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How do credit card miles work and what are they worth?

Our current points valuation for credit card, hotel and airline loyalty programs.

Updated

Fact checked

Between changing airfares and changing redemption and earning rates by the bank, point valuations for loyalty programs are in constant flux.

To help you get a sense of the general value of the miles and points offered across loyalty programs, we’ve calculated the average value per point across airline, credit card and hotel loyalty programs.

How do airline miles work?

At the most basic level, airline miles and other loyalty currencies are earned when you spend money on eligible earning categories in a program. You can redeem earned miles and points on a variety of services or items, such as flights, hotel stays or merchandise.

Miles valuation for airline loyalty programs

Loyalty program Average redemption value in cents per mile
American Airlines 1.5
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1.8
Avianca LifeMiles 1.5
Delta SkyMiles 1.4
Hawaiian Airlines 1.2
JetBlue TrueBlue 1.4
Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.7
United MileagePlus 1.2
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1.5

Best airline rewards program

Points valuation for hotel loyalty programs

Hotel loyalty program Point valuation in cents per point
Choice Privileges 0.6
Hilton Honors 0.4
IHG Rewards Club 0.7
Marriott Bonvoy 0.9
Radisson Rewards 0.4
Starwood Preferred Guest (Now Marriott Bonvoy) 0.9
World of Hyatt 2.0
Wyndham Rewards 0.8

Best hotel rewards program

Points valuation for credit card loyalty programs

Credit card loyalty program Points valuation in cents per point
American Express Membership Rewards 2.0
Bank of America 1.0
Capital One Rewards 1.5
Chase Ultimate Rewards 2.0
Citi ThankYou Rewards 1.5
Discover 1.0

A note about credit card point values

It’s tough to pin down valuations of credit card points. That’s because the most valuable use of credit card points — transfers to travel partners — relies heavily on the current value of that travel partner’s mile or point.

For example, the average Chase point value is 1 cent apiece when redeemed on cashback or gift cards through the Chase shopping portal. However, you could double that value if you transfer points to a program such as World of Hyatt as Chase points transfer at a 1:1 ratio and World of Hyatt points, on average, are worth 2 cents each.

How we calculated point values

To calculate our point values, we averaged the redemption value for all redemption options in a given loyalty program. Not all loyalty programs have multiple redemption options. For example, Discover points are worth 1.0 cent per point because the few redemption options available all give a value of 1.0 cent per point.

Others, like airline programs, wildly vary between the lowest and highest redemption values. While we currently list most airline miles around an average of one to two cents apiece, it’s possible to find even higher value with a little research — or lower if you’re not careful.

How to calculate the value of a mile or point

Calculating the redemption value of your miles is relatively simple once you know how to do the math. In most cases, you’ll need to divide the cost of the product in cash by the number of miles or points it would take for redemption.

For example, if the cost of a one-way flight in cash is $500 and the cost in miles is 45,000:
500 / 45000 = 0.011
The cost in cash divided by the cost in miles comes out to about 1.1 cent per point.

This same calculation holds true for merchandise. For example, if a wireless speaker normally costs $400 but you can redeem 60,000 points to purchase it, then:
400 / 60000 = 0.006
Each point would come out to a value of 0.6 cents apiece — not the best use of your hard earned points.

How to pick a loyalty program

With so many loyalty programs available, it can be tough to pick one. Here are a few considerations to help you narrow your choices.

  • Do you value flexibility? Credit card loyalty programs typically offer more flexibility in how you redeem your points. Some will also let you donate or receive miles with another account.
  • Do you have a favored airline or hotel? If you travel often and prefer the services of a particular airline or hotel, you might get the most value out of the benefits and perks of their specific loyalty program.
  • How do you spend? No matter which loyalty program you choose, you’re going to need to spend money to earn miles. Make sure to choose a program and credit card that offers you the best opportunities to earn.

Where should I spend my points or miles?

There are often a variety of ways to redeem your points or miles. Here are a few common options and their typical values.

Redemption Typical value per point or mile
Point or mile transfers Up to 2 cents
Travel 0.7 to 1.5 cents
Gift cards 0.7 to 1 cents
Cash back/statement credit 0.5 to 1 cents
Shopping with rewards 0.5 to 0.8 cents

Do my points expire?

If you’re hunting for a long term rewards program to take part in, you’ll want to look at whether your hard-earned points have an expiration period. The following reward points and miles won’t expire so long as your account is in good standing:

Credit card points that don’t expire

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Amex Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou points
  • Discover it Rewards
  • Capital One Rewards

Airline miles that don’t expire:

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • United MileagePlus

Hotel points that don’t expire:

  • Best Western Rewards

All other reward programs require you spend or earn your points within a certain time period in order to not forfeit your collection. Read more about airline reward programs, hotel reward programs and the top credit card reward programs for more information.

What’s the most valuable rewards program?

You might be surprised at the value a rewards program can deliver — especially if you transfer your points or miles and do your research to get the best redemptions. However, here’s a general ranking of the major programs, from most valuable to least.

Rewards program Why it shines
1. Amex Membership Rewards More transfer partners than Chase Ultimate Rewards. Lets you transfer points to airline and hotel programs. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers stellar rewards on eligible flights.
2. Chase Ultimate Rewards Excellent redemption value on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards with a Chase Sapphire® card. Lets you transfer points to airline and hotel programs.
3. Citi ThankYou Rewards Solid roster of transfer partners. Points from the Citi Premier® Card are worth 1.25x when redeemed for airfare through the ThankYou Travel Center.
4. Capital One Rewards Solid roster of transfer partners. Offers an excellent flat-rate travel card.
5. Bank of America Simple 1-cent-per-point redemption rate. Offers a $95-a-year travel card with a 1.5x-point base rewards rate on top of 2x points on travel and dining — unusual for a travel card.
6. Discover Simple 1-cent-per-mile redemption rate.

Compare rewards credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$300 after spending $3,000 in the first 6 months (Offer expires 12/10/2020)
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $300. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
20% at Amazon.com up to $200 back in the first 6 months, plus $100 after spending $1,000 in the same timeframe
20% at Amazon.com up to $200 back in the first 6 months, 2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
$0
This everyday cashback card is ideal for Black Friday and holiday shopping with 20% back at Amazon.com up to $200 back in the first 6 months. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in the first year
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi® Double Cash Card
N/A
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
$0
Earn up to 2% on every purchase with no annual fee. This is the highest flat-rate cashback card on the market.
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Bottom line

Let these point valuations serve as a guideline as you make the most of your loyalty program rewards. Remember these point values are averages — with a little research, you can get even more from your miles.

Compare rewards credit cards to start earning toward your favorite loyalty rewards program.

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