Can a loyalty program have too many elite members?

It is simple to get standing with some loyalty packages. For instance, you will get top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond standing simply by having the Hilton Honors American Specific Aspire Card. And you will get Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite standing — and an enormous 25 elite evening credit towards incomes Titanium Elite or Ambassador Elite standing — simply by having the Marriott Bonvoy Good™ American Specific® Card.

The knowledge for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Factors Man. The cardboard particulars on this web page haven’t been reviewed or supplied by the cardboard issuer.

Likewise, you get computerized Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold standing when you have The Platinum Card® from American Specific or The Enterprise Platinum Card® from American Specific. Aeroplan elite members and cardmembers can now standing match to Avis. And not too long ago, Bilt Rewards members may join a free United elite standing problem.

Plus, now you possibly can earn American Airways standing — together with top-tier Government Platinum standing — by means of non-travel actions like spending on American Airways bank cards and clicking by means of the AAdvantage purchasing portal earlier than making on-line purchases.

However can a loyalty program have too many elite members? I not too long ago requested fellow TPG staffers Summer season Hull, Clint Henderson, Kyle Olsen and Ryan Smith for his or her tackle this query; this is what I discovered.

Too many elite members?


Clint probably summed up the sentiments of many vacationers with the next assertion:

The brief reply is totally! The entire level of elite standing for me is getting upgrades on planes or at inns. When elite ranks are crowded meaning I’m not even near the highest of the lists for upgrades anymore on planes and don’t get upgraded rooms even talked about at check-in for inns. It makes me resent the packages as an alternative of feeling rewarded for my loyalty.

Ryan went on to notice, “I agree with the concept ‘when everyone seems to be elite, nobody is.'” However Kyle added that he is “all the time thought that the massive 4 airways ‘penalize’ you for not having standing (e.g., smaller seats, final to board, bag charges, and so on.). Even entry-level standing could make your travels a lot nicer.”

And certainly, entry-level standing can maintain you out of the worst resort room, allow you to board early sufficient to place your carry-on baggage in an overhead bin and even offer you a free checked bag. Better of all, you possibly can usually achieve entry-level standing — or elite-like advantages, within the case of airways — by holding an airline bank card or resort bank card. However these aren’t the advantages — and low-level standing is not the goal — loyalists normally bear in mind when arguing a program has too many elite members.

In the remainder of this information, I am going to talk about our ideas on whether or not a loyalty program can have too many elite members.

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Associated: So, what precisely is elite standing in journey — and the way can I get it?

Some advantages are finite

A set on the JW Marriott Bogota in Colombia. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

The obvious difficulty with a loyalty program having too many elite members is larger competitors for finite elite advantages. For instance, Ryan stated:

I am not the kind who complains concerning the variety of elite members and it has hardly ever affected me. Nevertheless, I am conscious that there are solely so many suites and business-class upgrades obtainable, to allow them to tougher to obtain. The fixed complaints about Marriott Suite Night time Awards are a fantastic instance: Should you go the place nobody else goes, you need to use them simply, however they’re robust to make use of within the U.S. or in in style vacationer locations. This is the reason we hear issues like ‘Platinum is the brand new Gold,’ as individuals want to achieve a yet-higher standing stage with a purpose to get a greater probability on the upgrades they’d prefer to obtain from their standing.

Kyle chimed in so as to add: “Airport lounges have been packed to the gills, and when you need to wait half an hour to get right into a lounge, there is not a lot level in having a lounge membership.”

The mix of ample elite members and an growing willingness by some vacationers to pay for upgraded seats and rooms means fewer upgrades for an more and more giant elite inhabitants. For instance, now that American eradicated its 500-mile improve certificates and as an alternative provides all its elite members to the improve listing for journey on eligible flights inside North America, it isn’t unusual to see an improve listing with greater than 30 elite members uncleared.

It will also be tough to get a notable resort improve when touring throughout the U.S. Presumably, inns are promoting their upgraded rooms or different elite members at my tier or larger beat me to the restricted variety of upgraded rooms. With high-tier standing, I normally get a room with a greater view throughout the room kind I booked. However I’ve gotten some wonderful upgrades when touring internationally, presumably as a result of I’ve fewer high-tier elite members to compete in opposition to.

Associated: Present airline elite standing match and problem choices it’s best to learn about

Different advantages are infinite

Breakfast on the InterContinental Danang Solar Peninsula Resort in Vietnam. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

Lots of the advantages I worth most aren’t affected by this system having many different high-tier elite members.

For instance, airways can supply free checked baggage and bonus earnings to an infinite variety of elite members. And even when an airline loyalty program has plenty of elite members, perks like precedence check-in and worldwide airline lounge entry will normally nonetheless be obtainable for all eligible elite members.

