Last updated: 11:08 AM ET, Thu June 30 2016

What Happens to Your Loyalty Points After an Airline or Hotel Merger?

Features & Advice | Danielle Brown | June 30, 2016

What Happens to Your Loyalty Points After an Airline or Hotel Merger?

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With mergers trending in the travel industry lately, from airlines and hotels to rental car companies, a big question on travelers’ minds is: “What does this mean for my loyalty rewards?”  For travelers who are loyal to one (or more) travel brands, it’s natural to wonder what will happen to your loyalty points and miles.

With your loyalty rewards in question, it’s natural to have a laundry list of questions about the possible changes to your programs. Following is an overview of what typically happens to miles and points in the event of an airline or hotel merger.

Spending will decrease, while redemption will increase

Following the announcement of a merger, both airlines and hotels often see spending and earning activity go down for a period of time. Travelers are reluctant to book upcoming trips and make long-term commitments to the airlines, hotels or loyalty programs involved, due to uncertainty about the future of each program.

READ MORE: Which US Airlines Might Merge Next?

On the other hand, when a merger is announced, loyalty rewards redemption activity tends to increase. We often see travelers go into a panic when they hear about their favorite airline or hotel brand merging with another and quickly look for ways to spend their points and miles before the effects of the merger hit. Instead, consider waiting for announcements about the loyalty program. Once the details are revealed, changes typically won’t take effect immediately and for all you know, the refreshed loyalty program might work out in your favor.

Nothing changes overnight

As mentioned, try to avoid jumping to conclusions and burning through your loyalty rewards when you hear of a merger. Generally, you won’t see many changes in the months that immediately following a merger announcement. For example, when American Airlines and US Airways announced their merger in 2013, both rewards programs remained untouched for almost two years. And when Marriott acquired Canada-based Delta Hotels in early 2015, Delta Privilege remained in play until early 2016, with ample communication shared with members before the consolidation of Marriott and Delta’s loyalty programs.

Airlines and hotel brands have to work through the legal, financial and logistical details of the merger, so loyalty programs tend to be unaffected and maintain “business as usual” until the new, merged identity has been developed. This means you can continue to earn and redeem your rewards. 

Know the pros and cons

The best-case scenario in a merger is that the favored features of both loyalty programs are retained in a combined program. Mergers can create the opportunity to combine rewards from both programs, enabling more opportunities to earn, spend and offer more travel destinations. However, a big risk in combining loyalty programs is the devaluation of loyalty rewards.

READ MORE: Marriott, Starwood Receive Clearance from EU to Move Forward with Merger

Loyalty programs use a different value for awarding reward points, which means that a combined program may require you to have more points or miles in order to reach your reward goals. Additionally, the consolidated program might not have all the same features, tier levels, perks or benefits when compared to your previous program. But the good news is that it is rare for members to lose their loyalty rewards altogether. Keep a close eye on your programs and monitor for any news or developments.

Rather than being skeptical about the fate of your loyalty membership in the event of a merger, use a merger as an opportunity to get your loyalty programs organized. Consider joining a loyalty platform like Points Loyalty Wallet to track all your points and miles across programs and even transfer rewards between participating programs. In getting organized, you might be surprised to find you previously earned points for the airline or hotel your go-to brand recently merged with.


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