Are loyalty programs are even worth it anymore? Watch this recorded webinar to learn more
Whenever a loyalty program makes a negative change — be it removing award charts or adjusting prices with little to no notice — the doom-and-gloom crowd comes out in full force. They lament the end of outsized value for points and miles while simultaneously lambasting the offending company.
And the last several weeks provided plenty of fodder.
With Marriott announcing that it would soon get rid of published award charts, American announcing a major overhaul of how you’ll earn AAdvantage elite status in coming years, it has a lot of readers asking a simple question: Are loyalty programs even worth it anymore?
Well here at The Points Guy, we wanted to tackle that question head on — and we did just that on our most recent TPG Talks webinar, part of Travel Week at the 2021 TPG Awards.
During the session, I sat down with fellow editorial team members Summer Hull, Benét Wilson and Benji Stawski to discuss our own take on this pressing question. Together, we bring decades of cumulative experience in earning and redeeming travel rewards across virtually every loyalty program out there.
And if you missed the live webinar, you're in luck — as the full recording is below.
Why we held this session
We frequently tout the value of top loyalty programs at TPG, and there are still ways to make the most of these currencies. Plus, not all of them are going backwards. We even honored one program — Air Canada’s Aeroplan — with our Investment in Airline Loyalty award last week.
Nevertheless, gone are the days of many lucrative sweet spots like:
- A Hilton Honors award chart that topped out at 50,000 points per night (now 120,000 points — though with no published chart)
- A one-way flight in Cathay Pacific first class from the U.S. to Asia for 67,500 AAdvantage miles (now 110,000 miles)
- A round-trip, business-class flight to the Seychelles with a free stopover in Paris for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles (now … well, who knows?)
Even well regarded programs like the World of Hyatt aren’t immune to this trend, as the program just introduced peak and off-peak pricing on award stays last month (albeit after multiple delays due to the pandemic).
Read more: TPG special analysis — How Hyatt’s peak and off-peak pricing changed average award rates
And with the increasing prominence of fixed-value programs — including Capital One Rewards, which launched its new premium Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card earlier this week, and the underrated Hotels.com Rewards program — why should an average traveler even worry about these airline- and hotel-specific programs?
Key takeaways from the session
We covered a lot of ground during the session, but here's a snapshot of what we discussed:
- What are transferable point programs, and what makes them so valuable?
- How to use just 88,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to book a round-trip, business class flight from the U.S. to Europe
- How to leverage Turkish Miles&Smiles to book United-operated flights at very low rates
- How you can use just 34,000 Iberia Avios for a one-way, business-class flight between the U.S. and Spain
So ultimately, are loyalty programs worth it? The general consensus was, "Yes, but ..."
In other words, there are still ways to make the most of these programs. And since they're all free to join (and some have points and miles that don't expire – including United, Southwest and Virgin Atlantic), there's no harm to signing up for any and all of them.
That said, they're not for everyone. So make a plan that works best for you — and be prepared to adapt when things change.
If you want to catch more of the discussion, be sure to review the full recording right here: