Is it time to give up your travel loyalty programs? The case for keeping or cutting up your cards

Is it time to give up your travel rewards program? That’s not a theoretical question for Karin Kemp, a retired graphic designer from Matthews, North Carolina.

With few opportunities to travel last year, her loyalty to United Airlines has wavered. Special offers and bonuses weren’t enough to keep her engaged in her program, and she started to use a different credit card as her primary. 

Kemp is still keeping her Chase-issued United credit card active, but only because she has a ticket credit for a canceled flight from Charlotte to Bologna, Italy. She had hoped to get a refund after United canceled one of the flight legs but was only offered an expiring ticket credit. 

“I think they should refund for flights that didn’t go because of the pandemic,” she says. “This year, I’ll be reassessing my loyalty to United.”

She’s not the only one. Many travelers – or should I call them former travelers? – are asking an obvious question as they mull over their New Year’s resolutions: Is it worth being loyal to a loyalty program?

The travel industry would like everyone to answer “yes.” And they have legions of disciples who will tell you there’s no downside to playing the loyalty game – none whatsoever.

But that’s not true. Some travelers will come out ahead by remaining loyal but many others will lose. The only real winners are the companies to which you are loyal. And they are doing their best to make sure you don’t give up your rewards program in 2021. 

Some experts say don’t give up

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