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The award travel world is always a changing space. It can be really hard to keep up with program updates (and mergers), changes to credit card products, and which programs still offer the best award sweet spots. Almost every year the major hotel chains adjust the award categories of their properties.

As we head into 2019, I thought about some of the loyalty program changes we’ve seen this year and what 2019 might hold for the points and miles world. Here are 5 predictions I’m making for the coming year:

IHG will devalue again

I mean…it’s tradition, right? Some IHG hotels, especially top-tier Intercontinental hotels, have seen a massive 40% devaluation in just a couple years. A Holiday Inn my wife and I stayed at back in 2015 has seen a 150% price increase. I didn’t think we’d see another IHG devaluation earlier this year after 2017’s changes, but we did.

So why not? We’ll probably see another one in 2019. IHG will be the new Hilton, albeit without the strengths that the Hilton brings to the table (SEE: 3 reasons why IHG doesn’t have a REAL hotel loyalty program).

Marriott will still be in its IT mess in June

Considering that the long-awaited Marriott and SPG loyalty program merger than happened in August still has serious ongoing issues, I don’t think we’re going to pull out of this one anytime soon. In anticipation of a decent new program, I completed a Marriott Platinum challenge, which netted me Platinum Premier status through 2019 under the new program. We’ve had a couple nice stays, most notably our recent stay in Beijing (SEE: Renaissance Beijing Wangfijing Review).

However, with the mess of the integration and the lack of any real benefits at the lower Marriott tiers moving forward, as well as increasing numbers of points required for top-tier properties, I’ve already decided to jump ship (bonvoyage!). The new World of Hyatt Visa sealed the deal with its ability to help manufacture Globalist status.

So have fun, y’all, when Marriott IT is still having problems with literally everything in the middle of next year.

I won’t ever see the first class cabin as a Delta Platinum

By leveraging some work travel, a trip to Paris, and the bonus MQMs from a couple Delta Platinum cards (personal and business versions), I’m now a Delta Platinum Medallion. I’m looking forward to (hopefully) using the regional upgrades for a trip this fall. Plus, I’ll also enjoy waived changed fees for Delta award tickets, something else I hope to put to good use.

However, I’m honestly wondering if I’ll ever see the front of the 737 that flies between Sacramento and Atlanta. I’ll probably end up flying this route between California and the East Coast at least a half dozen times this year, but given the ridiculously long line that forms during the SKY zone boarding at SMF, I don’t think I’ll ever be seeing the front of a Delta plane. There are too many elites. United has given me the most upgrades by far, and I only hold silver status with them. But this is probably because it’s always on my favorite plane (SEE: 3 reasons why the ERJ-175 is my favorite non-wide-body jet).

Alaska will devalue its Cathay premium cabin sweet spots

I’ve been anticipating this for a while. This spring I wrote about how these awards are overdue to be “enhanced” (loyalty-program-speak when making negative changes). My kids and I flew Cathay Pacific business class from Hong Kong back to the U.S. for only 50,000 miles per person. We could have flown in first for only 70,000 miles. This also included the segment from Beijing to Hong Kong in premium economy, taking advantage of the free stopover on one-way Alaska awards.

Considering that Alaska only charges 70,000 miles for first class from the U.S. to South Africa via Hong Kong, I expect that this award’s days are numbered. Time’s up. It’s gotta devalue, and I’m predicting it will happen this year.

Grand Hyatt at SFO will be a Category 4 property

This is a rather specific prediction that is close to home. I fly in and out of SFO at least a few times each year, and sometimes I have to find an airport hotel on one end or the other, as I live five hours from this major hub. And SFO airport hotels can be obscenely expensive. But maybe I’ll have a new go-to option when the Grand Hyatt at SFO opens later this year.

Given that the nearby Hyatt Regency is a Category 3 and both the Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt in downtown SF are Category 5, it would make sense that the soon-to-be crème de la crème SFO hotel property is a Category 4. Can’t be as much as a downtown hotel, yet it should cost more than the nearby Regency that is not brand new. I will happily burn a free night certificate at the new Grand Hyatt, if needed.

But Hyatt could also burst my bubble and make it a Category 5.


I was going to write that Chase 5/24 would be applied across all cards, but Chase beat me to the punch there and rolled it out as a Christmas gift to everyone (yay!). It made me backpedal on my decision to cancel my old Hyatt Visa (SEE: My Hyatt Visa gamble: do I upgrade? Or do I cancel and reapply?). There are also rumors floating around that Wyndham will roll out a devaluation this coming year. Hopefully we won’t see too many negative changes in 2019.

What are your travel predictions for 2019? Do you disagree with any of mine?

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