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

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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.

 

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