The relationship between the big three banks and the big three airline loyalty programs in the United States is pretty clear: There are tight ties which help ensure that the banks make lots of money giving out points and the airlines make money selling those points. For Delta and American Express that relationship is very, very strong; there are a myriad of cards available from AmEx which earn SkyMiles. Plus there is the Membership Rewards program which can transfer points in to SkyMiles. Well, the rules are changing on the Delta Membership Rewards front.
Effective January 1, 2015 Delta is making a program-wide change limiting the number of points that can be transferred into a SkyMiles account from any partner loyalty program, including the Membership Rewards program. As a result, there will be 2 important changes that will limit the total number of Membership Rewards® points that you can redeem for Delta SkyMiles: (1) the total number of Membership Rewards points that can be transferred out of any Membership Rewards account into one or more Delta SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year, and (2) the total number of Membership Rewards points that can be transferred into any individual Delta SkyMiles account will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. (A “calendar year” is 12:00 am MST Jan 1 through 11:59 pm MST Dec 31).
Through the end of the year Membership Rewards members can continue to transfer points in to their SkyMiles account at up to 999,000 each day. Starting on 1 January 2015, however, new SkyMiles rules go into place limiting inbound transfers to only 250,000 per year per account. This is a HUGE cut for the Membership Rewards program. And given that Delta is the last of the US-based programs still participating this cut is likely to affect a lot of customers.
Or is it?
How many people are churning through more than a quarter million dollars of purchases each year and moving all those points over to SkyMiles? Maybe not a ton, but what about people who are saving points in Membership Rewards over multiple years and who don’t move them over until it is time to redeem. And getting a few hundred thousand over a few years isn’t all that difficult.
But, keeping with the trends the company has made in recent months, Delta is limiting the ability to move points into its program. Delta wants more control over the SkyMiles points earning process. It is still possible to earn as many SkyMiles as you want through a co-branded AmEx product. And there are a number of other benefits which can be realized on top of just the points with one of the SkyMiles credit cards. But that does reduce the flexibility and fungibility of those points; they are tied to a single program.
Of course, that’s what Delta wants so it makes sense on that front. But, for Membership Rewards, just another of the many cuts – some small and some large – which have eroded the program over the years.