American Airlines will sell you extra points at 2.95 cents per mile.
Delta charges 3.5 cents. United 3.5 cents. These are very inflated values and generally not a good deal for flyers, except to top off your accounts.
The Points Guy, Brian Kelly, in a recent post, values points from these same airlines at about 50%.
American: 1.8 cents
Delta: 1.5 cents
United: 2 cents
The MileageClub.com says they will sell you points at the following rates:
American: 1.85 cents
Delta: 1.85 cents – 2.35 cents
United: 2.2 cents
Mileage brokers buy miles and reward points at an average rate of 1.2 cents per point. They sell miles at 1.8 to 2.5 cents.
Ben Schlapping of One Mile at a Time values them even lower. For example, he values Delta miles at 1.3 cents instead of 1.5.
But there is a huge discrepancy between how different airlines value points and what you, as a customer, should value them.
When is it better to use miles rather than Pay Cash?
The best way to figure this out is as follows: first, find the lowest price ticket to your destination.
For example, on a NY – LAX trip, if the the lowest fare you can find is $300, and it will cost you 30,000 points, this is a bad deal if you value the points at 1.5 cents per point. The trip would then cost 30,000 points x 1.5 cents, which will actually cost you $450.
So in this case, you should spend cash for the ticket.
If the ticket costs $450, and the 30,000 points you have to pay are valued at $450, it is a wash. There is no difference.
If the ticket (last minute) costs more than $600 then you should definitely use points to book the ticket, if you can.
Booking a ticket on points is generally best for last minute tickets, one way tickets, international tickets, business and first class international tickets.
For example, it costs 170,000 points to fly from New York to Hong Kong in business class. Valuing points at 1.5 cents, this equals $2,550.
On the other hand, a business class ticket on Cathay Pacific may cost $6,182. So by using your miles you will save $3,632. Of course, when you fly on miles, you are not earning future miles.
But why the discrepancy?
People argue all the time about these discrepancies and whether they are getting the best value. At the end of the day, the fair market value of the ticket is probably the easiest indicator to determine the value of your award. Because whether you want to pay for it or ever would, the airline still sells those tickets for those prices.
The American Express Personal/ Corporate Platinum card earns you five points for every dollar spent on airline travel. Chase Sapphire Reserve earns you three points on airline spend. Other cards will give you 2-3 cents on special products.
The Barclaycard Arrival Card earns you two miles per $1 on all purchases and you can redeem these for travel.
As a rule of thumb, you should be getting more than 1.5 cents per mile in value from your airline miles.
With hotel points, the value range can be huge. For instance, when you use 40,000 Hilton H-Honors points to pay for a $239 hotel room, you are only getting a value of about 0.6 cents per point.
Here are a few “rough” valuations of miles and points from various sources:
Value of Bank & Credit Card Points
From Ben Schlapping — One Mile at A Time blog
|American Express Membership Rewards
|Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard Miles
|Chase Ultimate Rewards
|Citi ThankYou Points
|Starwood Preferred Guest
Here is a breakdown of how The Points Guy values his points from airlines and hotels:
Aeroplan Miles: 1.7-2 cents each
Alaska Airlines Miles: 1.9 cents each
American Airlines Miles: 1.8 cents each
Amex Membership Rewards Points: 1.9 cents per point
Barclaycard Arrival Miles: 2.2 cents per dollar return in value
British Airways Avios: 1.5 cents each
Capital One Miles: 2 cents per dollar return in value with Venture card
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 2 cents per point
Citi ThankYou Points: 1.25 cents per point
Club Carlson: 0.7 cents per point
Delta SkyMiles: 1.5 cents each
Marriott: 0.5-0.7 cents each
Hilton HHonors Points: 0.6 cents each
Hyatt Gold Passport Points: 2 cents per point
Southwest Rapid Rewards: 1.8 cents per mile
Starwood Preferred Guest Points: 2 cents each
United Miles: 2 cents per mile, 1.5 cents post-devaluation
US Airways miles: 1.8 cents per mile
US Bank Flexperks Points: 1.33-2 cents each
Because when you get down to it, the value really depends on how you like to travel, where you want to go, and what matters most – convenience or price. Sometimes the best redemptions aren’t for the most expensive tickets or rooms, but being able to redeem for the travel you want or need.
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