With the travel world looking bright, is now the time to stack and stash points for future travel? At the onset of the pandemic, I was worried about the future or airlines and whether a few would declare bankruptcy. As a result, I opted to earning only flexible rewards points such as Discover It Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and American Express Points. These points were all a lot safer than earning airline miles and points, but now that things are looking brighter, here is an update!
Flexible Reward Points Can Always be Stashed, but Airlines and Hotels Should be Churn, Earn, and Burn
I think there is never a good time to stash non flexible currencies unless you are planning for a monster redemption. With the ever changing points and loyalty landscape, it feels like airlines and hotels have been constantly increasing rates and devaluing reward points. For the most part, several programs have already shifted away from standard award charts leading me to rethink my loyalty with brands such as United Airlines. As airlines in more recent shifted away from standard award charts (ie: Delta Airlines was at the forefront of this shift), I feel less and less inclined to stash my miles. I would definitely be worried about more changes in the near future and personally, it feels like award saver inventory has been extremely hard to find since these changes went into effect.
Hotel points also face a similar issue, with Hilton drastically altering their redemption program so that although standard awards do exist, more high end properties do not contain standard awards on weekends. Instead, reward rates have been outrageous with some nights going for “premium rewards”. A one night stay at the Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria, probably one of the best Hilton Properties in the United States goes for a whopping 408,000 points per night for the most basic room. In addition Hyatt(My favorite hotel brand at the moment) has also begun to devalue their loyalty program with the introduction of Category 8 properties with a standard redemption rate of 40,000 point per night and also peak and off peak awards. Off peak awards are great for travelers with flexibility but anyone with a large family or children will most likely be paying peak prices.
What Does this Really Mean
The bottom line, is that points and miles are meant to be earned and churned. Similar to saving cash under your mattress, these points and miles are continuously being devalued(similar to the US dollar and inflation). Brands are constantly finding new ways to make small changes to their programs that are constantly increasing award rates. As a semi-frequent non business traveler, I don’t see a reason for stashing a plethora of miles or points unless they’re a flexible currency. At worst, flexible currencies always have a redemption value floor(the lowest value you can theoretically get) whether it’d be 1 cent per point with American Express and Chase, or at least 1.25 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire or Ink Preferred cards. In the end, I definitely recommend using and enjoying your accumulated points. Take that dream trip you’ve always wanted if you have the points because waiting for tomorrow might make that trip double in price!