Reward & Frequent Flyer Points: Think of Them as Bananas

The deal with any reward program was always that you spend literally tens of thousands of dollars on airline tickets, or charges on your credit card. In return, you would get some free flights, or other kind of rewards, way down the road when you finally accumulated enough points.

You kept your part of the deal. You charged away, and kept flying and staying loyal to a specific airline. But right now, you’re being played, as the airlines and many other reward programs are not keeping their part of the bargain. According to the Wall Street Journal, overall reward perks dropped by 29% last year and an IBM Global survey reports that less than 48% of us are satisfied with our airline reward program.

Should you go in arrears on your credit card, cancel it or the company goes under, your reward points will be gone. To assure you receive at least some of the benefits of what you signed up for, forget collecting points for the super expensive and cool reward. Take your points and redeem them. At least you will get something, which is a whole lot more than nothing. Read the fine print for changes, redemption fees, and watch for increased points thresholds with fewer rewards.

In the airline industry, the shrinkage of points and the growth of restrictions are even more noticeable. Start to take the convenient schedule, the direct flight and cheapest ticket. Never mind any loyalty to a particular airline that will most assuredly change the goalposts on you, way before you ever get close to a free flight.

The sharp drop in frequent flyer point values has also started to erode loyalty from customers – and rightly so. The percentage of people who are loyal to an airline is down to 25%, according to Forrester Research. And airlines have done it to themselves. The programs used to be about 2 cents per mile in these programs. Now it’s down to barely 1 cent, that’s a 50% drop in what you’re getting, and in what you’re holding in points values!

At the same time, there can now be fees to redeem, to call them, to book a flight, to check a suitcase, massive last minute surcharges in points, and the likes, which drastically erode the value of these so-called “free” points even more.

The other big killer is that airlines make a pile of money selling their points to car rental companies, flower and hardware stores and, well – anyone that wants to pay cash up front. Last year, United Airlines made over $800 million just by selling points. At American Airlines, it was more than a billion dollars! Those are cash for an airline but it’s a staggering amounts of points dumped into the world, and now there are literally billions of points chasing the same few seats. It’s supply and demand.

Right now, it’s heads they win, tails you lose. Do not let your points get eaten up, wiped out, or shrink away. Make it a point to redeem what you can and think of them more like bananas instead of an asset! Something sort of free today is better than nothing down the road.

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