And on the resort facet, packages can supply free breakfast, rooms with respectable views and bonus earnings even when many elite members keep on the identical evening. Nevertheless, perks like assured late checkout, suite upgrades and lounge entry could turn into more and more tough or pricey to supply when many elite visitors are eligible for these advantages.

It could appear packages can supply perks like complimentary breakfast and checked baggage to all eligible elite members with none difficulty. However, as we’ll talk about within the subsequent part, even advantages that packages can concurrently supply to all elite members could also be in danger when a program has too many elite members.

Associated: Breakfast, upgrades and extra: 3 TPG staffers reveal their favourite elite standing perks

Too many elite members could result in devaluation

The Conrad Punta de Mita in Mexico. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Summer season supplied the next take when requested whether or not a program can have too many elite members:

It’s completely true that when everyone seems to be elite nobody is by way of exhausting, finite advantages (suites, upgrades, and so on.). However it’s additionally true when that tipping level hits the pockets too immediately on advantages which can be much less finite (free breakfasts, price waivers, and so on.) and all of the sudden widespread reductions are wanted to minimize the influence of the herd. So yeah, there’s a stability to be struck that takes the elite perks out of solely the fingers of the super-elite members however doesn’t make them so widespread as to finish up over-grazing the sector and leaving nothing however mud.”

Summer season supplied the right response to why having too many elite members can lead resort house owners to stint on perks and packages to devalue their elite standing advantages. One instance of such a devaluation is Hilton’s substitute of complimentary breakfast with a meals and beverage credit score at U.S. inns.

Nevertheless, many members having low-tier elite standing could also be much less of a difficulty. As Kyle famous, “Entry-level standing could make your travels a lot nicer.” For instance, I hardly ever fly United however have United Silver standing as a perk of Marriott Titanium Elite standing. So I can get a free checked bag and complimentary entry to Economic system Plus seating at check-in if obtainable. Though I am going to probably by no means get a complimentary Premier improve, I am going to normally fly United over a low-cost airline attributable to these advantages.

Associated: How I earned elite standing with all 3 main alliances — with out taking any flights

What’s to be completed?

Seize-and-go meals on the Capital One Lounge in Dallas. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Elevated elite qualification necessities are by no means one thing we prefer to see. However IHG elevated the variety of elite qualifying factors required for its top-tier Diamond standing to an all-time excessive earlier this 12 months. And Delta not too long ago introduced it’s going to make it tougher to earn Medallion standing in 2024.

One technique to deal with too many elite members is to extend elite qualification necessities and scale back the variety of elite members. As Delta’s senior vp of SkyMiles, Dwight James, instructed TPG whereas defending the rise in necessities, Delta’s focus is on “guaranteeing that the shoppers which can be investing probably the most are additionally the shoppers that we’re investing probably the most in as effectively.”

However one other path is discovering other ways to reward elite members. For instance, Kyle talked about that airline and resort lounges may “cater to numerous elite members by providing grab-and-go meals.” We have seen this selection on the Capital One Lounge in Dallas. Ideally, this selection would scale back lounge crowding.

One other approach Kyle talked about that resort loyalty packages may enhance could be to indicate an improve listing of their app. After I see myself listed on the American Airways improve listing earlier than a flight, no less than I can go to ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s guardian firm, Purple Ventures) and test what number of upgraded seats are nonetheless obtainable. Then, I can estimate my probabilities of an improve. As Kyle famous:

It will be good if inns have been extra clear about waitlisted upgrades. For instance, if I am checking in to a Marriott resort, what number of Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members are on the improve listing for a collection? And what number of suites are left? Maintaining the client knowledgeable can reaffirm loyalty and scale back stress.

I agree with Kyle that maintaining the client knowledgeable is vital. I would like to see resort loyalty packages lean into know-how and supply extra visibility into the improve course of.

Lastly, I respect the milestone rewards some packages have launched that permit elite members to choose which advantages are extra priceless. For instance, the brand new IHG One Rewards program affords an annual lounge membership as a milestone reward at 40 nights or 70 nights. Nevertheless, by selecting an annual lounge membership, you are passing up different perks like factors and confirmable suite upgrades. So, IHG elite members will solely choose an annual lounge membership at 40 or 70 nights if they’re going to respect and get worth from this perk.

Associated: What elite standing TPG’s factors and miles crew is maintaining for 2023

Backside line

On this story, Summer season, Clint, Kyle, Ryan and I addressed whether or not a loyalty program can have too many elite members.

There’s an argument to be made both approach. Nevertheless, it is exhausting to keep away from the truth that having too many high-tier elite members reduces the finite advantages like upgrades that every member can take pleasure in. Relying on what you worth in airline elite standing and resort elite standing, it’s possible you’ll not discover {that a} program having too many elite members impacts your expertise — no less than till too many members use a selected perk and this system decides to devalue or take away it.

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