer partners and hotels (since SPG is used as an index for hotel values along with Hilton)

    2) Added Amtrak

    3) Added several airline programs (LAN, Southwest, etc.)

  17. Just a heads-up. If you have 50% of the Aeroplan miles needed for an award, you can “top up” by buying the remainder for $0.03 CAD ($0.23 USD)/mile. So I would write 2.3 or 3.0 CAD as the “cost to buy direct.”

  18. If I’m reading the Hotels Value chart correctly, Hilton should be N/A on the Hilton Index and SPG should be N/A on the SPG Index, no? Currently, they are switched.

Leave a Reply

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