The next bubble? Travel loyalty programs


Did anyone pay attention when Robert Shiller warned about the real estate bubble or Nouriel Roubini sounded the alarm bells about the impending global economic crisis? Probably not as much as they should have. So feel free to ignore this one, too: travel loyalty programs — and particularly airline programs — are a bubble. And it may be about to pop.

All the signs are there. Delta Air Lines’ recent, precipitous devaluation of its loyalty program is just the latest. Your hard-earned frequent flier miles now die with you, and can’t be inherited by your next of kin. (Yes, Delta can do that.) This follows a wholesale downgrade of its SkyMiles program. Several hotel chains, including Marriott and Hilton, have also decimated their programs in the last few weeks.

You can tell that frequent travelers are feeling frustrated. Consider the recent lawsuit filed by Hongbo Han of Rockville, Md., who alleges United Airlines shorted him by a few miles. (Of course, United can calculate its award miles any way it wants to, and it doesn’t have to explain itself — see its program’s onerous terms if you don’t believe me.)

But the sentiment is clear: Air travelers like Han can practically feel those miles slipping through their fingers.

Sky’s the limit

Apparently, the sky’s the limit for mileage programs. From 1981 to 2005, the number of unredeemed miles mushroomed from 2 billion to more than 14 trillion.

And it hasn’t stopped. Have a look at Delta’s latest annual report. It says SkyMiles members cashed in more than 262 billion miles for 11 million award redemptions in 2012. Of the revenue miles flown on the airline during that period, 8 percent came from award travel, according to the airline.

Delta won’t say how many trillions of unredeemed miles are in the wild, but it’s not hard to determine. For unredeemed mileage credits, which Delta refers to as “breakage,” it attaches a dollar value during the period in which the remaining mileage credits are expected to be redeemed.

Delta uses statistical models to estimate breakage based on historical redemption patterns, so even the airline doesn’t know exactly how many unredeemed miles are floating around out there. Last year, the aggregate deferred revenue balance associated with the SkyMiles program was $4.4 billion, according to Delta.

Assuming each frequent flier mile is worth one cent, which is a very generous appraisal, that’s almost half a trillion miles. But wait! Airlines are known to value their miles at far less — by some estimates, a fraction of a penny. And Delta isn’t even the largest domestic airline.

That’s a lotta miles, my friends.

Earn and burn

Meanwhile, it’s never been easier to earn miles and points. You can get miles for buying groceries, renting a movie, purchasing a home or by clicking a scammy affiliate link on a mileage blog to sign up for affinity credit cards. Airlines are playing both sides of the fence on this one, allowing customers to earn limitless miles, and quietly trying to deflate the bubble on the other end.

This isn’t going to end well.

At some point, the loyalty programs we know and love will have to be dramatically restructured and your miles will almost certainly be devalued in a tragic way. Many observers already say miles are a form of unregulated currency. If they are a currency, then they remind me of the hyperinflated German Mark in the 1920s.

The fix for that? Issuing new Marks at an exchange rate of one to one trillion.

The devaluation of the travel industry’s funny money may only be slightly less painful.

The lesson seems clear: Redeem your miles now, while they’re still worth something, because someday soon they may be worth next to nothing — if they aren’t already.

Are travel loyalty programs a bubble?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • bodega3

    Safeway changed their program, so did Macy’s, as did a local gift shop in our area. These are free programs that companies don’t have to offer and change is always a part of it.

  • TonyA_says

    Ha ha ha. My brother in law, Delta Platinum, Million Miler, etc. was not allowed in the Lounge at JFK the other day while flying to Washington to attend one of the IMF meetings. They told him he needed to be Diamond this year. All he wanted was a drink because he was thirsty.

  • TonyA_says

    I forgot to ask – is Bernanke printing more money faster than the airlines is giving miles away?
    So which bubble will burst first?

  • Jack the ripper


    I disagree with everything you ever say about loyalty programs, but this time, you are 100% correct. Burn them while you can.

    That said, I just redeemed 150,000 AA miles to fly 9 segments and 25,000 miles all over SE Asia — in business class for every flight. Out of pocket cost? $88 in taxes.

    But you are right, the programs are minting miles left and right. Soon, we will be paying the piper. I’ve done so well at this mileage that my wife and I are set for one nice trip abroad every year through 2018. But I’m well aware that my miles will devalue before I get to use at current value.

