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A loyalty programme addiction? What on earth are you talking about?
Well many of us travellers who love to earn air miles or hotel points could probably be medically categorised for it in some way. I’ve heard it referred to more than once as bordering on a mental illness, and ultimately many of us are addicted to loyalty programs – with all their benefits and perks, and of course the craving for more miles and points.
When booking a flight or hotel the average Joe will probably focus on the price as he or she wants to be able to fly from A to B or sleep in city X at the lowest cost. And you can’t blame them for it as it’s probably the most normal thing to do!
For those with a loyalty program addiction though, it’s a whole different game as:
- they probably want to fly and stay cheaply BUT
- besides that they also want to get the maximum number of miles for their flight and the same story goes for the hotel points.
And it doesn’t even stop there… no, they will also try to maximise their elite status perks as much as they can.
As you can see these kind of people will make it a bit more complicated but, when it comes to travel, their brain just works in a different way.
Personally, I will try to search for the cheapest hotel stays as well, but I will invariably start my research on the website of hotels where I’m a member of their loyalty programme and have current elite status. The reason for this is that my elite status allows me to earn more points, gives me a chance for an upgrade or lounge access, have an early check in or late check out and sometimes entitles me to a possible welcome gift. These may all look like small benefits but over time you get used to all this and you think it’s normal that you get treated this way when visiting a hotel.
It’s not only the perks that you get used to, but also the numbers and I have a thing with numbers. This might be because I used to work as an accountant before I started as an I.T. geek, but how many of your loyalty program account numbers do you know by heart? Or are you able to remember the number from your credit cards or bank cards? I can check the boxes on all of them…
Wouldn’t you like to see the balance of your bank account to be as high as possible? Well I have the same feeling when it comes to my loyalty program addiction, I can’t stand to see zeros on any of my loyalty accounts! Although it can be quite fascinating to have big numbers, it isn’t always a smart thing to keep them over a longer period of time, especially these days with all kinds of devaluations.
My advice when it comes to air miles? As soon as you have enough miles for a redemption that you’ve been saving up for, book it straight away! Did you manage to spend all of your American Airlines miles before the devaluation of the award chart on 22 March? I did!
Now the devaluation of hotel points is not something that will keep me awake at night as they don’t occur as often as with the airlines. The biggest danger is that a hotel can change up or down to a different category within the hotel loyalty program, making it either more expensive or cheaper to redeem points for a “free” night.
My main focus for hotel loyalty programs is on IHG and my hobby got a bit out of control in 2014 when I was so obsessed trying to maintain my Platinum elite status. I had booked 7 weekends in a row at the Crowne Plaza hotel near Brussels Airport, maybe not that crazy but if you then look at the rate that I paid per night… It came down to £104 per night, so multiply that by 14 and then add another £28 per weekend for the upgrade to a club room and access to the SkyLounge. You end up with an insane amount just get keep a silly plastic card that says you’re a Platinum member, do you still think I’m ok in the head? You probably think I have completely lost my mind… but everyone has their hobby right?
As you can see I’m obsessed with keeping my points balance high and I seem to be doing a good job this year so far as I’m just over 200,000 points on my IHG account. And the points will not expire as long as I keep my account active through, for example, more hotel stays or participating in promotions.
It won’t be an issue for me to keep that account active as I have plenty of upcoming stays the coming weeks and months. I will be staying at the InterContinental hotels in Bali, Abu Dhabi and Berlin and will have a cheap stay at a Holiday Inn Express in my hometown of Antwerp to complete my Accelerate promotion. I could have booked some of these stays on points but being stubborn I decided to pay for my stays and earn additional points because I have a number in mind that I want to reach before the end of the year. I will decide what to do with my points after hitting that specific number.
Another option would be to just burn my current points balance by booking 4 nights at a nice InterContinental hotel at a rate of 50,000 points per night. Or I could wait till IHG announces their new PointBreaks deals which allows me to book a hotel night for 5,000 points per night, so basically I could book about 40 nights! The nice thing about this is that IHG considers a reward night as elite qualifying, meaning I could qualify myself as Platinum member for another year…
2015 was the first year ever for me that I obtained an airline elite status and it wasn’t due to flying a lot, because I rarely fly for my current job. The times that I get to fly for work is from Brussels to Manchester and back which will get me a whopping 250 miles! I got my elite status with American Airlines by doing their Platinum challenge last year June and it was pretty easy to qualify.
My new elite status made it possible to earn a load of extra miles so during the 4th quarter of 2015 I did 2 mileage runs which got me quite some miles. In November I flew a weekend return trip from Amsterdam to Honolulu and the during the first week of December I did a 7 day mileage run. Yes you read that right, 7 days with 19 flights! It was a great experience to be honest and I would definitely do it again if I got the opportunity.
All the flights from an upcoming trip at the end of April, beginning of May are mostly booked on award tickets, so those won’t earn me anything unfortunately. In September I have another trip planned, but I’ll be flying with Emirates and it won’t earn me anything on my beloved American Airlines so I will most likely be posting the miles from that trip into my Alaska Air account with whom I don’t have any elite status. I still need to come up with a strategy for 2017 for obtaining airline elite status…
I explained earlier in this article that it’s very easy to get used to all the hotel perks and benefits, well the same goes for airlines. In my case I really enjoyed the priority check in, free choice of seats and access to the airport lounges.
Solution for the loyalty programme addiction?
Is there any kind of solution or cure for people with a loyalty programme addiction? I wouldn’t have a clue to be honest. Looking for a different hobby or completely quitting travelling seem a bit drastic to me because I love to travel!
Once you have been bitten by the travel bug it’s very hard to give it up as you will continue to search for great deals and every possible way to earn miles or points. But if you’ve got the bug, miles and points are a great angle really, because they allow you to travel at great value.
Events like the FTU (Frequent Traveller University) in Berlin in June only enhance this loyalty programme addiction. Most of the attendees there are loyalty programme addicts and that’s why the FTU is such a fun event – you get to spend time with like-minded souls. You get to talk about your “problems” to your heart’s content: so just look at the FTU as a Frequent Flyers Anonymous!
Now in order to cure your loyalty program addiction there is no need for you to necessarily travel all the way to Berlin, because you can get your share of therapy right here on InsideFlyer, either by reading articles on our front page or by checking out the forum. Do you have the same addiction? Do you want to talk about it? Then don’t hesitate to contact us, we can answer all your questions!