Which type of loyalty junkie are you??

It was, arguably, a throw-away which came up during one of the panel discussions at the Loyalty 2015 Conference last month in Istanbul. While ostensibly discussing alliances and mergers the topic of a single currency came up (and was quickly dismissed by most of the panel members) and Stuart Evans, Director Global Loyalty Practice at ICLP offered up a view of the global loyalty landscape:

The North American market particularly is a reward market. Offer the points, people will come and change behavior. Europe is a far more recognition-driven market. [Customers] want the experience, they want the service. They are far more driven by that. Asia is far more a promotion-driven market where it is chances to win, chances to engage.

This got me thinking: Where do I really fit in this range? What type of “loyalty junkie” am I?

I like the benefits of elite status, particularly from the airlines. I really don’t see much of the value it offers for hotels. Ditto for points, though even that is changing a bit as the airlines shift towards revenue-based systems; the points are losing some of their luster. But I also don’t see the value of status/recognition increasing to replace that, at least for my travel needs. Have I simply come to the end of the line in terms of loyalty programs other than my own wallet? I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but it seems to be getting closer with each successive change to the programs.


So, tell me what you think. Where do you fit in the range of loyalty program members described by Mr. Evans? One comment will win a 1:500 model 77W in the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles livery (one of the souvenirs I picked up at the conference). Contest closes at noon EST on Friday but feel free to keep sharing your thoughts.

See more stories from the Loyalty 2015 conference here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I’m a mix. I appreciate the recognition, but I’m finding more and more the thing that matters to me are the rewards I fly. I think if I were continually shooting for a moving target (a la Delta’s SkyPesos), I’d get less enjoyment from the whole thing. I like American’s loyalty program, but I don’t necessarily fly them a whole lot. For example, this year I’ve flown almost exclusively on Qatar (revenue-wise). As far as Hotels, I’d argue the recognition and lounge benefits are more important to me than the points, but that could be a result of the ever increasing points required, on an annual basis, for a free room. But hotels are experiencing record occupancy, so it makes sense for them to shift reward categories, and occasionally increase either reward levels or reward charts.

  2. Pretty much given up on status now. But definitely appreciate the value that can be derived from airline and hotel point redemptions!

  3. I like at least some status (even that provided by a credit card) to improve my experience, but I know I don’t travel enough for top tier status or upgrades. I think it matters more at airlines for things like priority boarding and better customer service, though I do love free breakfast with Hilton Gold. The benefits from being at least a little better than most travelers is well worth it to me, and helps make the overall trip much better.

  4. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my behavior has been, and continues to be, influenced by both hotel and airline status inducements. I travel frequently for work, mostly by car, and have found that the IHG chain matches my (mostly rural, US) destinations, so I’ve often adjusted my overnight stays to match that brand’s offerings and promotions. I’ve not a hub captive, but in the upper Midwest Delta is usually one of only several options available, and I’ve adjusted travel, both professional and personal, to achieve and maintain status.

  5. I’m mostly status driven – 1K on United, Diamond at Hyatt and Hilton. I can manufacture the points I need, and feel that the status makes the points more valuable: expanded xN inventory on United (plus preferential handling on IRROPS); breakfast at Hyatt; lounge access at Hilton.

  6. Points matter more for me (duh, free travel!), though since the game is new to me, I find status to be more pleasantly surprising, both at hotels (great luck as a gold with Carlson Rezidor) and airlines. I’m careful to calculate the point value, though, so I know that I’m getting a decent return on my “investment.”

  7. Definitely a reward person here. Hotel points can be useful for staying in nice places to make the experience greater, but less of a driving factor than airline points

  8. Its ALL about the UPGRADE. A better seat, bigger suite &/or a fast-track line – serve to make traveling easy. Achieving the next tier is a reward unto itself. (Love the adorable 1:500 model 77W Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles plane too !)!! Thanks.

