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TPG readers share their wish lists for travel loyalty program changes after coronavirus

May 24, 2020
7 min read
Conrad Bora Bora
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Travel loyalty programs have already made substantial adjustments to elite status expiration, change and cancellation fees and more due to the coronavirus outbreak. With travel still at unprecedented lows, we'll likely see further policy changes to reengage loyal customers and attract new ones once it's safe to travel again.

We asked TPG Lounge readers to share their loyalty program wish lists for when travel resumes, and what kinds of changes, improvements and promotions would earn their business, especially in a post-pandemic world.

Here are some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

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More flexibility and better perks

Many readers pointed out the need for increased flexibility to change and cancel flights, and some noted benefits in need of adjustment due to the travel downturn.

"I would be more likely to book a trip further in advance if they eliminated change fees industry-wide." — Christopher B.

"Broader application and use for Amex airline-fee credits. I have three credit-earning cards and no use for any of it." — Loren G. M.

"Reasonable cancellation policies for award tickets, free until 60 days before travel and topping out at $50." — Kenny B.

"Having an alternative to companion fares for single people who aren’t always traveling with their children. Also, please stop expecting us to move around the plane to accommodate everyone just because we are alone." — Janice L.

Related: Complete guide to changing and canceling award tickets

Many readers hope for more relaxed cancellation policies and no change fees. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

"More flexibility and fewer penalties. I am almost exclusive to Southwest due to their flexibility, ease of using points and clear policies. If another airline matched these policies, I would fly them as well. " — Andrea J.

"If the question is really 'what would earn your loyalty' — it's not the loyalty program itself. Any of the major U.S airlines would have to take such a huge leap in a loyalty program versus competition for me to jump ship — I just don't see that as realistic. What has me loyal to American Airlines at the moment? I'm around Charlotte (CLT). Direct flights almost anywhere in the country — I'm sold. International is a different story. The American Express / ANA deal and unbelievably good service — they will have my business any time I can." — Tom S.

"Miles bonus of some kind to help us make up for the loss. Kind of like what Alaska did all 2019 with certain California to New York and Boston routes — all flights were double-miles eligible if you signed up." — Hing P.

Related: What airline loyalty programs could look like after coronavirus

Elite status earning and benefits adjustments

Some readers noted there'll need to be a shift in elite status earning requirements and benefits in order to keep customers happy.

"I'd like the airlines to go back to a non-revenue model of earning status ... but, yeah, pipe dreams!" — Julie B.

"For British Airways to finally see reason and do something about status holders besides those who are expiring in June. They're one of the last holdouts to be doing nothing for their elite members and it's getting frustrating to see them doing nothing while almost everyone else, including even AA, is singing the same tune." — Matthew T.

"Free sit-down breakfast for hotel elite members since buffets aren’t safe." — Grant G.

"A separate phone line for status customers, making it easier for them to reach agents and handle cancellations/rebookings." — Martin S.

Related: Complete guide to airline elite status during the coronavirus outbreak

Award charts and devaluations

A common theme with many readers was award chart changes and devaluations, such as those Marriott Bonvoy and United Mileage Plus implemented during the COVID outbreak.

"Pipe dream: pause devaluations for a year or two. It’s exhausting and most people will be on pause this year. Perhaps also allow those who had hotels booked at rates before they increased to book again at that rate. I’m still bitter about the 10 days I had to cancel in Maui that I booked with Marriott before category changes and at off-peak rates." — Lisa L. W.

"Reinstate award charts." — Kelley W. G.

"Marriott Bonvoy stops constantly devaluing their points and increasing their awards chart. Either that or they need to start implementing increased transfer rates from transferable points currencies." — Mchl M.

"The opposite of every single thing United has done during COVID." — Justin M.

Related: The days of American Airlines' award charts look to be numbered

How will hotels offer free breakfast to elite members going forward? (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

"With Marriott Bonvoy, since we’re dreaming ... as someone else said, stop the devaluations and constant category increases. With the merger and since they have massively and repeatedly devalued things! All the while, not adding any way to increase your earning power. If they want to keep charging more points they should also increase the abilities and ratios for earning points! NO resort fees for top elites (like World of Hyatt). And, make everyone participate equally across hotels or leave the program. It’s so annoying and gets complicated that so many individual hotels and different brands pick and choose that in which they do and don’t want to participate." — Naomi T. M.

"I'm hoping for no changes to Iberia Plus as I go to Spain yearly for vacation. Also hoping Aeroplan doesn't do something wild like limit availability or partners or increase reward prices." — Aaron R.

"I’m so over Hilton’s point system! That’s the only reason I didn’t apply for their credit cards. It’s too variable; like sure I can get a night for 60,000 points typically but when it comes down to looking they are 150,000 points." — Allie T.

Related: Amex announces limited-time perks for select Amex Membership Rewards, Delta, Marriott and Hilton cards

Featured image by SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases