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Travel Loyalty Program Reviews

Jan. 17, 2019
Airline Credit Cards, Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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Not all travel rewards programs are created equal. How much you should expect out of your points and miles may vary from program to program.

To better understand how much value to expect from your award travel, NerdWallet researched the cash prices and reward redemption values for hundreds of hotel rooms and flights. The tables below show average point values derived from that research.

What we considered

To determine the average value of hotel points, we collected the average price of randomly selected hotels across award categories in cash and points over a six-month period. We repeated this process for over a dozen American cities and three to five cities per geographical region around the world. Our valuation is a combined average cash price of all global hotels, divided by the points price of all global hotels.

To determine the potential value of airline miles, we sampled economy prices across six months in both cash and miles on the most popular domestic routes according to U.S. Department of Transportation data, along with a number of randomly selected international routes. The valuation presented is that of the average cash price of both domestic and international flights, divided by the average points price of both domestic and international flights.

Because international value trends higher than domestic value, the averages are often valued higher than considering domestic travel only. The valuations should be considered as a cost opportunity: If your points are worth more than the valuation, then you are getting a good deal on your flight.

What we omitted

To remove product bias, we did not consider an airline products or product prices outside of economy. In addition, the lowest fare in both cash and miles were considered. We did not single out any rate buckets in either cash or miles, but searched based on availability alone. While this may lead to outliers in the data, it also provides a true average of what points and miles are worth across flights.

With regard to hotels, all hotels sampled in any given city were selected using a random number generator. No additional weighting was given to the number of hotels in any given chain or hotel award availability.

What do you think?

No valuation project is perfect — but with this guide, we hope to bring clarity to your decision to use rewards for a hotel night or airline ticket, or to pay for it to earn extra points on a travel credit card. Send your thoughts on how we can improve to [email protected].

Where we landed

Average value per point/mile, in cents
AIRLINES Domestic International Overall
American 1.0 5.0 2.6
United 1.3 3.3 2.1
Delta 1.4 2.7 2.0
Southwest 1.6 1.9 1.7
JetBlue 1.5 1.7 1.6
Alaska 1.2 1.1 1.2
Frontier 0.8 1.1 0.9
Spirit 0.4 0.7 0.5
Average value per point/mile, in cents
HOTELS Domestic International Overall
Hyatt 1.8 1.5 1.7
Marriott 0.8 0.7 0.8
Wyndham 0.7 0.7 0.7
Choice 0.7 0.8 0.7
IHG 0.6 0.5 0.6
Best Western 0.5 0.6 0.6
Hilton 0.4 0.4 0.4
Radisson 0.3 0.3 0.3

Also, check out the average redemption values of these?programs below, expressed by cents per point.

American Express Membership Rewards: 1 cent

Barclaycard Arrival Miles: 1 cent

Capital One Miles:?1 cent

Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1.25 cents

Citi ThankYou Points:?1 cent

Discover it Miles:?1 cent

U.S. Bank FlexPoints: 2 cents

Wells Fargo Points:?1 cent

The easiest way to rack up points is to use a credit card that earns miles or points with every purchase.?Learn more about our favorite travel cards, the best airline credit cards and the top hotel credit cards?to find the card that?best supports your travel goals and your budget.

This post was updated on Jan. 22, 2019.

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