What Are My Points & Miles Worth? (2021)

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As soon as folks start the award travel journey, they always wonder “what are my points & miles worth?” It's a great question, as it helps you understand whether to pay cash, use points or miles, or look at a different program for better value. Back in 2019, I shared our 3-year window of points and miles usage and their corresponding value. It's time to update those valuations, so here goes.

2019 Valuation

In 2019, 4 currencies stood head and shoulders above all the rest: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and World of Hyatt. Those four currencies had a value between 2.9 and 4.72 cents per point!

3-Year Points & Miles Usage from 2019.

2021 Valuation

Following back-to-back years of travel disruptions, quarantines, and social distancing, our points and miles usage has changed. While we're still traveling, we are not flying international first and business class regularly. Instead, we have opted for nicer hotels, including numerous iconic properties throughout the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central America. Because of this, we have used our transferable points currencies in ways we had never considered pre-pandemic. We have used Chase Pay Yourself Back to offset trip costs and have cashed-out Amex Membership Rewards to both sell our home and build a new home. I hope that travel booked in 2021 for 2022 happens and we're back to normal usage of points and miles!

With all that said, let's review our 5-year look back on our points and miles.

5-year Points & Miles usage from 2021.

As you see, the same 4 currencies (Amex MR, Chase UR, Citi TYP, and World of Hyatt) have more than held their own! In fact, we're getting more cpp for UR, TYP, and WoH than we were 2 years ago. Have no fear: Amex MR are just as valuable, too. We're just using them differently and haven't redeemed for more than 1.25 cpp since December 2019.

A couple of things I've noticed while compiling this data:

  • Marriott points have decreased in value for each of the last 5 years (except for one year, where we had an incredibly valuable redemption).
  • The longer we're in the award travel game, the less we use the “easy” transfer partners, such as URs to United or MRs to Delta. Instead, we've begun seeking the best deal and booking United and Delta flights with partners, as it is usually cheaper that way.
  • Say what you will about American Airlines (and believe me, I complain about AA alot), but there is insane value in AA partner awards! We're averaging almost 3.1 cpp over the last 5 years and that includes many economy flights.
  • Lastly, I love Hyatt. That is all.

Overall Valuation

We highly recommend tracking the points and miles that you burn, along with the redemption value. Doing so helps show the kind of value you receive from each type of points and miles.

While I 100% believe the 5-year data above is (obviously) indicative of our redemptions, we may not travel like you do. We are two adults, no children, fly economy domestically, fly business/first internationally, and rarely stay at luxury hotels (at least until the pandemic happened). Doing a similar exercise will help you formulate your own data-driven analysis and know what your points and miles are worth.

If you are new to award travel and have not redeemed many points, then you can use our “minimum” and “aspirational” values below as guideposts. For “minimum” value, we mean that if you are not getting this value or higher, you should pay cash or look at another program. The “aspirational” valuation below is for when you are planning to use points for an aspirational trip such as flying international first or business class for the first time or booking an overwater villa in the Maldives or Bora Bora, for example. For “aspirational” value, we recommend aiming for that value or higher with your points; otherwise, it might make more sense to pay cash or look elsewhere.

2021 “minimum” and “aspirational” points and miles values.

Bottom Line

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you decide that our 5-year redemptions are similar to what value you can receive, take a look at the value of the welcome offers on certain cards:

So there you have it. While these valuations are based on our 5-year redemption values, many folks are getting even GREATER value from their points and miles. Regardless, this is a list of 1o credit cards with a potential value of $2,000 or more from the welcome offer alone. What a time to be alive!!

Final Thoughts

Do you regularly go back and confirm the value you receive from your points and miles? If you're like me and failed to do so for a while, it's time to pull out the calculator and figure out what your points and miles are worth. I am so glad I finished this research. Seeing the value of points and miles has helped reignite the desire to go earn boatloads of points and miles for the remainder of 2021!

As always, come by our Facebook group and let us know your thoughts on these valuations.