  • Alan Gore

    Loyalty programs are in no way a “bubble” because if they were to vanish in their entirety tomorrow, there would be no economic consequences. All that would happen is that a bunch of people who had hoped to fly free would now have to pay. Most of them would simply forego the trips. Basically, nothing will happen.

  • PsyGuy

    I’m about to spend 600 points to redeem a magazine subscription, that’s $15 I don’t have to spend in real money. I can’t think of a better example of a currency, whether it’s “real” or not doesn’t change the value. If I can spend it, it’s real enough.

  • $16635417

    I was on a flight last week where the upgrade list was 116 people long and the first class cabin was checked in full. Plane only held a little over 150. Still had 20 elites standing at the podium waiting for a non-existent upgrade.

    When it came to time board, the massive amount of people allowed early boarding kind of defeated the process and created a logjam in the aircraft. We started boarding on time….we left late.

    Too many “elites”.

  • sfomsp

    The surprise was the hotels devalued so much more rapidly than the airlines.

  • emanon256

    Several hotel chains, including Marriott and Hilton, have also decimated their programs in the last few weeks.

    So what did Marriott and Hilton do? I got an e-mail from Marriott in February that some categories were changing and the redemption ate was going up 5,000 points a night for certain categories. I never got anything from Hilton.

  • Bill___A

    I long ago regarded these point balances as almost worthless. The hotels keep devaluing them and the airlines, with the introduction of “fuel surcharges” and other fees, in conjunction with absurd availability at basic levels, make it uneconomical. The “perks” such as airline club access, concierge lounges in the hotels, occasional room upgrades, etc. are the value I get from them.

    You know, it used to be that hotel rooms were so much money “single” and so much money “double”. Sometimes they had high season and regular season rates. Now, with “yield management”, they are all over the map., A room that goes for $150 one night can be $500 another night or even more. (I’m talking London rates for example.) Since the rates often go above the threshold that one can pay, there’s no predictability and this also affects one’s ability to be loyal – travel budgets do not go up and down like yield management software.

    Not only are we seeing problems from the redemption end, but also the earning end.

  • emanon256

    I miss the old United boarding process. They had two lines, and had people queue up based on various statuses printed on their boarding passes including general boarding which was Windows, Middles, Aisles though it was zone numbers. We could routinely board a 182 seater 757-200 in 20-25 minuets with this old system.

    Since the merger they have completely changed the boarding process 4 times now. The latest seems to be the worst. Now its all higher level elites at once, then all low level elites and credit card holders at once, and then 3 zones for the rest. Not sure if the zones are WMA or front to back. But regardless, its a huge cluster mob of everyone and now the same 757 takes about 45 minuets to board. Why not just stick with what works. Also, now that people can pay for elite boarding and credit card holders are included in the mix adds to the mess. And I have seen the same thing, well over 100 people on the upgrade list with ever seat full. Its a mess.

  • SoBeSparky

    Sad to see limited analysis from a small field of vision.

    Fish inside the fishbowl view the world from a unique, and limited, viewpoint. So Christopher makes an argument based on his prejudice against frequent flyer programs and his logic that since Delta did something, all the others will follow suit. And well they might, in terms of basing future awards more heavily on revenue generated than on miles flown. But kill the programs or devalue them to almost nothing? No chance. There is no bubble, so it cannot burst.

    Delta’s changes were not revolutionary, but merely evolutionary. United and American have had super elite levels for years for those who either are very profitable or who influence a lot of business, such as a company’s travel policies and airline contracts. George Clooney made Concierge Key (the super elite status of AA) famous in the movie, Up in the Air, in 2009.

    From outside the fishbowl, in the real world, this analysis forgets that up to now the frequent flyer miles the airlines sell to others is a profitable business. In fact, from what is revealed in limited disclosures, we know that frequent flyer programs make money when the airline as a whole is losing money. Why would a horribly cyclical industry which cannot manage consistent profitability in good times and bad kill a regularly profitable sideline? They won’t. Why was this alleged bubble created? Profitability to the airlines. A bubble by its very nature has a fairly shortly life cycle, a matter of a few years at most. These programs have been going strong for 32 years.

    The frequent flyer programs are so profitable that while developing bankruptcy reorganization plans, American even considered selling off the AAdvantage program. Even with its outstanding liabilities, it is that profitable.

