Are Airline Miles Really Never Worth More Than 1p???

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I’m in the middle of putting together a series of posts on the best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards Points to fly to different parts of the world – ie. which transfer partner you should pick depending on where (and how) you want to fly. As part of the research for that, I somehow ended up on a HeadforPoints article from last year about the potential value of transferring Amex MR Points to Radisson Rewards, the loyalty programme for hotel brands like Radisson Blu, Park Plaza, etc

Rob/Raffles makes a characteristically strong case that Radisson Rewards might be the best value Amex hotel transfer partner, but the argument does ultimately rely on a line that jarred a bit with me:

” I don’t value an Avios point – or any airline currency (my emphasis) – at more than 1p.”

On the Avios point I completely agree with him, but there are quite a few different types of miles that I do value at significantly more than 1p each. This matters in the context of working out where best to transfer Amex MR Points, because you can transfer them to pretty much any airline programme, either directly (at good rates), or via Marriott Rewards (at less good rates).

As I imagine most InsideFlyer readers know, Rob is essentially the founding father of the British points/miles/travel hacking scene – and someone I’ve personally learned a huge amount from over the years. It goes without saying that his opinion is worth taking extremely seriously. Even if it was really just a throwaway line rather than a considered opinion, it still got me thinking.

So, here are just a few examples of the many varieties of miles that I believe are worth more than 1p each – let me know what you think about the valuations in the comments!

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

I’ve been singing the praises of Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer programme for years. The devaluation last week has taken a little of the shine off some of the award chart sweets spots covered in articles like this one and this one, but it’s still a very solid programme with some fantastic highlights. The fact that there are no nasty surcharges when you redeem for flights on Singapore Airlines itself (there are on many partners) is also great.

I conservatively value KrisFlyer Miles at at least ~1.2p each.

Alaska Mileage Plan

Regular readers are probably thoroughly sick of me (and Craig) banging on about the virtues of Alaska Mileage Plan. The thing is, it really is a brilliant programme.

If you don’t believe me, have a quick look at our top 5 Alaska redemptions here – I’m talking 15 hours in Business Class for 25,000 miles, Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong in Business Class for less than half what BA Executive Club would charge if you used Avios, etc.

I value Alaska Miles at about 1.7p each.

United Mileage Plus

United Mileage Plus has a pretty average looking award chart at first glance. If you know how to make the most of the so called ‘Excursionist Perk’ (full guide here) though, it’s one of the best around.

I value United Miles at about 1.3p each.

Bottom line

What you might notice about the examples above is that although I believe the relatively high valuations are fair, the programmes are particularly good for a number of specific redemptions, rather than all-rounders. If you wanted to use your points for short haul Economy within Europe, for example, none of the options listed are going to beat humble Avios.

I don’t think that lowers the ‘average’ value of the various miles beneath what I’ve set them at though. There is no type of airline mile which is good for every sort of redemption – the trick is to have the right miles for the trips you want to take, and that’s actually why Amex Membership Rewards Points are so valuable.

Even if you don’t value any particular variety of airline mile at over 1p each, you should still value Amex MR Points at a higher rate – because you can transfer them, as and when you need, to whichever programme provides the best value for the flight you want to book.

It can be difficult and time-consuming to work out what the best transfer option for a given route is though, which is why you’ll hopefully find the guide I’m putting together useful and interesting.

Do you value any variety of miles at over 1p each, or am I off the mark here?

Comments

  1. Pf says

    I think you’ve just taken this comment out of context a little. Rob is consistdntly quite clear that he (obviously) values Amex MR points more than single airline points due to their flexibility. The point is not, can you get > 1p per point value from an airline point, if you know where you want to go. It is, if you don’t know where you want to go, and you need to decide where to transfer your points for some unknown future use. Let’s say that you transfer them to KrisFlyer for example, then that severely restricts you in where you can fly => this reduces the value to less than the value you can gain from a specific sweet spot redemption

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yep, as I say, it could be more of a throwaway line than a considered opinion – but it does highlight some interesting thinking.

