Are loyalty programs worth belonging to?

Aleksandar/Shutterstock
Aleksandar/Shutterstock
It’s time to question one of the most basic tenets of travel: Everyone should participate in an airline loyalty program.

A tectonic shift in the world of travel rewards is forcing passengers to reconsider their allegiances — or whether it’s worth being loyal at all. Given the already hopelessly convoluted nature of these programs, I’m surprised it took so long.

Frequent fliers have been hardest hit. In recent months, both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines revised their programs so that only the biggest spenders get the best perks. Soon, flying often won’t be enough to reach an airline’s coveted elite status. Expect more companies to follow.

Experienced travelers are taking a hard look at their loyalty portfolios. They don’t always like what they see.
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Wenger snags first Elliott Award for Excellent Customer Service

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 6.04.09 PMToday I’m introducing the Elliott Award for Excellent Customer Service, a weekly shout-out to companies that go above and beyond the call of duty to help their customers. And I’m pleased to announce the first winner: luggage manufacturer Wenger.

Christopher Smith bought a Wenger Swiss Army Pegasus Backpack in 2009 from a Circuit City store that was about to be shuttered. The retailer had marked the bag, which lists for $99, down by 50 percent, making it a real bargain.
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Introducing Elliott’s List: the ultimate buying guide for 2013

Nataraj Metz/ Flickr Creative Commons
Since this site published its first article back in 1996, one of the most common questions I’ve gotten from readers is: How do I know if a product is any good?
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Double trouble with my hotel points

hiltonQuestion: I have been a loyal Hilton customer for the past three years, staying about 200 nights a year in its hotels. I have always been happy with the service that I received from Hilton — until recently.

A few months ago, I booked four rooms at a promotional rate that offered double points. After each stay, I did not get credited with any of the points. I have called Hilton to try to fix this problem. Each time, I also advised them that I had additional reservations under the same promotion and that I wanted to get the problem fixed so that I didn’t have to keep calling after each stay.

The answer that I received from various Hilton reps has always been the same: I did, indeed, book the promotional rate and that they don’t know why I’m not getting my points. They’ve opened up various trouble tickets and said that my account would be credited within a few days. I have never received any credits so far and it has been weeks since my initial contact with them.

I finally talked with a supervisor yesterday, who informed me that there was nothing he could do and that the only thing he could offer me was 5,000 Hilton points for my troubles. By my calculation, I am out 39,291 Hilton points and 3,927 United Airlines miles for my first three stays in January.

This whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth. It amazes me that Hilton is treating one of its best customers so poorly. In the past three years, I have spent more than $200,000 at Hilton properties and have amassed more than 3 million Hilton points through hotel stays alone. Please help. — Nicholas Czapor, Philadelphia

Answer: Hilton should credit you the double points — on the double. Dragging this out for weeks and then offering only a fraction of the award points is completely unacceptable.
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And the award for America’s worst hotel goes to …

carterIt’s too close to call. A review of several “worst of” lists suggests there’s a high concentration of awful hotels in the New York area, with one or two standouts outside of Gotham. The bad properties are also likely to be owned by one chain.

But what am I waiting for? Let’s name names.
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