    Remember also, that the frequent flyer programs were created in a commodity industry to provide product differentiation. When the frequent flyer promotion was created, airline marketing was in the stage of showing an alluring “stewardess” saying directly into camera, “Fly me!” One even had the double entendre “We really move our tail for you!” Into that silliness came a promotion which had teeth. Give the frequent customers a reward for loyalty, American AAdvantage. The commodity nature of the basic air transport business has not changed (some would say it is even more so), and neither will the concept of a frequent customer benefit program.

    Change is the natural condition. Just as aircraft change, and seat design changes, and fees change, so too will frequent flyer programs. There are no customer “rights” that an airline will always fly your favorite plane (mine was the 727) or seats (More Room Throughout Coach was great), or fees (the bathroom key fee is coming I am sure). So too the programs will change. Certainty only comes at the time you redeem your mileage. Most high-revenue customers will continue to be pleased. Many modest-frequency travel passengers (10+ trips a year) will see very little change. Infrequent leisure travelers, paying the lowest fares which many times do not even cover operating costs, will see a far less lucrative program. If you expect something for nothing, in that you are never profitable to the airline but expect rewards for boarding their planes, then I want to give you my inheritance in Nigeria.

    So if you travel twice a year, once to visit your parents or grandparents and the other to go on a vacation, then you better begin to burn your miles. Use them or lose them in the next few years. The airlines did not design this marketing promotion for you. If you are profitable customer, paying higher fares and flying far more frequently, then you have little to be worried about. The frequent flyer programs will fly on, profitable to airlines and good customers.

  • John Keahey

    Lot of good responses here. I especially like the one that says, “… if they were to vanish in their entirety tomorrow, there would be no economic consequences.” For me, my loyalty status gives me frequent frequent-flier flights at extremely low cost, including several trips to Europe; no fees when I ask to take an earlier flight; no fees when I check a bag, which is infrequent; priority boarding (so I can find overhead-storage space before it’s gobbled up); etc. If the bubble bursts, and the loyalty programs disappear, I’ll adapt. It’s life, folks.

  • MeanMeosh

    Can’t speak to Marriott, but Hilton increased the number of reward categories from 7 (I think) to 10, increased the maximum per-night point cost from 50,000 to 95,000, and introduced “seasonal pricing” whereby the number of points required changes depending on demand. Hilton also quietly raised the threshold to reach Gold and Diamond status levels in HHonors.

    Where the devaluation really hits is in high demand markets like NY. Previously, you could book a night for 50,000 points, even at the premium locales like the Waldorf-Astoria or the Conrad. Now, that same room in late September runs 70,000-95,000 points a night, in effect dropping the value of your points by up to half in this simplistic example. I know, because I’m planning a trip to NY this fall and was stupid enough not to book a room before the devaluation took effect.

  • sfomsp

    Interesting analysis here digging deeper into Delta’s annual report that doesn’t show much inflation…

    I hate SkyPesos as much as anyone, but doesn’t appear this is on the verge of a 50% devaluation (they’re already bad)…unless you’re lucky and enjoying 100k business class seats all the time. But I wonder how this compares to ‘better’ programs like United and American

  • DavidYoung2

    I seems there’s two key elements to the loyalty programs: Elite Status and FF Travel. The devaluation seems to be hitting Elite Status harder as per your example above, but FF Travel can’t be far behind. That being said, I think the Amex Membership Rewards are pretty safe because the they’re REAL money to the airline, so they’re more likely to be viewed as a revenue stream to be maximized rather than a contingent liability to be minimized. Well, I hope that’s the case….

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    Thank you for that well reasoned analysis.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t see the problem with yield management. It’s just basic supply and demand. Yes, during times of high demand the price of the hotel rises. Of course, the flip side is that the price plummets during low occupancy. Since i control and pay for my own travel, I tend to travel during lower occupancy, e.g. weekends to business locations, weekdays to tourist destinations, etc.

  • Bill___A

    I suppose the problem for Marriott, for example, is that everyone is not doing this to the same extent. For example, if I am to stay in a Hilton property and repeat this enough times to gain some loyalty benefit, then they no longer benefit from mine.
    Look at it this way….places that kite the room rate when they can do so are pretty much “fair weather friends”.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey didn’t the country vote for the guy that promised CHANGE, twice.
    Stop complaining folks.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If inflation affects the value of money (i.e cold hard cash), doesn’t it make sense that any “currency”, in this case point redemption would similarly be affected.