      The context was Rob arguing that transferring Amex MR Points to Radisson can be a good deal, because you can effectively get 1p of value per Amex Point by doing so – if you happen to redeem at top category hotels in places where Radisson has decent hotels and would otherwise pay the normal cash rate to stay at that hotel or an equivalent, rather than shopping around or just opting for a premier inn or whatever at a lower price point.

      If we are downgrading the value of specific airline miles below the rates I assigned them due to their inflexibility (which is something I did factor in), a similar downgrade should clearly also apply to the value of Radisson Points, given the limited global footprint and the multitude of alternative accommodation options that usually exist, at different price points, in destinations that do have Radissons Rewards properties.

      The reason the hotel transfer partner valuations matter in regard to airline miles, is because if you don’t know where you want to fly but want to close your Amex account, you can always transfer to marriott and then choose any airline programme you like. Obviously you’re not going to get the best value that way if you think you might end up eventually transferring to one of the airline programmes that offers direct 1:1 transfers from amex, but for options like Alaska and United (particularly if there’s a bonus on: https://insideflyer.co.uk/2018/11/transfer-american-express-points-united-mileageplus-good-rate-might-want/) it can make a lot of sense.

  2. Pangolin says

    But how do you handle the waitlisting issues with saver redemptions on Kris Flyer?

    Most people would not be comfortable with not knowing whether their waitlist has cleared until a few days before the flight, which is a scenario you can commonly run into on SQ if you don’t have the status (Gold/PPS) to expedite approval.

    • Joe Deeney says

      I just don’t really use the waitlists – if I need to be flying somewhere at a particular time I look to be flexible in terms of origin/destination, same as I would when trying to find any high-demand award space. For example, I couldn’t get non-waitlist space for SIA First from London on the date I wanted next summer, so I booked from Frankfurt instead. KrisFlyer has reasonable cancellation/change fees, so you can always switch your flight nearer the time if space does open up on your preferred route.

  3. Braburn says

    Depends on many things.

    Value is lost when there are limited routes and few options for availability as can be the case with AS. Iberia plus 90k really made this clear. Many people left it last minute as they struggled to find ‘good value’ in them.

    So if you value AS miles at 1.7p and had 50k. Would you to rather have these 50k than £800? Because I would probably choose the cash amount purely for flexibility with unlimited airlines/routes. And the fact that you can push this into a bigger cash pot.

    Where airlines don’t charge or pass on surcharges and taxes then there is more value. Flights out of Brazil, hong Kong, Japan for for example..

    • Joe Deeney says

      Absolutely right – assigning value is really tricky and depends on many personal factors. I might write a ‘how to go about deciding your own value’ post at some point , rather than just using broad averages, as it would probably be a lot more helpful.

      As regards the AS question, for me it would really depend on how many AS miles I had and what future trips I might be looking to book in the next 6 months or so. There are certainly plenty of circumstances where I would definitely trade £800 for 50,000 AS Miles, but if I had a balance of 250,000+ and no immediate plans to use them, I’d definitely opt for the cash.

      One of the nice things about all the miles I mentioned in this article is that they are all pretty good re surcharges regardless of origin, but that’s certainly a factor for lots of other varieties of miles.

      • VK says

        I love AS. booked 3 business class tickets from KL to SIN via TYO (long stopover). LOL. love it! 25k each. this is part of our SEA holiday where japan was on the cards. its tremendous value. i am sure this will get the axe soon – either this or CX redemptions of AS – one of them will be hit very soon. its just too good in this day and age.

        • Joe Deeney says

          Haha, yes – the KUL-SIN via Tokyo route always makes me smile, given the actual distance between KUL and SIN is a massive 184 miles according to gcmapper. I wouldn’t be surprised to the intra asia stopover taken away on JAL (just makes it same as Cathay), but I’m not sure about wider changes. Nothing lasts forever, but AS have had years to make changes if that’s what they wanted to do.

