Valuing my points – what I REALLY got over my last year of redemptions

Valuing miles and points is a thankless task.  I wrote this long piece on valuing Avios points but all it does is show you how complex it can be.  I also tend to throw out valuations of hotel points in articles – 0.4p-0.5p for IHG, 1.5p for Starwood, 0.5p for Marriott, 1p for Hyatt, 0.33p for Hilton, 0.5p for Club Carlson – without justification.

Last October I did a similar article on what I had done during 2016.  Since all of my travel for 2017 is now done or booked, I thought it was a good time to take another look.

For the last four years or so I have been tracking most of my redemptions.  I thought it would be interesting to share some of my findings.

Avios

I have spent 1.8m Avios points in 2017 although this includes 144,000 for next year and some tickets which were technically booked for Head for Points purposes rather than my own leisure travel.

(Whilst I don’t adjust for it in these figures, redeeming for Head for Points purposes is not actually very smart.  If I had paid cash, it would have been a tax deductible business expense so £1 of cost only becomes 60p out of my pocket.  Sometimes I just can’t bear to pay cash unnecessarily, however.)

The largest redemption was 380,000 Avios for our Asia holiday at Easter.  That comprised 4 x Club World down to Hong Kong, 4 x First Class back from Beijing and the use of two 2-4-1 vouchers.  That got me 2.0p per Avios, adjusting for taxes, assuming that I would have had to pay £10,000 for four ex-UK tickets for cash over peak Easter dates.

That was also my most valuable redemption of the year.  It even beat the Salzburg tickets we had to book using ‘double Avios’ (a Gold member perk) to go skiing over February half-term, at a time when cash tickets were £600 each.

The worst value redemption I did was actually the flight back from Palma last month, deliberately routing via Madrid, but that was done primarily to allow me to review the aircraft for the site.  That cost me 21,750 Avios one-way in business class.

The rest is a mix of good value short-haul flights, partly personal and partly for HFP, internal flights in Asia and four one-way Club World Dubai flights for later this month.  Short-haul flights were valued at the lower of what I would have paid, the cash price on the day or the economy price plus assumed upgrade cost.

Based on my conservative valuations of flight values, I averaged 1.3p per point across the 1.8m Avios.  This is same valuation I achieved in 2016 but that isn’t really a coincidence, since I did a similar mix of short and long-haul redemptions and used the same ‘cash alternative’ values.

Calculator 2

Virgin Flying Club

I did two Virgin Atlantic redemptions this year.

One was a one-way Upper Class flight from New York to London for 40,000 points plus taxes.  I value that at a notional £875 which meant 1.3p per point.

(For the record, if you can remember my review of that flight, Virgin still refuses to explain why I was moved from the service I booked to a later flight with second-rate seating, or why I was not informed of the change – although they claim their system should have triggered an email at the point I was transferred.  Other HFP readers have suffered the same fate.)

I also moved 30,000 points to IHG Rewards Club to trigger my Spire Elite renewal and, with it, a further 25,000 IHG Reward Club bonus points.  Getting 55,000 IHG points worth 0.4p each means a value of 0.73p per Virgin mile.  This is artificially low, however, as renewing Spire also means I earn more bonus points on all IHG cash stays in 2018 plus should receive better upgrades.

Starwood Preferred Guest

I tend to quote 1.5p per point.  However, I did incredibly well this year and achieved 3.0p per point.

This was due to two exceptionally good redemptions, both achieved by transferring Starwood points to Marriott Rewards.  We did two nights x two rooms at The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto over Easter and we have three nights in a villa at The Ritz-Carlton desert resort in Ras Al-Khaimah next week.

I actually understate the value of the Kyoto redemption. The rooms we booked on points were selling for £1,000 per room per night as it was Easter.  We would never have paid that in reality, so I have assumed we only ‘saved’ £500 – which would have got us a 3-star in that particular, cherry blossom, Easter week.

I will discuss the desert resort in Ras when I get back.  Note that the current astonishingly low rate of 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night (13,333 Starwood points) will go up sharply on 1st November.  The cash rate next week is over £800 per night – October half term is super-peak season in the Middle East.

I also redeemed 15,000 SPG points for two tickets in the SPG Suite to see Celine Dion at the O2, to keep my wife happy 🙂  I valued that at £200 (£200 for my wife’s box seat and £0 for mine!).

