Thursday, January 9, 2014

Points & Miles Status Check

So it's always a good idea to take stock in your points/mile balances to see where you're at with your travel goals. Sometimes you'll realize you need just a few more points from one hotel or airline to achieve your travel award goals. Other times, you'll realize you have more than enough of one kind of "currency" so you'll shift your earning into other types.

My obsessive father likes to check every 2 minutes on his AwardWallet app, but most well-adjusted people probably check a few times a year. I realize that some people have literally millions of points in each category, so clearly we're not trying to show off our modest balances. But since we get some people asking us, I just wanted them to see what can be achieved in a year if you're smart about your work trips, family vacations, personal credit and daily spending.

So as of the beginning of this year, here's where my family stands in our combined reward points & mile balances (and this is after our crazy travel schedule in 2013 when we redeemed a lot of our points):

  • United Miles: 144,276 miles
  • American Miles: 381,406 miles
  • US Airways Miles: 38,920 miles
  • British Airways: 121,700 miles
  • Aegean Miles: 30,044 miles
  • Starwood Points: 167,298 points
  • IHG Points: 294,024 points
  • Hyatt: 1,519 points
  • Hilton: 39,670 points
Bank Points
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: 349,909 points
  • Citi Thank You: 208,933 points
  • American Express Membership Rewards: 658 points
Of course, it's important to remember that not every point is created equal. It's easiest to think of them like different foreign currencies. A peso isn't worth the same as a euro or a dollar.

But if you really needed a very conservative approximate $ value for your point totals, you can just assume $0.01 per point across the board to see how much you could redeem these points for (i.e., 294,024 IHG points = $2,940 of potential redemption value). But to be fair having 658 Amex MR is actually worth nothing because it's not enough to redeem for anything. And on the other side of the argument, my family has often been able to get anywhere from 2-5 cents/pt of value from many of our points (Starwood, United). So the only real takeaway is this: "If you can get points for free, might as well take them, because they're worth more than $0."

Of course, I have to warn you that at any point in time the Airline or Hotel program can suddenly decide to raise the prices of its free flight / night awards, thereby instantly reducing your precious points to a mere fraction of their prior value.

Such Devaluation, in fact, recently happened for most of these programs over the past few months, including United, Hyatt and especially Hilton (which raised the price of its awards by almost 100% in some cases).

Plus, loyalty reward point "currency" is literally worthless almost anywhere outside the particular program they're in (much like Disney Dollars).

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