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If you’re like many Americans and gearing up for post-pandemic travel, it pays to know how best to use any credit card rewards points you’ve been accumulating. Research by The Balance shows you’ll get the most value when you use points and miles to book international flights and standard hotel stays.
The Balance analyzed more than 20 different airline, hotel, and general travel credit card rewards programs to learn what credit card rewards points are worth and how you can best use them.
- Most travel rewards points and miles have a lower average value now than they did prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Balance’s research.
- Hotel points have suffered substantial value losses over the past year, with loyalty program point values dropping 22% on average.
- The most valuable credit card, airline, and hotel loyalty points are from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Airlines AAdvantage, and World of Hyatt, respectively.
- Airline miles are typically worth significantly more when used to book international flights.
- Hotel point values are a bit more consistent and often worth about the same (or more) when used to book standard hotel rooms rather than luxury stays.
Overall, our research looks at the average per-point value you can expect from the top rewards programs based on the most common ways Americans use points and miles.
Average Credit Card Point and Mile Values
Point and mile values are expressed in cents or fractions of cents. To make that easier to comprehend, we’ve also calculated the average dollar value of 50,000 points.
|Average Value of Domestic Airline Miles|
|Airline Loyalty Program||Value Per Mile (Cents)||Value of 50,000 Miles|
|American Airlines (AAdvantage)||2.04||$1,020|
|United Airlines (MileagePlus)||1.98||$990|
|Southwest (Rapid Rewards)||1.50||$750|
|Hawaiian Airlines (HawaiianMiles)||1.26||$630|
|Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan)||0.85||$425|
|Spirit Airlines (Free Spirit)||0.76||$380|
|Frontier (Frontier Miles)||0.62||$310|
|Average Value of Hotel Points|
|Hotel Loyalty Program||Value Per Point (Cents)||Value of 50,000 Points|
|Hyatt (World of Hyatt)||1.88||$940|
|Marriott (Marriott Bonvoy)||1.05||$525|
|Wyndham (Wyndham Rewards)||0.98||$490|
|IHG (IHG Rewards Club)||0.74||$370|
|Best Western (Best Western Rewards)||0.67||$335|
|Hilton (Hilton Honors)||0.48||$240|
|Radisson (Radisson Rewards)||0.42||$210|
|Average Value of Bank Rewards Program Points|
|Bank Credit Card Rewards Programs||Value Per Point (Cents)||Value of 50,000 Points|
|Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Reserve Card)||1.44||$720|
|Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Preferred Card)||1.40||$700|
|Citi ThankYou Rewards (Citi Premier/Prestige Cards)||1.21||$605|
|American Express Membership Rewards||1.11||$555|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||1.02||$510|
To learn how we calculated our valuation data, see the “Methodology” section at the bottom of this page.
What’s New: The Pandemic’s Impact on Credit Card Rewards
Based on the data gathered for this report, the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on credit card reward points. Here’s a glimpse at what happened over the past year, which may change how you’ll use your credit card rewards.
Average Hotel Point Values Sank Dramatically
The average value of hotel points has traditionally been less than the average value of airline miles, but even more so now. Nearly all of the major hotel rewards programs tracked by The Balance have shown significant per-point value drops over the past year. We first observed this trend in October 2020, and it has strengthened since
While the average value changes of hotel points are just fractions of a cent, they’re significant, given the small value of each point. Wyndham Rewards and Best Western Rewards points have lost more than 30% of their value.
In general, reward points become less valuable when it costs more points to cover the cost of an award stay or flight, but the cost in dollars remains the same or drops.
Based on The Balance’s research, the average per-night cost of a hotel rewards stay is now higher than it was a year ago for most loyalty programs, which has driven point values down. For example, in Q1 2020, The Balance determined it cost about 19,365 points, on average, to stay at a Wyndham hotel for one night. That average cost has since risen nearly 10% to about 21,248 points.
Airline Miles Haven’t Lost as Much Value
Average airline mile values have also taken a hit over the past year, but not nearly as much as hotel points. Overall, airline miles have lost about 5% of their value since last spring, compared to the average 22% average loss The Balance recorded for hotel points.
Based on our research, average flight costs are now lower than they were a year ago for most airlines. However, in most cases, flight prices in dollars have dropped more than flight prices in miles. Overall, airlines have cut the dollar costs of flights by about 7.6% over the past year, but the average mile cost of those same flights has dropped by only about 4.9%, resulting in slightly lower average mile values overall.
