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.
2.1 cents/point ▲
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
American Express (Canada)
American Express (Canada)
Best Western Rewards
British Airways Avios
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
0.6 cents/point ▼
$1.02/WestJet Dollar ▲
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.