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Skift Asks: What’s the Best Kind of Loyalty Program for Frequent Travelers?

@jasonclampet

Mar 11, 2014 9:01 am

Skift Take

Traditional loyalty programs are still preferred, but there’s a growing segment of users who are looking elsewhere for loyalty that better fits their lifestyles.

— Jason Clampet

Free Report: The State of Student Travel

bradjward  / Flickr

Delta SkyMiles membership cards. bradjward / Flickr


It’s been a busy few weeks for loyalty news.

From the downgrading of United’s program, to Delta’s reinvention of SkyMiles, what points hounds once knew about loyalty has changed rather dramatically.

We’re left with a landscape that’s rather wide open. Should a frequent traveler on Delta start spending a little more on his or her tickets in order to build status? Should people turn to more flexible rewards systems like a Chase Sapphire or American Express card that offers points redeemable for travel?

We decided to ask frequent flyers about their most trusted method of earning points. Using Google Consumer Survey, we conducted a survey of the adult American population earlier this month, starting first by asking whether they were a frequent traveler. Then we asked “What’s your favorite method of collecting loyalty points?”

Important: This single-question survey — not served to Skift users — was administered to the U.S. internet population from Mar. 6-8, 2014 through Google Consumer Surveys, with 419 responses from users who identified themselves as frequent travelers. The methodology is explained here

The topline result: According to Skift’s survey, the majority of self-identified frequent travelers prefer traditional points-based systems operated by airlines or hotel chains. There is a significant portion of travelers, though, who have turned to points-based rewards cards offered by companies such as Capital One, American Express, and Chase. The largest demo in this group is also the youngest.

The full results and breakdown by gender, age, geography and other criteria, below:

See previous Skift Asks here.

Read more about the evolution of loyalty in our report “The Reinvention of Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs”

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The takeaway: Nearly three out of five frequent travelers prefer a loyalty program tied to one particular brand such as Delta’s SkyMiles or Starwood Preferred Guest.

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The Takeaway: Women are more loyal to traditional loyalty programs than point-based systems.

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The Takeaway: Traditional programs beat out points-based ones by 7 to 10 in the $75-$100K demographic, but the income sectors on both sides of it are equally split.

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The Takeaway: Points-based programs are more popular in rural areas, perhaps because it is more about earning free or discounted travel than getting regular upgrades?

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The Takeaway: The north and south are divided, again.

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The Takeaway: Good news for points-based cards: They’re most popular among younger users.

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