Now that Quarter 2 of 2021 has arrived, it’s once again time to revisit our Points Valuations, which we update on a quarterly basis.
Over the last three months, we haven’t seen too many major movements across loyalty programs. Instead, several programs have implemented a few small changes here and there, with minimal impacts on our fair valuations.
Therefore, we’ve taken the opportunity to add new valuations for a few US-based programs in which we Canadians can earn points, whether it’s through a transferrable currency or by getting US credit cards: American Airlines Advantage, Delta SkyMiles, IHG Rewards, and World of Hyatt.
Before we delve into the valuations, I should remind you that the focus of these valuations lies in the target redemption value of each points currency, rather than the acquisition cost that you might incur (which can vary significantly depending on how you prefer to earn points).
For example, Aeroplan recently sold points at 1.5 cents/point (CAD), but we continue to recommend aiming for 2.1 cents/point as a fair redemption value when considering all possible award redemptions in the aggregate.
Alaska Mileage Plan: One Down, More to Come?
Alaska Airlines joined Oneworld on March 31, 2021, although the program has held off on announcing any major changes to the Mileage Plan redemption rates for now. We’ve been assured of at least 90 days’ notice if any changes to existing charts are announced.
However, one major redemption sweet spot has been phased out as of March 31: the ability to redeem Alaska miles for Emirates First Class. Indeed, the outrageous value that one could’ve attained by booking three Emirates First Class flights for the price of one is now merely a relic of history.
Furthermore, while Mileage Plan members can theoretically still book Alaska’s best sweet spots during the current “limbo state” before new award charts are revealed, the Japan Airlines First Class sweet spot remains plagued by underlying technical issues, with no award availability showing up on the Alaska search engine or to Alaska phone agents (even though Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, for example, can spot the availability no problem).
With the above in mind, I think it’s fair to bump Alaska’s valuation down from 2.3 cents/point to 2.2 cents/point (CAD), and we’ll be keeping an eye out for what the new Mileage Plan award charts look like by the time we revisit our valuations in July.
- Previous valuation: 2.3 cents/point (CAD), 1.8 cents/point (USD)
- Updated valuation: 2.2 cents/point (CAD), 1.8 cents/point (USD)▼
Amex MR Select Points: Boosted by a Backdoor Conversion Option
I recently wrote about my success in converting American Express Membership Rewards Select points to Aeroplan points by taking advantage of Air Canada’s flexible rebooking policy.
Effectively, there is the opportunity to pay a “fee” to convert MR Select points into Aeroplan points at better-than-1:1 ratio, or otherwise convert MR Select points into Aeroplan points at a 1:0.88 ratio without paying a fee.
Both of these backdoor conversion options are far better value than the next-best alternative of converting MR Select points into Bonvoy points and then to Aeroplan points. MR Select points are a shade more valuable as a result, and I’m bumping up their valuation to 1.5 cents/point (CAD).
The caveat to this opportunity is that you might need to wait a very long time for your Aeroplan points conversion to be processed, so it’s only suitable for those of you who aren’t in a rush to rack up an Aeroplan balance.
- Previous valuation: 1.4 cents/point (CAD)
- Updated valuation: 1.5 cents/point (CAD) ▲
Minor Movements in Various Programs
Before moving onto the new valuations for some US-based programs, I’d like to summarize a few small movements in other loyalty programs over this past quarter, that I haven’t felt are worthy of adjustments to our valuations:
- Aeroplan has added a few new airline partners in Virgin Australia and Air Dolomiti, expanding the range of redemption options once travel is back on the table. Some of its wild examples of dynamic pricing that we observed at the program’s launch have also gotten better. However, other issues do remain with the dynamic pricing, and the program is also behind schedule in its IT rollout (such as the calendar search feature and the properly functioning multi-city tool, both of which would elevate the program’s value by making it easier to use). Given this balance for now, I’m happy to keep the valuation steady at 2.1 cents/point (CAD).
- Marriott Bonvoy implemented a few category changes for 2021, but they were fairly minor, so I’m happy to keep the valuation at 0.9 cents/point (CAD).
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles has replaced their Choice and Tailored awards (which previously accessed a wider range of award availability for higher mileage amounts) with a Miles Plus Cash feature, which allows members to apply Asia Miles towards the cost of a cash ticket at a value of 0.5 cents per mile. However, both the outgoing and new features represent rather poor value, so they aren’t very relevant to the program’s points valuation, which remains flat at 1.6 cents/mile (CAD).
- British Airways Avios implemented a minor devaluation to short-haul flights within Europe. While the manner of the unannounced overnight devaluation is disappointing, its impact is small enough that I believe the program’s 1.7 cents/Avios (CAD) valuation remains fair.
New Valuations: AAdvantage, SkyMiles, IHG Rewards, World of Hyatt
For this quarter’s valuation update, I’ve taken a closer look at some US-based programs in which Canadians might also wish collect points as they pursue a wider range of sweet spots.