For travelers, the average point value losses recorded by The Balance mean your rewards may not go as far as they once did. Our figures are averages, so there are likely better deals to be found, but if you’re someone who wants to squeeze the most value from your rewards, it’s a good reminder that the value of your credit card rewards is subject to change. They are not fixed values.
It’s always important to know how much your points are worth before using them, but particularly after a year of so much change. To quickly check how much your rewards will be worth when used for a particular flight you’re interested in, divide the price in dollars by the cost in points. So, if a $200 flight costs 25,000 miles, those miles will be worth 0.80 cents each. As a rule of thumb, rewards should be worth at least 1 cent each when redeemed to consider that option a good value.
What Are Airline Miles Worth When Redeemed for Flights?
Average airline mile value figures can help you determine if an airline-branded credit card is worth getting, how much the welcome bonus is worth, and whether an award flight is a good deal.
American Airlines: 2.04 cents each, on average
Frontier Airlines: 0.62 cents each, on average
We found the average value of miles from the nine domestic airlines we monitor to be 1.06 cents apiece. American Airlines offers the most valuable airline miles, which we calculate are worth 2.04 cents each, on average. In contrast, Frontier Airlines has the lowest valued miles, which are only worth about 0.62 cents each.
Because ticket prices and reward values vary for each airline, the following two charts will give you an idea of how many one-way tickets you may get for 50,000 miles with each frequent flyer program, based on our average point valuations. In some cases, our research found that your points would also buy you an extra fraction of a flight, but we’ve rounded down to show you the number of whole tickets you could actually buy.
Here's what you can get for domestic flights:
And here's what you can get if you want to travel abroad:
While we found that the average cost for an international first-class ticket was more than 50,000 miles for all the major airlines, each rewards program has deals to be found under 50,000 miles. Keep that in mind when looking for award flights.
For more information about how we calculated average airline mile values, see the “Airline Mile Values” section in the methodology below.
How Should I Use Airline Miles?
Airline miles can often be used for a number of rewards in addition to flights, such as seat upgrades, hotel stays, and vacation packages. Regardless, airline miles are usually best for one thing: flights.
Domestic vs. International
Airline miles are typically worth more when used for international travel. For example, United Airlines miles are worth about 0.99 cents each when used for domestic flights (averaged across all classes), but their average value triples to 2.97 cents each when used to book international travel.
While international travel may not be an option for everyone right now, using miles to book future flights overseas is still the best use of your miles. The flexible ticket change policies most major airlines offer now may also cover award tickets, so consider booking trips in advance to get the most value per mile.
If you can’t or don’t want to book international flights right now, using miles for a flight within the United States is usually the next best option.
The values outlined in the chart above are averages. You may be able to squeeze more value from your miles on a domestic flight, depending on what is available for your desired trip.
Economy vs. First Class
If you prefer premium seats (business or first class) when flying, Southwest Rapid Rewards offer the best value for award flights when traveling around the United States (1.39 cents each, on average). United Airlines offers the most valuable international award flights (3.31 cents each, on average) when you book a premium-seat ticket with rewards.
If economy seats will do, Southwest miles offer the best average per-mile value for domestic coach seats (1.61 cents each), and United Airlines miles are best for economy seats when traveling abroad (2.64 cents each).
What Are Hotel Points Worth When Redeemed for Hotel Stays?
Compared to airline miles, hotel rewards aren’t usually worth as much per point, but credit cards typically dole them out at a higher rate. For example, airline credit cards typically award two the three miles per $1 spent on flights, while hotel cards may award three times as many (or more) points per $1 spent on eligible hotel stays.
Our research found that the average value of points issued by the loyalty program tied to the top seven hotel brands is 0.89 cents each.
World of Hyatt: 1.88 cents each, on average
Radisson Rewards: 0.42 cents each, on average
The World of Hyatt loyalty program offers the most valuable points, worth 1.88 cents each, on average. They’re worth 1.85 cents each when redeemed for standard hotel stays and 1.91 cents each when used at a luxury hotel. For comparison, Hilton Honors and Radisson have the least valuable hotel points, which are only worth 0.39 to 0.49 cents each, on average, depending on the type of room booked.
Much like flights, the cost of hotel stays varies based on the length of your reservation, the type of hotel, and the chain. This chart should give you an idea of how many award nights you can book for 50,000 points with each hotel loyalty program, depending on the hotel. As with flights, our research found that your points may be able to buy an additional fraction of a hotel stay, but we’ve rounded down to show how many nights you could actually pay for with points, on average.
