Is inflation affecting travel points and miles?

Put simply: Cash prices went way up this year and award prices (e.g., the number of miles needed to book a flight) also went up, but not as much. Airfares were 33% higher in September 2022 than that month in the year prior, according to the September Consumer Price Index report. Meanwhile, airline miles are valued only 8.7% higher on average than last year, according to the analysis from NerdWallet.

If cash prices tumble again, this effect of boosted points and miles values could get erased. But as long as prices remain high, travelers can nab outsized value from their points and miles — assuming they use them for high-value redemptions.

STATIC VS. DYNAMIC AWARD PRICES

In the old days of frequent flyer programs, a route would cost a given number of miles, regardless of the cash price. So a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco would always cost, say, 5,000 miles. Yet the industry has trended away from the award chart approach toward dynamic award prices, which fluctuate to match the cash price. These programs generally offer less value when cash prices are high.

“The best redemptions when cash prices are high will be through programs that don’t tie their currency to the dollar,” Funk said.

Travelers should target programs like Hyatt, Wyndham or Alaska Airlines that still use an award chart to determine the cost of using points and miles. Conversely, Funk cited Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways as examples of programs that tie their rewards point values closely to the cash price of the flight.

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