  9. Definitely recognition driven – status and acknowledgement are much more important to me than points given or the rewards as I travel so much for work, I never use my points and usually just end up giving them away to friends and family. I like the little bit of recognition I get for being top tier with all 3 alliances – I find in that in J, which is how I get to travel for work, that they do often seek out their top tier members and make them feel special – and I like that. 🙂

  10. Like some of the other commenters I do a mixed strategy, and pick different types of programs for different needs. If I really had to choose one type of program, I’d vote with my pocketbook and go for the “reward” or redemption-oriented program. I invest a lot of my credit card spend in the United MileagePlus program because it consistently offers good availability and reasonable redemption prices. But fortunately we’re not limited to one type of program! I’m an “elite” with Miles&Smiles, which for me is really a recognition-oriented program, and will keep crediting most of my *A flying there as long as they offer a reasonably-attainable *G re-qualification threshold. But for now I find earning-and-burning with UA and keeping status with TK to be an ideal hybrid strategy. Earn the award tickets on United, change the FF number on the reservation to Turkish at check-in, and get the best of both worlds! Oh, and when I need to scratch my itch for “promotions” I can always play around with IHG…

    P.S. would love to win that TK model plane!

  11. I used to be status-driven. I did MRs at the end of year for perks in the following year. Devaluations & change in travel patterns have led me to be points driven and now I MS for all my travels.

  12. Since I don’t really fly enough to enjoy top-tier status, I’d say I’m completely points driven. For most of these airlines and hotels, unless you have the top tier, they are incremental differences at best.

  13. For me personally, I would say that it is MOSTLY about the status. I just find that I enjoy travel much more when I have top tier status on the airline that I fly. As for the points, yes, I completely despise the approach that my airline of choice is taking this year, but as long as I can continue to achieve the to status and enjoy those perks while I am doing it, I will probably stay in the game.

  14. Might be the only one here but I’m kind of promo driven. I am usually on the lower mid tier of airline and hotel status so there’s often very little to no significant recognition for me that co branded credit cards don’t offer. Promos are an interesting way for me to try a chain or airline. Hotel Promos like IHG’s Big Win/Into the Nights and airline status challenges and contests and bonuses for a particular route are something that I regularly look for in order to build a mileage balance and status with a program while maintaining mid to lower tier status in my primary programs.

  15. I like status more and have been doing a lot of status matches this year. Points are nice too ESP for hotels so I guess status for flights points for hotels for me

  16. i like the status and the perks of it. Boarding early, extra legroom, upgrades. Hotels are the same. It’s not so much the dollar value of the perks as it is the convenience/comfort

  17. The recognition part has fallen off for many US carriers. On United I went from 90% upgrade rate to less than 20%. My loyalty has since fallen off accordingly I used to give them 90% of my business now they get 20%. If they had kept the upgrades I probably would have stuck with them through the revenue model adjustment but MM status is going to be a long time coming.

  18. Hotels – just use credit cards for status (Club Carlson Gold, HHonors Gold – free breakfast, Hyatt Platinum, SPG Gold – via AMEX, IHG Plat – no need for Marriott)

    Airline – I am responsible for my own work-related travel spend (am incentivized the right way to make smart financial decisions). This means I do my 50K+ on my preferred alliance and have about 15-20K spillover on Southwest and other alliances – booked based on best timings and then on price (basically work offers $150 flexibility per domestic flight to take most direct, non-stop when possible, best timed routing to be most refreshed to close deals).

    Frankly, I’d love to have top tier airline status but I’m not going to hit 100K+ per year and am not interested in MRs because my family comes first. Each day spent on the road is a day spent missing out on the little one’s growth. It sucks but having some status makes it less painful and allows me to come home refreshed and ready to engage fully with those who matter in my life.

    (Also, no need to enter me in the drawing, just sharing my thoughts as you have one of the smartest blogs out there).

