This is something I was looking into for a while. All the ads in travel show the air miles and hotel points – something to collect and reward you after few stays and flights. Most business travelers are members of these programs and know them well.
But there’s a catch, many in fact.
First, there are just too many programs. Sure, back in 1980’s when there were just a few airlines it made sense. But now days with EasyJet’s and JetBlues – what’s the point? If I’m going to travel for myself I look at the times first, price second and then airline. Often the cheaper airlines have better times or the airline your not a member of has a better time or route. So collecting these points is not that easy.
Second, the points really don’t give you anything. Most lounges are closed or far away. So even if you have the lounge access, it’s useless. I once stayed at Hilton and with my Silver status was upgraded to the better room – nice! I though. But then my second stay at the same hotel I had the standard room. Exactly the same room, but different floor. So if I was paying myself, why bother?
With hotels, AirBnB and Hostels are far much better options. What I look for in a hotel is location, access to transport (buses, tube, etc.) and then the price. Often the chain hotels are grouped together near the airport or the trade fair grounds – boring places.
Third is that they just expire. I travel is chunks, one year a lot another year not once. So why collect something that will expire so fast?
I completely understand the business models these companies have with points. It builds “loyalty” so you default to your membership without looking at other options. Same with food stores and subscription services. But the word is much more interesting than corporate hell in chains and brands.