Frequent flyer and hotel loyalty schemes can make travel much more pleasant, but they shouldn't become the goal in themselves. Here are six signs you might be taking your points-scoring too far.
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A survey of 9,900 guests by hotel chain Starwood unearthed some disturbing statistics about how much we value earning points with our favourite loyalty scheme, and how badly we want to work our way through the different status levels.
- 76 per cent said they imagined their loyalty program membership would last longer than both their current job and their marriage.
- 73 per cent said they would choose loyalty program benefits ahead of their partner accompanying them on a business trip.
- 70 per cent said loyalty scheme membership would be more useful than a smartphone in a travel emergency.
- 73 per cent would take a trip purely to gain miles or maintain status.
- 65 per cent said they were scared of losing loyalty program membership, compared to just 12 per cent for lost luggage.
I'm not going to lie; I'm pretty wedded to my Qantas status (and enjoying the matching Virgin status while it lasts). But I'm not about to rank it above my phone as a travel tool. Here are five signs that you might be taking your loyalty membership and status (for airlines or hotels) a little too seriously.
You routinely stay in a hotel chain without checking for better rival deals. If work forces you to always use a particular chain, that's one thing. But if you always go for a particular chain without comparing what is on offer, you're possibly spending too much money. Is an extra $100 a night really worth it for the view from a room you'll only be in to sleep?
You buy supermarket items purely for bonus points offers. Linking your frequent flyer membership with regular purchases like groceries can make sense, but buying multiple items you wouldn't otherwise acquire purely to score extra points doesn't make sense. The points values involved are generally low in any case.
You have memorised your Frequent Flyer number but not your passport number. Self-explanatory, I think.
You change credit cards regularly to score bonus sign-up points. I'm not opposed to regularly reviewing your credit card to make sure it meets your needs, but constantly changing your card simply for a set of points could be more hassle than it is worth.
You take less convenient flights to avoid changing carriers. No carrier covers the world equally, and there will come a time when your preferred scheme doesn't get somewhere, or requires two extra stopovers. Look into the reasonable direct options instead; you'll be much better off in terms of jetlag.
You're saving points with no clear goal in mind. Accumulating points for its own sake doesn't make sense, and runs the risk that the rules on how to use them might change. If you have a specific plan (enough points for two business class return trips to London), that makes sense. Keeping a small bank of points for cheap emergency flights also makes sense. But if you've got millions of points and no idea what you want to do with them, you've lost track of the goal.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman likes his status, but also likes his luggage arriving where it should. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.