To learn how we determined what hotel points are worth, see the “Hotel Point Values” section in the methodology below.
How Should I Use Hotel Points?
You probably have several options when it comes to using hotel points, such as buying gift cards or even booking airline flights, but they’re almost always most valuable when used to book hotel stays.
Unlike airline flights, hotel points aren’t significantly more valuable when you use them to book premium stays. In fact, sometimes they are worth more (or about the same) when used to book award nights at economy or standard hotels.
While World of Hyatt points are the most valuable regardless of the type of room you book, Wyndham Rewards points are the only hotel rewards that offer notably more value when used for a premium room over a standard one (1.14 cents versus 0.87 cents each, respectively).
What Are Credit Card Points Worth When Redeemed for Travel?
A number of credit card issuers have their own flexible travel rewards programs that allow you to redeem points for multiple types of expenses, such as flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and cruises. We cover the four major programs in this report.
Points in these types of programs are worth at least 1 cent each, on average, when used to book travel through the program’s reservation system or redeemed for a statement credit against travel-related charges. But they can be worth more, especially if the program allows you to transfer them to an airline or hotel program whose point values are significantly higher. So, even though you may be able to redeem them for cash back, merchandise, or gift cards, travel is usually the best way to use flexible card points.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards points: 1.44 cents each, on average
Capital One Venture Rewards: 1.02 cents each, on average
Since the four bank rewards programs described below offer rewards that can be used in numerous ways, our average point valuations factor in the values of the travel redemption options that consumers are most likely to use.
Your points will be worth at least 1 cent each when used for travel with any of the cards listed in the following sections, with values going higher if you use the right card and airline or hotel transfer partner.
What Is Chase Ultimate Rewards?
Chase Ultimate Rewards is a flexible rewards program offered on a handful of Chase-branded credit cards. Cardholders can earn points on a wide variety of travel expenses and some more routine purchases such as dining out, depending on the card. These Chase cards earn Ultimate Rewards points:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Freedom Flex
- Chase Freedom (not open for applications)
- Chase Freedom Student
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Preferred cards, your Ultimate Rewards points are best used for travel. Those cards allow one-to-one point transfers to more than a dozen participating airline and hotel loyalty programs, which may have even higher-value points.
Based on our analysis, moving Ultimate Rewards points to the World of Hyatt program makes them worth an outstanding 1.88 cents each (the average value of a Hyatt point, based on our research). If you want flights, transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United’s MileagePlus program makes your rewards worth 1.98 cents each (our valuation of the average United mile).
With the Chase Freedom cards that advertise cash-back rewards, you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash back (one point = 1 cent cash back) and other rewards, including travel. To get even more value out of travel redemptions, you can transfer your points from one of those cards to a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred account if you have one. The value of your points when redeeming for travel is greater with those accounts.
To learn more, read Chase Ultimate Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide.
What Is Citi ThankYou Rewards?
Citi ThankYou Rewards is Citi’s flexible rewards program offered on a handful of its cards. Cardholders earn at least one point per $1 spent with eligible cards and extra points on travel, gas, restaurant, entertainment, or grocery purchases, depending on the card. These Citi cards let you earn ThankYou points on eligible purchases:
- Citi Premier Card
- Citi Prestige Card
- Citi Rewards+ Card
- Citi Rewards+ Student Card
- AT&T Access Card from Citi
If you have the Citi Double Cash Card, you can turn the cash back you earn with the Double Cash Card into ThankYou Points. Just go into your account and follow the directions to convert. You’ll get 100 Thank You Points per $1 of cash back. You can combine multiple ThankYou accounts if you have multiple cards that earn those points.
If you have the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cards, you can transfer your ThankYou points to travel partners to boost their value a bit. For example, The Balance found that transferring points to JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program, the program’s only domestic airline transfer partner, makes them worth 1.42 cents each, on average.
If you have a Citi Rewards+ or Double Cash card, you can only transfer points to JetBlue’s TrueBlue program, and you’ll only get 0.80 JetBlue miles for each ThankYou point, or 800 JetBlue miles for every 1,000 ThankYou points you transfer.
If you don’t transfer your ThankYou points, your rewards are still generally best used for travel that you book through the Citi travel portal. Points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed that way.
What Is American Express Membership Rewards?
