Stephen’s 2020 Credit Card, Hotel & Airline Predictions


For the last couple of years, I’ve made predictions at the end of the year for what I think might change with hotel and airline loyalty programs, along with travel credit cards.

My results haven’t been great as I only scored 2/7 last year and got the same score the year before that. Despite not doing so well on either attempt, I figured I’d give it another try for this coming year.

As a result, here are my predictions for what will happen with travel credit cards and hotel and airline loyalty programs in 2020.

1) Capital One To Add Virgin Atlantic As Travel Partner

Capital One introduced the ability to transfer their credit card “miles” to airline partners earlier this year, rather than only being able to redeem them for statement credits.

They have a fairly decent array of airline travel partners, but one notable exception is Virgin Atlantic. The reason this is notable is because Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of all the other major transferable currencies – Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Marriott Bonvoy. I therefore expect them to become a transfer partner of Capital One in the next 12 months.

Virgin Atlantic – a new Capital One transfer partner on the horizon?

2) Amex Membership Rewards To Transfer To JetBlue On A 1:1 Basis

My second prediction relates to a different airline and transfer currency. You can already transfer Membership Rewards to JetBlue on a 5:4 basis (e.g. 250:200), but I think this will change to a 1:1 basis.

The reason why is because of Chase. They added JetBlue as a transfer partner in 2018 on a 1:1 basis, so Amex will hopefully follow their lead. They already offer occasional transfer bonuses that bump the ratio to 1:1, but I think it’ll become a permanent fixture.


3) Free Breakfast For IHG Spire Elite Members

File this one under wishful thinking, but with a slightly higher probability than in previous years.

Status with IHG is largely worthless. It can help you rack up points for paid stays more quickly, but there’s very little by way of elite benefits. All other major hotel chains offer free breakfast to members with their top tier status, with Hilton even offering it to Gold members. IHG on the other hand offers free breakfast to no one – not even Spire Elite members – other than when staying at their Staybridge Suites and Holiday Inn Express brands where it’s included automatically as part of your stay.

This might be changing in 2020 though. Earlier in 2019, IHG sent out surveys to some Spire Elite members asking them about which elite benefits they’d value most. I imagine that a lot of members answered that they’d like free breakfast, so hopefully they’ll actually pay attention to that feedback.

Holiday Inn Express Canyon breakfast - Cinnabon cinnamon rolls & preserves
Breakfast at Holiday Inn Express – one of their few brands that offers free breakfast (provided they keep their Cinnabon cinnamon rolls stocked)

4) Citi To Allow Card Referrals

This one is likely wishful thinking too, but hopefully it’ll come to pass. At the moment, Chase and American Express allow you to refer friends and family to some (Chase) or all (Amex) of their cards.

Citi doesn’t provide that benefit at the moment, so I’m predicting (not at all confidently) that this will start happening in 2020.

5) Chase And/Or Amex To Increase Referral Limits

Speaking of referrals, my fifth prediction relates to how Chase and Amex limit theirs. Historically, both companies have limited how much you can earn in referrals per card per year, usually around the $550 or 55,000 point mark.

I’d assumed that this was somewhat tax-related, with $600 being the mark where they might have to report these payouts to the IRS (I’m not a tax expert). In 2019 though, both companies started sending out 1099s for referrals, even for relatively low amounts.

If those thresholds were tax-related, it no longer makes sense for Amex and Chase to limit referrals seeing as they’re sending 1099s even when you get nowhere near that total. My prediction is therefore that one or both of those companies will increase the rewards you can earn from referrals. I imagine Chase will be the likelier one, but we’ll see.

Higher referral limits for Amex cards? I hope so.

6) Chase To Remove Priority Pass Restaurant Access

A lot of premium (and some not-so-premium) credit cards offer free Priority Pass membership. Unfortunately the memberships that come from American Express cards lost the ability to be used at Priority Pass restaurants in August 2019.

I’d love to be wrong with this one, but I think Chase might follow suit later this year.

Tuna burger sliders from Jerry Remy’s at Boston airport – no longer free with Priority Pass membership from Chase credit cards?

7) Marriott To Offer Poor Promotions

This is one of my two predictions from last year that I got correct and I sadly expect this one to be correct again by the end of 2020.

It’s been a long time since Marriott ran a quarterly promotion that had me even mildly consider specifically booking a paid stay with them due to the rewards I’d earn, whereas IHG, Hilton and Hyatt have all done that to some extent over the last two years with their promotions.

As a bonus prediction, I’ll also guess that Marriott will carry out another fairly significant devaluation to their award chart in 2020.

Bed bugs at Fairfield Inn Charlottesville North, Virginia
One of our few paid stays at a Marriott brand in the last couple of years had bed bugs


How well (or badly) do you think these predictions will have fared by the end of 2020? Let me know in the comments below.


This post was originally published on my No Home Just Roam website, here.

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[…] that time of the year – the opportunity to look back at the predictions I made at the start of 2020 to see how many of them came to […]


Citi offers referrals for the Premiere card, 10k TYP.

[…] our of retirement / hibernation today.  I really recommend reading the travel predictions that Stephen at Frequent Miler made, especially his top 5 […]


Stephen (or anyone!), do you have any predictions about how the new dynamic (awards or pricing?) will impact our Hyatt stays in 2020? I recall they are changing things up in March. I am a fan of the Hyatt Place 5K point award stays, as I know you are as well.
Will it change our Hyatt strategy? Thanks ! Happy New Year!


I think its unlikely that AMEX will change referral structure at least while they are in cost control mode – I think its already quite generous – While it would be awesome to not tap with some Amex card referral bonus before the end of the year.

while referrals are supposed to be lower cost acquisitions, I think in reality if they ran the numbers the average card holder never refer. I hope I’m wrong cause I’d love the extra MR/URs.


I hate bedbugs! Make sure to post to TripAdvisor.


All of your predictions seem pretty likely to me, so it will be interesting to see how you do with your 2020 predictions.


You should look back at previous years and see if the ones you missed eventually came true 🙂


For 1, 2, 4, and 5, there’s little to no reason to disagree with you. For 3, I don’t see it happening. If IHG cared about elite customers, there’s so many things they could do but instead they pretty much do nothing. Short of some epiphany that elites are well worth spending a little money to keep, this seems pretty uncharacteristic. Number 6 is a tough one. Does Chase want to give ground they’ve gained because other companies did similar moves? Number 7 is likely spot on, particularly the bonus prediction. Marriott is impressively indifferent to the regular customer base but it still really throws me how a company can hold its’ best customers in such contempt, but that’s Marriott for you, at least under Sorenson.

Ed. C

I, for one, hope you are as wrong as wrong can be about the Chase / Priority Pass restaurant prediction given my past experience of hardly ever being able to get into an Alaska lounge at PDX or LAX….


Agreed. Alaska lounges are just ok and IIRC LAX is only PP AS lounge left, other hubs exited program.

Domestically, the restaurant option is often the only or the superior option at hubs..

Int’l if your flying PE or E and don’t have status with Oneworld or Star Alliance, PP is great esp if you can access a shower.

But hands down the Restaurant option is far superior in offsetting the AF. As many have lamented that PP
carrier lounges are as busy and as noisy as the terminal, and hunt for a pair of seats together and/or a free outlet. Same issue at AS lounge SEA terminal C, even though they are no longer a PP option in SEA.