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The end of the year is a great time to review your loyalty strategy for the next year, by reviewing your past activity from the previous year. The loyalty strategy applies to your travel world which includes airlines, hotels, and credit cards. It is important to review your past year each year in order to make sure you are receiving a lot of value from the programs you participate in and the credit cards you use – there are always changes and therefore your loyalty could also change if you find that a different program might be better for you in your next year of travels.

Airline Loyalty Strategy

While you should be almost done with your frequent flyer elite qualification for the year, this is a really good time to think about your flying activity and what airline you might be loyal to in the new year. While many people will be happy to stick with their current plan and be loyal to the same airline(s) next year, be sure to ask yourself:

  • is your frequent flyer program offering significant value?
  • are there good redemption opportunities?
  • are elite benefits powerful?
  • does “your” airline offer a premium experience when you fly?

Airlines love to change their loyalty programs year after year – and all of the benefits offered. Chances are that the program you are most loyal to has had a few changes in the past year – ask yourself if those changes negatively affect you and if there is a better program you could use?

It is also important to note that you could easily be loyal to two or more airlines and frequent flyer programs. For example, if you have top-tier elite status with airline A, but have wanted to try airline B, consider going for mid-tier elite status with both airlines instead of top-tier status with just one airline. You will miss out on some top-tier benefits, but you will have access to more overall benefits on more airlines due to the way alliances work – and you will have more miles and access to more award availability.

Airline loyalty should work two ways – you are loyal by flying with a certain airline, and they should be rewarding you with significant benefits. If you don’t feel the “love” anymore, perhaps it is time to think about another way to fly.

Hotel Loyalty Strategy

Hotel loyalty is also very important – if you fly a lot, chances are you also stay at hotels a lot. When it comes to hotel loyalty, I have found a lot of people aren’t just loyal to one hotel chain but rather to a few. This could be because it is much easier to earn hotel elite status, through credit cards and promotions, for example, than it is to earn airline elite status. Many people already take the approach of being loyal to two hotel chains, for example, and having mid-tier elite status with both of them – instead of having top-tier status with just one hotel chain.

Regardless, it is important to review your previous travel year and also the changes the frequent guest programs may have made and analyze if it is worth being loyal again next year. Consider the following:

  • have any significant aspects been changed negatively?
  • how much value did you get out of your hotel points and stays?
  • were your elite benefits offered to their max?
  • is earning points still possible in a powerful way?
  • what is the overall “mood” like at the hotel chain/program?

While some hotel loyalty programs have made positive changes to their programs in the past year – some have made no changes and yet the experience has gone down dramatically. Remember that earning hotel elite status is sort of easy, so it could make sense for you to try out a few different hotel chains and see what the experience is like for you and if you want to change your hotel loyalty strategy.

Credit Card Strategy

Credit card issuers also make frequent updates to their credit card offerings – such as changing the amount of points you will receive for a transaction or perhaps raising the annual fee. We have seen annual fees on premium travel credit cards go up a few times over the past few years – with additional benefits added. As always, you should be using a credit card that earns flexible and transferable points in a bank program – so that you can move them over to an airline or hotel program that has the most award availability and best value when it comes time to book.

Most people have a few different credit cards opened:

  • an airline credit card that earns miles directly in your frequent flyer account
  • a hotel credit card that earns points directly in your frequent guest account
  • a few credit cards that earn points in a flexible bank program

We have airline credit cards opened for earning miles in a program that may not participate in any transfers from bank programs or perhaps because that credit card offers some elite-like benefits with an airline (like a free checked bag). The same goes with hotel credit cards – these can offer benefits like free night certificates and also a more powerful way to earn hotel points.

Thinking about your credit card strategy, think about:

  • are you using the correct card for every purchase?
  • are you easily earning multiple points for every $1 you spend?
  • are you taking advantage of all of the benefits the card offers?
  • are you able to justify paying the annual fee?
  • are you overall satisfied with each and every card you have?

Have a look at your credit card strategy and take a look at things like your spending habits, what benefits you have used, and overall if you are getting a lot of value from a credit card. If you aren’t happy with some aspects of a card, consider switching to a different card if you no longer value that previous card. Also, have a look at new credit card offers and perhaps apply for them if you think they will bring you more value in the new year.

All in All

Loyalty should work both ways – you fly with an airline and get rewarded, the same goes for hotels and credit cards. The more you engage in a product, the more benefits you should receive. If you find that a program you engage in is no longer as rewarding for you, make changes and switch to a program that does recognize your loyalty and can offer you elevated benefits and rewards.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.