Being the resident points, credit card and awards booking nerd here at J5Travel, I spent several hours over the last week contemplating just how much all these programs have changed over the last 20 years since I caught the bug. I have often jumped through many hoops in order to extract maximum value from my airline, credit card and hotel loyalty points. It is far too complicated a subject to run through it all, if only because the goalposts keep getting moved...a lot. But every now and then I do like to let you all know about major changes.
This weeks Top 5 features both good and bad news from the world of points and loyalty, but please know that as one of the few travel advisor companies that actively encourages our clients to incorporate awards bookings into your itineraries (providing you are booking a complete trip with us), we continue to offer our best advice and recommendations based on the best value for you, the client. It's hard for me to diss a hotel awards program when I know that many properties in the portfolio are incredible, but please know I am coming at that purely from the value of your points, it is not a comment on the quality of the accommodation.
Top 5 - Award and Points Bookings 2022
This is the single biggest revolution in searching for good value airline awards since I first booked a US Airways flight with points back in 2002, a process that seemed to take a week. Whoever the person behind this is they have immediately jumped to the #1 spot in the list of "people I want to have lunch with", and that's a long list.
In one fell swoop, my work to find awards for clients has shifted to a one-stop shop from going into each individual airline program separately, a painstaking process that has literally often taken many hours just for one flight. I honestly can't fathom just how complicated the code behind this project must be, but I am very, very grateful. I was alerted to this by several of the points and miles blogs I follow, jumped right in last Saturday morning and was sold within an hour, fully signed up for an annual membership. Details on the booking I made to follow below, but for anyone with over 250K points in any airline or credit card membership program, I strongly recommend you take a peek. Click HERE and use promo codes OMAAT (courtesy of One Mile at a Time) or MEMORIES (courtesy of Miles to Memories) for a 24-hour free pass and just play around with this incredible new tool.
There's a couple of screenshots from some random business class searches above and below.
2. Marriott Bonvoy
There is no sugarcoating this is if you are loyal to Marriott. As much as I love so many of their luxury properties, especially St Regis and Luxury Collection boutique hotels (eg. Hotel Marques de Riscal, Spain, above), on March 29th, Marriott are devaluing their Bonvoy program in a very big way. Hotel award bookings will be aligned with whatever the ongoing hotel cash rate is and with the base level of points redemption being raised considerably, this means many properties are going to see redemption rates easily double or more. This has no effect on you if you are not in to the points game or loyal to Marriott, but if this has been a major part of your reason for booking Marriott properties and of course they have more to choose from than any other brand, then it may be time to reconsider your future brand loyalty. We are currently advising clients to use up as many of their points as possible by March 29th. We continue to be proud to be in Marriott's STARS program for travel advisors and will continue to recommend their hotels when they are the right fit for our clients, but with regard to Marriott loyalty, here at J5Travel we think they are making a big mistake.
3. AA Loyalty Points
American Airlines new iteration of the AAdvantage program is up and running as of March 1st. Gone are EQM's and EQD's and the new metric to reach Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum statuses are Loyalty Points. You’ll earn Loyalty Points as you earn eligible AAdvantage miles whenever you fly, use an AAdvantage credit card for purchases, or earn eligible miles with AAdvantage partners. One eligible AAdvantage® mile equals one Loyalty Point. It's good that this has been simplified (see above), but the increased focus on spend rather than miles flown is probably going to confuse those who do not pay much attention to changes like this. Top tip - take advantage of the AA shopping websites for any bonus offers that come along. It appears that most are posting to accounts for the full amount of Loyalty Points.
As many airline award programs have devalued over the years and moved to "dynamic" pricing ie. expensive, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer program has maintained an award chart that actually makes sense and with the right tools can be wonderful value for exemplary business class travel (above). Here's my example from this past weekend. I'm off to Australia in April and had a Cathay Pacific business class award booked for Melbourne to JFK via HKG. Hong Kong however is still not even allowing passengers to transit and the Chinese authorities seem to have a death-wish for Cathay. Anyway, my award flights were cancelled and I needed an alternative. Given Australia has only just reopened, there is huge demand and my flights are soon. Point.me, yes my number one in the Top 5 this week, saved me. I searched for Melbourne to JFK knowing that inputting Charlotte as my final destination would likely be a bust (just one leg too many). Up popped some options which would cost 400K+ in points. But when filtered by lowest cost, there it was...129K points for Melbourne to Newark via Singapore, all in business class (above). That's 26 hours of actual flying including the worlds longest flight SIN to EWR!
Great value and the best thing about Krisflyer is you can transfer points into an account from all 3 of the major credit card points programs - Amex, Citi and Chase.
Honestly, it was pure luck that I picked Hyatt to target top tier (Globalist) status with a hotel brand some 5 years ago now. At the time, Marriott was the obvious choice, with a much wider footprint and many more luxury brand hotels. But I already liked the Andaz brand and any time I walked in to a Park Hyatt (eg. New York above) I felt a sense of calm. Right now though, there is no question in my mind that Hyatt has the best loyalty program at the top tier by some distance. Their footprint is growing rapidly and the development of luxury brands - Alila, Centric, Thompson, Miraval, Destination by Hyatt and Joie de Vivre has been rapid even in the last couple of stressful years for the travel industry. They have given me more than enough reasons to keep being loyal. As an advisor I am very careful to remain neutral and always recommend the best accommodation for a clients needs and in most cases a loyalty number is not even of any importance, but when it is, I am able to offer my opinion, and for now that would be to head to Hyatt.
The simple facts - Park Hyatt hotels can be booked for between 30K and 40K points a night. St Regis properties are currently 80K+ a night and are about to double that cost. Hyatt points are just as easy to accumulate as Bonvoy points and you can even transfer points from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program into your World of Hyatt account.
As an added bonus for AA flyers, you can link AAdvantage and World of Hyatt accounts and earn reciprocal points in each account for every stay and flight.
If you have reward points that you need help navigating to plan your trip let us know by clicking the button below.
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