The last piece I wrote was about how travel reward programs work, and I hope it was enlightening, even if it was a bit of a downer. I have belonged to many a reward program over the years, been burned by expiry dates or ‘non-qualifying flights’ that screwed me out of perks I thought I was a shoe-in to get – and it’s made me realize a lot of these alleged rewards aren’t even things I care about.
But man, do they know how to convince me I do!
Things like hotel upgrades don’t interest me because I don’t stay in hotels often enough to accumulate points or even use rewards. The same goes for car upgrades. Maybe if I were a business person who needed all of these things consistently, it would be nice to get the upgrades for future business trips or the odd leisure vacation. Still, then again, that only applies to specific companies and doesn’t work if I go to a location that that company doesn’t service.
Even if I could get the upgrades through other means, I don’t really care about big fancy cars (mine or as a rental) or a hotel room with a sitting room attached. Really, I don’t. If I’m traveling somewhere, I am in a different mindset and no matter what I’m doing, I can live with it temporarily. You’re just making me more annoyed by trying to raise my expectations.
The rewards that do mean things to me are free flights and valuable merchandise, but these are the kinds of things that are the hardest to get because they actually cost something. Upgrading from a lesser to a better thing doesn’t cost the company anything when they have an abundance of cars/rooms on hand, particularly in the down season when those things are just sitting empty anyways. Giving someone a free flight or a computer based on points is different. I get that, but those are the things I want.
If I’m going to book something, and the competition is relatively similar in price and what is offered, then the rewards points matter to me. On the other hand, if I have the option of saving like $500 by going with a non-reward partner, I’m going that route every time because the extra expense isn’t worth points that will take forever to add up to something useless, and then ultimately expire before I have a chance to use them. That is what travel reward points mean to me.