Loyalty to travel brands is not a new concept. Since the creation of the first frequent-flyer programs by American Airlines and Texas International Airlines in the late 1970s and early 1980s respectively, travelers have been earning miles and seeking elite status, and putting their money into the best brands offering the most perks.
However, sticking to one airline, hotel, or rental car program has its limitations. This can lead to a reduction in comparison shopping which can result in higher prices. To earn status and miles, a person loyal to Delta Air Lines, for example, might pay $100 more to fly on Delta. Is it worth the trade-off?
Joanne Herd, travel consultant at Girasole Travel (a luxury travel booking agency), says, “It must be a really great deal for me to travel with another airline.” She has been loyal to American Airlines for many years.
A business-class flight was taken by Recently, she flew with Singapore Airlines to save thousands of dollars over flights on American Airlines.
She says she almost regretted it, as she had not achieved the status she wanted.
Semi-frequent travelers are more difficult to navigate these trade-offs because they may not be able to travel enough to receive elite status perks but still want to earn and redeem miles. While collecting a few hundred points through a variety of loyalty programs may seem like a lot of work, sticking with one program could limit your travel options.
This is how you can decide if monogamy with a travel company makes sense.
Big payoffs for big spenders
United Airlines and Marriott have loyalty programs because they want to attract large spenders, especially business travelers. Loyalty programs offer travelers a variety of benefits, depending on how often they travel and how much they spend.
Although it may sound straightforward, this affects the value these programs have for ultra-frequent travelers relative compared to leisure travelers. According to NerdWallet analysis, the lowest-level Hilton status holder will receive $2 back for every $100 spent, while the highest-level status holder will earn $49 for each $100 spent.
This huge gulf shows how it might not be worth the effort to attain low-level status. Katy Nastro, a travel expert on flight deals website Going, stressed that elite status at an airline is a privilege that rewards high-rollers.
Nastro stated in an email that “it takes a lot more short flights to even reach a low rung of the ladder.” You may have to forgo cheaper and more comfortable flights in order to receive a reward in the future .”
The perks of frequent travel are so valuable that it makes sense for them almost always to keep some travel loyalty even at the expense of convenience.
Other tradeoffs to be considered
Although it can be a good idea to limit one’s loyalty only to one travel brand, there are hidden disadvantages. Claire Sturzaker is a travel blogger at Tales of a Backpacker. She started traveling full-time seven year ago. Despite her true frequent traveler status, she avoids elite status and loyalty programs.
She says, “I travel for something new and different. That’s why I travel.” I would prefer to stay in a small guesthouse. I feel that money is being returned to the community I live in, and not to a huge global corporation span>
Sturzaker recognizes the convenience and reliability of chain hotels, but they are not her top priorities. She also enjoys traveling to off-the-beaten path destinations where not all airlines fly. She prefers to fly nonstop with low-cost airlines whenever she can.
Who should be concerned about travel elite status programs for business travelers? They are designed for business travelers who travel frequently. While semi-frequent travelers may see some benefits from loyalty, those who only take a few trips a year can often be hit with increased costs due to limiting one’s shopping options.
Staying with one brand can make it difficult to experience the best aspects of travel, such as the unexpected.
Sturzaker explains, “I stayed in a family-run hotel in a small Honduran village. It was run by a husband/wife and three boys.” “We all just sat and talked during the power outage that occurred during my stay. This would never happen at a Hilton .”
This article is by NerdWallet. It was originally published in The Associated Press.
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