What are your points and miles worth? Can they get you from the states to Asia? Europe maybe? Or can you redeem them for a $500 statement credit because you may not be able to afford to pay off your card at the end of the month and risk paying interest? Or maybe you can turn that $500 into a one way ticket in First Class to Hawaii. Let's find out.
First off, you need to know the difference between points and miles. Points are what you earn from credit card issuers that can typically be transferred into airline miles. I say typically because all points are not created equal and some, depending on the issuer, may NOT transfer to miles but merely a statement credit. But generally speaking, points can get you miles which in turn can be used towards airfare.
"You can transfer points into airline miles which in turn can be used towards subsidized airfare"
Next we must tackle issuers. These are the banks and institutions that offer the rewards programs associated with the points you will be earning on their respective cards. Depending on the reward program, each point earned within will have dollar values specific to said program. Here is the list of all major issuers and their programs.
Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR)
American Express Membership Rewards (MR)
Citi ThankYou Rewards (TYP)
Bank Of America BOA Rewards
Capital One Capital One Rewards
Discover Discover Rewards Program
You are probably wondering why the tiers. Or maybe you have assumed correctly that the top tier, tier one, includes the more valuable rewards programs. To put it plainly, there are two classes of rewards programs, elite and everyone else. This does not mean that if you do not hold a tier one rewards card that your points are worthless, but that they are simply not as valuable as the top 3 titans of the industry. I have split up the post into two sections (tiers 1&2) and 6 subsections (Issuers) and will be discussing and posting Chase Bank of tier 1 first. Be sure to check back later for tier 2A American Express.
TIER 1A: CHASE
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase UR ranks at the top of tier one for us due to the points value, flexibility and ease of use. Ultimate Rewards has 11 transfer partners and UR points transfer to all of them at a 1:1 ratio meaning 1 UR gets you 1 point/mile when transferred to any of their partners. In order to get a better grasp of what your points would be worth when transferred, we have to look at who their transfer partners are and then take a look at their respective award charts where available. Before we do that, let us look at the other redemption options available to you if you are holding Chase UR.
Cash Back: 100 Points = $1
Comes in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit and you must redeem a minimum of $20.
1 point = 1 cent
1000 points = $10.00
10,000 points = $100.00
Gift Cards: 100 Points = $1
Choose gift cards from hundreds of vendors through the Chase portal and redeem to a gift card. We recommend NOT doing this over cash back as the ratio is the same and cash is more flexible.
1 point = 1 cent
1000 points = $10.00
10,000 points = $100.00
Those two are your only options unless you have a premium chase card (one that carries an annual fee). You need to be carrying one of these cards in order to access the Chase UR Travel portal. Each one comes with a bonus on points of up to %50 when redeeming for travel. They are as follows:
Chase Sapphire Preferred 25% Bonus
Chase Ink Plus 25% Bonus
Chase Ink Preferred 25% Bonus
Chase Sapphire Reserve 50% Bonus
Now let's look at what your Chase UR are worth when booking for travel.
25% Travel Bonus: 100 points = $1.25
1 point = 1.25 cents
1000 points = $12.50
10,000 points = $125.00
50% Travel Bonus: 100 points = $1.50
1 point = 1.50 cents
1000 points = $15.00
10,000 points = $150.00
As you can see, booking travel through Chase using your points will yield a higher return than redeeming for cash or gift. This is not to say that the cash back option holds no value, but merely that it is a less lucrative option.
"Redeeming for travel will always yield a higher return than redeeming for cash back."
Now to get into the most rewarding and lucrative redemption option which is transferring to travel partners. Bear with me as I attempt to break this down into the most easily digestible format (It took me months to "figure this out" myself).
As I have mentioned before, Chase UR points transfer to each of their 11 travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. You must have a rewards account open and active with the respective party before you can transfer points but this is a simple, free and quick process done on the partner website. Below, you will find an up to date list of all Chase travel partners.
The tricky thing about transferring points is that each program has unique values for their points. What you are going to want to do is familiarize yourself with all the programs award charts. An award chart is a key published by the award programs owner meant for members to use to decipher how many of the programs points they need to get to a destination. It is important to note that not all programs publish an award chart, such as Southwest and Air France for example. So it won't always be easy finding your best redemption. Many times though, there are blogs that do a fantastic job of producing a fairly accurate mock award chart such as this one for Flying Blue. When you can't find one on the website, try a quick google search and you may get lucky.
"Unfortunately, not all travel partners publish and award chart."
I am going to again stress that you really need to take some time getting to know the nuances of each award program, but to help get you started, I will give you a few redemption examples using three different award programs. Two for airfare and one for hotels. For your convenience, regarding airfare redemptions, I will be using one with a published award chart, United's MileagePlus, and one without, Air France's Flying Blue. For the one hotel example, I will be using Merriot. All Hotel programs have an award chart. For each example, I will assume we started with an available 50,000 Chase UR which has a cash back value of $500.
UNITED MILEAGE PLUS
So since UR transfer at a ratio of 1:1, we will have a potential 50,000 United miles to work with. Here are some examples of flights you can book with 50K UR/UM at your disposal according to United's award chart assuming the point of origin is within the lower 48 states.
Round Trip in Business Class to 48 States for 50,000 Points
Round Trip in Economy Class to Caribbean for 35,000 Points
Round Trip in Economy Class to Hawaii for 45,000 Points
One Way in First Class to Hawaii for 50,000 Points
Round Trip in Economy Class to Mexico for 35,000 Points
One Way in Economy Class to Europe for 30,000 Points
One Way in Economy Class to North Africa for 40,000 Points
"50,000 Chase UR can net you a $2000 one way flight to Hawaii in First Class when transferred to United."
As you can see, 50,000 UR points can take you a LOT further than $500 in cash will. A one way ticket from Boston to Honolulu in first class STARTS at $2000 flying United. That is 4x the cash value of your 50K in UR. It is also just a little less than 3x more valuable than the $750 your points would be worth when used towards booking this same flight through chase with the Sapphire Reserve. Next.
AIR FRANCE FLYING BLUE
Just like with United and ALL of the other Chase partners, UR transfer 1:1 so we will be dealing with a potential 50,000 FLB points. They do not publish an award and instead will have to go through their websites miles calculator to price flights. What you do is plug in your origin airport, mine is Boston Logan, so I will go with that, and then choose your destination and class (Economy). Lastly, choose whether you want a one way or return ticket. The calculator totals the points needed, so rest assured that when you choose "return" that the number shown will be the total amount needed for both legs of your trip. Here are some examples:
Round Trip in Economy Class to Hawaii for 30,000 Points
One Way in Business Class to Hawaii for 30,000 Points
Round Trip in Economy Class to Paris for 50,000 Points
Round Trip in Economy Class to Italy for 50,000 Points
One Way in Economy Class to Egypt for 40,000 Points
Hotel rewards are priced by, you guessed it, how fancy the hotel is. Marriott chooses to separate their properties into 9 categories with category one properties being the lowest and least expensive and category 9 being the most prestige. Check out the award chart and category links below.
Pretty easy to see what your points get you here. With our 50,000 UR we can redeem 1 night at a category 9 hotel like the JW Marriott Hong Kong, 2 nights at a category 5 such as the Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, or take advantage of Marriott's 5th night free when you redeem 4 nights and stay 6 nights at a category 2 like the Moxy in Milan.
That's it guys! This is a wrap for the first section of "What are my points/miles worth. Hopefully after reading, you have a much better understanding of how points and miles work and how much they are worth. Please leave us your feedback and or questions in the comments section below! Cheers!