Why You Need to Diversify Your Points & Miles Earnings in 2023

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Why You Need to Diversify Your Points & Miles Earnings in 2023

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Points and miles are a lot like currencies around the world. Just as $100,000 U.S. dollars aren't equal to 100,000 Japanese yen, 100,000 Delta SkyMiles are not equal to 100,000 Hilton Honors points.

But let's take the analogy a bit further. Diversifying your investments is critical: It’s not wise to put your entire life savings into one stock. You’ll need a basic understanding of stock portfolio diversification before you put your hard earned money into an investment vehicle. If that company went belly up or didn't perform particularly well, your finances will suffer. It's why index funds exist.

The same mentality is true with points and miles. If you focus on earning points with just one airline or hotel program, you're locked in. That can be great … until a great deal pops up with an airline where you don't have miles. Or when you need to fly a different airline. Or stay somewhere where your favorite hotel chain doesn't have a location. Or when that airline decides to suddenly start charging a boatload more miles for the flights you want.

When that happens, all the Delta SkyMiles or Marriott Bonvoy points in the world can't help you. That's why it's so critical to branch out and start earning different points and miles – sooner rather than later. We'll walk through the top three reasons to underscore why you need to diversify in 2023.


Points and Miles Get Less Valuable

Death, taxes, and reward program devaluations.

These are simply certainties in life. With airline and hotel programs, it happens over and over again – often without much notice. Coming out of the pandemic in 2021 and 2022, we were reminded of that.

On New Years Day 2021, we saw Virgin Atlantic end a massive sweet spot for booking Delta flights. With no notice, they drastically changed their award pricing for many Delta flights, swapping in a distance-based format. That meant it now costs almost twice as many miles (or more) to fly Delta One suites from the U.S. to Tokyo (HND). Thankfully, Delta flights to Europe escaped this massive devaluation.


delta one suite


For years, one of the best ways to use Delta SkyMiles was booking flights on partner airlines (through Delta's own website) like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, or Korean Air. While award rates to fly Delta were unpredictable (and often through the roof), these partner award redemptions were almost always a better deal – and more stable, too.

But then they devalued these partner redemptions in the fall of 2020 with some massive increases for both economy and business class flights. Then, there was another increase in 2021. Earlier this year, Delta gutted the last decent SkyMiles business class redemption on routes to the Middle East. In October, Delta put the final nail in the coffin.

In what's certainly not a coincidence, Delta partner award flights are now almost always matching exactly what Delta is charging for its own flights. For the last year and change, a one-way economy flight from the U.S. to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) with KLM cost you 35,000 SkyMiles – or 120,000 SkyMiles in KLM business class.

Here's what you will likely see now … woof!


msp ams partner redemption


The list of devaluations goes on and on over time. In 2021, Southwest Airlines devalued their milage program without any warning – jacking up award redemptions by about 6% across the board.

In the hotel world, Marriott, Hyatt, and other hotel chains are rolling out peak and off-peak pricing models. Marriott is taking this a step further by removing their award chart and transitioning to fully dynamic award pricing later this year. That means it will ultimately cost more (or, if you're lucky, fewer) points to book a free night, depending on the location and time of year.

Those are just a few of hundreds of examples over the years. If all your eggs are in one basket, these devaluations can be crushing. Travelers hoarded their miles during the pandemic – and credit card companies have issued a wave of huge new bonuses in the last few years. That's a recipe for even more devaluations in 2023.

But if you can build up points in several different programs, these devaluations sting less. You can use your points more judiciously when it makes the most sense to maximize their value.


Prioritize Earning Flexible Points

Co-branded airline credit cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, the United℠  Explorer Card, or the Citi / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard can offer a lot of value for travelers.

They offer free checked luggage, priority boarding, and large welcome offer mileage bonuses from time to time. Keeping one of these cards in your wallet for your preferred airline is almost always worth it.

But here’s the thing: The average traveler shouldn’t be using a co-branded credit card for their everyday spending, or focusing on only one airline program. While it may seem smart to keep adding to your balance of Delta SkyMiles, United MileagePlus miles, or American Airlines AAdvantage miles, you can do much better.

Read more: Why You Shouldn't Be Putting Everything on Your Airline Card

More often than not, you’ll be better served by leaning more heavily on a flexible points credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, or even the American Express® Gold card.

All three of these cards earn the most valuable points around.


credit cards with passport


By using a card that earns flexible points, you keep your options open. Not only can you use your points to fly Delta or United, for example, but you can also use them to fly on almost any other airline – or even use them for hotel stays.

It’s one of the main reasons we love Chase Ultimate Rewards points – possibly the best of all these flexible points programs. You can use them to book flights on almost any airline through the Chase Travel Portal. And when you do, your points will be worth 25% to 50% more, depending on which version of the card you hold. But you can also use them for one of the many airline and hotel transfer partners.

A sum of 60,000 Delta SkyMiles is stuck with Delta. But a sum of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth at least $750 on almost any airline – or hotel or even cruise company. It's an unparalleled level of versatility.

Read More: The Best Credit Card Points to Earn This Year to Fuel Your Travels


Use the Best Part of Each Program

More and more, airline and hotel programs are using dynamic award pricing.

While some airlines still use an award chart to set mileage rates for a given flight, it's all over the map with dynamic award pricing. Rates can swing wildly from day to day based on the cash price, demand, seasonality, and more.

Read more on How Much Are Delta SkyMiles Really Worth?

But by diversifying your points and miles, you can get around these hurdles and cherry-pick the best way to book whatever trip you're taking – often for far fewer miles. One of our favorite examples of this is using Virgin Atlantic points to book Delta flights.

Delta is infamous for charging an arm and a leg for award flights in Delta One business class. Seeing 300,000 SkyMiles or more for a one-way flight to Europe is not out of the norm. For reference, most airlines charge 70,000 to 80,000 miles one-way for business class flights, if not substantially less.

Delta wants at least 240,000 SkyMiles for a business class seat on the flight from New York City (JFK) to Brussels (BRU) this spring. No thank you.


skymiles pricing for delta one to europe


You can do much, much better by booking through Virgin Atlantic. That exact same flight can be booked for just 50,000 miles each way. You may need to be flexible, as finding availability through Virgin Atlantic can be a challenge – especially lately.

But when you can make it work, it's a steal. The exact same flight – same date, same plane, same Delta One seat – for 200,000 fewer miles? That's the definition of a no-brainer move.

Want award alerts for opportunities to book flights like this? Get them delivered straight to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium+, along with cheap domestic and international fares!


jfk to bru virgin atlantic points booking


But making this magical redemption work can be easier said than done. Sometimes, Delta will release plenty of these seats to book via Virgin Atlantic. Other times, you can scroll through months of flights without seeing a single seat – or your search may just error out.

You can transfer credit card points to a Virgin Atlantic account from ChaseAmerican Express, Capital One, Citi, and Bilt Rewards. You can even transfer a stash of Marriott Bonvoy points to become Virgin Atlantic miles.

Want award alerts for opportunities to book flights like this? Get them delivered straight to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium+, along with cheap domestic and international fares!


Bottom Line

Having points in flexible programs is the best way to protect yourself against the inevitable devaluations of airline and hotel loyalty programs – and score the best deals.

Not only should you diversify your points into the flexible points programs, but it's a great idea to also start building up miles with the three major U.S. airlines: Delta, United, and American.

Diversifying your points and miles keeps your award travel options open. And that's the key to jumping on the best deals and redemptions while avoiding the bad ones.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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