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.
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.
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!).
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.
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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