    For example, suppose a hotel which averages $200 per room per night costs 20k points to redeem and a hotel which averages $300 per night per room requires 30k points to redeem. Five years later, if due to inflation, renovations, whatever, the first hotel now averages $300 per room per night, doesn’t it seem reasonable that it would be entitled to a similar increase in point redemption?

    The naysayers would argue that a 50 percent increase is far greater than inflation. But they would be neglecting the fact that its been five years (in my hypothetical) since the point redemption was adjusted, therefore its closer to a ten percent annual increase.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I love it when the apologists come out to play. Your comments are always welcome here.

  • Linda Larsson

    Thanks for this well written blogpost! For me, travel loyalty programs are a pain. I’m a part of two loyalty programs but I earned no miles on my LA-Philadelphia-Frankfurt-Sri Lanka-India-trip last year as 1. I forgot about it and then 2. I flied with the wrong airlines. I think they make travelers more irritated than happy honestly. Or what do you think?

  • TonyA_says

    The real bubble is in your mind. Have you priced an airline ticket recently?

    Charlie Leocha linked a travelweekly article about an exasperated travel expert’s desperate effort to find an affordable fare from D.C. to Houston . She paid $1,585 for a trip to Houston !!!

    And then there is a new website out there that thinks it can tell you what it costs the airline to fly you from point A to point B. Are you not going to fly if you need to pay more than 3% above the cost to fly ???

    I am a travel agent and I search fares for people everyday. I must tell you that this job has become very difficult because fares have gone up (in absolute numbers) and the general buyers’ incomes haven’t (or not as much). They seem to by stuck at wanting to paying last year’s or the previous years’ prices.

    If the amount of dollars needed to buy a ticket from point A to point B goes up (assuming) 20-30% this year, then why shouldn’t the amount of points or miles needed to go from point A to point B not also increase by a similar amount? Gee, even the price of gold changes and is not stuck to what it was years ago.

    As for me, I think I’ll take a sabbatical and travel while I still can. Hasta la vista!

  • SoBeSparky

    “Redeem your miles now, while they’re still worth something, because someday soon they may be worth next to nothing — if they aren’t already.”

    There are facts and there are hyperboles. I deal with facts. All the “Chicken Little” prognostications won’t make it so. I make no apologies in the above post. Everything is verifiable. The original column contains about 10% facts (journalism) and 90% conjecture (generic internet blog assertions).

    The column says, “Airlines are playing both sides of the fence on this one, allowing customers to earn limitless miles, and quietly trying to deflate the bubble on the other end.”

    Just where is the airline industry trying to deflate the bubble? (Deflate bubble=your miles today are worth less today.) Facts please.

    There is no wholesale mileage inflation with airline programs. There is no new wholesale restriction on new award availability. Everyone has plenty of time to plan to redeem whatever awards they have already earned.

    The future earning ability is changing, with plenty of warning. Completely fair and above board, not like Hilton, Marriott, etc. which simply devalued miles. Please don’t confuse hotel and rental car loyalty programs with airline programs. They are structured differently.

  • MarkKelling

    At IAH UA now has the boarding area set up like Southwest – Each boarding group has its own line (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & everyone else). Talk about a cluster. 3 is usually back half windows, 4 is back middle and front windows, 5 is back aisle and front middle and aisle.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Your “facts” are not very persuasive. The poll results speak for themselves. But it’s a fun debate.

  • MarkKelling

    It is a fact that most of the mileage “earned” in the various frequent flyer programs will never be used. Also it is a fact most of the people earning those miles will never accrue enough to be able to use them for anything like a “free” flight. The programs take that into account and, even though the possible rewards must be tracked by the companies, they know that it is just a line on the balance sheet that really means little to the bottom line. Because of this, I seriously doubt that the programs will be devalued to the point where they equal nothing in the view of the customers. Especially since it gives the various companies something to paste on their web sites and proclaim their wonderful customer centric approach to business. It’s great PR!

    Sure, plans change. Redemption amounts go up, the things you can get for the points you have change or go away, awarded amounts go down, entire program structures are dumped and replaced (i.e Southwest), and so on. This is to be expected. Actual cost in real money for things also changes, usually upward, so why can’t the programs adjust as well?

