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How Much Are Points Worth? (Quarter 1 2021) Ricky January 3, 2021

How Much Are Points Worth? (Quarter 1 2021)

The start of the new year marks another occasion to revisit our Points Valuations, which we update on a quarterly basis.

Since last quarter, the major news in the landscape has revolved around the launch of two new rewards offerings by Canada’s two leading airlines, and it’s precisely those two programs that comprise the theme of this update for Quarter 1 of 2021.

Aeroplan: New Program Debut Better Than Expected

In last quarter’s update, I pre-emptively lowered our valuation of Aeroplan miles points as of November 8, 2020, based on the fact that the new reward chart represents an increase in the award costs compared to the old program.

As of the actual program’s launch, however, I think we can agree that the new program is shaping up a little better than we had expected… for now.

There is ample space on Air Canada flights that often falls below the published dynamic range (especially with preferred pricing in play), as well as solid award availability on partner airlines at fixed prices according to the chart.

As an example, many Aeroplan members have been able to book awards in the low 50,000s for transatlantic flights to Europe, or in the low 70,000s for transpacific flights to Asia (not to mention the Vancouver–Tokyo sweet spot for 55,000 or fewer points).

I myself have booked a Toronto–Vancouver–Sydney award for November 2021 at 77,500 Aeroplan points for a Business Flexible award, which will even give me access to the Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver.

All of the above Air Canada redemptions are more favourable than they were under the previous program, in which Air Canada flights would’ve cost more miles and a small fortune in fuel surcharges.

And that’s not to mention the generous change and cancellation policy through February 2021, as well as the creative routing possibilities that are now on the table thanks to an online search engine that’s sometimes over-eager to display up to 150 search results.

Of course, the widespread belief is that even though Aeroplan has launched with lots of cheap redemptions under the dynamic pricing model, these prices will increase in the future as travel picks up again in a post-COVID world. Time will tell if that’s the case, and we’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on things from a valuation perspective.

For now, I’m happy to raise our valuation of Aeroplan points back to 2.1 cents/point. I’m almost a bit tempted to go up to 2.2 cents/point, but I’m still held back by the outstanding issues yet to be resolved and some of the expensive partner award prices for the Atlantic zone.

  • Previous valuation: 2.0 cents/point (CAD), 1.5 cents/point (USD)
  • Current valuation: 2.1 cents/point (CAD), 1.7 cents/point (USD) ▲

Hilton Honors: 0.6cpp (CAD) A More Realistic Target

For the Hilton Honors valuation, I’m exercising some of my own judgment based on having spent some more time searching through Hilton reward redemptions over the past few months.

The previous target of 0.7cpp (CAD) was over-ambitious based on my recent experiences, as mid-range hotels in more popular destinations will rarely achieve this valuation based on Hilton’s dynamic pricing model. Instead, 0.5–0.6cpp (CAD) is much more commonly witnessed, with the latter being attainable on occasions when the algorithm may not be entirely in sync.

(This may also be due to recent movements in the CAD/USD exchange rate; with the exchange rate moving in our favour and Hilton Honors most likely tracking the USD cash price in their dynamic pricing model, it makes sense to lower the valuation on the Canadian side.)

Note that even though the target valuation for the bulk of mid-range redemptions have been adjusted downwards, the value proposition remains excellent at the extremes: you can still achieve far higher value on your Hilton Honors points through super-luxurious stays like the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi (although you’ll need to watch the award availability patterns like a hawk) or low-end stays in far-flung destinations.

  • Previous valuation: 0.7 cents/point (CAD), 0.5 cents/point (USD)
  • Current valuation: 0.6 cents/point (CAD), 0.5 cents/point (USD) ▼

WestJet Rewards: Meagre Boost from New Member Exclusive Fares

Last quarter, WestJet Dollars (WSD) were valued at exactly 1 WSD = $1, because that was the only way to redeem WestJet Dollars against WestJet flights while we waited for the launch of the new WestJet Member Exclusive fares.

Enough ink has been spilled about the poor reception in the community of the new Member Exclusive fares, which provide a limited-value discount on WestJet flights. It isn’t exactly aligned with what we as savvy points collectors find rewarding in a loyalty program, but sadly that’s the direction that WestJet has chosen at this juncture.

With these Member Exclusive discounts in place, the value of WestJet Dollars is elevated – but only minimally – compared to not having Member Exclusive fares at all.

In some cases, a discount in the range of $150 can be obtained on WestJet 787 business class fares, which is one way to put your WestJet Dollars to decent use if you’d like to try out their Dreamliner business class service.

(Of course, there are also other instances where the Member Exclusive fares end up being more expensive than Basic fares, which is something that WestJet has committed to fixing but has yet to complete.)

Looking back now, I’m a little amused that I had previously valued WestJet Dollars (when the old Member Exclusive fares were still in play) at merely $1.05/WSD. That was far too low – it really should’ve been at least $2/WSD for the savvy travellers among us.

I guess the old adage rings true: you never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

  • Previous valuation: $1 (CAD)/WestJet Dollar
  • Current valuation: $1.02 (CAD)/WestJet Dollar ▲

Points Valuations, Quarter 1 2021

Here’s a summary of our Points Valuations for Quarter 1 of 2021. You can refer to the Points Valuations page for a full list with additional notes.

Points Program

Value

Aeroplan

2.1 cents/point ▲
1.7 cents/point (USD) ▲

Air Miles
(Cash Rewards)

11.5 cents/mile

Air Miles
(Dream Rewards)

15 cents/mile

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

2.3 cents/mile
1.8 cents/mile (USD)

American Express (Canada)
Membership Rewards

2.1 cents/point

American Express (Canada)
Membership Rewards Select

1.4 cents/point

Best Western Rewards

0.7 cents/point

BMO Rewards

0.7 cents/point

British Airways Avios

1.7 cents/Avios
1.3 cents/Avios (USD)

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

1.6 cents/mile
1.3 cents/mile (USD)

CIBC Aventura

1.2 cents/point

Hilton Honors

0.6 cents/point ▼
0.5 cents/point (USD)

HSBC Rewards

0.7 cents/point

Marriott Bonvoy

0.9 cents/point
0.6 cents/point (USD)

RBC Avion

1.9 cents/point

Scotia Rewards

1 cent/point

TD Rewards

0.5 cents/point

WestJet Rewards

$1.02/WestJet Dollar ▲

Conclusion

Aeroplan and WestJet Rewards’s major announcements in late 2020 guided most of our changes in this quarter’s update to Points Valuations. For the next quarter, we’ll also be keeping a close eye on both programs as they look to compete for business in a slowly rejuvenating travel market in Canada.

In particular, Aeroplan has promised a series of exciting announcements for early 2021, so those could bode well for future increases in the valuation of Aeroplan points if they play out.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is a big one to watch for next quarter: the airline will be joining Oneworld as of March 31, 2021, so its new redemption rules will be key to determining how well its current valuation of 2.3cpp holds up.   

Meanwhile, World of Hyatt will also become a useful currency for a subset of Canadian travellers next quarter thanks to the current easy pathway to top-tier Globalist status, so I hope to establish a valuation for Hyatt points and add it to the collection for Quarter 2 as well.

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7 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Greg

    You are so far off on your valuations its not even funny. You value points like Aeroplan over the 1.8 cents that you can buy them for. But worst of all is your valuation that Westjet Dollars have increased in value. What the !@#$ I think you should read Jayce’s honest review of Westjet rewards. That is like saying 1 dollar is worth 1.015 cents at Westjet because you earn at least 1.5% Westjet dollars spending cash at WestJet.com. In your Toronto to Calgary example in business, to save $150 on the business class fare you would need to spend over $65,000 on your westjet credit card to earn the dollars. Can’t believe you have the gumption to make such a silly remark that Westjet dollars have increased in value. Also remind your readers that those Westjet dollars flights don’t earn the 1.5 to 8% rebate back and are the most basic and restrictive fares too.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      I actually think the valuations are entirely on point. The point is to look at redemption value, not how much you can buy points for. And have WestJet Dollars increased in value compared to last quarter when no Member Exclusive fares were around? Of course they have. But they’ve decreased in value compared to the old Member Exclusive fares and that’s clearly spelled out here too. You mention the earn rate on the WestJet Mastercard but that isn’t really what we’re talking about here.

  2. Avatar
    Stephen

    Since Aeroplan miles can now be purchased directly at the time of a flight redemption for 1.8 cents per point, why should they be valued any higher than their cash purchase price?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Well, clearly they can be redeemed for much higher than 1.8cpp (and in fact they *should* be if you’re purchasing at 1.8cpp at the time of redemption through Points + Cash).

      The idea is to acquire Aeroplan points at a reasonably cheap rate such as 1.8cpp and then redeem them for higher, and 2.1cpp represents the target we’ve set this quarter when we consider all use-cases in the aggregate.

  3. Avatar
    Vicky

    Hi Ricky,

    I’m not sure I agree with your valuation of Air Miles dream miles. Air Miles has actually wiped nearly all awards on more niche routes (think Victoria, Fort McMurray, e.g. commuter airports) where the most value could be extracted from dream miles, especially when it comes to short-notice/last-minute regional domestic bookings.

    This is a pretty substantial devaluation as far as I can tell, although I know Air Miles being a largely irrelevant program in the Canadian awards landscape probably isn’t high up on your list of things to follow up on.

    1. Avatar
      David

      I flew from Montreal to Victoria via Vancouver and bought the ticket less than a week in advance. The flight would’ve cost 950 CAD at the time but I got it for 2900 Air Mile Dream Miles with 750 Miles back from my American Express Air Mile card. I’d say I got great value from that redemption. With the latest changes to Aeroplan and its new sweet spots and the devaluation of Westjet Rewards I think Air Miles Dream Miles has gone up a lot in value.

    2. Avatar
      Vicky

      To clarify: They’ve wiped the awards at the lowest awards pricing. Air Mile Dream Miles can still be redeemed for cash fares at a ratio of 1 Air Miles to 10 cents + taxes through the additional awards category (which are a bit inflated, as they’re travel agency rates).

Ricky

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