What Are Credit Card Points and Miles Worth? March 2020 Valuations
United, Hyatt, and one of Chase's programs offer the most valuable rewards
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The Balance analyzed more than 20 different airline, hotel, and general travel credit card rewards programs to give you the lowdown on what credit card rewards points are worth and how you can best use your points.
Our top finding: The most value you can get for your points comes from three programs when used on international flights and luxury hotel stays—Chase Ultimate Rewards (with the Chase Sapphire Reserve), United Airlines MileagePlus, and World of Hyatt.
Those are the best-case scenarios we’ve found. 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. Point and mile values are expressed in cents, or fractions of cents. In order to make that easier to comprehend, we’ve also calculated how many dollars’ worth of travel you could expect to buy with 50,000 points on average.
To learn how we calculated our valuation data, see the Methodology section at the bottom of this page.
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.
Most Valuable Airline Miles
United Airlines: 2.16 cents each, on average
Least Valuable Airline Miles
Frontier Airlines: 0.63 cents each, on average
We found the average value of miles from the nine airlines we monitor to be 1.33 cents apiece. United Airlines offers the most valuable airline miles, which we calculate are worth 2.16 each on average. In contrast, Frontier Airlines has the lowest valued miles, which are only worth about 0.63 cents each.
As the coronavirus makes waves across the travel industry, it’s more important than ever to know how much your points are worth. When flights cost fewer dollars, don’t overpay for a rewards flight in miles. To quickly check how much your rewards will be worth when used for a specific flight, divide the price in dollars by the cost in miles. 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.
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 valuation. 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:
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 be used for a number of rewards in addition to flights, such as seat upgrades, hotel stays, and even vacation packages.
Overall, airline miles are typically worth more when used for international travel. For example, Delta SkyMiles are worth about 1.2 cents each when used for domestic flights, but their value nearly doubles to 2.1 cents each when used to book international travel.
If you prefer premium seats (business or first-class) when flying, Southwest Rapid Rewards miles offer the best value for award flights when traveling around the U.S. (1.44 cents each, on average). United Airlines offers the most valuable international award flights (3.00 cents each, on average) when you book a premium seat ticket with rewards.
If you’re not picky and economy seats will do, American Airlines miles offer the best average per-mile value for domestic coach seats (1.95 cents each), and United Airlines miles are best for economy seats when traveling abroad (3.66 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 high hotel loyalty program earning rates typically bridge that gap. For example, airline credit cards typically award 2-3 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 points issued by the loyalty program tied to the top eight hotel brands are worth 1.09 cents each, on average.
Most Valuable Hotel Points
World of Hyatt: 2.22 cents each on average for standard hotels
Least Valuable Hotel Points
Radisson Rewards: 0.45 cents each on average for standard rooms
The World of Hyatt loyalty program offers the most valuable points. They’re worth 2.22 cents each when redeemed for standard hotel stays or 2.50 cents each when used at a luxury hotel. For comparison, Radisson Rewards has the least valuable hotel points, which are only worth 0.45-0.48 cents each, on average.
Much like flights, the cost of hotel stays vary 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 buying gift cards or even booking airline flights, but they’re almost always most valuable when used for one thing: more hotel stays.
Based on our research, whether you prefer staying at luxe hotels or more standard accommodations, World of Hyatt points have the highest average per-point value. They’re worth 2.50 cents each when used to reserve rooms at premium hotels. They’re worth 2.06 cents each when used at standard hotels.
Much like airline flights, The Balance found hotel points are typically worth more (or about the same) when used to book award nights at premium hotels. For example, only one hotel loyalty program, Best Western, awards points that are worth slightly more at standard hotels than at their luxury counterparts (1.06 cents compared to 0.96 cents each, on average).
What Are Credit Card Points Worth When Redeemed for Travel?
General credit card reward points are worth at least 1 cent each on average when used for travel—flights, hotels, rental cars, and the like. But they’re often worth more, which makes travel the best way to use flexible card points, despite all the redemption options you can choose from.
Most Valuable Credit Card Points
Chase Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards points: 1.62 cents each, on average
Least Valuable Credit Card Points
Capital One Venture Rewards: 1.02 cents each, on average
Your points will be worth at least 1 cent each when used for travel with any of the cards listed below, but potentially 2.22 cents each if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and transfer your points to a partner airline program (more about that below).
The value of flexible credit card rewards depends on the card issuer, the specific card you’re earning points with, and how you redeem points.
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 and some more routine expenses such as dining out, depending on the card. These Chase cards earn Ultimate Rewards points:
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 1-to-1 point transfers to more than a dozen participating loyalty programs, which may boost the per-point value even more. Based on our analysis, Ultimate Rewards points transferred to the World of Hyatt program are worth an outstanding 2.22 cents each, on average.
With cards such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited that advertise cash-back rewards, you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash back (1 cent cash back = 1 point) and other rewards, including travel. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer your points to one of those accounts, where their travel value is greater.
To learn more, read Chase Ultimate Rewards Program: Your Complete Guide.
What Is Citi ThankYou Rewards?
Citi ThankYou Rewards is the flexible rewards program offered by Citi on a handful of its cards. Cardholders earn at least 1 point per $1 spent with the card, 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:
If you have the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cards, you can transfer your ThankYou points to travel partners in order to boost their value a bit. The Balance found that transferring points to JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program is the most valuable way to use these points, making them worth 1.30 cents each, on average. If you have a Citi Rewards+ or Double Cash card, you can also transfer points to JetBlue’s TrueBlue program, but you’ll only get 0.80 JetBlue miles for each ThankYou point. In other words, you’ll only get 800 JetBlue miles for every 1,000 ThankYou points you transfer.
If you don’t have any of those Citi rewards cards but still have ThankYou points, your rewards are still best used for travel. You’ll just have to do so 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 consumer cards award the most points on travel purchases—as many as 5 points per $1 spent. Membership Rewards points don’t expire as long as you’ve got an active Membership Rewards account, and there’s no limit on how many you can earn, either.
Membership Rewards points can be used to book flights, hotels rooms, rental cars, and more directly through the American Express website at a value of 1 cent 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 1.60 cents each when transferred to Delta, or 1.43 cents each when transferred to Marriott.
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:
Venture Rewards is a straightforward program overall: With the consumer cards, all purchases earn 1.25 to 2 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 an eligible partner hotel loyalty rewards program, even though the transfer ratios are worse than 1-to-1. Miles may be worth 1.08 cents each when transferred to Wyndham’s rewards program and used for hotel stays.
For more information about how we calculated 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?
No. That’s rarely a redemption option with hotel and airline-branded travel rewards cards. Even though those programs often offer ways to shop with points or miles like you are using cash, the rewards are still worth much more when they are used to book travel. With points offered by general travel rewards cards, you’ll have the option to redeem rewards for cash (either in the form of a statement credit or bank account direct deposit), but The Balance has found points are still best used for travel if you’re trying to maximize your hard-earned rewards.
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—was gathered using different processes described below. All data in this report is current as of the first quarter of 2020.
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.
Hotel Point Values
To calculate our average hotel point values, we looked at reservations available from a luxury and economy hotel for eight 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.
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. For each of the four programs, we took the average value of each domestic (U.S.) travel transfer partner and any available cash redemption options (e.g., statement credits or cash back) to establish an average point value that represents these multi-use rewards programs.