    I have lost count of how many miles/points I have lost in airline, hotel, and rental car programs over the years because I changed my vendor of choice and the travel opportunities I have lost out on because I waited too long and the thing I wanted was no longer available. Am I upset? No, maybe a little disappointed, but I moved on. I am disappointed that my favorite airline disappeared into a merger too, but I still fly. If my favorite rewards program goes away, my life won’t change much either.

  • bodega3

    I’ll join you Tony :-)
    That link from Charlie is very misleading IMHO. First off, the lady who wrote it is a travel writre, not hardly an expert in travel. What she paid for a ticket can be obtained for less, but what isn’t being addressed is what was available and what other options for airports would she be willing to fly from or to to get a lower fare.
    The Chicken Little attitude on this from someone who doesn’t paritiicipate in any travel loyalaty programs seems questionable. Those who belong to these programs know that they are free and appreciate what they can or do get. Nothing stays the same. After 9/11 people were scrambling to use up their points because they felt the programs were going to cease. But they haven’t. What use to take me 5 punches on the ice cream card, now takes 10. But free is free and if I wish to go for that free cone, it is up to me to keep going to that store and certainly not expect it to last forever.

  • SoBeSparky

    My facts were never presented in the column. Only one-sided internet blog conjecture was presented. It’s called manipulation of opinion.

    Facts are never determined by a poll. Your poll, sadly, speaks volumes about your readers.

  • emanon256

    Yikes! I’m heading to IAH this week.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Let’s look at the proper use of the word “Bubble” which is used to describe the deflating of a market based commodity whose value is determined by investor and buyer confidence. As confidence rises to “frothy” levels (as Greenspan put it?), the value of an asset rises. Then when the perceived value is so out of whack with reality, it deflates.

    In the case of a business model such as frequent flier programs, it’s about whether businesses decide to kill the program either in the form of milking it (devaluing the miles/benefits beyond consumer confidence) or killing the programs altogether.

    This apparently has been going on for some time as evidenced by the Capital One commercials with Alec Baldwin where he teases consumers about their useless miles while CapitalOne’s program is more serviceable. This is not necessarily just the mileage programs but rather the airlines’ games with fees and add-ons lowering consumer confidence overall.

    Explanation for all the miles out there unredeemed? Two words: Storage Wars. Just as people leave gold bars in storage lockers because they moved away, folks such as myself who fly once on a new airline, decide they don’t like it, and just let them rot may be counted in the statistics.

    Me personally? I have American Express preferred. I just like the cash back, thanks. I’d prefer they just lower the fees to the merchants and eliminate the game.

  • emanon256

    My ice cream store just upped it from 10 to 12.

  • TonyA_says

    I need to check my Supercuts frequent cuts card. I hope they don’t give me just a half haircut.

  • emanon256

    Soon they will just give you a hair cut. In reference to the bad joke, “I didn’t get a hair cut, I got all of them cut.”

  • wiseword

    Anybody remember Green Stamps? End of story.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    with Qantas International going broke fast, they have just downgraded their frequent flyer programme as well.
    Now costs more points to go places.
    Qantas is trying to hide it, by saying it costs less points to fly on it’s low cost subsidiary Jetstar (otherwise known as Junkstar by many Australians) while it was sneaky in increading points especialy for non direct services.

  • Ian Parrish

    Chris, please don’t be sarcastic in your response. Your posts set the tone of this blog, which you’ve recently stated you’d like to elevate. You should engage with SoBeSparky’s arguments, not respond with an ad hominem attack. That’s one of the first rules of debate.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Ian, I didn’t meant to — and don’t mean to — attack anyone personally. If you or anyone else reading this thread believes my responses constitute a personal attack, you have my apologies.

    I’m having a heck of a day here. Nothing to do with this story, which I wrote a while ago. If I’m not at my best, that’s probably why.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    lol. That is known as an argumentum ad populum. Hardly persuasive

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s the real problem. The marketing genius who came up with the term “loyalty” should earn the gratitude of all travel providers. Marriott isn’t your friend, neither is Starwood or Hilton. You have no relationship with these entities that is not purely financial. Thinking about them as friends will only lead to disappointment.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Questions. When was the last time Hilton had a major overhaul of the points system. You have to take that in account when discussing devaluation.

  • vipalpinetours

    Yes! This means time to plan a great vacation! There is always a bright side, and always opportunity to earn more and get value from what we are loyal to.