Tesco Clubcard

I have also been tracking my Tesco Clubcard redemptions.  As I wrote three years ago, the bulk of my points pay our quarterly Safestore storage bill!  I can’t justify taking Avios when Safestore give me 300% of the face value.

Because most of my Tesco redemptions this year were for Safestore vouchers, I got almost exactly 3p per Clubcard point.

Safestore is no longer a Clubcard partner.  However, Uber recently signed up and also gives exactly 3p per Clubcard point of value.  Given our regular use of Uber, I can’t justify using Tesco points for Avios when I can get 3p per Clubcard point elsewhere.

American Express Membership Rewards

I usually get out-size value for my American Express points but this is due to a quirk which few people can use.  Redeeming at peak times for Jumeirah beach hotels in Dubai sees me getting around 3p per Membership Rewards points.

Jumeirah Sirius is no longer a UK American Express partner but it is a partner with the International $ Card.  As I also have an International $ card, I can move my UK Amex points to the $ card Membership Rewards scheme, get a bonus based on the current exchange rate and redeem from there.  I was lucky enough to move a lot of points to the $ card when the exchange rate was £1 = $1.60 compared to the current $1.30.

However, we didn’t do that this year.  Instead, my redemptions were mainly for Emirates Skywards miles (to get us home from Dubai later this month), Hilton Honors points and Eurostar Frequent Traveller.

I averaged about 1.2p for the points I transferred.

Other hotel programmes

I am still happy with my quoted range of 0.4p – 0.5p per IHG point valuation.  That said, the lure of Accelerate bonus points and the fact that we have two Ambassador 2-4-1 vouchers between me and my wife to spend each year means that we don’t redeem as often as we could.

I have done a lot of Hilton Honors redemptions this year.   Whilst I generally quote a value of 0.33p per Hilton point, we actually managed 0.5p overall on completed stays to date.  This was due to stays in several places which are disproportionately expensive – Tokyo during cherry blossom season, Beijing and the all-suite Conrad New York.  A future booking for Bath on a pre-Christmas weekend also worked out at 0.5p.

An upcoming Hilton stay in Bournemouth is only getting the usual 0.33p per point, but I have booked that as a favour for a group of friends (we have 5 rooms in total!).  A booking at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport also came out at 0.3p, so I don’t see any need to increase my value of Hilton points. I hope to do a review of both the new Hampton and new Hilton in Bournemouth.  Does the UK finally have a high quality seaside hotel bookable on points?

The only Club Carlson redemption I did was the Park Inn Southend On Sea, reviewed here, which was surprisingly good.  I got 0.43p per point, better than the standard 0.33p per point I usually quote for Carlson.

Other airline programmes

My Emirates flights back from Dubai later this month were technically very poor value due to the high taxes added on.  However, in reality, I doubt I could have actually got cash flights for my notional value given it is half term.  The Qatar Airways blockade means that the alternative Avios route home, via Doha, is now blocked.

I never worked out a value for my Lufthansa First Class flight to New York.  It’s something you do because it is a great experience, not because you want to maximise your pence per mile.

Conclusion

I am not trying to ‘prove’ anything with this article, except perhaps to show that the valuations I quote are based on experience and not plucked out of the air.

If you have fewer points than me then you should be able to beat my returns because you are in a position to hold out for the best deal. I tend to use points whenever I can, within reason, if it saves me using cash.  Your value per Avios point will also be a lot higher than mine if you always redeem with a BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher or only ever use points to upgrade.

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Comments

  1. Richard G says:

    Out of interest, how did the 4 x Business class tickets out / 4 x First class tickets in work on the 2-4-1 vouchers? I was unaware that you could book two different classes for in / out.

    • Genghis says:

      So as long as two tickets are available in the same class to use the 241 it’s fine. Ie. F out, J back. Seemingly can’t book F out and Y back online but I presume bookable on the phone?

    • The problem I’ve found is that the booking system will only show 3 classes, e.g WT, WTP, CW or WTP, CW, First. I don’t know why there’s no function to move between the classes so you can see all four. So online you can book CW out and WT back, but not First out and WT back.

      • Use the avios.com website and you see all four classes ( for BA)

        • Can’t use the 2 4 1 voucher there though!

