FM Predicts: Here’s what will happen in 2022…

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With COVID-19 continuing on unabated, travel providers and their associated loyalty programs will continue to react to ever changing demand.  Last year we saw a huge boom in domestic leisure travel while international travel and business travel remained low.  Credit card companies encouraged card use with credits for food delivery, exercise programs, and streaming services.  And they fought for new customers by offering some of the best welcome bonuses we’ve ever seen.  Meanwhile, hotel and airline programs did their best to keep customers engaged, primarily by making it easier to earn or keep elite status.  They offered things like double elite credits, lower elite thresholds, extra elite earnings through co-branded credit card spend, etc.  My bet is that all of those trends will continue in 2022.  That said, it’s no fun to predict extremely broad trends like that.  Instead, Nick, Stephen, and I came up with specific predictions of what will happen in 2022.  If our 2021 success rate is any indication, you should be able to figure out what will really happen by assuming the opposite of the following predictions…

Greg’s Predictions

Etihad Apartments will return with great award availability

Etihad Guest Sweet Spots

During the pandemic, Etihad grounded all of their A380 aircraft.  These are the ones that sport their incredible First Class Apartments (bookable with miles from partners like AA or Air Canada Aeroplan; or with Etihad’s own miles).

There are already reports suggesting the possibility of Etihad returning 6 of these jets to the sky.  I’m predicting that this will happen in 2022 and that there will, at least initially, be lots of available award space.  My thinking is that when they make the tough choice to fly the A380 again, they won’t want to risk the first class cabin flying empty and so they’ll release more than the usual amount of award space.  It should be possible to book 2 or more first class awards on many days.

Amex & Marriott will roll out the pricier new Bonvoy Brilliant card

In August of 2021, I published “The Rumored Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card. Is it worth $650?”  That card didn’t appear in 2021, but my bet is that it will be rolled out in 2022.  Will the increased benefits of this card be enough to attract customers despite its brilliant new price? (to be clear: I’m not necessarily predicting that it will cost $650, but I do expect it to cost more than the current $450 per year).  More importantly to Marriott, will attention to this product be enough to distract customers from the eradication of award charts in March?  (hint: no).

Capital One will finally add Virgin Atlantic as a transfer partner

Virgin Atlantic miles can be extremely valuable for certain sweet spot awards such as 55K/60K ANA first class to Japan, 50K for Delta One to Europe, etc.  And you can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic from Amex, Chase, Citi, or even from Bilt.  But not from Capital One.  That’s a weird exception for Capital One which, otherwise, supports most other common transfer partner programs (Air France, Avianca, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, etc.).  I predict that Capital One will correct his oversight in 2022.

We’ll earn AA Executive Platinum elite status without flying

AA is kicking off 2022 by moving to a new approach to earning elite status: loyalty points.  Now, instead of earning elite status primarily through flying, it will be possible to earn elite status by earning Loyalty Points through flying, credit card spend, eShopping (AA’s shopping portal), SimplyMiles (similar to a shopping portal, but miles are earned by linking a Mastercard credit card), AAdvantage Dining, and more.

You can bet that we will be on the lookout for great deals for earning miles and loyalty points.  For example, I expect that there will be stacking opportunities with portal payouts combined with SimplyMiles offers combined with AA credit card offers.

We’ll have to earn 200,000 loyalty points by the end of February 2023 in order to earn top-tier AA Executive Platinum status.  I’m betting that many of us will accomplish this.  Specifically, to make this a measurable prediction, I expect at least two people on the Frequent Miler team to earn top tier AA status primarily without flying.

Note: We may not be able to fully assess this prediction at the end of 2022 since this prediction floats into February 2023.

Chase will make Travel a Sapphire Reserve Pay Yourself Back category

When Chase first debuted Pay Yourself Back, they let customers erase grocery, dining, and home improvement purchases at full point value (e.g. at 1.5 cents each for the Sapphire Reserve card or 1.25 for the Sapphire Preferred).  At that time I remember thinking and hoping that Chase would add “Travel” as a category.  Since the Sapphire Reserve card already offers 3x for travel and offers the best automatic travel protections, the addition of Travel as a Pay Yourself Back category would seal the deal in making the card relevant again.  We would be able to book travel any way we want (rather than being limited to booking through Chase), we would get great travel protections, we would earn 3x, and we would be able to redeem points for those purchases at the full 1.5 cents per point value.

