Not long ago, I applied for a Best Western Mastercard offering 48k points on first purchase and no annual fee, followed by a targeted offer of 16k BW on 3 months of spending $750, I found myself wondering how I would value these but assumed $.01/pt initially. Since then, I’ve meant to go back and do a more formal value analysis. In retrospect, I think it’s a bit lower.
As background, establishing a dollar value for points isn’t to imply that you can buy/sell them readily. Instead, it’s a tool to evaluate options such as whether to pay cash for a room or use points, which points to use, whether transferring to other programs makes sense, and so forth. The dollar valuation applied to the currency is really just a tool to compare options. While this method has its flaws, it’s nonetheless a very useful tool. Some time ago, I took the time to discuss why and how one goes through the exercise of valuing points in dollar terms.
Best Western points are best used, by far, on free nights. Merchandise and airline transfers represent relatively poor values clustered around $.004/pt (aka $4 per 1000 points). For the points collector likely reading this, I suggest not redeeming Best Western rewards unless you are receiving $.008 ($8 per 1000 points) in value or better and thus would set my award value there. The points do not expire so you can afford to wait.
With one of the most extensive worldwide networks of hotels, a limited number of points in this program can be very useful, even to those that prefer programs such as Hyatt, Starwood, Priority Club, and Hilton. Further, there are a surprising number of hotels in the Premier category worldwide that offer premium levels of service and may even be aspirational. Don’t write off the brand.
Free nights range between 4,000 and 36,000 points per night.
As an initial pricing exercise, I searched for 12 hotels on generally random dates (always Fridays) that would appeal to us (often we’ve been to these places or have interest). I didn’t deeply investigate different options in these locations when multiple choices were available and tended toward hotels that were more central to the city and which were on the higher end, typical of what we’d be looking for. In most cases, more than one room type was available at the same rate in points. In those cases, I used the average rate. I called in to the Best Western reservations center and they indicated that taxes are included in Best Western awards (in other words, no taxes/fees generally due at checkout). Unfortunately, I’d gathered pricing data excluding taxes/fees and so added an across the board 15% which seems to be a fair estimate of taxes/fees. The summary is below however you can also take a look at the data. With a non-random sample of 12, don’t put too much stock in these numbers.
For the very casual award traveler, one could argue that the median value of $.0067 (e.g. 12000 points * $.0067/point = $80.40) should be used as their stays are likely essentially random and not focused on maximizing value. That said, they probably aren’t reading award travel blogs! For those of us that are trying to maximize value, we probably choose to pay cash rather than use miles poorly or have access to multiple hotel programs such that we can pick the best award values or at least avoid the worst. I think in that case, we could at least eliminate the bottom 3rd in which case the average (median) of the middle and top thirds rises to $.008. I believe that’s pretty fair and achievable. As a reality check, Orlando near Disney World, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur, and New York all offer awards greater than $.008/BW in my sample. There’s a little something for everyone there.
NOTE: One other complication to this type of analysis that I want to highlight – If Best Western market rates are uncompetitively high, this will inflate the $ per Point. An ideal approach to this sort of analysis would be to sample a set of competitive and similar chain and non-chain hotels but I hope you’ll cut me some slack here.
Transfers usually aren’t great but when you can usefully convert points to something you do want and which has a pretty firmly established value, this often provides a floor value. BW transfers to Aeroplan (Air Canada), Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, US Air, TACA, and Asiana at 5000 BW : 1000 Airline. Lucky valued AA at $.018 recently thus BW points are worth $.0036/pt when used this way. BW also transfer to Southwest but at a ratio of 5000 BW : 1200 Southwest. Given that I value Southwest at $.018, this transfer values them at $.0043/pt.
Gift Cards & Merchandise
There are a variety of gift cars available. Most interesting to me would be Shell/Exxon gift cards at 6500 BW : $25 USD however that amounts to a poor $.0038/pt and the rest of the offers are clustered pretty close to that rate. There are a couple of charities available at $.01/pt if you prefer those.
No surprise, the best non-charity gift cards are Best Western Travel Cards available to elite members at 11000 BW : $50 USD which still amounts to a poor $.0045/pt.
As I’ve said before, values of awards on redemption are independent of the rate of earning though both should be considered when evaluating a given action (e.g. renting a car, staying in a hotel, etc). The major exception, in my opinion, is rarity. If you’re heading to a small market, Best Western may be the only program available and even a poor award may be a good value to you and when no number of Starpoints may get the job done. I won’t fully evaluate means of earning here but a few comments are worth mentioning:
- Barclays offers a Best Western Mastercard but the sign-up bonuses are typically poor. The highest I’ve heard (and applied for) of is 48k and that was targeted.
- American Express transfers Membership Rewards to Best Westeren at 1000:1000. I don’t recall ever noticing a bonus and would consider this a poor use of Amex MR in almost all cases.
- Some car rentals can be credited to BW, including at least Avis at 1000 BW per rental. Currently, Avis and Budget are offering 750 bonus BW for a 2 day rental. These could be competitive but likely only in rare cases.
- The 2012 Daily Getaways promotion of the US Travel Association offered 10,000 BW for $67 ($60.30 if purchased with an Amex) – Not worth doing unless you have a plan as I don’t recommend speculating on points unless the cost is approximately 33% of their value.
- And stays! The best way, with bonuses, of course. Unfortunately, my preferred method of Best Rate Guarantees for nearly free stays that also generate points is defunct.