Why Do The Values Some Blogs Give For Miles Make Absolutely No Sense?

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Richard Kerr, formerly of The Points Guy and the Award Travel 101 Facebook group who is now with Bilt Rewards, offered a couple of provocative questions in his Instagram feed.

He asks why some people value clearly less valuable currencies more than a Bilt point. He may be asking about individual program members, but I’m going to ask it of those people who are supposed to know – travel bloggers who publish valuations of different mileage currencies. Much of the work those bloggers are doing fails to hold together.

Since I’m not afraid of making people mad, and I don’t shy away from controversy, I’ll take a stab here. I am transparent on how much I value a single point in each program, including comparing my work to others. And I use that logic to lay out which transferable credit card points programs are best too.

    A majority of my spending has been going on my Capital One Venture X card, because it earns 2 points per dollar on purchases that do not earn bonus points on any other card. However a single Capital One point is worth less than a single Chase or American Express point in my opinion. It’s just that the incremental value of a point in one of those programs isn’t enough to offset the greater earning from Capital One.

To be clear: A single Bilt Rewards point is worth more than a single American Express, Capital One, or Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred point pretty easily if you are going to use that point right now. If you want to make a case for another points currency being more valuable,

  • Someone who redeems their points not for transfers to airlines and hotels, but for travel through a bank portal, Sapphire Reserve’s 1.5 cents per point is more compelling than Bilt’s 1.25 cents (which is itself more lucrative than what American Express and Capital One offer most cardmembers).

  • While Bilt Rewards has both American and United as transfer partners, along with Turkish and Hyatt offering exceptional value, they do not have the long track record of Chase in lighting money on fire to defend their value proposition. That’s just to say that Bilt Rewards is new, while Chase has been willing to re-up their United deal early at considerable expense to preserve Ultimate Rewards transfers and has invested hundreds of millions in rewards expense beyond what they anticipated on the Reserve card.

You might value a Chase point higher than a Bilt point as a store of value based on track record, until Bilt has been around a decade and shows they can keep their unique transfer partners and value proposition. And there are use cases where a specific program may be better for you. For instance, American Express drives tremendous value from its ANA partnership – which most customers do not use. And cards that have Avios programs as transfer partners give you access to Iberia business class transatlantic awards from just 34,000 miles each way.

However these aren’t the legitimate arguments that are usually made. I’ll look at the points valuations from The Points Guy which values Bilt points and Citi points at 1.8 cents, Capital One points at 1.85 cents, and Chase and American Express points at 2 cents.

  • They value American AAdvantage miles at 1.77 cents apiece, versus just 1.8 cents for Bilt – though Bilt transfers to American, along with United, Aeroplan, Turkish, etc. and you can use your Bilt points directly for paid travel at 1.25 cents apiece. There is simply no internal logic that holds those two valuations together.

  • Indeed they value American at 1.77 cents and Hyatt at 1.7 cents yet Bilt – which transfers to both, and others – at just 1.8 cents despite the added value of flexibility? (Remember that TPG values Chase and Amex points at 2 cents, without having a transfer partner they value as highly as American AAdvantage, purely on option value – but they don’t extend that same enhancement to Bilt.)

  • How can they value a single Alaska mile the same as a transferable Bilt point? Especially as Alaska has been adding partners at lower value, signaling possible downward trend in valuation, that requires claiming that an Alaska point is better than the option to transfer to all of Bilt’s partners and the option to use points at 1.25 cents apiece for paid airfare.

  • And they value a Bilt point just 10 basis points more than a Korean Air mile when Korean has announced a massive gutting of the value of its points coming this April.

  • They did not appear to increase their published value for Bilt when Bilt added United’s Mileage Plus, Asia Miles, or 1.25 cent travel portal redemptions.

Kerr certainly did not name The Points Guy and plenty of others publish mileage valuations like NerdWallet, Upgraded Points, and One Mile at a Time (this last of which generally does a good job, though we do have some disagreements). I find the values Award Wallet uses to be insanely high.

So I’ll suggest some broad themes as to ‘why’ there’s bad logic here, and this doesn’t apply specifically to any one site.

  • What card you prefer depends on more than the value of a single point, but remember, each of these valuations is valuing a single point in each program. So it doesn’t matter how many points you’re earning, or what kind of spend you’re doing. We’re looking at the generic question of how much 1 point in each program is ‘worth’

  • And that value changes for individual use cases, and for how many points you already have in a program (points that put you over the top for an award are worth much more, while an incremental point when you already have a million may be worth far less).

But when valuing Capital One miles versus American Express Membership Rewards points versus Bilt Rewards points, remember that Bilt Rewards has a referral program and referral credit is available to all cardmembers but they do not have a traditional affiliate program that I am aware of. They also do not do paid advertising on blogs that I am aware of.

A lot of work in miles and blogs, on blogs, is done by people who do not know very much about miles and points. They often do not realize they do not know very much about miles and points, do not have a lot of context for their history and evolution, and aren’t systematic thinkers on the subject. They think of themselves as an old-timer because they were involved before the pandemic and they’ve booked a few awards. Don’t get me wrong, there are good folks out there, but you shouldn’t believe something just because it’s written on the internet.

Some sites may use motivated reasoning when valuing points. Others may just not be very clear-headed. Still others may just take a consensus of what others write, and publish their own for SEO purposes hoping to reach eyeballs.

As for my valuations, you’re always welcome to challenge them in the comments here. Everyone who offers their own valuation scheme should be equally fair and confident in their argument to do that as well.

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