When So-Called Experts Can’t Even Agree With Themselves On How Much A Mile Is Worth

There are a lot of sites that purport to tell you how much a mile or point is worth. I offer a comprehensive list of point values and I explain how I derive them. I also compare my work to other prominent sites to show where we differ, and hopefully give you a good idea how to think about the value for yourself. If you’d like to understand this better, I highly encourage you to read my most recent valuation exercise.

The range quality and rigor offered by various sites to value points is significant, I think. Take the largest site that offers these. The valuations offered by The Points Guy website make no sense – even on their own terms.

  • They systematically overstate the value of points because they are telling you ‘how much travel could a point, potentially buy?’ and that’s not actually what that point is worth. And they overvalue points even answering the wrong question, such as valuing Southwest points at 1.5 cents apiece even though Southwest has a revenue-based program where each point gets you about 1.2 cents apiece in base fare, or perhaps a smidge over 1.35 cents apiece in ticket cost when you factor the taxes saved as well.
  • More than that, though, they aren’t even internally consistent in how they value different currencies. Would you believe they say Marriott points have gotten more valuable in the past year, even though their own analysis on the change in redemption pricing puts ‘ouch’ in the title.

But while values listed by ‘TPG’ skew high, they actually do a much better than those offered by some other sites – even by other sites owned by the same company.

  • The Points Guy was acquired about a decade ago by Bankrate.
  • Bankrate was later acquired by Red Ventures.
  • Red Ventures owns both websites, and each one puts out values for points. Bankrate would do far better if they’d just copy the flawed TPG valuations.

The valuations from Bankrate are, well… special. Let’s compare TPG and Bankrate valuations:

The Points Guy Bankrate
Airlines
Aer Lingus 0.015 0.012
Aeromexico 0.006
Air Canada 0.015 0.012
Air France KLM 0.012 0.013
Alaska Airlines 0.018 0.011
American 0.0177 0.01
ANA 0.014
Avianca 0.017 0.008
British Airways 0.015 0.007
Cathay Pacific 0.013 0.03
Delta 0.0141 0.013
Emirates 0.012 0.018
Etihad 0.014 0.018
Finnair 0.012
Frontier 0.011 0.013
Garuda Indonesia 0.016
Hawaiian Airlines 0.009 0.01
Iberia 0.015 0.01
JetBlue 0.013 0.014
Korean Air 0.017
Malaysia Airlines 0.008
Qantas 0.004
Qatar Airways 0.018
Singapore Airlines 0.013 0.022
Southwest Airlines 0.015 0.015
Spirit Airlines 0.011 0.01
Thai Airways 0.006
Turkish Airlines 0.013 0.006
United Airlines 0.0121 0.011
Virgin Atlantic 0.015 0.026
Hotels
Best Western 0.007 0.006
Choice 0.006
Hilton 0.006 0.006
Hyatt 0.017 0.021
IHG 0.005 0.007
Marriott 0.0084 0.007
Radisson 0.004 0.004
Wyndham 0.011 0.009
Accor 0.02
Other programs
American Express 0.02 0.02
Bank of America 0.01 0.01
Bilt Rewards 0.018 0.022
Capital One 0.0185 0.02
Chase 0.02 0.02
Citibank 0.018 0.019
Discover 0.01 0.01

I could quibble with Bankrate assigning Air Canada Aeroplan points a value of only 1.2 cents, or Alaska miles just 1.1 cents (while TPG overvalues at 1.8 cents) and Avianca at just 8/10ths of a cent (while TPG overvalues at 1.7 cents). But that’s not where the things go really wrong.

  • Bankrate values British Airways Avios at 7/10ths of a cent, while valuing Aer Lingus Avios at 1.2 cents – even though you can transfer points between programs if both of your accounts are active and not brand new, and even though British Airways gives you far more options to use your points (Aer Lingus’s primary use case is if you want to earn Avios while flying United).

    You can also move points 1:1 between British Airways and Qatar Airways, yet BA points are valued at 0.7 cents and Qatar’s points at 1.8 cents. Surely every member would be engaged in the carry trade on a daily basis if this were plausible?

  • Bankrate considers Cathay Pacific Asia Miles to be the world’s most valuable currency, worth a whopping 3 cents per point. Maybe that’s just a typo? It’s far more than the bank currencies that transfer to Asia Miles.

  • They consider the second most valuable airline currency – behind Cathay Pacific – to be Virgin Atlantic’s, despite sky high fuel surcharges.

  • Bankrate has Emirates and Etihad (1.8 cents) and Garuda Indonesia (1.6 cents, mind blown for one of the world’s less valuable currencies) each worth more than a Turkish and British Airways point combined and worth more than United, American, and Alaska miles.

  • To them, the least valuable airline currency belongs to Qantas – whose points they list as less valuable than Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines, and Aeromexico – and as being only half as valuable as a Frontier Airlines mile.

  • American Express and Chase points are listed at 2 cents apiece. Both currencies transfer to Singapore Airlines. Yet Singapore’s currency is valued at 2.2 cents. The flexibility of those bank transfer currencies somehow makes their points worth less than where you can transfer them to?

I could go on. And I call this out not because Bankrate’s point values have any special significance, or because Bankrate and The Points Guy can’t agree on the value of a point (maybe someone could get them together in a room in Charlotte sometime?). Instead I flag this because it’s a great illustration, I think, that much of the analysis that goes into writing about points and miles isn’t very rigorous. A lot of writing also comes from people who do not know what they are talking about.

I try to do better than that. This site also has a comments section, so you can challenge me if you think I’m off base, and I take a very light touch (too light a touch!) moderating it. In contrast, neither TPG nor Bankrate allow comments. Though I suppose it’s worth noting that their valuations are far from the most detached from reality.

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