        • @anna – good for searching for availability for all four classes though…

        • My understanding is BAEC and Avios.com availability are entirely separate, and so not indicative of availability either way.

          Search: ‘BA redemption finder’ and you’ll find a good BA redemption availability site linked in a relatively recent HFP article.

      • Yes, that is very annoying. They have just updated the website (graphics at least) but have kept the ‘only three classes’ feature!

  2. James Ward says:

    Rob – my accountant advises that flights bought with points *can* be claimed as a business expense at the equivalent cash price. I put them through as out of pocket expenses, as if I’d paid my own cash for the tickets, because the points belong to me and not the company.

    I just booked BA CW to San Diego for next month, using this year’s Lloyds upgrade voucher and 65,000 Avios. Current cash price of a fully flexible ticket is over £10k. Don’t think I can quite get justify putting that much through but I certainly think it’s reasonable to say that a cancellable Avios ticket is worth more than the cheapest non-cancellable cash ticket (~£3,000).

    • Different accountants have different opinions but this seems pretty unusual. The reason for needing dated receipts for expensed items (rather than a menu of RRP list prices) is to expense what you are precisely out of pocket by, not the notional value of the thing – surely? For example, if you had a 50% off voucher to buy a desk half price, wouldn’t you use the receipt showing your actual payment? – you wouldn’t expense twice what you paid (reimbursing yourself half the cost of the desk for the voucher) would you?

      • Genghis says:

        What accountants think and what HMRC think are two different things. For earning, points are outside the scope of tax. For spending, it would therefore be strange that their cash equivalent be an allowable expense for CT / IT for trade purposes. Do you have any supporting HMRC guidance?

        • If you could either show a price to purchase the points on the day you booked the redemption, or a cash ticket price on day of booking this would seem to be acceptable.

          I would always claim the lowest price personally to show you are reasonable.

          If you flip it around then assuming you are using the points for a legitimate business spend then how do you value them for accounting purposes?

        • Genghis says:

          @Will. The issue is over valuation. Ie. Points bought from BA would result in a profit to you, what you got them for (difficult to assess). Point being is it even allowable to use personal points for business expenditure (and claim it as tax deductible if self employed) or claim back (if employed)? I’m an accountant (though don’t do personal tax) and I don’t know.

    • Surely you would need to sell the points to your company and therefore incur a personal tax liability?

      • A valid question but I’m not sure “selling” the points to the company is the correct way of looking at it.

        You wouldn’t “sell” a ticket you bought for cash to the company. You personally acquire a ticket, which has value, for corporate use.

        I’ve purchase this bag with personally owned gift cards for company use then filed this as an expense but with gift cards they do have a clearly defined value. It’s the same theory though, I’m not selling the company the gift card, I’m actually expensing an item acquired personally for company use.

    • Lady London says:

      I purchased some avios recently. Even more recently due to impossibly high cash prices, I used avios to buy a ticket instead. I will be providing the receipt for the avios I purchased, so that a value I paid for the avios can be easily imputed, and will be drawing the equivalent cash from the company.

      If HMRC query it then there’s a clear valuation for the avios that was actually paid in cash and an unchallengeable business use for the avios ticket that some of those avios were used to purchase.

      I don’t expect a challenge from either HMRC or my accountant on this.
      If I had paid the rack rate to purchase the avios from British Airways (which I didn’t) then I would be taking the correspondingly higher amount for the avios out of the company.

      I also kept a record of the cash prices on offer at the time so it can be clearly seen that I did not overpay for the avios and am only claiming what they cost and that is clearly less than the company otherwise would have paid.

    • Yes they *could* be claimed but there are many grey areas where similar things can be done but might be frowned upon by HMRC, in this points case if your earning the points through business spend it wouldn’t be a wise decision to then try and sell the points back to the business. IMO better in the long run to not try and claim the points as expenses but perhaps the taxes where there is a clear cost incurred to avoid any potential questions in the future.

  3. Not tempted to do a freedom of information request with virgin? Could be kind of interesting…!

    • I know Oli Byers who runs FC now, as well as many of the team. If they don’t want to tell me, they don’t want to tell me.

    • FOI only applies to public bodies. Private companies aren’t governed by it.
      Under Data Protection act you have the right to a copy of your personal data held by organisations, but I’m not sure the reason why a flight change was made would count as personal data.