        • Braburn says

          This is picking the best value routes and then referring to them as AS miles. If someone didn’t want to go via TYO, HKG then you’d easily see their value of them is much less. It’s easy to get value out of JL, CX .. But beyond that you have AY lhr-hel-man but not much more. You also have to think about paired availability if travelling with others.

          • Joe Deeney says

            Undoubtedly the 25k JAL intra-asia with stopover is one of the best value redemptions, but there are actually plenty of options.

            Heading West, redemptions on AA (and Alaska too domestically if you want) for Biz Class to West Coast, stopover however long you want, then backtracking to East Coast, can be done all for 57.5k (though I accept that AA long haul Biz Class award space can be tough to find).

            Nearer to home, Finnair fly to ME and India at decent though not spectacular rates.

            Cathay to Asia and either Cathay or JAL within Asia are obviously all great.

            You can work in South Africa nicely as part of a RTW trip – cheap flight/Avios/whatever to USA, Cathay First Class to HKG, stopover as long as you want, then onto Cape Town/Johannesburg for 70k Alaska, then home using other miles, (or vice versa).

            Oz/NZ can be done similarly via US with HK stopover for 80k in First (60k Biz). Or you can go between HK and Oz/NZ for 30k in Biz / 45k in First. Link that with the 42,500 Europe-HK Biz Class redemptions and you’ve effectively got Cathay Biz between Europe and Oz/NZ for 72,500, which is fantastic compared to using Avios etc.

            You can even fly LAN/AA Biz at decent rates to South/Central America too, from USA (in the age of Norwegian etc, getting to East Coast USA is cheap, easy and a great place t stay for a few days en route!)

            Basically, although there are limitations and you do need to think a bit outside the box, you can actually travel to pretty much all long haul regions at good rates using Alaska miles.

  4. NB says

    I don’t disagree with your valuation of UA miles at about 1.3p. Perhaps because that’s my main mileage programme, I have lots of them and certainly wouldn’t buy at that price, or anywhere near. However, that’s my yardstick for redemption (1.5c, to be precise). But their devaluations have really hit, and the Excursionist perk can be more of a PITA than anything else as it’s not always possible to take advantage of it in a sensible way.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Good point – I’m not entirely sure what I’d value United Miles at if they were my main programme actually. As I only really use them for Excursionist redemptions, I get a lot of value from them and would potentially be happy to buy at 1.3p, depending on my miles balance/travel plans. Obviously, I try to acquire them for less than that though!

  5. EM says

    Hi, just found your website and I think it is just the thing I need.

    M wife and I are British nationals living in Sierra Leone and were hoping to get “free”flights back to UK this year. We both signed up Amex Gold Rewards but I think we left it too late to get flights back and decided to use cash on the flights at tax is charged at about 200% out of SL.

    So, we are thinking of saving the points for a trip to Japan and Hong Kong next year.

    My worry is that I want to shut down my own card as zi have had it nearly year and don’t want to incur charge for next year. Where should I be moving my points to?

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi EM – and welcome to InsideFlyer UK!

      While I think this may well be the first Sierra Leone based question we’ve ever had, I’m sure we can put our thinking caps on and make some suggestions 🙂

      Just to be 100% clear, do you mean where would be best to credit the points for flights from Sierra Leone to Japan and back to SL from Hong Kong (or vice versa), or from the UK/Europe to Japan/HK?

      About how many many points/miles/avios/etc do you have/will you have between you?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Having expatriated myself a few years back, one of my regrets was cancelling my American Express cards. Yes you have an annual fee and the FX fees can be outrageous, but once you cancel it’s rather hard to get them back unless you move back to Blighty…

  6. Craig Sowerby says

    I most certainly agree with Joe here. And I’ve been mulling over a “how to value your miles/points” post as well.

    However I think a lot of the excess value over 1p comes from “travel hacking specials”, which are relatively easy for myself and some of our core audience, but completely outside of the realms of usefulness for 99% of the population, who just want return flights to / from their destination without too much aggravation and/or only collect a couple of different mileage currencies.

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