Are Loyalty Programs Worth Your Time and Energy?

Do you feel like you’re spending a lot of money to maintain your loyalty program points and miles status lately? You’re not alone. With extra fees here, changing point values there and no such thing as a “free” trip anywhere, some business travelers are changing their tune on the rewards of loyalty.

“Free” comes with a “fee”

Travelers spend thousands each year to rack up miles, all in the name of the elusive “free” ticket. In fact, a “free” domestic flight takes 25,000 miles, which costs you about $2,000 on trips – not the best return on investment. International tickets can sometimes cost up to $1,000 in taxes and fees, particularly if you can get a seat around the holidays, when airlines usually black out free tickets.

And the taxes and redemption costs are getting creative – want to redeem by phone? Or book less than three weeks out? Or even have your fruit inspected by the agriculture department? There’s a fee for that. And unless your status has extra special perks – you will be charged. (Hey – you might want to check if that agriculture scan is covered under your expense policy!)


Hotels get in the loyalty program game


The airlines aren’t the only ones getting in on the redemption predicament. Hotels are restructuring loyalty plans and points, changing their values and making them more challenging to redeem. That might be a disappointment for the infrequent business traveler, who probably won’t see the reward of his or her loyalty for years to come.

But hotels still see the frequent sleeper as their bread and butter – be sure the big chains want your big business, and will continue offering incentives to get it. It’s just that the incentives – like free nights, free upgrades or free anything – might be harder to obtain.

On the plus side, enrollment and regular use of loyalty programs can lead to some pretty nice perks. Priority status, preferred seating, early boarding, choice pillow selection and the list goes on and on. For some business travelers – frequent and infrequent – these perks can far outweigh the periodic changes in plans and points.

Are you loyal to your loyalty program? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us at @Concur. 

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