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Fixed-value points and miles don’t get near as much attention as their transferable counterparts, but they form an essential part of any solid points and miles strategy. They:
- Are immune to the devaluations so common to frequent flyer programs
- Are simple programs that don’t require any specialized knowledge of award charts or partners
- Have are no blackout dates
- Allow you to earn frequent flyer miles, elite qualification miles and elite qualification dollars when you redeem
Which Cards Offer Fixed-Value Points?
Alongside the some well known fixed-value cards most familiar to U.S. travelers, a few new fixed-value cards have entered the market over the past 12 months.
- Barclaycard Arrival Miles – Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® – Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days. (see terms)
- Capital One Venture Miles – Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
- US Bank FlexPerks – FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card – Earn 20,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 4 months
- US Bank Altitude Points – U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card – Earn 50,000 bonus points worth $750 on travel when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days
- Bank of America Rewards – Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card – 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
- Discover Miles – Discover it® Miles Card – Discover will match all the miles you've earned at the end of your first year
We rate the Arrival Plus our favorite in the fixed-value points category as it offers the best mix of points and travel protection, sports a decent signup bonus, and waives the annual fee for the first year.
If you’re looking for a solid short-term return on spend, the Discover it® Miles Card earns a flat 1.5 points per dollar on everything, and Discover will match all the miles you earn in the first 12 months, and there's no annual fee. If you can rack up some big spending on the card in the first 12 months, you’ll double your return to three points for every dollar you spend, redeemable against any travel expense.
The new Altitude Reserve deserves a hot mention here too. Although it sports a $400 annual fee, you can redeem points for 1.5¢ per point on any airfare, hotel, or car rental service. This card also comes with $325 back in annual travel credits, effectively making the annual fee $75.
Fixed-Value Points Don't Don't Lose Their Value
Fixed-value points retain their value and are less susceptible to rewards program devaluations. When Delta pulls one of its regular, unannounced devaluations, the value of your SkyMiles goes down as it now requires more of them to get where you're going.
Fixed-value points, on the other hand, are simply worth 1¢ per point when redeemed against a travel expense, the value remains at 1¢ whether the award price goes up or down, as the value is tied to the cash-price of the ticket. Yes, the Altitude Reserve is an exception as those points are worth 1.5¢ each, but you get the point — they're a fixed-value. Never more, never less.
In the current market of cheap transatlantic airfares, the Arrival Plus comes into its own as a fixed-value rewards card. It allows you to purchase heavily discounted tickets or mistake fares, and redeem the cost back as a statement credit, while still retaining the auto rental and trip delay insurance benefits you get with traditional travel rewards cards.
Easy to Redeem and Offer the Ultimate Flexibility
Fixed-value points don’t require any specialized knowledge of rewards programs, transfer partners, or award charts, you simply make the purchase on your card and apply the points as a statement credit against any travel charge.
There are some restrictions depending on the card or merchant, for example, you can only redeem miles from the Arrival Plus for charges over $100, and across the board, the merchant needs to code as a ‘travel’ expense if you want to redeem miles against a charge.
If your travel dates aren’t flexible or you’re trying to travel around Christmas or Thanksgiving, you’ll find it much easier just to purchase a ticket with your card and redeem the points back as a statement credit.
One of the significant drawbacks to earning traditional points and miles is that you’re handicapped by blackout dates and award availability. With fixed-value points, as long as there are still seats available to purchase, you can buy them using a fixed-value points card and redeem the points against the charge for a penny a piece.
This also applies to mistake fares and cheap airlines that aren't part of a rewards program; you can purchase the cheapest ticket available across any airline or OTA, and still redeem points against the expense.
Earn Miles and Elite Status Credits
As you’re buying outright, not redeeming points or miles within a particular program, you’ll still earn points/miles and elite status credits. For anyone trying to attain or retain elite status, this is a huge plus.
You should also factor the miles you’ll earn when paying cash for a ticket, and add it to the decision of whether you use fixed-value or transferrable points for a flight.
Redeem for Award Fees and Taxes and Retain Travel Insurance
Barclaycard updated the travel protection on the Arrival Plus earlier in 2017, adding a $300 trip delay feature into the card’s benefits. Even better news is that you don’t have to purchase a ticket to get the coverage! When booking an award with any program, you can use the Arrival Plus to pay the taxes and fees, redeem your Arrival Miles against the charge, and you’re still covered by Barclaycard’s travel protection insurance.
Use for Hotels/Airbnb (Lodging Not Part of a Rewards Program)
We regularly sing the praises of Airbnb as an alternative to chain hotels when availability is slim, or there is little coverage in that area. Unfortunately, Airbnb doesn’t have a rewards program, so unlike Hilton or Starwood, you can’t redeem points for your stays. You can, however, redeem fixed-value points against the expense of vacation rentals like Airbnb and VRBO that don’t fall under the umbrella of a rewards program. Just be sure to pick up a few SkyMiles when you book with Airbnb.
When Not to Use Fixed-Value Points
Fixed-value points are best used for cheap domestic tickets or mistake fares, award taxes and fees, or vacation rentals and hostels. Generally speaking, use fixed-value points when the cash price of the item is low enough that you can’t justify redeeming frequent flyer miles or transferrable points, which are more valuable when redeemed towards business and first class redemptions that can cost thousands of dollars.
For instance, if a domestic award is 25,000 miles or $187.00, you would get better value redeeming 18,700 fixed-value points at 1¢ per point. However, for an international business class award that costs 80,000 miles or $4,500, you’re better off spending the miles as opposed to dropping 450,000 fixed-value points. Just run the numbers!
Fixed-value currencies like those earned via the Arrival Plus have a fixed redemption value of 1¢ per point, but you can redeem them for a wide variety of travel expenses ranging from cheap domestic airfares to vacation rentals or the cost of car hire. Fixed-value points should be on your radar as part of a well-balanced rewards strategy, to help pay for incidentals and travel expenses not typically covered by points and miles, or where you’re likely to get less than one cent per point in value using program-specific awards.
If you have any questions or a fixed-value tip you’d like to share, please reach out in the comments.
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