Earning Points and Status In A Post-Merger World

Earning Points and Status In A Post-Merger World

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What a strange twist the points and miles game has taken over these past three months.

I previously left off concluding the sheer nature of the points and miles game has changed over the past two years. From hotel mega-mergers to what may be the end of the airline consolidation period, there is less competition than ever before for our loyalty.

By the end of 2018, domestic travelers will be reduced to a choice of nine American airline loyalty programs (including Frontier Frequent Flyer and Spirit Airlines’ Free Spirit) and eight major hotel programs with the combination of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. These are outside of the flexible points programs and cash-back earning opportunities available to frugal travelers.

When options reduce, suppliers often benefit the most. Have the tables finally turned against frugal traveler? Will our favorite brands begin dictating the terms of loyalty unto us, and make it even more difficult to truly enjoy the benefits of our continued business?

Even though it is getting harder to build a wealth of points and earn status through organic means, there are still ways for travelers to still use loyalty programs in order to see the world at a low price. While the nature of the game may have changed, it does not mean that we cannot make them work for our adventures. In a post-merger world, utilizing these strategies can help you travel longer and for cheap.

Stick with One Alliance (If Status is a Goal)

For those who are seeking status with a favorite airline, start by considering all the options to earn qualifying miles and dollars toward that goal. In most situations, it may require consolidating all flying with one of the three major international airline alliances.

Related: Why IHG was Voted Best Hotel Rewards Program in the World

By flying both domestically and internationally within one of the alliances, travelers will have the opportunity to maximize every opportunities to earn qualifying miles and elite qualifying dollar spending. Additionally, consolidating flying within one airline alliance can open opportunities to earn status through international programs, which come with many benefits of their own.

The same concept applies with hotels as well: for those who are working to either earn or maintain status with their favorite chain, focusing on one group will create the best opportunities to build towards long-term rewards. However, this only makes sense if the value of status can be used throughout the year, or leveraged in other ways.

Status Match When it Makes Sense

One of the best uses of earning status with airlines or hotels is matching loyalty status with a competing chain – especially if your travel habits change over time. By using current status to earn status elsewhere, travelers can ensure they get the most out of every trip, every time.

Related: Reciprocal Benefits You Should Know About

This actual situation recently worked very well for me. With Starwood Preferred Guest gold status granted from the Platinum Card from American Express, I was able to match my status to Choice Hotels, giving me Choice Privileges gold status ahead of a three-night stay in Orlando. As a result, I was able to earn even more points for my stay and get a free breakfast, while earning three nights towards qualification in the next year.

Of course, earning loyalty status may not be the right move for everyone, even when using co-branded credit cards to help expedite those goals. When this is not on the table, there is another option.

Use Flexible Points to Transfer to the Best Programs for Your Travels

Although loyalty status can help in earning points and miles towards free travel, keeping a balance of flexible points can help individuals maintain independence in their travels at all times. When it comes to taking advantage of the best deals across programs, travelers can use both Chase Ultimate Rewards Points or American Express Membership Rewards to take advantage of the best redemption options.

Related: How to Earn More Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Between the two flexible points programs, frugal travelers have access to over one dozen airline programs, along with five of the eight major American hotel programs. As a result, those flexible points can be transferred with minimal delay, allowing frugal travelers to take advantage of the best deals at their next destination, no matter which carrier or hotel chain accommodates them.

While the loyalty game is changing, travelers can still stay ahead to maintain their travels at an appropriate price. By understanding all the options available, everyone can be a frugal traveler – no matter their preferred mode or destination.

 

How do you maintain frugal travels across programs? Let me know your strategies in the comments below!

Travel

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April 20, 2017 at 09:06AM

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