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Trying to decide which travel rewards card to apply for? If you've got visions of 50,000-point sign-up bonuses and jet-setting around the globe, there's a fun website you might want to consult before taking the plunge – because not all rewards points are created equal.
RewardStock, a website geared toward helping people plan and execute reward travel with ease and financial efficiency, hosts a tool that is something of a daily market ticker for credit card reward points. Click on to the website's Market Data section, and you'll see a running list of airline, hotel, and credit card rewards, which updates daily with the value of the reward in cents.
As you can see, there are some striking chasms in reward-program value. A 30,000-point sign-up bonus through American Airlines would be worth about $580 at the time we checked, while the same points for Delta would be worth only about $265, according to RewardStock's calculations.
If you click on an individual reward program, you get more granular data — including how the reward value has changed. Here's what that looks like for Chase Ultimate Rewards, one of the most popular programs in the US thanks in part to the blockbuster release of its Chase Sapphire Reserve card last summer:
You can also see how much value you would gain or lose if you transferred points to a different program and how a program compares with its direct competitors.
Chase's Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2.24 cents apiece, compared with 1.2 cents for Merrill Lynch's program – an 87% spread. On a 50,000-point sign-up bonus — a figure that's becoming ever more common — your reward through Chase would be worth $520 more. That's enough for a round-trip flight to Paris.
So just how does RewardStock come up with its figures? At its most basic, it's determining the amount of money that you'd save with a program, divided by the number of required points. It takes into account taxes and availability, as well as an array of other factors.
Hudson Callaway, a company spokesman, provided a more detailed explanation:
"We pull up-to-date pricing data on thousands of flights and hotels representing millions of potential redemption options, and use this data to calculate the cash equivalent value of reward point currencies. ... Measuring this value across hundreds of thousands of redemption options for each program allows us to calculate a robust profile of potential values for the program, and determine the average value of those points."
Not interested in comparing the values of the myriad rewards programs yourself? If you sign up for a RewardStock account (it's free), it will help you identify reward programs and travel itineraries best suited for your needs.
"Every program is different, and our system accounts for the different rules that make some programs more valuable than others," Callaway told Business Insider. "Sometimes the results are surprising."
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