This might sound like an anathema to some people, but I am going to say it anyway – I couldn’t care less about airline or hotel loyalty. Elite tiers that are somewhat easy to reach for a person that doesn’t travel much or spends a lot on travel, don’t provide many benefits, so I see this as a pointless pursuit. Let me elaborate why I feel this way.

I think a lot of travelers care too much about earning status with any one program. It’s much more difficult to earn elite status with airlines now than it was five years ago. For example, mid-tier hotel status (I am looking at you, Marriott Bonvoy) doesn’t mean much and doesn’t really give any perks anymore.

hotel loyalty program

Hilton Honors might be the only exception. Even mid-tier members that have Gold status that (comes with a few different credit cards get the one benefit that is, in my opinion, worth having – a free breakfast.

I probably travel more than an average person but the only reason I have Gold status with any hotel program is because I have the Business Platinum Card from American Express . If I close this card, I’ll lose the status I have and I am absolutely fine with it.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express

Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000, an extra 50,000 points after an additional $15,000 all in the first 3 months. Terms apply.

Learn more

Why I Won’t Pursue Hotel Elite Status

hotel loyalty program
Cinque Terre, Italy

If you want to venture beyond major cities, you will find that many smaller towns and villages all over the world don’t have any American chain hotels. And if you were to worry about accumulating as many stays as possible at Hyatt or Marriott properties, you’ll miss out on seeing some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Here’s an example. A couple years ago my husband and I went to Italy and we stayed at Santa Margherita Ligure, a midsize Italian town not far from Genoa. This magical town makes a perfect base for exploring Portofino, Cinque Terre and other fine Italian towns and villages along the gorgeous Ligurian coast. The only chain hotel there is a Best Western, but there’s not a Hyatt, Marriott or Hilton in sight.

I didn’t use points on this trip and had I been concerned about earning elite credits on paid stays, I probably wouldn’t have gone there. I would’ve missed out on one of the best trips I’ve ever done!

airlline or hotel loyalty program
Portofino, Italy

Going to London? There are lots of chain hotels in London, but the more centrally located ones require a lot, and I mean A LOT, of hotel points. And it doesn’t matter if you go during off-peak times, the price in points is still pretty high. In such an expensive city, it’s not easy to acquire enough points for more than a couple of nights’ stay at a specific hotel chain.

Here’s how many Marriott Bonvoy points you’ll need to book just one night at a centrally located Marriott property.

pasted image 0 11

When I travel to a place like London, I spend very little time at the hotel. I don’t care about big ballrooms, fancy, gyms or a beautiful lobby. I want a clean room, a comfortable bed and a quiet location. And this is exactly what many local independent hotels can offer tourists, and at a much more reasonable price too.

Of course, London is an expensive city and high hotel prices are to be expected. However, if you focus your efforts on acquiring transferable points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, you would have a lot more options for a great stay in London.

When I was writing this, I ran a sample search on Ultimate Rewards portal for four star hotels for the month of September. I limited my search to hotels with a guest ratings of very good or higher. As you can see, the price in points is a lot more reasonable than for any of the Marriott hotels above.

pasted image 0 10

Of course, Ultimate Rewards points aren’t the same as Marriott points, and to get the best value out of them you’ll need to have Chase Sapphire Reserve as it allows you to get 1.5 cents per point. However, they are a lot easier to earn too, thanks to the many Ultimate Rewards earning cards that come with generous welcome bonuses and great bonus categories like Chase Ink Business Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Ink Business Preferred

80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $5,000 in 3 months

Learn more

I am writing this from Japan, a notoriously expensive country. And guess what, I booked my Tokyo and Kyoto hotels through the Chase portal. I got the room type I wanted and my rate included breakfast. Many non-chain hotels often have breakfast included in the rate too. You don’t need to be an elite to enjoy a nice breakfast spread. The staff are treating us like royalty, greeting us by name so I definitely feel appreciated. No elite status needed! Plus, there are far more non-chain hotels than chains, so why limit yourself?

I was especially thrilled with our Kyoto hotel, The Thousand Kyoto. I love modern design and this hotel was really up my alley. We got a big room by Japanese standard, and the rate I booked included a fabulous breakfast. The hotel costs far less in cash and points than the very few chain hotels in the city.

hotel loyalty program benefits
Lobby of our Kyoto hotel THE THOUSAND KYOTO
hotel loyalty program | The Thousand Kyoto Guest Room
The Thousand Kyoto Guest Room

If you are traveling with a family, finding rooms that can accommodate more than two people and won’t charge you extra could be problematic. However, if you have flexible currencies in your arsenal, you can easily book a suite or a family room to make sure your family has enough room to spread out.

Why I Don’t Pursue Airline Status

I feel the same way about airline status as I do about the hotel status. It’s very hard nowadays to earn airline status if you aren’t a “road warrior”, don’t fly a lot and don’t buy expensive last-minute fares. So why bother chasing airline loyalty at all?

Personally, I’d never take a longer flight or a flight with connections just to earn elite qualifying miles or meet elite qualifying spend. My time is worth something too. If I want more leg room, I can spend a little bit extra if I want to sit in economy plus, instead of hoping the airline will upgrade me.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 spend in 3 months

Learn more

If you have Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum, you can access many airport lounges and airport restaurants, no elite status needed. Paying the annual fee on one of these premium cards that have lounge access is cheaper than having to buy more expensive tickets on a preferred airline.

airline loyalty program benefits

Doing status runs, i.e. flying just for the sake of flying, not for the sake of actually seeing new places, is something I’d never do either. I travel so I can have new experiences and see new places, not to spend time at the airport, at airport lounges and on planes.