Currently, Sapphire Reserve cardholders can erase dining, Airbnb, and Away purchases through 3/31/22.  The addition of Airbnb as a category initially made me give up on the idea that Chase would ever offer “Travel” as a broader category.  Instead, it seemed, they would target specific travel providers (and probably get a kickback from them for doing so).  Then we learned that the new Air Canada Aeroplan card will offer the ability to Pay Yourself Back at 1.25 cents per point for all Travel purchases (up to 50K points per year).  Suddenly, this gave me hope again!  Chase doesn’t usually let lesser cards offer better deals than their Sapphire Reserve card.  Maybe they’ll offer the “Travel” category to the Sapphire Reserve after all?!

Stephen’s Predictions

Aeroplan will go for a clean sweep of transferable currencies

Curling sweeping

Aeroplan seems to be doing all that they can to set themselves up as an airline loyalty program you’re actually passionate about. As a result, I think they’ll want to do all they can to encourage people to use their program in the next few years and so will want to be added as a transfer partner of Citi and Brex – the only transferable currencies they’re not currently partners with.

Wyndham Rewards will introduce at least one more category level

Wyndham used to have several different category levels for award nights. They changed that on May 11, 2015 to having a solitary award redemption option of 15,000 points per night for every single one of their properties. They changed their mind about that approach in 2019 by introducing a couple more redemption options at the 7,500 and 15,000 points levels.

2022 will be a few years since they last made any changes of that kind, so I’m predicting that they’ll add at least one more category level, perhaps at the 10,000 or 20,000 points levels. If they do that, I don’t necessarily anticipate that it’ll be a positive development. Instead, it’ll be 7,500 point properties moving up to 10,000 points rather than 15,000 point properties moving down to 10,000.

Marriott Bonvoy points will be worth a fixed ~0.55-0.6cpp

We know that Marriott will be making changes to the Bonvoy program in 2022, dropping their award chart, letting you top off free night certificates with points and more. See Marriott to drop award chart, add free night “top off”, extend free nights / status for more about those changes.

They’ve advised that as part of the removal of their award chart that award redemptions will more closely resemble hotel rates which sounds like they’ll be moving more towards a Southwest/JetBlue model where points are worth a certain amount. Marriott is already valuing Homes & Villas and Ritz-Carlton Yachts at 0.55-0.6cpp, so I think it’s likely that’s the value they’ll be choosing for the Bonvoy program as a whole.

Pay Yourself Back will be added to another Chase card

When Chase launched the Pay Yourself Back feature it was only available on Ultimate Rewards-earning cards. That’s changed with the introduction of the new Aeroplan card, so Chase is clearly open to the idea of allowing co-branded cards to have this feature.

My fourth prediction is therefore that Pay Yourself Back will be added as a feature on another co-branded card. I’m not going to go so far as to predict which card will get this benefit, although I’d assume it’d be one with an annual fee rather than one with no annual fee.

Nick’s Predictions

There will be no American Airlines devaluation in 2022

After the recent SimplyMiles bonanza, everybody and their neighbor has been predicting an imminent American Airlines devaluation. I don’t see it — at least not as a direct result of SimplyMiles and not this year. To be clear, I do think that American Airlines will devalue and they may announce the devaluation this year, but I think that it won’t actually take effect until next year even if it gets announced this year.

Leadership has hinted several times at eventual changes, but the moment when customers are reaching peak interest in SimplyMiles, AAdvantage eShopping, and the multitude of other partner earning options isn’t the ideal moment to make the miles less valuable. I can’t imagine that international premium cabin redemptions will be at such a fever pitch as to be a record-high expense for American in 2022 — the SimplyMiles deal is a blip on the radar at this point that likely brought them an immediate cash infusion with limited short-term downside.

Amtrak will join up with a transferable currency

Amtrak seems to have dumped Bank of America and I don’t really wonder why. Selling miles and points to banks is big business. Amtrak points are among the most valuable loyalty currencies in existence. How is Amtrak not killing it at selling those points to the banks? Surely someone in the accounting department at Amtrak has noticed the change in revenue ever since Bank of America took over the portfolio and Chase and its Ultimate Rewards program were no longer buying points.

While the trains themselves really vary, the Amtrak web interface is pretty good and the app is even better. They could be going after a young generation of customers if only they had a partner who could market them better. I see Amtrak joining up with a transferable currency to sell more of their points — and I’ll be happy to see it since I enjoy the train and love how valuable the points can be.

Hey, Capital One, ya listening?

Capital One will run the most transfer bonuses

Capital One has taken off the gloves and is ready to compete. Since they added transfer partners a couple of years ago, they have improved the transfer ratio to 1:1 for all airline partners and all but one hotel partner, they have added additional (valuable) partners, launched an ultra-premium credit card, and opened airport lounges. They have also run relatively frequent transfer bonuses. Now with the Venture X card on the market, I think things are going to heat up further and I predict that 2022 will be the year of the transfer bonus with Capital One. I predict that they will run more transfer bonuses than Amex, Chase, Citi, Brex, or Bilt.

