Rules of the sky

Since GetDebit is endeavoring to determine the value of the numerous airline frequent flyer programs in existence, it’s critical that we establish standards to enable a fair, apples-to-apples comparison amongst the various programs. For example, is 1 mile on an airline that only flies to London worth the same as 1 mile on an airline that flies to all major cities, all else equal? The answer is obviously, “no!”. Therefore, we need to figure out a standard for adjusting the value of the miles of the London-only airline downward by some factor to account for this limitation. So here is our attempt to lay out some of the standards and associated discounts, though bear in mind this will be a living, growing document.

Standards for Flight Routes

One of the first areas that requires standardization is flight routes. All else equal, miles on an airline that flies to major cities in 3 continents are worth more than miles on an airline flying only to Europe.

Standards for flight routes
# continents airline flies to Additional non-cash penalty
1 continent (min 3 cities)
  • Additional 10% non-cash penalty
  • Exception: US/NA-no penalty
2 continents (min 3 cities per continent)
  • Additional 5% non-cash penalty
  • Travel split is 50/50 between continents
3 continents (min 3 cities per continent)
  • No additional non-cash penalty
  • Option to exclude lowest $ val/mile continent unless value is within 10% of next lowest continent
  • Travel split is either 33% or 50% depending on whether 2 or 3 continents are used
<1 continent
  • For airlines that don’t have significant routes to at least 3 cities on at least 1 continent, we apply an additional 15% non-cash penalty.

Peak versus Non-Peak, or Restricted Versus Non-Restricted Flights

Certain airlines require more miles for peak travel versus non-peak travel, or more miles to be able to fly anytime versus seat supply limitations (aka blackout periods). Where the value of peak travel is at least $0.01 per mile, GetDebit assumes a 50-50 split between peak and non-peak travel. Where peak travel value drops below $0.01, GetDebit assumes 100% of travel is off-peak, but GetDebit adds an additional 10% inconvenience penalty to the non-cash penalty.

Inconvenience Penalty

Certain airlines have the majority of their flights as non-direct, which represents a major time-suck for travelers and should thus be penalized. GetDebit applies an additional 10% time-suck penalty for cases where the majority of routes appear to be connections.

Complimentary Companion Tickets

Some credit cards offer complimentary domestic/international airline tickets as an incentive. For economy-class companion tickets, GetDebit generally assumes that they will be monetized by the cardholder at the going market rate for such a flight. However, for Business Class or First Class companion tickets, GetDebit will generally create 2 card entries in the database-one showing how much the card would be worth if you actually used the companion ticket, and the other assuming you don’t make use of it.

Extra Rewards for Travel on Designated Airline

Sometimes airlines will offer 2x rewards for dollars spent on their airline (e.g. buying tickets), or some sort of reward tied to the number of miles you fly with them (say 1 extra mile per mile flown). Given the wide choice of airlines out there, and the competitiveness of the industry, GetDebit assumes that only 25% of your travel will be on a specific airline, so we allocate your spend and miles accordingly.

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