Let’s cover the basics before the pitchforks come out. Plenty of time for those in a few minutes. But first, a few clarifying statements:
- At a high level, the miles and points you earn today will be worth less in the future.
- Airline and hotel loyalty programs will make changes to the value of those miles and points in a variety of ways. In many cases they will not provide notice.
- When programs change value without notice, you will frequently see bloggers and other members of the miles and points community lose their collective minds.
- I have frequently been a part of the group of folks who lose their minds.
A couple of items this morning lead me to write this story. First, TPG announced a devaluation by Southwest Rapid Rewards. It was a minor devaluation, but those folks holding Rapid Rewards points (myself included) will find their balance will buy them less travel today than it did yesterday. Side note: I hate the term devaluation. I understand it’s technically correct. But, nobody other than true nerds like me really think about it that way. Normal folks just want to be able to take a vacation.
Shortly after TPG published that story, One Mile at a Time reported on the news. Ben, the primary author of One Mile at a Time, and someone I consider a friend, was quick to point out the reasons why he thinks this is a bad move.
This is the part where half of the audience is getting out a bucket of popcorn to watch the other half of the audience brandish their pitchforks. Side note: those pitchforks do look quite sharp. Sorry to disappoint the popcorn eaters. I’m not about to disagree with Ben. Making my miles and points worth less is never going to be a win for me.
However, I do think the time has long passed where we should be surprised by loyalty programs changing course without notifying their customers. Taken a step further, I think I’ve gotten past the point where I’ll be outraged by one of these changes.
By and large, airlines and hotels are publicly-held companies. Their primary responsibility is to shareholders. While I’ve argued in the past that they can serve shareholders by protecting the long-term value of the miles and points they distribute, this is not a view that appears to be shared by the programs.
My advice? Stop complaining about airlines and hotels when they make changes. Start figuring out how to get better value for your miles and points. Start figuring out how to earn more miles and points so devaluations are less painful. As history has shown us, this will happen again. And, it will be worse than today’s changes.
We’re past the point where public shaming will have an effect. The only time I can recall a program looking in the rear view mirror on negative changes was when Suzanne Rubin ran the American Airlines AAdvantage program. I remember her getting up on stage at the Freddie Awards to acknowledge that they made some missteps on changes they had rolled out. I have a lot of respect for her getting up and making those comments, especially when many of her peers would not.
The Final Two Pennies
There is one valid reason to complain. If you really feel like screaming, yelling, or writing a few hundred words about why your favorite airline or hotel program really messed up your future vacation plans, go for it. Just don’t confuse a cathartic exercise with an effective method of change.
Did you enjoy this article? Please share it! There’s plenty of ways to do that below.
And, I hope you’ll check out my podcast, Miles To Go. We cover the latest travel news, tips and tricks every week so you can save money while you travel better. From Disney to Dubai, San Francisco to Sydney, American Airlines to WestJet, we’ve got you covered!