  4. Rob – how did you manage to accumulate 1.8 million Avios in 1 year?
    Any chance you could write an article on that? Would be interesting to know how to spend “smart”.

    • I didn’t say I’d accumulated them, I said I’d spent them 🙂

      Most of these date back to the days when I was getting 2.5 miles per £1 on a MasterCard and paying massive tax bills. How I got 1.1 million from Lloyds is documented here – http://www.headforpoints.com/2012/07/10/goodbye-to-the-lloyds-tsb-duo-avios-cards-after-1-1m-avios/

      • 25 avios per £!?!! Have you got a time machine?

      • Ok I see. I was thinking that you might have roughly accumulated close to 1m avios p.a. and was wondering what the best strategy is.
        Still, would love to read a “reverse” article, where you write about not how you spent but how and how much you EARNED avios in 2017 for example!

        • The best way to earn a load of points is if you own a business and can put all your spend through a credit card.

      • Wish I had been in the points game when that lloyds avios card came out!

        • the real harry1 says:

          were you in on the 3V bonanza, Lev441? 🙂

        • @the real harry1 Yes, but only once relaunched as pay.com giftcards. Luckily I lived only a few mins away from a large Tesco extra which always seemed to have stock replenished once every couple of weeks..the checkout ladies knew me by name by the end!
          Waiting for the next mega points opportunity in hope!

  5. the real harry1 says:
    • Ronster says:

      Thank You Harry for your time.

      I will have to make it up this year with a drink a Rob’s xmas event.

      Hopefully this will be going ahead.

      • As soon as we find someone to write a cheque, we’ll let you know 🙂

      • Hi Ronster, you have re surfaced!

        harry and I think you were maybe dreaming up that Tesco gift card offer… we are all searching in vain in our local Tesco stores for this tiny sign indicating this new offer…i.e. The great 300 PST for £100 spend. Any update by any chance. Genghis, any luck out your way??

        And yes we are hoping this xmas party will go ahead …

        • Ronster says:

          Polly a very good evening to you.

          I actually was thanking Harry in advance for any information.

          Then I saw his and your replies to the first link I posted. regarding my EU fight claim.

          I will now read it and clarify where “Harry got lost” But No. it was not a Finnair flight.

          My reply will be on by tonight.

          Regarding the Tesco store.I am just going to have to bite the bullet and report back on what the TESCO management at the large store told me. That by buying £100.00 in Tesco gift cards, you would earn 300 club card points and then you could then use them to double up and buy another £100 of gift cards and earn another 300 club card points.

          In effectively earning for £100, 600 club card points/ 250 x 600= 1,440 avios.

          I was waiting on someone on having bit the bullet and spent their hard earned cash on this experiment..

          However, it looks like I am having to try it out and report back.

          R

        • Ronster says:

          This is what I asked management.They said that the signs above the gift card section for the 300 club card on £100 applied to “ALL CARDS”.

          We shall wait and see

          R

        • You don’t earn points on the Tesco gift cards, you can however use them to buy other gift cards. In this case buy the Tesco gift card from somewhere that gives you a discount on them.

        • Thanks Ronster.. honestly no sign of this 300 Cc pts for £100 spend offer in my near stores. I go buy a 3100 Tesco GC day after but no points added at all. It would be truly amazing if it happens, just in time for xmas spend too! Maybe it was a local offer…

      • the real harry1 says:

        no problem – I stuck it on the older posts after your question

        • New Card says:

          Couldn’t you buy another tesco gc with the original tesco gc and repeat ad infinitum @ 300pts per go?

        • According to the FAQ on Tesco’s website, you don’t earn CC points for purchasing a Tesco GC

          https://www.giftcards.tesco.com/help/page1

        • rams1981 says:

          You definitely don’t early club card points on Tesco gift cards. I’ve bought 2x £50 in Tesco Esso last few days to trigger the £5 offer on Amex cards.

          One card had both £5 offers saved and got both £5 back.

          Another card which I’m waiting to see emailed to say it qualified for £5 off and £10 spend at Tesco for 500 avios…

          The wording is confusing as it says valid once per card but then for every transaction. Need to try the same card again in next day or so to see if it triggers…

  6. Not forgetting of course the Daily Telegraph app clubcard redemptions, which was about 15p a point. unfortunately now gone.