  • Ian Parrish

    We’ve had some frequent flier discussions before. I have two frequent flier accounts, one with United (who I primarily fly), and one with American (who I used to fly back in college, mostly as TWA). With United, I have elite status, and I get a lot of perks and benefits. With American, since I don’t fly them, it’s been a real pain to make sure my miles don’t expire. It’s required me to be personally on top of it…making sure that I credit some online purchase like “mailing labels” through their mileage mall every 18 months.

    I agree with Chris that there is a real chance that miles will devalue in the future. Everything has inflation. People refer to the Delta miles in a lot of online blogs as “Sky Pesos” (no offense to anyone that uses pesos as a currency). I think this means that you can’t just hoard miles…you’ve got to use them as you go.

    So to that end, yesterday, motivated me to finally pull the trigger on a vacation coming up. I think you’ll agree I got some pretty good use out of these miles.
    I’m flying from north America to Bangkok in First Class including Thai Airways with my UA miles and my return flight from Asia has me routing in First Class through Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. For a combined total of 137,500 miles and about $150 I now have what is about $16,000 worth of tickets to my name. Pretty sweet. Now, of course, I’d never spend real money on those tickets, but it’ll be a fun indulgence to bookend a vacation. Now I get to see how funny they look at me when I check in in the first class line with my beat-up old backpack instead of the latest Tumi luggage :)

  • bodega3

    Sounds like a great trip! We are flying biz one way and first class the other on our large trip this fall. Using hotel points for free hotel stay. Using miles to upgrade to first class in an upcoming trip, so regardless of how the programs get tweaked, free is free! Oh and we will use our ice cream card in HNL and get a free cone!

  • mark.doucette

    This is an uninformed and one-sided discussion of loyalty programs. First of all, “breakage” is not equivalent to an unredeemed mile. An unredeemed mile is, by definition, a mile which is sitting in someone’s account balance since it has not been redeemed or has not already been expired/closed due to inactivity (e.g. earned but not yet redeemed). Breakage as used in any sort of 10k or annual report, on the other hand, refers to miles which will NEVER be redeemed. For example, a company may have a breakage of 10% meaning that 10% of earned miles will not be redeemed. Breakage can occur because members simply lose interest in a program, forget that they have miles, do not have enough miles in their account to redeem for anything worthwhile, etc.

    Second, this is a narrow-minded argument. While it is undeniable that loyalty programs have devalued their programs the past few years and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future, there are competitive pressures in place that are preventing a “bubble” from occurring. If, for example, Delta chooses to get rid of Skymiles or make you redeem substantially more points to book a free flight, people are going to migrate from Skymiles to United Airlines/Continental, American, etc. because people find a lot of value in being able to redeem their miles. I speak both intuitively and anecdotally from working with those who travel a lot for business and love to accumulate miles on business and spend them for personal use. In other words, while the loyalty programs may have enormous liabilities for future redemptions (you quoted $4.4B for Delta), the actual airlines are often separate entities and are gaining even more revenue and true loyalty from customers because of their loyalty programs. If Delta did away with Skymiles, I guarantee the value of Delta would drop by more than $4.4B.

  • emanon256

    I got an e-mail 2 years ago that everything was going up by about 5,000 points a night and they were re-evaluating and adding higher end categories, so some went up by more than 5,000. That seemed more reasonable.

  • emanon256

    I booked 3 nights at a Hampton Inn a few months back for a wedding this July. It was 40,000 a night which I thought was steep to begin with. It turns out we have to stay an extra day now and I called to change it and they said the rate is now 70,000 points a night and they have to apply it to the existing reservation as well if I make any changes. That is a huge devaluation! I have stayed at Waldorf Astoria during peak season for less. 70,000 points for a Hampton Inn that costs $99 a night. Ridiculous!

  • bodega3

    In our business we get people wanting to compare points to rates/fares. For some destinations it is better to pay the rate/fare than use points. You need to know the average rate/fare in a destination to know if the use of points is worthwhile or not.

  • sue

    I am working with loyalty programs. I knew part of the AA story, but not the previous marketing. (I was giggling!). You are definitely an authority with a sound understanding of business. I would really like to speak with you or have an email conversation. You have already stimulated many ideas with me. Much appreciated. Thank you. Please be in touch or how can I reach you?

  • SoBeSparky

    Hey Sue, nothing private about this blog, but you can look me up and send me a private message over at TripAdvisor.