  19. Rewards driven as I usually travel with my family of 4 and I am just trying to keep airfare /hotels costs down. If it was just my wife and I then I would be more concerned about recognition.

  20. For airlines: status and miles are equally important. However, if I have to pick one, I would choose miles. As a student I can always use a reward ticket.
    For hotels: bunk bed in a backpacker hostel. lol

  21. Status certainly doesn’t hurt, but the points win me over almost every time.

  22. I live in New York but its all about the service, lounges and upgrades. I guess I have a European Soul.

  23. If by “promo” they mean “chance to get big piles of miles/points” then yes, that. But I suspect in Asia, that usually means prizes/trinkets, which I’m not into.

    Failing that, all about the miles – loyalty is a great idea, but not so great in practice… since it’s become abundantly clear that loyalty is not a 2 way street for companies.

    Add to this the odd ratio of inconsistent WOW to UGG from loyalty programs (“WOW, look at this suite!” to “UGG, my room is weird and my view is of a noisy garbage filled alley and no free breakfast, UGG!”) and it doesn’t seem worth it.

  24. Status junkie – I appreciate the recognition that comes with top-tier status, along with the belief that things will work out as well as possible (Dedicated reps or top tier phone line where things get worked out, no questions asked, or extreme benefit of the doubt).

  25. I feel unless you have the highest tier status, the benefits are marginal. And even at the highest tier, there are so many members in major metro areas (such as NYC where I live) that the benefits never really have an impact. Do not get me wrong, it is still good to have, but it just is not what it used to be 10-15 years ago where one’s business was truly valued.

  26. I believe I am a mixture of both status driven and points driven. I am learning, however, that while top status is very, very nice – that simply having a degree of status to help with the small things is okay too. The points – well, I use those to achieve some of the things that I don’t get simply from status, i.e. aspirational (but useful too) flight awards.

  27. All about points for me, so I can redeem for international premium cabin travel. The status aspect is irrelevant for me.

  28. I am definitely reward driven. offer me the points and I go for it. but to me, points also leads to experience/recognition. I don’t have status on any airline, so to get better treatment, I need points to fly first/business class. this gets me better recognition and a better overall experience.

  29. All my statuses have dropped off and now I am in search of great low hanging fruit…

    50K miles with only 1 single purchase and a $89 fee for a US Airways MC from Barclays? Sure!

    50K Miles with only $2K in purchases in 2 months with the fee waived for the first year with the Citi AA Platinum Select World Elite MC? Sign Me Up!

    Win a Totally Awesome Turkish Airways B77W Miles & Smiles Airplane for my kids to post a comment on my favorite travel blog? SCORE!

  30. Definitely reward driven. I’ve given up completely on status – just don’t find it very useful given my current travel patterns, and don’t find the chase fun like I used to.

  31. I’m reward driven- I have Delta and southwest credit cards and try to use their airlines because I’ve received several free flights because of the cards/ travel miles.

  32. I am in it for the rewards, and the chance to travel for work paid by others. status makes the grind of travel less unbearable. If I lose status I will likely travel for work less (that is in my control) and focus on credit card rewards and more targeted trips on points.

  33. I didn’t think I really valued hotel status – I was a Hyatt Diamond for 5 years before falling to platinum this year. I don’t value suite upgrades at all – 99% of my hotel stays are for business where I’m the only one in the room – what use is a suite? I do miss the free breakfast and the hyatt concierge though, but not enough to stay any more than necessary.

  34. With all the changes happening with mileage programs in the US, from distance to revenue base it isn’t much of a “Loyalty” program for those that used to do mileage runs for status/benefits. Now it’s all about the fat wallet. Probably better for the typical vacationers as well as more capacity is available as there is a lot less demand.

    Even if you did spend more money to retain status, their earning formulas are very time consuming and requires in depth fare searching, and any mistake and you earn 0 miles/points.

    I would say it is now reward driven but at a lot less emphasis on anything, just a grueling wait to obtain a free ticket.

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