Virgin Atlantic will become a Capital One transfer partner

This one almost seems too easy to predict: Virgin Atlantic is the only one of the top 10 most promiscuous airline programs that Capital One is missing in its list of partnerships. I would personally be far more excited to see Capital One add ANA, but I think it is far more realistic to expect that they will add Virgin Atlantic in 2022. Frankly, I’m surprised that this one hasn’t happened yet but I’m also glad since I haven’t predicted it would in previous years.

Bank of America will devalue Platinum Honors status

Bank of America Preferred Rewards added two new tiers in 2021 for people who have a lot of money with BOA / Merrill. Thus far, those tiers have pretty ho-hum benefits over the pre-existing Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors levels.

I really, really want to be wrong about this prediction, but when I read the news about the new tiers I had to suspect that the writing was on the wall for the popular and generous 75% bonus on credit card earnings for Platinum Honors members. I will be disappointed if I am correct about it, but I think there is a better-than-50% chance that Bank of America devalues that bonus on credit card earnings for Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Honors status levels. I hope they just slide it up one and make Platinum Honors at least a 50% bonus still.

Chase won’t make Pay Yourself Back as good on Ultimate Rewards cards as it is on the Aeroplan card

We have long predicted that the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature would become a permanent mainstay of Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. Greg has been itching for Chase to make travel a permanent 1.5cpp “Pay Yourself Back” option on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I’d love to see that, but I don’t see it happening.

When the Aeroplan credit card launched this past fall, I was really surprised that it included the ability to pay yourself back for any travel purchase at 1.25c per point. The catch is that you can only redeem up to 50,000 Aeroplan points per year that way, which limits you to booking $625 in travel each year with the Pay Yourself Back feature. That annual cap makes a lot of sense because it limits the downside to Chase and Aeroplan while adding a lot of flexibility for cardholders.

For a hot minute, I thought that maybe Chase would do something similar on the Sapphire Reserve card with an annual limit on points redeemed outside of Ultimate Rewards (maybe 100K or 200K?). Then I realized that this would add an unnecessary complication that competes with their core travel portal offering. After dropping what I assume to be a significant chunk of change to bring it back in-house, I just don’t think they are going to offer an incentive to not use their portal. I think it is far more likely that they will find a way to make sure you get elite credit and hotel points on bookings made through Ultimate Rewards than it is that travel becomes a regular pay yourself back feature on the Ultimate Rewards cards.

Aeroplan will add full partnership with Cathay Pacific

Aeroplan has an existing partnership with Cathay Pacific that allows Aeroplan members to redeem miles for flights on a select snippet of Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air flights from Hong Kong to destinations in Asia that are not otherwise served by Air Canada (Air Asia miles have the same ability to redeem miles for some domestic routes on Air Canada (within Canada).

In 2022, I predict that Aeroplan and Cathay Pacific will announce a full partnership, or at least one that allows the redemption of miles on each other’s long-haul routes. I think this is to the advantage of both airlines: Cathay Pacific has been hit hard by the pandemic and could probably use the additional revenue and Air Canada would further boost Aeroplan’s status as the program with the most and most interesting airline partnerships.

At the media event for the launch of the Aeroplan credit card, Aeroplan executives trumpeted the fact that they have the most partnerships of any airline in the world and very clearly recognized the value of the US market for them. I think they want to compete to keep customers engaged with their miles and Cathay Pacific would be a big hit with those looking to build the kind of complex itineraries that can be achieved by mixing and matching partners on Aeroplan awards.

Obviously there is the problem that they belong to competing alliances, but back when awards with Cathay Pacific (on those limited routes) became bookable online, Prince of Travel noted that at that time there was nothing to report about being able to redeem Aeroplan miles on long-haul Cathay Pacific flights “beyond the fact that it is something Air Canada is ‘looking at’ long term”. That tells me that they weren’t counting it out in 2020. I count it in for 2022.

What do you think?

There you have it — more than a dozen of our best guesses. Which of them do you think we got right? Which of us will come out in the worst shape when we publish our end-of-year retrospective on our predictions? Perhaps most interestingly, what significant happenings do you expect in the miles and points game in 2022?

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21 Comments
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anonymous

(1) I predict that Delta will devalue its Skymiles program.

(2) I predict that the other US airlines will devalue their loyalty programs as well.

(3) I predict that I will be proved clairvoyant.
🙂

WR2

I predict:
1) Hilton will introduce a new top tier level above diamond. Ive been predicting this incorrectly for years, since the Aspire came out, but I think diamond saturation is becoming a major problem.
2) Aeroplan will have another major deval.
3) AA will settle a class action lawsuit, resulting in all shut down accounts being reinstated. Oh wait, that’s just wishful thinking.

Ahmed Radhy

I predict Marriott will announce the new card in March and we will see 🙂

A guy named Mike

Amtrak seems like a sure thing to switch issuers, but I am not sure how to think about whether that means they will become transferrable. If I had a way to earn 2 pts/$ on Citi/Amex/Cap1, I might have to recalibrate my strategy a bit because 5-6% base ROS would be bonkers for me. It feels like those points are too valuable to be transferrable.

Admittedly, living in MI and taking a train for a weekend in Chicago is pretty much annual for me so I actually have a use case that makes sense. Most people outside the Northeast don’t have that.

Jon C

The platinum honors at BofA is what I’m currently debating to get! Tired of having all of the cards and just wanted 2.6% cashback with one. I don’t think any other cards go that high without a monthly/quarterly limit. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Justmeha

If you are fine with a yearly limit, you might want to try discover it miles for a year.

Mary Jane

This is off topic but I am curious if anyone has charged an Amex small business and it shows as an identified small business on their site but then when the charge goes through, the store no longer is identified as an Amex small business?

Dick Bupkiss

Cathay Pacific is all but dead going forward. Aeroplan may indeed add them as a transfer partner, but nobody will care (unless you live in China).

Larry K

Tracking the ways to accumulate loyalty points will be fun. Looks as though some of the better simplymiles opportunities are gone but there should still be opportunities arising all the time.

LarryInNYC

Yes, I was actually going to put a request for a detailed analysis of LP earning shortcuts on FMI even though it’s still early days for this topic. It seems to me they (AAdvantage) have done a pretty good job of locking up the top tiers to people who genuinely spend a lot on airfare, or a super-lot on other stuff. Finding the opportunities to get 10 or 20K LPs at a pop from various portals is going to be key.

harv

I note a lack of predictions regarding Amex.

LarryInNYC

On Pay Yourself Back — Nick’s argument that PYB for Travel would be an assault on Chase’s own travel portal seems correct to me. I don’t see both travel portal earnings and PYB for Travel on the same card as making any sense.

I also don’t see PYB spreading in any meaningful way to non-UR cards. That would provide a way to cash out non-Chase points for 1.x cents a piece with Chase paying for them. Does Chase really want to be paying 1.25 cents a piece for MR points racked up by an AU of someone who holds an Aeroplan card?

LarryInNYC

Also, I predict that COVID will abate pretty substantially by February and travel will look more normal at least through the summer. And you can trust me on that — my cousin is an ophthalmologist, I studied biology in the 1980s, and I’ve had several colds in my life.

AlohaDaveKennedy

I’ve had pneumonia, extremely serious flu and 3 trips to ER with severe asthma. Age and asthma are two factors beyond my control. COVID ain’t no common cold by any means. Hearing of long haul COVID effects reminds me of long haul severe flu effects suffered in the 1980 (including adult onset asthma). There is going to be a new normal, but no back to the old normal. I predict boosters will become a way of life, like flu and pneumonia shots, and masking up in public among the sick and high risk folk will continue somewhat like as is seen in Japan and other Asian countries. COVID is a serial killer hiding among the public, same as flu and pneumonia.

LarryInNYC

Just to be clear — I’m not suggesting that COVID is like the common cold, I’m making fun of people who make authoritative statements about COVID because (as an example) their ophthalmologist cousin has some wacky theory about COVID (I do have a cousin who’s an ophthalmologist, but he doesn’t have wacky theories about COVID).

That said, my prediction (based on reading articles in the mainstream media) is that, with Omicron outcompeting Delta and hopefully conferring substantial immunity to the more damaging variants like Delta, we are well on our way to that new normal that you describe and we should be talking about it by February.

Reno Joe

Chase makes money from its travel portal. And, yes, allowing PYB on travel would cannibalize that. But, Greg suggested targeted providers, who would pay Chase and would offset the lost incremental profit. So, let’s say that Chase targets its airline transfer partners or co-brand partners. That would seem reasonable.

LarryInNYC

My take is that Greg is prediction / hoping for an unrestricted PYB travel category on UR cards similar to what they’re offering on Aeroplan.

Reno Joe

Absolutely understood. I’m just saying that if Chase balks at a broad-based PYB due to the noted portal cannibalization, Chase MIGHT be willing to do a narrowly focused PYB with only its partners. But, yes, from Greg’s mouth to God’s ear . . . and I would add dining.

A guy named Mike

I think that sponsored travel PYB (like Airbnb) as a permanent or rotating category makes sense. It would be hard for Chase to get a kickback with general dining. If they wanted to add wholesale club PYB on on the CSP/CSR like the CF cards had at the lower +10% multiplier last quarter I wouldn’t be mad with that either.

Last edited 22 days ago by A guy named Mike