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Negative Changes To 2013 Reward Programs

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promotional financing and rewardsEach year, airline and hotel companies make changes to their reward programs, and most of them are for the worse. This year has been no exception, and here are some of that stand out:

Hotel programs get massive devaluations

Earlier this year, several hotel programs made major changes. They added reward tiers, and increased the number of points needed for an award night. The worst changes were made to the Hilton HHonors program which went to a 10 tier system plus added seasonal award pricing. Wyndham and Marriott also made significant changes that were not for the better. Thankfully, the Hyatt and Starwood programs were largely spared.

Delta confiscates miles of the deceased

Delta made the inexplicable move of cancelling the accounts of frequent fliers who pass away. Previously, Delta allowed survivors to claim the miles, like most other airlines still do. For a program that has not been winning many fans for its poor award availability, this was just another blow.

Airlines increase change fees

United increased its change fee from $150 to $200, and all the other major carriers matched. Of course, this makes no sense whatsoever as changes are done by computers at very little cost, and customers see this as another way they are being gouged.

But at the same time, it was easy to imagine that Southwest Airlines cheered the move. Southwest still offers no change fees, and the major airlines are doing a better job of drumming up business for Southwest than Southwest could ever do for themselves.

United service failures

United is ahead of the curve when increasing its fees, but it trails the other airlines in nearly every other respect. When United merged its reservations systems with Continental’s last year, things got bad. Agents were not properly trained, and customers suffered. United’s service failures continued into 2013 as disgruntled employees seem to have given up on the idea of customer service and taken their frustrations out on the traveling public. Buggy computers, grouchy fight attendants, and indifferent ground staff make traveling with United, the largest airline in the world, more of an ordeal than a journey.

There will always be negative developments in the cutthroat world of travel rewards, but the news is not all bad. By focusing their attention on the best programs, and avoiding the worst, travelers can continue to enjoy award travel in the future.

Editor's Note: This content is not provided by Citi. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the Citi or any of the other companies whose products are featured in this content.

About the author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele is a freelance journalist specializing in personal finance and travel and is recognized as an expert in credit cards. He is a regular contributor to many of the top personal finance sites such as Wise Bread and Money Talks News. His work has been frequently carried on mainstream news outlets such as MSN Money, Yahoo, Finance, and Business insider.

Jason lives in Denver Colorado with his wife and two daughters.

– has written 350 posts.

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