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Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your cards

ntx
Regular Contributor

Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your cards

Article dated 1/1/2021 from USA Today:

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2021/01/01/travel-loyalty-programs-should-you-keep-cut-...

 

I was a homebody even before covid, so I don't travel, and I don't have any primarily travel-benefit cards. But I know a lot of people do so thought this article may be of interest. 

Message 1 of 14
13 REPLIES 13
ghost-cell
Valued Member

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card

Maybe not remain loyal to who you are now, but I don't think you should write out travel entirely...

 

Wait it out and see which companies maintain good customer service w cancellations, moving dates around, etc. Does the card have an AF? Is your spend making the AF worth it?

 

Things like that to consider, and companies have to remember supply and demand. If no one's demanding their services anymore, maybe they have to think up new ways to drive up demand. I'm personally not writing off travel cards just yet. I still want a NFCU Flagship. But I'm interested to see how each cc company responds to the pandemic re:travel rewards and how cards evolve about it in time 

Have -


Want - Chase Freedom Flex, Chase Amazon, Navy Federal Flagship, Fidelity Visa, US Bank Cash+, Wells Fargo Propel, Venmo



Message 2 of 14
Mr_Mojo_Risin
Valued Contributor

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card


@ntx wrote:

Article dated 1/1/2021 from USA Today:

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2021/01/01/travel-loyalty-programs-should-you-keep-cut-...

 

I was a homebody even before covid, so I don't travel, and I don't have any primarily travel-benefit cards. But I know a lot of people do so thought this article may be of interest. 


Same. I didn't really travel much before the pandemic either. I wouldn't mind taking a little road trip in the future though. Lol 

Thanks for posting!

NFCU More Rewards 24K CL
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Previously Bowiefan
Message 3 of 14
sxa001
Established Contributor

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card

I stopped being quite as loyal to vendors before the pandemic.  When I was traveling a lot for work and had Platinum on American and think I was silver on Delta (which isn't really anything) I would choose American or Delta.  I had the credit cards (and for awhile had the American Executive card for lounge access back when they offered it no matter what airline you were flying as long as you had the card.  

 

When you have good status it can make a difference.  When you just have baseline status no one cares and last year when my work travel decreased I figured I would just fly whatever airline offered better prices.  Last year I flew in Spirit, Frontier and Southwest, I figured with some the really low prices I don't mind getting treated like cattle and it isn't like having entry level status on American or Delta is going to treat me differently. 

 

The Delta card is worth it for the companion pass still but I downgraded to the vase American Airlines card because even when we start to travel again I don't think I will fly American that much, certain routes make sense for direct flights that don't cost too much but I also got kind of tired of layovers in CLT or DFW all the time when I could fly other airlines direct to some routes.  

 

In the end unless your travel is paid for by a business you are probably better off booking travel on your.  Even frequent leisure travelers can save a ton if they are okay with middle seats on Frontier/Spirit/Allegiant. 

 

I will likely retain some loyalty to Marriot, I like their hotel brands and so does my wife and they exist at most places we go.  I am 31 nights from lifetime gold, which isn't a huge status to have but is good enough for free wifi and the 2PM checkout.  





Message 4 of 14
iced
Valued Contributor

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card


@ntx wrote:

Article dated 1/1/2021 from USA Today:

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2021/01/01/travel-loyalty-programs-should-you-keep-cut-...

 

I was a homebody even before covid, so I don't travel, and I don't have any primarily travel-benefit cards. But I know a lot of people do so thought this article may be of interest. 


Why are these two things associated with each other?

 

I own a grand total of 0 cards associated with my travel loyalty programs, so whether I stay or leave them (I'm staying in them) would have no bearing on whether or not I'm cutting up any cards.

 

The travel cards I do have are airline/hotel agnostic, so as long as I travel I'm fine.

 

The question this leaves me with is are there really that many people out there who's loyalty to a travel program is entirely dependent on a credit card? Are there really that many people who are loyal to Marriott only because they have a Marriott card and not because they like Marriott hotels when they travel?

