You know the Dr. Seuss story about The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? He was the grouchy grump who lived up on a mountain and was so mad about the people below having a good time that he devised a way to take away the thing he thought was making them so happy. I think that some loyalty programs should adopt The Grinch as their unofficial mascot, cause I’m sure they’re too cheap to pay for the official rights to the character.
So what do the programs do to keep us from redeeming our points for what we really want to use them for? Here are the four things loyalty programs do that make me think the people who run them have hearts that are two sizes too small.
Unannounced Points Devaluations
There’s nothing worse than saving points up for a specific use and having the rug pulled out from under you just before you were going to get enough points to book the award. Devaluations with no notice used to be the exception but we’ve seen more and more programs want more points for an award effective, NOW!
I get a seemingly unlimited number of promotions sent to my email weekly. I ignore most of them but there’s occasionally one that looks interesting. For example, I booked a rate with the IHG Easy Like Summer sale. After booking a room with a special rate, I was supposed to receive a code to save 25 cents per gallon of gas with the fuel rewards program. The problem was, we never received the code. I tried chatting with IHG and they pawned me off to fuel rewards. When I called them, they said it wasn’t enough time to receive the code and to call back in a few weeks.
Having to fight to receive the benefits you deserve takes all of the joy from a bonus offer. Why can’t they realize this?
Late Check-Out. Early Check-In. Suite Upgrades. Free Breakfast. All of these things are mentioned as benefits of hotel loyalty programs. The part that’s not advertised is that the benefits are often only at the discretion of the hotel and most of them act more like The Grinch than like Santa Claus.
Even as a Hilton Gold we had to fight for breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria in Key West. After receiving the offer, it wasn’t even good for the whole breakfast buffet but only part of the cost and we’d have to pay the rest. A free breakfast that you have to pay for isn’t free.
There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up about redeeming your points and finding out what you can redeem points for is worse than you’d usually pay for. Airlines are starting this trend by now offering Basic Economy seats as the entry-level award redemption. Now if I wouldn’t want to pay for this type of ticket, why would redeeming my points for it be appealing to me?
I wish that the people who run these programs remembered that loyalty points are supposed to instill goodwill toward the company. When you make the points impossible to use, change the program terms with no notice or make promises you constantly weasel out of, you accomplish the exact opposite from the goal you set out to achieve.
So my Christmas Wish for 2019 is that programs and banks act more like Santa than The Grinch, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary