When it comes to the airline and hotel industries, mergers are often making headlines, leaving loyalty program members wondering what will happen to the rewards they’ve collected – and for good reason.
Every airline and hotel merger is different and the status of your rewards varies depending on the merger. What travelers are curious to learn is how long it will take to merge both loyalty programs and what it will mean for earned loyalty points and miles – and future earning potential.
Given the uncertainty associated with loyalty programs following a merger, earning activity typically slows down as members are reluctant to make further commitments, turning instead to other loyalty programs they are more certain of. Some members rush to redeem their loyalty rewards for fear of losing them all together.
Before you decide what to do with your loyalty rewards, here are my three tips for dealing with an airline or hotel merger.
Wait and See
Even after a merger has been announced, there are still a lot of decisions that need to be made before it’s time for you to take action. Aside from gaining the approval of government regulators, airlines and hotels in the midst of a merger have to also work out a lot of financial and logistical details well before determining which type of loyalty program will best suit their customers.
Despite completing a merger in December 2013, American Airlines and US Airways waited almost two years before consolidating their loyalty programs. Marriott opted for a similar plan of action, following its acquisition of Canada-based Delta Hotels in early 2015. Rather than absorbing Delta’s loyalty program shortly after the deal was finalized, Marriott postponed the changes until the following year to give Delta Privilege members enough time to prepare for their new loyalty program.
Regardless of what’s in store for your loyalty rewards, know that change won’t come overnight so you can continue to earn and redeem as before.
Keep an Eye out for Any Updates
Following a merger, most airlines and hotels keep customer service top-of-mind and are quick to pass along any updates regarding loyalty program changes coming down the pike. Try to avoid jumping to any conclusions as you wait to hear more about the fate of your loyalty program.
By keeping close tabs on your loyalty program’s website and social media accounts, you can get information about the merger directly from the airlines or hotels themselves. Updates on where things stand may even be sent to your inbox, so make sure those emails don’t end up in your spam folder.
I’d also suggest setting up Google Alerts, which can help you stay on top of breaking news about your loyalty program. Simply enter the words you want to get email notifications for, indicate how often you want to receive alerts and then narrow down what type of results you want (blogs, videos, news sites etc.).
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Loyalty program mergers can either help or hinder your travel plans. In a best-case scenario, a merger may retain the most beloved features from each of your favorite loyalty programs, creating a consolidated loyalty program that offers members with a new and improved user experience. Better yet, additional travel destinations provide loyalty program members with more opportunities to rack up rewards.
In the worst-case scenario, the value of rewards you’ve already gathered could be at stake. While you certainly won’t lose your loyalty rewards altogether, the value proposition of your rewards may alter slightly. The merger may also result in lost tier levels, perks and other benefits that were offered in your original loyalty program.
As with any decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of a consolidated loyalty program before developing a new strategy to reach your travel rewards goals.
With mergers popping up left and right in the travel space, chances are at least one of your favorite loyalty programs will be involved in a merger at some point. As you wait for more news on the future of your loyalty program, stay on top of and updates and keep an open mind to ensure you know how to manage your miles and points when the time comes.