Message 5 of 14
K-in-Boston
Moderator

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card

"it's a buyer's market for miles this year" - *shudder* Buying miles outright is very rarely a good move.  Topping off a balance with a small amount to redeem an award fare that you are a little short for?  Certainly.  Getting an incredibly low miles partner award worth many pennies per mile that you would have paid cash for instead?  Absolutely!  But buying 60,000 miles at $1200-1500 to redeem for something like a $600-$1000 flight is just wasting money, and losing out on earnings you would have received for not booking an award (Virgin Atlantic excepted).

 

Earnings are a key reason to have, obtain, or maintain status for the frequent traveler.  As a Delta Platinum, I earn 80% more miles on every flight than if I had no status.  As a Marriott Titanium, I earn 75% more points on every stay than if I had no status, plus a welcome gift that on a cheap single night stay can be as much as a 10x earnings on top of the 17.5x I earn for the base + bonus earnings, and the 6x I earn for putting it on my Amex Marriott card - stacked with very regular Marriott promos, it usually works out to enough points earned for a free night for every 2-3 nights I pay for.

 

As for airline cards, most in the credit enthusiast circles don't use their airline cards to actually pay for air travel, but prefer to use more general use travel cards with flexible redemptions for the points and almost always higher earnings.  For example, why would I buy Delta fares on my Delta Reserve and earn 3x SkyMiles when I can use my Amex Platinum to earn 5x MRs, which can be converted to 5 SkyMiles, moved to other rewards programs where I may have better value even for a Delta flight (Air France/KLM, Virgin Atlantic), or worst case redeem through Amex Travel at 1.54 cents per point?  I do use my Delta Reserve for the first $30,000 of non-category spend each year to get an elite qualifying mileage (MQM in SkySpeak) boost and for the elite qualifying dollars (MQD in SkySpeak) waiver since the actual dollars I spend on airfare each year would not support the level required to obtain higher statuses organically. And since I am selective on my award flight redemptions, I know that worst case I will always be getting at least 2% (usually more) back in value from that spending and don't have to use status as a reasoning to do so over something like Citi Double Cash where I would just earn 2% across the board.

 

As for actually having status, the benefits are definitely there for me.  Other than the aforementioned higher earnings, I would typically pay for more expensive Comfort+ or First (the latter I still will if the price difference is small because of 50% higher earnings on miles and elite miles) seats when booking.  Now I can simply choose a Comfort+ seat immediately after booking a flight as long as one is unoccupied, and most of the time still get upgraded to First anyway.  That is saving a LOT of money annually.  

 

Price differences on domestic flights are usually (but not always) not very large.  No use saving $30 if I would have earned $50 more in miles staying with Delta.  No use saving $50 if I have to pay $60 round trip to check a bag when my first 2 bags would be free on Delta even on the cheapest flights.  There's also the convenience factor; I know I have lounge access at the start (and middle if there is a layover) of every journey and typically am familiar enough with the airports to know exactly where to go during every aspect for check-in, security (Clear + PreCheck), lounge, and gates.  Almost everywhere I fly is a Delta or SkyTeam hub or focus city.

 

Finally, I can't stress enough how valuable status can be when facing IRROPs.  Flight cancelled or seriously delayed?  Call the elite line and you're rebooked immediately, usually with an upgrade already in place.  You're back in the comfort of your own home while others on the flight are either spending the day (or even sleeping) at the airport, or having a layover in Los Angeles on their way from Atlanta to New York.  Since the start of the pandemic, I have had to cancel or rebook numerous flights (either due to destination change or because a flight was canceled or had a schedule change that did not work for me) and this was never much of an inconvenience as I could just call the elite number for Delta and have it done in a few minutes.

Message 6 of 14
sxa001
Established Contributor

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card


@iced wrote:

The question this leaves me with is are there really that many people out there who's loyalty to a travel program is entirely dependent on a credit card? Are there really that many people who are loyal to Marriott only because they have a Marriott card and not because they like Marriott hotels when they travel?


I do think there are people who become more loyal to a brand because they got the card, many people (including myself when I was starting out) didn't realize that you could do better with other travel cards.  There is also the perks, if you have the perks on an airline you might be tempted to fly that airline more often.  I think for people who fly all the time it is different, having good customer service and comfortable planes matters more when you are in a plan every week or so.  Now that I am a casual passenger (or will be after the pandemic) I will put up with lack of status and some discomfort if I am saving a decent amount of money. 

