For the first time since the pandemic began, travel seems to be rebounding and that’s not the only change we’re seeing going into the new year- hotels and airlines have been making some major loyalty program changes. In 2020 and 2021, airline and hotel companies made minor changes to their programs and mostly preserved the status quo. As a result, frequent travelers are likely sitting on several elite statuses and mounds of miles and points. These extensions will be instrumental for members who worked hard to accrue their well deserved benefits.
Since there are still plenty of uncertainties with the pandemic, travel remains tentative and it’ll be an interesting balancing act for travel companies to preserve profits without losing customers to other programs offering better promotions and value.
Let’s take a look at some of the major changes we can expect in the upcoming year. If they all seem to be negative, don’t worry- there’s still likely to be plenty of promotions and discounts to take advantage of.
AAdvantage: American Airlines Loyalty Program
AAdvantage is making some major changes to the way members earn status. Instead of Elite Qualifying Miles, Elite Qualifying Dollars and Elite Qualifying Segments, there will be only one status metric: Loyalty Points. These loyalty points will be earned by travel, credit card spend and through select AA partners like AAdvantage Dining and Shopping. For all of you big spenders out there, It will even be possible to earn top tier status through credit card charges!
American is extending all current members AAdvantage status through March 31, 2022, and they’re making 2023 status easier by allowing members to double dip. All qualifying activity earned in January and February will count towards both 2022 and 2023 AAdvantage status. This gives members two extra months to earn status for both years.
One very interesting change is that the qualification year is no longer the calendar year, instead members will qualify for status from March through February, with status expiring March 31 of the following year.
Marriott reward levels are changing from fixed to dynamic pricing in 2022, which will have significant effects on the value of your Marriott award nights since free night certificates are based on points, not levels.
However, there are some positive changes coming to Marriott free night certificates in addition to extended expirations; members will be able to upgrade Free Night Awards with up to 15,000 points so that they can stay at a more expensive property.
World of Hyatt Loyalty Program Changes
In October, World of Hyatt enacted peak and off peak pricing for award nights. Here’s an example to illustrate for a category 1 property, standard redemption point requirements start at 5,000 points for a free night in a standard room. Off-peak standard room free nights start at 3,500 points. Peak standard room free nights are also new and are no more than 5,000 points above the standard point requirements.
Just recently, Chase and Hyatt jointly launched a business credit card which gives big spenders another avenue to earn nights towards elite status.
Hilton Honors Loyalty Program Changes
In 2022, members can earn Hilton Honors elite status much more easily than in previous years. Not only will nights earned in 2021 be automatically counted towards 2022 status, but the number of required nights for each tier has also been reduced.
For instance, you will earn 10,000 bonus Hilton points for every 10 nights after 30 eligible nights are achieved. This is 10 nights sooner than the regular requirement.
Furthermore, the best change for many Hilton loyalists with free night certificates is that they will continue to be applicable for award stays for any night of the week as opposed to just weekends. I’m hoping that they make this change permanently.
Delta Skymiles Program Changes
Beginning in February 2022, there are some mixed changes coming to the Global Upgrade Certificates that are available to Delta Diamond Medallion members. Members will not be eligible for double upgrades at the time of booking, instead they’ll be upgraded for one class and then added to the upgrade list. However, the good news is that the upgrade will be available if there’s a seat as opposed to dedicated upgrade space.
Delta is also giving members a headstart on status for 2023 by rolling over all Medallion Qualification Miles earned in 2021 towards earning status in 2022.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program Changes
In 2022, Alaska will introduce a new top tier elite status called “MVP Gold 100K,” which includes some pretty cool new benefits like upgrade certificates on AA and a huge elite mileage bonus of 150%. Check out the chart below for the Mileage Plan Elite Status Qualification Changes:
Most airlines and hotels have extended elite status, free night certificate expirations and paused award points expirations, so you’re going to have to be strategic about your travel plans. It’s best to start burning those mountains of miles and points now because they tend to lose value over time due to award chart changes (aka devaluations). The Marriott move to dynamic award pricing is a great example of why you shouldn’t save up too many points in one program and instead focus on transferable currencies.
Written by Bethany Walsh Bethany is Card Curator’s travel rewards expert. She is a native New Yorker and a miles, points and loyalty program strategist. Bethany is also the founder of Bougiemiles.com, where she works to teach people that luxury travel is never out of the budget. Her favorite vacation spots include Hong Kong, Toronto and any place with a beach. Bethany lives for a deal and has had a love (read: obsession) for the miles and points game ever since she received her first sign-up bonus. When Bethany is not lying on a beach or analyzing mileage award charts, she enjoys spending time with her foster dogs (plus her four pets) and volunteering for an animal rescue.