Ease of Use

Points and miles are only valuable if you can use them! If an award program rarely releases availability, or makes it hard to use your points or miles for the best redemptions, it’s simply not as valuable. American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United, which don’t have traditional award charts anymore, are now guilty in this regard! The intent there is to make the likelihood of a sub-optimal points redemption much more likely. Furthermore, your ability to use the points and miles would factor into your own valuation, like if you lived near a certain airline’s hub of operations.

2. Ease of Earning

The rate at which you can earn these points and miles also could affect my valuations. This could mean the earning rate in the individual program (like a distance-based airline program à la Alaska), or if the award program is a transfer partner of one of the credit card programs (like United is for Ultimate Rewards), as miles would be easy to accrue through credit card spending. Finally, I’ll also take into account the historic price of buying miles, which can occasionally be a good deal if you’re trying to fly in first or business class.

3. The Types of Awards You Can Redeem For

The “value” you place on any given experience is the most subjective part of my valuation. Some folks reading this blog will want to redeem their points and miles for the most premium experience possible—think Emirates First Class. That’s one fun part about points and miles: getting something you normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

The other side of the coin is a family looking to save the most out-of-pocket cash on a vacation. They don’t care about flying first class to Orlando—they want free economy flights, a free hotel room, and their out-of-pocket costs kept to a minimum. I understand that inclination as well. We’ve even written about how to get to Disney World for a Dollar!

Overall, use these valuations as a guideline, and see how they fit into your overall travel strategy. Everyone is different!

Value of Credit Card Points in September 2020
Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of my favorite currencies, for a number of reasons. I value them at 2 cents per point, because of easy-to-accrue points and valuable transfer partners. Read our guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Citi ThankYou Points I value at about 1.5 cents per point. They also have transfer partners, but they’re less useful to the more casual traveler. Frequent changes to their credit cards that earn ThankYou Points (Prestige) makes it harder to use points effectively. Read our guide to Citi ThankYou Points.

American Expres I value Amex at 2 cents per point. Their transfer partners are incredible and cover all alliances (with some airlines that aren’t in an alliance). Here’s why you should get an Amex Platinum card.

Capital One points used to be a strict redemption at 1 cent a point, but in the past year, they’ve added transfer partners, albeit at a worse rate than other credit card programs. For that reason, I give them a value of 1.3 cents per point.