Membership Rewards are points earned by cardholders of these American Express cards, plus several corporate cards:
- American Express Gold Card
- American Express Green Card
- American Express Platinum Card
- Amex EveryDay Credit Card
- Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card
- Blue from American Express
- Business Platinum Card from American Express
- American Express Business Gold Card
- American Express Business Green Rewards Card
- Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express
Among the consumer cards, the Gold, Green, and Platinum cards award the most points for travel purchases—as many as 5 points per $1 spent. Membership Rewards points don’t expire as long as you have an active Membership Rewards account, and there’s no limit on how many you can earn.
Membership Rewards points can be used to book flights through the American Express website at a value of 1 cent each and other travel reservations, such as hotel rooms and rental cars, at a value of 0.70 cents each. However, regardless of the card you have, Membership Rewards are most valuable when transferred to one of the more than 20 participating travel loyalty rewards programs, such as Delta SkyMiles or Marriott Bonvoy. Your points could be worth 1.44 cents each when transferred to Delta or 1.05 cents each when transferred to Marriott, based on our average value calculations.
To learn more, read “American Express Membership Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide.”
What Is Capital One Venture Rewards?
Venture Rewards is a flexible travel rewards program offered on a few of Capital One’s consumer and business cards:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
- Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
Venture Rewards is a straightforward program overall: All consumer-card purchases earn 1.25 to two miles per $1 spent, depending on the card, and there’s no limit on how many miles you can earn.
The Balance found Venture Miles are most valuable when used for travel, especially when transferred to one of 19 eligible partner loyalty rewards programs. Capital One recently expanded its Venture Rewards program to include more partners and reduced the transfer ratios of some partners down to one to one. Most transfer rates for Venture miles still require cardholders to transfer two miles for every one or 1.5 points they want in return.
However, since miles are only worth 1 cent each when used to book travel through Capital One, Venture miles are still most valuable when transferred to a partner loyalty program. For example, miles may be worth 1.07 cents each when you transfer them to JetBlue’s TrueBlue rewards program and used for flights, which is slightly more than the 1 cent value you’d get for points you use to book travel through the Capital One portal.
To learn more, read Capital One Venture Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide.
For more information about how we calculated the average credit card point value for each redemption option and flight type, check out the “Credit Card Point Values” section in the methodology below.
Should I Redeem My Points or Miles for Cash?
Typically, no. For starters, that’s rarely a redemption option with hotel and airline-branded travel rewards cards. Those programs do often have ways to shop with points or miles like you are using cash, but your points or miles are still worth much more when they are used to book travel.
With general travel rewards cards, you’ll have the option to redeem points for cash (either in the form of a statement credit or bank account direct deposit), but The Balance has found that points are still best used for travel if you’re trying to maximize your hard-earned rewards—with one limited-time exception.
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve cards, you have through September 2021 to redeem points as statement credits for grocery, dining, home improvement, or charitable purchases and get the same value you would by using them to book travel through Chase. The option, called Pay Yourself Back, was started in 2020 to give Chase travel cardholders a way to find value in their cards while staying close to home during the pandemic.
Loyalty and credit card rewards programs are not all the same, so our data gathering and calculation process for each category of rewards cited in this report—airline miles, hotel points, and general travel credit card points—were performed using different processes described below. All data in this report is current as of April 2021.
Airline Mile Values
There’s more than one way to use airline miles to save on air travel, so we included more than one type of flight in our value calculations. Our average per-mile value data includes one-way economy and first-class (or the equivalent classifications) ticket prices for domestic and international flights from nine airlines. The flights follow popular routes for each airline, with departures one to five months out to account for trip planners and last-minute flight shoppers. We do not factor in fuel surcharges when determining value. Unless otherwise noted, our average mile values are cumulative and include flight information gathered each month (excluding February 2021, when we experienced a data-gathering glitch) since October 2019.
Hotel Point Values
To calculate our average hotel point values, we looked at reservations available at luxury and economy hotels for seven major hotel chains. Reservation price data was gathered for five-night stays at the selected hotels in the top nine travel destination cities for each chain. We collected information for reservations one, two, and three months from the date of data collection. Unless otherwise noted, our average hotel point values are cumulative and include hotel stay information gathered each month (excluding February 2021) since January 2020.
General Travel Credit Card Point Values
The rewards tied to these cards are intended for travel, so we leaned on that while making our value calculations. We took the average value of each of the four programs’ domestic (U.S.) travel transfer partners, as well as the value of booking travel through the bank’s reservation system or getting statement credits to reimburse you for travel expenses. We used those values to establish an average point value that represents these multiuse rewards programs.