Sunday, 30 September 2018

On the road with my new 'travel privileges'

Yes, it's kickback country here, so I'm extremely grateful if you sign up to the Dutch AMEX Platinum card via this link. Currently the sign-up bonus is 22,000 AMEX points, worth 88 EUR, but potentially much more when transfered to different loyalty programs. Also there is a 50% discount on the first year card fee - but that's a permanent offer. 22,000 points can almost put you in a 5 star hotel in Bangkok for two nights, so there can be true value in them.

So when my wife and I arrived at the Lisbon Marriott hotel, and we were asked if we wanted to book breakfast, I was surprised. I do have Marriott gold status, right? And that gives you free entrance to the executive lounge, and thus, a free breakfast? Well, we were there on September 1 and this privilege seized to exist exactly 14 days earlier, on August 18. So the gold status deflated right around the time that I joined the loyalty program and acquired gold status thanks to my AMEX card.

The hotel was so kind to honour the privilege after all, since I had booked prior to August 18 and altough I read quite a few travel blogs, I completely missed this announcement. As far as I know, Hilton is now the only hotel chain offering free breakfast to its 'mid tier' loyalty customers. Which brings me to the subject of inflation. Remember the Weimar Republic? Sometimes the same seems to happen with points inflation: hyperinflation.

For instance, for years, Qatar Airways has had actions doubling, tripling or even quadrupling points when you flew business class with them. In combination with their very regular sales for business fares, this could be a tremendous source of points. But, what to do with them? You would still have to fly a decent number of returns before you would have earned a redemption.

When the Qatar boycot began, I decided 'to be first' (see this movie clip for what I mean by that) and transfered my points to Accor Hotels. Although the conversion rate was poor, my wife and I stayed 3 nights in Venice for free thanks to this. And although Qatar has not gone bankrupt yet (and probably will not as it is an object of prestige for Qatar), their program has changed and now redemptions have become significantly more expensive, essentially depreciating the points' value.

As I personally regard points to be only slightly more 'real' than Bitcoins, I tend to convert them into something substantial as quickly as possible. Once used for a reward booking, only bankruptcy can spoil the party. And of course, that's also a real possibility, considering the recent end of AirBerlin and its loyalty program Topbonus. Remember, points are just a vague promise to get something in the future against a rate that is entirely up to the issuer.

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