American Airlines Advantage
American Airlines AAdvantage is a 1:0.7 transfer partner from RBC Avion points. The program offers fairly competitive (though not industry-leading) award pricing for premium flights on Oneworld airlines, including a few very attractive sweet spots like 75,000 miles for Qatar Airways Qsuites on Montreal–Doha–Cape Town with no surcharges.
Indeed, AAdvantage is probably the best program to book Qatar Airways Qsuites departing out of North America, as other programs like Avios or Asia Miles would levy some very high surcharges on these routes.
Other sweet spots lie in the AAdvantage program’s unique airline partnerships, like Air Tahiti Nui business class to French Polynesia for 80,000 AAdvantage miles one-way.
Our valuation for AAdvantage miles begins at 1.7 cents/mile (CAD) or 1.4 cents/mile (USD). As a point of comparison, I value AAdvantage miles slightly higher than Asia Miles (1.6 cents/mile) thanks to the former’s lack of fuel surcharges and slightly more favourable award pricing; however, in terms of transferring points from RBC Avion, the 1:1 transfer ratio to Asia Miles may still win out over the 1:0.7 ratio to AAdvantage.
- Starting valuation: 1.7 cents/mile (CAD), 1.4 cents/mile (USD)
Delta SkyMiles is a dynamically priced program that is subject to frequent unannounced devaluations. For Canadians, it’s often not worth using Delta SkyMiles to book premium international flights, as there are other programs that are more fit for that purpose.
Instead, it can be a great deal to redeem SkyMiles towards domestic flights within Canada on WestJet at a fixed price of 12,500 SkyMiles one-way, especially now that WestJet Member Exclusive fares no longer offer that fixed-price redemption option.
For that reason, I’d argue that SkyMiles can actually be more valuable to a Canada-based collector than to the average US member. Our valuation for Delta SkyMiles begins at 1.5 cents/mile (CAD) or 1.2 cents/mile (USD).
- Starting valuation: 1.5 cents/mile (CAD), 1.2 cents/mile (USD)
IHG Rewards is generally considered one of the weakest among the major hotel loyalty programs. The program uses dynamic pricing that varies frequently, and redemption price points are often devalued without notice, including most recently in April 2021.
There are select pockets of value at the lower and higher end of the spectrum, but on average, an IHG Rewards point is worth much less than other hotel points currencies.
It’s possible to rack up IHG Rewards points through the US-issued Chase IHG Mastercard or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but I’d treat IHG Rewards as my last priority in terms of hotel loyalty programs to focus on.
- Starting valuation: 0.5 cents/mile (CAD), 0.4 cents/mile (USD)
World of Hyatt
World of Hyatt points, accessible via the US-issued Chase Hyatt Visa or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points, are considered one of the more valuable points currencies for hotel rewards.
Despite a limited global footprint, Hyatt’s hotels are impressive in quality and offer a high level of service, especially for World of Hyatt elite members.
With Hyatt’s top-tier hotels costing only 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night (compared to 100,000+ points in other hotel loyalty programs), it’s no wonder the valuation of World of Hyatt points tends to be much higher than its peers.
Our valuation begins at 1.9 cents/mile (CAD) or 1.5 cents/mile (USD), and I look forward to fine-tuning this valuation as I sample a wider range of World of Hyatt hotels over the next few years under my Hyatt Globalist “experiment”.
- Starting valuation: 1.9 cents/mile (CAD), 1.5 cents/mile (USD)
Points Valuations, Quarter 2 2021
Here’s a summary of our Points Valuations for Quarter 2 of 2021. You can refer to the Points Valuations page for a full list with additional notes.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
2.2 cents/mile ▼
American Airlines AAdvantage
American Express (Canada)
American Express (Canada)
1.5 cents/point ▲
Best Western Rewards
British Airways Avios
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
World of Hyatt
The first quarter of 2021 has been marked by small movements in a variety of loyalty programs as the world continues to prepare for the return of global travel.
As we look ahead at the next quarter, I’m keeping an eye out for the following potential changes in our valuations depending on how things play out:
- Aeroplan may yet introduce new airline partners for redemptions; if these partners are exciting enough, a boost to its valuation may be on the table.
- As discussed above, Alaska Mileage Plan is likely to introduce a new redemption chart(s) now that it has joined Oneworld, which will significantly inform the future valuation of Alaska miles.
- Last year, we lowered the valuation of American Express Membership Rewards points due to the threat of unilateral account shutdowns; these shutdowns haven’t been reported in 2021, so if things remains quiet on that front, it may be time to readjust the valuation of MR points to factor in their flexibility as a transferrable points currency.
- BMO Rewards has already announced a devaluation that will kick in on May 5, 2021, at which point their already pitiful valuation of 0.71 cents/point will drop to 0.67 cents/point.