People join loyalty programs to get rewards. For those of you who love to travel, the right travel reward program allows you to fly more often, save money, upgrade your accommodations and maybe even inspire envy on Instagram with posts from your incredible trips.
So, when a new program launches with big introductory offers and promises to deliver dream holidays faster, temptation to switch can be compelling.
If you’re serious about gaining miles towards your travel goals and want to get there as quickly as possible, before you make the leap to a new program, it’s critical you understand not just how it works, but whether it will actually help you achieve your goals and get you where you want to go; the details matter. As you evaluate your options, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Your Fresh Start Might Not Feel That Way
When you switch loyalty programs, you may be building your points and status from zero.
With travel programs, this means it could also take you additional time to regain access to airport lounges, priority in security queues and other perks you earned with your previous program. For example, Aeroplan members with Diamond status enjoy priority access when they call the Aeroplan contact centre, along with discounted rates for Market Fare flight rewards. Switching away from programs with perks like these can ultimately make the process of travelling on miles feel far less rewarding.
2. Your Money Might Not Travel As Quickly Or Go As Far As It Used To
Once you get past the shiny welcome bonuses and offers, will the program allow you to earn rewards as quickly as your current program? For example, in the case of Aeroplan, one of the biggest benefits is that in addition to earning miles by buying flights, you also can earn miles with hundreds of retail brands like Esso, Costco and Toyota giving you more opportunities to earn miles for everyday purchases as well as larger ticket or specialty items. One of the most efficient ways to earn miles is to use an affiliated financial card. Another benefit of Aeroplan is that if you use your Aeroplan-affiliated credit card to pay for purchases made within its partner network, you’re able to ‘double dip’ and earn twice the number of points for the same amount of money. It can be tough to reach your travel goal if your only way to earn is by shopping at one retailer or only by flying for leisure.
3. Everyone Will Need Time to Get to Know One Another
Joining a new program often comes with a learning curve and orientation period for you and the program to get to know each other well.
One of the best parts of a good loyalty program is that as you share data your offers become quite personalized to your interests and life. Coalition programs like Aeroplan get to know your likes and dislikes faster than single brand programs. So you can and should expect a better customer offering, in the offers it sends, how it tailors its communications, how it helps you find new ways to earn faster, and how it introduces you to relevant new products or services.
For example, if you’re single without kids, offers for family all-inclusive holidays and splash parks won’t be relevant to you. If you have a young family, offers for high-end spa retreats and the latest electronics might not be the type of reward or experience you’re looking for.
You’ll also need to learn how to navigate a new site and app, and familiarize yourself with the mechanics of the program, all of which will be different too.
4. You Might Not Notice What You Had Until It’s Gone
Details matter. The value of miles, the ability to pay for taxes on flights, flexibility in booking and ease of changing flights, the ability to pick seats, access to customer centre and status programs – and how to achieve them – will all vary from program to program. Each of these factors can have a huge impact on your experience. If you’re able to book the flight you want but can’t adjust it when your plans change, and are stuck scrambling for another solution as your phone is dying in the airport, is it really a reward? Is the new status program achievable based on your day-to-day lifestyle or just your travel patterns related to work?
The costs of switching are real so keep them in mind, and look before you leap. If you don’t, you might not like where your land.