@K-in-Boston is on point, in some cases saving $50 isn't worth it when I can get the free checked bags, it is one reason I am keeping my Delta card.  If I start flying a lot again I may upgrade to the American Platinium again. If I only take American once a year I will just pay the checked baggage fees. 

No doubt status is nice, getting lucky to be bumped to first class on a Friday night flight home is great but my wife didn't like me on the road for work that much so I doubt I will get to that point again. 





Message 7 of 14
iced
Valued Contributor

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card


@sxa001 wrote:

@iced wrote:

The question this leaves me with is are there really that many people out there who's loyalty to a travel program is entirely dependent on a credit card? Are there really that many people who are loyal to Marriott only because they have a Marriott card and not because they like Marriott hotels when they travel?


I do think there are people who become more loyal to a brand because they got the card, many people (including myself when I was starting out) didn't realize that you could do better with other travel cards.  There is also the perks, if you have the perks on an airline you might be tempted to fly that airline more often.  I think for people who fly all the time it is different, having good customer service and comfortable planes matters more when you are in a plan every week or so.  Now that I am a casual passenger (or will be after the pandemic) I will put up with lack of status and some discomfort if I am saving a decent amount of money. 

@K-in-Boston is on point, in some cases saving $50 isn't worth it when I can get the free checked bags, it is one reason I am keeping my Delta card.  If I start flying a lot again I may upgrade to the American Platinium again. If I only take American once a year I will just pay the checked baggage fees. 

No doubt status is nice, getting lucky to be bumped to first class on a Friday night flight home is great but my wife didn't like me on the road for work that much so I doubt I will get to that point again. 


I'd say the bolded above is really regardless of whether one flies frequently or not.

 

For some people, saving $100 on a flight is the first, last, and only criteria they made in their decision to choose one flight or airline over another. They'll grumble and moan about being nickled and dimed on a LCC, or they'll lament the uncomfortable seat, but they chose that model and they chose that seat when they decided based on price.

 

For others, the above are their priority and they'll fork over the extra cash for a better service and experience because that is more valuable to them than $100.

 

Where status comes into play is that it lets some dip, to a limited extent, into both pools. You can buy the cheap seat on a flight and get the premium service and experience. Otherwise, there's very little discernable difference between a paid F flyer and a status flier who got a free upgrade to F, and those discernable differences are usually very small (in terms of service; earning miles is obviously much faster with status). On United for example, one difference was that status fliers in F (paid or upgraded) got first dibs on meals, or were supposed to. The flight attendants wouldn't just start at row 1 taking orders for dinner; they'd go to the GS fliers first, then the 1Ks, and so on, so a paid F flier with no status would usually be asked last what meal they wanted, and sometimes they would have fewer choices if one meal was popular and was already all spoken for. With airlines now offering one to pick meals in advance, though, this is rarely an issue in practice.

Message 8 of 14
K-in-Boston
Moderator

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card

As I was reading that last part, all I could think of is Alaska.  No lounge access for upgraded F passengers and no preordered special meals at all (although a vegetarian meal is always offered at least).  When I flew a cheap award transcon to LA last year I was amused that I had lounge access at JFK but the 75K Gold behind me with an upgrade couldn't get in.  Although to be fair, many elites of other airlines (including my beloved Delta) have no access on domestic flights without a pricy membership or credit card.

Message 9 of 14
iced
Valued Contributor

Re: Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your card


@K-in-Boston wrote:

As I was reading that last part, all I could think of is Alaska.  No lounge access for upgraded F passengers and no preordered special meals at all (although a vegetarian meal is always offered at least).  When I flew a cheap award transcon to LA last year I was amused that I had lounge access at JFK but the 75K Gold behind me with an upgrade couldn't get in.  Although to be fair, many elites of other airlines (including my beloved Delta) have no access on domestic flights without a pricy membership or credit card.


I haven't flown Alaska in almost a decade, so I can't speak for them, but I've seen similar snubbings on status upgrades. However, they were almost always battlefield/day-of upgrades. If they cleared at T-72 or T-96 the system usually caught up and treated them just like paid F fliers. 

Message 10 of 14
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