Because of where I live and the dominant airline at my home airport, I have to be (somewhat)  loyal to United Airlines. I really value United miles because they get me where I need to go. However, I would never spend more just to fly on United and earn United miles. My goal is, simply, to save money (or miles) and find the most convenient flights.

Great fare sales pop up from time to time and you can piece together a great trip without worrying about any hotel or airline loyalty, like my recent amazing, and pretty frugal, trip to Florence. So, who cares which airline you fly if you can get to Italy for about $500?

Go Where You Want to Go – Be Strategic and Earn Miles and Points You Need

In the process of pursuing an elite status with one program travelers might lose time, money and an opportunity to explore places where their preferred airline doesn’t operate flights or their preferred program doesn’t have any hotel properties.

I don’t want to be a slave to points or to a particular chain or airline. When friends ask my advice, I tell them to figure out where they want to go, then think about how they can make it happen. My husband and I like to set travel goals for ourselves and then work on getting enough points and miles to get us there. I try not to let the tail wag the dog and have the miles and points dictate where I want to go.

airline and hotel loyalty program to travel anywhere

Final Thoughts

Worrying about hotel and airline loyalty can make travelers miss on visiting some really amazing places. The approach I outlined above works best when you have a good amount of flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Of course, earning airline miles and hotel points has its value. What we need to remember though, is to not let them control us.

What’s your approach to airline and hotel loyalty? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, especially if you disagree with me.

Travel well,

Anna

Chase Sapphire Preferred

New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card to start with. With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months and 2x points on dining and travel, this card truly cannot be beat! 

Learn more

Disclosure: 10xTravel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. 10xTravel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. You can read our advertiser disclosure here.


About the Author

Anna is a freelance writer from Cleveland, OH who loves to travel and is a big miles and points geek. Anna’s favorite pastime (besides traveling) is planning trips and figuring out what kinds of points and miles she needs to make it happen. Thankfully, Anna’s husband is completely on board with all the free travel Anna earns and happily joins her on her adventures.

Learn More About Anna

10 Responses to “Why I Am Not Loyal to Any Airline or Hotel Program”


Anonymous

I feel like the CapOne Venture card should be mentioned in this article for revenue hotel bookings. The 10X at Hotels.com has been a boon for my company and contractors when booking hotels this year!
Great writeup!

Anna Zaks

Melissa, your comment made me LOL for real! We make do, right? Might take us a little longer to get places and might cost us more money/miles but we won’t let our circumstances stop us from traveling.

Sandi

New at this. Read the book, twice. Remain confused. I need a coach, lol. Traveled a lot in Europe but would like to learn to do it more wisely. I do have a british airways cc with 144,000 avios. Need to read the book again and learn which new cards would be the best. On the Facebook site and love how people are doing this! Thanks.

Vet&Banker

Can’t argue with your logic. I do find it valuable to pursue status as someone who travels a decent amount. But I think choosing the particular status is where you can find value. For us, chasing hotel status is now over, as we don’t stay enough to either earn it or get value. However, due to required international travel, we have airline status and will keep it indefinitely. But by choosing a status that an be earned cheaply and for longer than 1 year at a time, this turns out to be the same cost as getting a premium credit card or less.

I think people often limit themselves to the big 4 hotels and maybe 5 airlines. Looking at not only the whole world in reality (like you do for hotels) and the whole world of status (dozens of airlines, numerous hotels) means you broaden your horizons, literally and figuratively.

Miles Gordon

I couldn’t agree more!!!
I’m a world traveler and one simple trick I would share is if your flying from NYC and your flexible check Philly. I haves saved a lot of $ multiple times and flew to Amsterdam for 30k points and $41 in taxes-Nyc was 60k and $241 in taxes. 2 hour drive to Philly 45-90 to Kennedy. .

Daryl

Thanks for the great article Anna. I also agree that it’s not worth chasing being an elite or loyal member of hotels or airlines. I have the same strategy. I always check what miles or points I already have and what do I need to do to get to my desired destination. Many of the places we have traveled to did not have the big hotel chains. We have stayed in lovely Airbnb properties and used our Chase Rewards to book accommodations. I have canceled and signed up for many different credit cards to achieve my travel goals. Most people say it ruins your credit. I say I’m not buying a house or a car so it doesn’t matter what my credit score is. No one airline or hotel chain can be all things to all people.

I recently stayed at a Hilton in Dublin which I booked through Hotels.com and, because of my “status” (which I only have because of Amex Platinum), they gave me 2 water bottles for free – not 2 per day, 2 for the whole stay! What a joke!

I have now switched most of my hotel booking to Hotels.com. I think their loyalty program is genius – for each 10 nights, you earn 1 night for the average of what your previous nights were. For my honeymoon, I stayed at a boutique hotel in Tulum, Mexico. I could have booked directly through the hotel, but through Hotels.com I got to earn those nights. Which later translated in a top floor 2 room suite at the Bryant Park Hotel in NYC.

Whenever possible, I now book my hotels through this website. I am still able to get some cool boutique hotels like the one in Tulum, this year I got one in Paris and one in Champagne, and those nights add up and I can redeem whenever for another boutique hotel (or chain, if I choose to do so).

Sarah Packer

My husband and I are going on vacation soon and I wanted some tips on booking hotels since we always stay at the same chain hotel. I didn’t know local independent hotels could give you a better experience wherever you stay at a better price. I would love to save money since we’re spending a lot of time on activities and dining, so I’ll look for reputable local hotel stays, thanks to this post! https://www.montecarloinns.com/oakville-suites

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.