After a gut-wrenching devaluation of the United award chart last week, Hyatt and Delta just recently weighed in with their own "enhancements" to their rewards programs in the past few days. It seems like 2013 has been rife with devaluations starting with Hilton's absolute gutting of their program. I think this was the program that really set the bar for future devaluations by increasing some of their redemption rates by 90%. In the following months, Marriott, Wyndham, Starwood and Priority Club followed suit, although not nearly as dramatically as Hilton.
I went into this in some detail in my post here, but I think there's one tip I didn't suggest. Some might think that it falls under the grey areas of travel hacking, but I think it's an appropriate and valid response to all of the huge devaluations that's going on in the travel industry. This is especially true for those that have put the work into manufactured spending, signing up for multiple credit cards and promotions and subsequently have large balances in their accounts. Of course, you want to burn all of your miles and points before they devalue. But how do you do that if you only have a set vacation schedule and you're still left with a stockpile of rapidly devaluing travel currency?
Frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs have strict rules on the prohibition of selling miles or points for money. However, there's no prohibition to using your miles and points to book for friends and family members as long as there is no exchange of money. I've always been pretty good about amassing lots of miles and points so it was never an issue to book flight and hotel awards for my parents. I admit I got a little lazy and began to sit on a pretty large treasure chest of points. However, once the Hilton devaluation was set into motion, I quickly realized I had over 500,000 Hilton points stockpiled that were soon going to be devalued by 50% or more.
Knowing this, I reached out to a select group of close friends and family members and inquired if they were interested in staying in dream locations like the Conrad Ko Samui or the Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri for free! Naturally, everyone initially said "yes" but after weeding out those who weren't really serious, I was able to book three different awards for my friends around the world. Needless to say, whenever I fly to see these friends in Singapore or New York, you can bet that this has fostered a lot of goodwill. Same goes for my cousin in Orange County that I booked a four night stay at the Conrad Hong Kong. I see him once a month at his restaurant and let's just say I never see the bill at the end of the meal.
Some might think that this is a little too quid pro quo for them. Everyone has his or her opinion, but I genuinely believe that this is a valid way to address some of the really painful devaluations that points and miles programs have experienced this year. Be generous, pay it forward and burn your miles and points for amazing travel experiences for your friends and family members. In the end, even if you don't receive any material benefit, their gratitude should be reward enough.