My very first post since joining with Sam here on Milenomics was:
Points & Miles Hopes And Fears For 2018
What a year it has been. Before we close out the year I wanted to circle back on how things shaped up.
But before that, I wanted to thank each of you for reading, listening, and commenting. I always prefer relating to a topic that we’re both looking at from similar vantage points. Comparing notes on it, rather than delivering a lecture. Along the lines, the funnest posts to write have been the Shop Talks which inspired the Milenomics² Podcast which has exceeded our expectations to say the least. I’ll look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.
Here are my “predictions” for 2018 along with some commentary on how things turned out…
Hope: More online gift card retailers
Fear: Crack downs on gift card reselling
While I think we did see an increase online discounted gift card sales, they came more from established retailers than new players. Online GC sales from warehouse clubs, and big box retailers seemed more plentiful than in years past.
We didn’t see a meaningful crack down in gift card reselling but the situation surrounding The Plastic Merchant was certainly unfortunate.
Hope: Domestic saver level award availability will improve
Fear: AA or UA will adopt a fixed-value award chart (worth less than a penny per point)
Have we seen an improvement? I sensed a little more AA space than in years past.
AA and UA didn’t adopt a penny per point award chart, but I didn’t much care. I just keep booking domestic flights with bank points.
Hope: After a luke-warm reception to World of Hyatt they’ll offer a status challenge that’s relatively easy to achieve
Fear: Hyatt will devalue their chart and/or make Chase UR transfers worse than a 1:1 ratio
This one was mostly a miss, but this Globalist Lite promo quietly came and went. It’s “Lite” in that it doesn’t include guaranteed suite upgrade awards but for those who were able to finagle it, it has worked out well.
Hyatt did introduce a 40,000 point category, though they say it’s only for a few hotels in the Small Luxury Hotels collection. We discussed this in Episode 1 of the podcast. Thankfully they remain a 1:1 Chase Ultimate Rewards
Hope: JetBlue will improve Mosaic (upgrade to Mint with points, complimentary EvenMore Room)
Fear: They’ll introduce a top tier that’s prohibitively difficult to attain
No movement on JetBlue’s loyalty program. This was a miss.
Hope: A new option will appear to pay real bills online with Visa Gift Cards with low fees
Fear: Plastiq will go from bad to worse and fold
Plastiq did not fold nor go from bad to worse and was very much a part of an improved situation here. First a fee-free promo for Masterpass payments. Then a follow-on promo in October which knocked fees down to 1.25%. Finally a targeted business promo that also effectively knocked down fees to 1.25% (that we talked about in the paid version of the podcast). It was a great year for Plastiq and we’ll see what they have in store for 2019.
Hope: Citi will “accidentally” release a Citi AA Exec 75k+ offer with no 24 month language
Fear: They’ll crack down in a nasty way after realizing the error, with collateral damage
No such luck here. The only action we’ve seen with Citi is ongoing targeted offers for AA Platinum cards (personal and business).
Hope: Citi will re-invigorate their ThankYou Point credit card line-up after realizing they don’t need to try so hard to have success
Fear: They’ll keep sending me junk offers for promotional interest rate balance transfers
The closest thing along these lines is a revamp of the Prestige card coming in 2019. And they continue to send promotional interest rate offers.
Hope: AmEx will relent on their once-per-lifetime stance on some co-branded cards
Fear: Their RAT team will get even more aggressive on garden variety MS (on OBC for example) and they’ll abandon Offers altogether
They didn’t necessarily relent on the lifetime stance universally, but they did seem to send out a lot of targeted offers that skirted lifetime language (link, link, link). Overall, Amex performed very well this year to the point where there was debate over whether they were crushing Chase in 2018. Their redesign of the personal Gold card was terrific. Their new refer-a-friend program is the best in the business. All these combined to create enthusiasm for card applications up until the end of the year (as we discussed in this week’s paid podcast). Well done, Amex. Keep it up.
Hope: Wells Fargo will release a compelling general purpose travel rewards card (since new signups will continue to decline now that they’ve hopefully stopped signing unknowing customers up for credit cards)
Fear: They’ll continue kicking the can down the road like they have been
Wells Fargo did very little of anything this year. Capital One was more of a mover with their complicated new air travel partners.
Hope: Four Seasons Hotels and/or Disney will finally introduce a loyalty program
The only news at all related here was how Disney became unbookable with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Look for Sam to follow-up on his predictions soon. And check out our 2018 Retrospective in Episode 8 of the paid podcast.
Then look for our 2019 predictions in early 2019.
I have a “fear” type question. Which flight award “sweetspot” do you think is most in danger of disappearing in 2019? Either due to the actual devaluation, or availability being pulled so tight it in practice doesn’t exist?
I’d say AA in Business/First to Asia, especially on partners.