When Does Travel Brand Loyalty Make Sense?


When Does Travel Brand Loyalty Make Sense?

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When Does Travel Brand Loyalty Make Sense?
When Does Travel Brand Loyalty Make Sense?

Loyalty to travel brands is nothing new. Ever since Texas International Airlines and American Airlines created their first frequent flyer programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, travelers have been racking up miles, striving for elite status and investing their airfare dollars in brands that offered all the privileges.

However, using only one airline, hotel or car rental program has its limitations. On the one hand, this means cutting back on your comparison shopping, which can actually drive up prices. The Delta Air Lines loyalty program can pay an additional $100 per Delta flight to earn miles and status. Is it worth compromising?

"It still pays off for me to fly on another airline," says Joanne Hurd, a luxury travel reservations consultant who has been loyal to American Airlines for years.

He recently boarded a Singapore Airlines business class flight because it was thousands of dollars cheaper than its American Airlines counterpart.

"I almost regretted it because I almost didn't get the status I wanted," she says.

Finding these trade-offs is especially difficult for mid-range travelers who may not have traveled enough to take advantage of top-tier elite status but still want to earn and redeem miles. Earning hundreds of points on some loyalty programs can be more trouble than it's worth, but using a program can limit your travel options.

Here's how to decide if monogamy with a travel brand makes sense.

Big payments for big expenses

Travel brands like United Airlines and Marriott support their loyalty programs for one simple reason. they want to attract big spenders, especially business travellers. To do this, loyalty programs will provide travelers with benefits commensurate with how much they travel (and how much they spend).

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This may sound simple, but it affects the value of these programs for frequent travelers versus tourists. For example, the traveler with the lowest Hilton status will earn approximately $2 for every $100 spent, while the traveler with the highest status will earn approximately $49 for every $100 spent. .

This is a big gap that highlights the fact that you shouldn't use juice for a low-level situation. It's the same with airlines' elite status, which disproportionately rewards top performers, says Cathy Nastro, travel expert at flight deals website Going.

"It takes very short flights to get to the bottom rung of the ladder," Nastro wrote in an email. "So you can forgo cheaper and possibly higher quality flights in exchange for future rewards."

Because privileges are so valuable to frequent flyers, it almost always makes sense to maintain loyalty to travelers, even at the expense of convenience.

Other considerations to consider

While limiting loyalty to a single travel brand can benefit frequent travelers, it also has hidden drawbacks. Claire Sturzaker, travel writer on the Tales of a Backpacker blog, started traveling seven years ago. However, despite its frequent flyer status, it largely eschews loyalty programs and the rat race of the elite.

“When I travel, I want something different. that's why I travel,” he says. “I prefer to stay in a small hotel. I know the money goes back to the community I'm in, not a giant global corporation."

Sturzaker acknowledges that chain hotels are reliable and affordable, but says that's not usually his priority. And he likes to visit destinations where no airline flies. Instead, try to fly nonstop on low-cost airlines whenever possible.

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So who cares about elite travel status programs? They are designed for frequent business trips. Occasional travelers who make multiple trips a year may have some loyalty benefits, but these benefits are often offset by the added cost of limiting purchasing options.

And if you stick to just one brand, you're missing out on the most magical aspect of the trip: the surprise.

"I was in a small Honduran town run by a family of husband, wife and three children," says Sturzaker. “There was a power cut during my stay so we all sat down and talked. That would never happen to the Hilton."

This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.

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