Are Miles and Points Becoming Worthless?

“N ot a good time to break intro the field, miles will be somewhat worthless in the next few years” is a statement posted by FlyerTalk member CDKing pertaining to this discussion of a “blogger” supposedly exploiting a trick to the point where it may actually be more fiction than fact.

You might have noticed that I have not posted as many articles per day as I used to post here at The Gate. Part of the reason is because my time and efforts have been consumed by the unnecessary obstacles which I have had to endure simply to get the miles and points I earned credited to me, which causes me to wonder if CDKing is correct: are miles and points becoming worthless?

Examples of Issues

Here is a partial list of examples of issues I personally have been encountering within the past year — each of which I either plan to detail in separate articles at the resolution of each issue or have written about them already:

  • Frequent flier loyalty program miles did not post in my account despite having flown as a passenger on one of the partner airlines and submitting my frequent flier loyalty program membership number. The airline of whom I am a member of its frequent flier loyalty program requires that I send proof that I was a passenger of the flights in question via a facsimile machine — better known as a fax machine. Does anyone really still use a fax machine anymore?!?
  • Three rentals of a car earlier this year through one rental car company was supposed to have earned 1,000 bonus frequent guest loyalty program points for each rental. The points never posted. I contacted the frequent guest loyalty program; and a representative advised me to contact the rental car company, which I did — and the response from a representative is that I now have to compose a claim letter and send my completed rental receipts via postal mail to some address where my claims will be reviewed. Who knows how long that will take — or if my claims will be inexplicably denied after all of the effort?
  • An airline of whom I am a member of its frequent flier loyalty program denied my claim when frequent flier loyalty program miles did not post in my account despite having flown as a passenger on one of the partner airlines and submitting my frequent flier loyalty program membership number; so I placed a request with the frequent flier loyalty program of the airline which operated the flight — and months went by until my frequent flier loyalty program account was finally properly credited accordingly.
  • One rental of a vehicle with a different car rental company was paid in full in advance of the commencement of the rental. I paid the total in advance because it was significantly less expensive; but I needed to bring official documentation with me while traveling to prove to the employees of the rental car facility that I already paid for the rental car in full and not to charge me. I was told by a representative of that company that pre-paid international reservations can only be faxed to me. At the conclusion of the rental, I asked the representative for a detailed itemized final statement, which I request regardless of whether or not the rental was paid in advance so that I am not surprised in the future. Not only was the representative at the counter inexplicably unable to provide one; but the manager who could have done it was unavailable despite me waiting at least an hour. I finally had to leave without my final receipt to catch a flight; and sure enough, eight months after the conclusion of the rental, I received a letter of demand for payment of a car rental for which I already paid — and I do not even get to earn any miles or points from this car rental.

Is the Improper Crediting of Miles and Points Intentional?

If commercial airlines are deliberately avoiding crediting partner flights to members of frequent flier loyalty programs, those companies allegedly implementing that practice are apparently not alone. My experience suggests that lodging companies and rental car companies apparently may be engaged in similar activities.

Perhaps my experiences are merely anomalies and are not of the norm. If, however, other frequent fliers and travelers are experiencing similar issues, then there is a problem which needs to be addressed. If the failure of the proper crediting of miles or points to the frequent travel loyalty program account of a person who legitimately earned them is attributed to…

  • Breakdowns in the system — technology issues or lack of proper communication as two of a number of possible reasons — then they need to be identified and fixed
  • Intentionally not crediting miles or points in a deliberate attempt to have the member of the frequent travel loyalty program encounter so many obstacles to have them properly credited — ultimately convincing the person that it is not worth his or her time to pursue having them properly credited before a deadline imposed by the administrators of the frequent travel loyalty program — then the company should simply abandon the concept altogether and not offer a promise which will most likely not be delivered

The Burden of Proof — and the Wrong Thing to Do?

Regardless of the problems or reasons, the burden of proof should not be up to the customer or the member of a frequent travel loyalty program to legitimately earn miles and points — especially with the technology currently available and even in use these days. To place that burden on the customer is the wrong thing to do, in my opinion.

If the reason for causing a customer to “jump through hoops” is because there are those people who take advantage of a system, that is no excuse. Just as with virtually any other industry, there is a cost to doing business — not that that cost should not be mitigated to maximize profits; but not at the expense of legitimate customers.

In other words, there will always be a subset of people who will exploit the system created by the company which set the rules, policies, terms and conditions.

The Cost of Doing Business — and an Issue of Trust

When a grocery store purposely offers items for sale at a loss — usually referred by the term “loss leaders” — to attract customers, there will be some customers who will only purchase those items. However, that subset of customers is usually a small portion of the entire customer base, many of whom either shop at that store anyway regardless of what is on sale; or will purchase other items at higher prices because they already happen to be shopping at that store.

Randy Petersen — the founder of BoardingArea, FlyerTalk, InsideFlyer and other entities within the frequent flier industry in which he pioneered — has said to me numerous times that frequent fliers are but a small portion of the overall customer base of airlines who do not take advantage of the benefits which frequent flier loyalty programs have to offer. Assuming that we can safely apply that assertion to lodging companies and car rental companies, there is the opportunity for companies within the travel industry in general to increase revenues — and, hopefully, increase profits as a result — without having to unnecessarily burden the customer…

…especially if that customer is indeed loyal, for by doing so places the company at an unnecessary risk of losing the loyalty — and, possibly, the trust — of that customer, which is arguably not easy to earn in the first place.

Summary

I remember the days when there was not even a question of whether or not I would earn frequent travel loyalty program miles or points by patronizing partner companies for their products or services. Alliances were supposed to ensure that the partnerships were as seamless as possible; but that general concept has unraveled in recent years.

It is bad enough that frequent travelers have had to endure significant devaluations foisted upon us over recent years, causing some people to wonder whether or not it is all worth it — but if expending an inordinate amount of time, effort and possible money simply to earn those miles and points become more of the norm and not an anomaly, perhaps the opportunity cost becomes too great and results in miles and points basically becoming worthless.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, perhaps my experiences are merely anomalies and are not of the norm. Would you agree with that statement — or do you have your own stories to impart which may bolster the argument that frequent travel loyalty program points which you have legitimately earned are indeed increasingly more difficult to have credited to your account in recent years?

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

One thought on “Are Miles and Points Becoming Worthless?”

  1. Joey says:

    I wouldn’t say miles/points is becoming worthless. I think it’s diminishing its value, though. 😉 I used to concentrate so much on miles/points but nowadays I’m instead focusing on my career so I at some point in my life can be in the top 10% and actually afford non-stop business class flights on my own rather than looking for award availability in those crazy IAH-DXB-MRO/MRO-DXB-SYD-AKL-BNE-SIN routes. 😉 Don’t get me wrong — I still do this as a hobby but I’m more relaxed. Nowadays I take 2-3 international trips a year and a few domestic ones without thinking about elite status or what not.

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