Last weekend, when I was mapping out things I planned to discuss on the blog for the week, I envisioned this post title to be “Getting Out of a Loyalty Rut.” Now that I’m writing it, I realize that’s not what this is about at all. I’m not in a rut, I’m just being reflective, and it’s probably not a bad idea for all of us to reflect on our loyalty habits from time to time. I go through this at least once a year, it just seems a little more pronounced than usual this time around. Perhaps it’s because of all the “news” out of loyalty programs over the last year, perhaps it’s just me facing a little reality. This is not a slam on Delta, SkyMiles, MileagePlus or any other program. You know how I feel about “revenue based” programs.
I am a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion. I like being a Platinum Medallion. It’s proven to be a real sweet spot in status for my travels, even while living in Atlanta, Delta’s largest hub. Would Diamond be better? Sure, but I’ve managed without it. I will re-qualify for Gold Medallion in a couple weeks, and in just a few months after that, Platinum again for next year. Further, it looks like I’ll do all that without the need for an MQD waiver from SkyMiles Amex charges. Some would say I’m losing the game with that result, and if all my travel were personal, I’d say you’re right. Oh, I’m close enough on the MQD waiver ($25K in spending) that I’ll cross that threshold just for grins, and the 10,000 MQM and redeemable bonus that come with it, but what about next year? In the end, I stopped playing “the game” a while back. Flying is not a hobby, it’s a necessary requirement of my work. My personal travels, whether paid for with money or points, are gravy.
It’s been a journey, but I’ve come to grips with the idea of not placing such a value on miles, points, and the elite status that comes with them that I am willing to go significantly out of my way to ensure I attain a certain point balance or elite status. 2014 will likely be the last year that I try to attain elite status. I’m a lot less interested in the art of the deal than I am in the art of travel, and if I have to fly coach more often, I’ll survive. I’ll take the status I earn from my butt in a seat or my head in a bed, and I won’t spend one nickel on any particular credit card just for the sake of getting a slightly better metallic named status card from an airline or hotel. None of this is to say that I don’t love a good deal, or won’t capitalize on a big bonus mile/point opportunity when one comes around, believe me, I will. I’ll even go on a mileage run (maybe even two) if I’m close to a new elite threshold.
While I believe that revenue based programs are coming to all the airlines, and happen to think that spend is a better way to reward, it doesn’t mean that I’m just going to sit still. I will be more focused on programs like Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, and Arrival Miles for card spending in the new year. Of course, a lot of what happens with the airlines hinges on what American does with AAdvantage. What do you think will happen, and are you planning to change your loyalty habits in the face of a new revenue based reality?
-MJ, July 11, 2014