Frequent flyer programs are changing, frustrating many customers

Frontier Airlines plane on tarmac

There’s nothing like cashing in on your miles and getting a free flight to a sunny destination. It sure makes travel a lot easier on your bank account, and can slice $500 or more off the price of your next vacation.

But some frequent flyer programs have been changing this past year: the most recent, Frontier Airlines.

Terri Fox is a Frontier frequent flyer, and has been happy with it until now.

“It’s a good program, you get free flights,” she said, while grabbing her bag at the airport. “We flew free today.”

But like many Frontier program members, she’s concerned about the new change to the program, now called Frontier Miles. It will now reward you for money spent, not miles flown in the air.

That means a coast to coast flight, that you got for a deep discount $300 fare, might earn fewer points than it did last year.

Fox worries could make earning flights harder in the future.

“That might be a little hard to get a lot of points,” she said.

Frontier says it has added more perks, however, and that most people will not struggle to earn trips.

What Travelers Should Do Now

Eric Rosen, director of travel content for The Points Guy, says people often hang on to miles and points, only to see them lose value when programs change.

“So many of us are saving up tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of miles for a trip to Hawaii or the honeymoon in Mexico,” he said. And if your program makes a major change, you might have to wait longer to get that free trip.

Frontier, American, Southwest and Delta are just a few of the airlines that have recently announced changes to the way miles work, Rosen said. Delta actually backed off on some of the changes pertaining to lounge rules after hundreds of members complained.

“These programs can change on a dime,” Rosen said. “And then you’re left learning the rules all over.”

So what should you do?

The Points Guy says do not leave your account sit dormant for several years.

“Airline miles and hotel points aren’t an investment currency,” Rosen said.

He says you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you don’t hold off booking.

“If you got them, use them,” he said.

Both airlines and hotels see their rewards programs as profit centers, Rosen says, and they like to keep customers happy. But he says that doesn’t mean the rules are set in stone or will make an exception for your dream trip.

“They can change them at their discretion and there’s not really much consumers can do about it at this point,” Rosen said.

He recommends familiarizing yourself with the latest rules of the loyalty program you use the most.

Frontier frequent flyer Hasan Latif says he’ll need to do just that.

“No matter how much you fly with Frontier, you have to keep a tab on it and make sure you know the new deal they are bringing out,” he said.

Finally, Rosen says pick programs with no expiration dates for long periods of dormancy.

That way you don’t lose your points, and you don’t waste your money.

By John Matarese, WCPO

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

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