After months of crunching and relapsing data as the pandemic disrupted travel, TBEN released its top travel rewards rankings for 2021. And, while travel in 2021 will be different from the previous year, it’s unlikely to be “normal.” You may be considering starting – or continuing – to build loyalty with a particular hotel or airline.
Does travel loyalty still make sense this year? Or have the natural benefits of such loyalty gone with so many other conventional travel ideas?
While it’s harder than ever to predict what the future of travel holds in store for us, there are a few almost certain factors to consider when determining whether to maintain, change, or forgo travel loyalty in Canada. 2021.
Your long-term travel goals
Loyalty and travel rewards programs have one goal: to let you spend and stay with one brand. They aim to build loyalty by offering you:
You don’t have to stick to a particular brand to earn points, miles, and elite status, but you’ll get a lot more value if you do. The elite status of leading airlines for one brand is worth much more than low level status with several. And earning 50,000 points with one brand of hotel will provide more options than earning 5,000 points with several.
That said, the value of these rewards often comes into play once they’ve been earned. If you achieve elite status by the end of 2021, you’ll reap most of the benefits in 2022, so you might consider staying loyal in 2021, even if you don’t plan on traveling much.
“But if I don’t travel a lot this year, what if I stick to a loyalty program?”
In most years, the answer would be “no”. But some rewards programs have reduced the requirements for elite status in 2021, making it much easier to achieve elite status and enjoy it in 2022. Expect to see better credit card deals and valuable point-winning promotions as 2021 rolls around and travel companies try. to attract you.
The big changes that have taken place in the travel industry are evident in our analysis of reward programs. For example, the “valueMany points and miles – which we calculate by collecting hundreds of hotel rates and rooms – have plummeted in 2020.
What changes does 2021 have in store? Who knows. Spot prices could soar later in the year as pent-up demand is unleashed. Or the deployment of the vaccine could hit (more) obstacles. The only certainty is uncertainty.
On the one hand, it is an argument against loyalty to a particular program. You don’t want to gain elite status with Alaska Airlines just to see the value of that status deteriorate. On the flip side, short term changes are unlikely to be negative as airlines and hotels are in desperate need of frequent flyer dollars.
Either way, it’s an argument for sticking to brands that have demonstrated commitment to customers rather than profit throughout the pandemic.
History of customer friendliness
We have seen dramatic differences between airlines and the way they have handled customer concerns and safety throughout the pandemic. Delta Air Lines, for example, completely blocked off the middle seats until March 2021, sacrificing tons of potential airline tickets in an effort to help its passengers feel safe. American and United Airlines, on the other hand, unceremoniously ended their mid-seat blocking policies ahead of the 2020 vacation, despite soaring infection rates.
Whether you consider air travel during the pandemic safe or not, no one wants to sit side by side with a stranger if they don’t have to. American and United have made it clear that they are ready to put profits ahead of customer satisfaction in 2020, which does not bode well for the changes to come.
On another side, Airlines companies and hotels who demonstrated strong customer-friendly policies during the pandemic sent a bigger message: they care. You should cover your travel loyalty bets with these companies in the future.
The bottom line
Whether you’re a grizzled travel devotee reconsidering your strategy for 2021 or a newbie looking to maximize your rewards, you might be wondering if it’s worth cultivating “loyalty” at such an uncertain time.
Look for point promotions and reduced elite requirements in 2021, with a view to exploiting them in 2022.
Expect big changes in these programs and try to take advantage of the positive ones.
When in doubt, go for brands that have proven their loyalty to customers during the pandemic.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our choices for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those that are best suited: