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It is very hard to assign a monetary value to points and miles. Specifically, points issued by banks (Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, Thank You points, Arrival “miles”) and airline mileage programs (AAdvantage, MileagePlus, SkyMiles, Easy Returns, Avios, etc., etc. etc.)
Valuations vary wildly depending on who you ask. But if you ask me, it’s simple. You want to get at LEAST two cents of value out of each point or mile.
And that’s the smoking gun right there. Don’t waste time trying to assign some sort of arbitrary value out of your points and miles. You want to shoot for a minimum value of $.02 each.
When to break the axiom
The only time I’d break this rule is for an emotional situation. Like, you really really really want to vacation somewhere and don’t mind getting less than $.02 in value (in this case, you are valuing the experience more than the points). Or if a family member is ill or you have to ever be somewhere within hours of an emergency… then yes, totally use your points to get there. Or if you’re really fed up with an airline and their constant clawing back of well, everything, and you just want to burn the little suckers. Aside from these circumstances, though, get yourself a nice slow burn going. And then redeem them all at once.
Hotel points are the exception
Every rule has an exception. Here, it’s hotel points. Club Carlson, Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, Marriott… they all have wildly different point valuations. For a Starwood redemption, you may find yourself getting $.04 of value from each point, which is incredible. Hilton points might be worth half a cent each. That’s simply the going rate. There’s no easy rhyme or rhythm, and certainly no axiom, that can be placed on hotel points. My only advice there is to get familiar with your preferred program and get a feel for what a good award booking is.
Earn and burn
Mileage accounts are not savings accounts. They can and do devalue, sometimes without notice. Bank points that transfer to several different programs are safer to save for a long period of time. If one program tanks, you’ll always have others to choose from. Save up with a redemption in mind. And then, when you redeem, it’s OK to see your balance get down to a very low number. After all, you’ve just rewarded all of your efforts with an amazing trip.
I always get a little flustered after a big redemption because I get so used to watching my balances grow, so it’s a little scary when there’s nothing there any more. But then I realize all the other things I have to look forward to, including the trip I just booked. And so the points
farming earning starts over once more.
This hobby is still well worth following. If you only take one thing away from this post, take this: get at least $.02 of value for every mile or point you earn. If you’re not getting this, you might be better off paying outright and bank the points for a rainy day. This is the philosophy I use and keep in mind with each blog post here. Stick to that general rule and you’ll get a… hang on. I want to end with something super cheesy. How about…
Stick to that general rule and you’ll…
- gain an inch to run the… miles?
- easily get to the… points?
- fly higher?
Got somethin’ better? 🙂
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