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The Worst Hotel-Program Expiration Policy, Fixed

SmarterTravel

The Choice Privileges program has distinguished itself in recent years on both the upside and the downside.

On the positive side of the ledger, the company has routinely rolled out high-value promotions, even when other major chains were phoning it in with predictable, perfunctory double-points offers.

Offsetting those lucrative bonuses, however, and undermining the program overall, has been its onerous points-expiration policy. Choice Privileges points expire two calendar years after they were earned, even if a member has subsequent account activity.

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That’s in sharp contrast to the industry standard, which allows program members to extend the life of their points by either earning or redeeming more points. In most programs, every transaction resets the expiration clock, extending the life of all banked points for another 18 months or two years.

Choice Gets It Right

Apparently sensitive (shamed?) to its position as an industry outlier, Choice will adopt a more consumer-friendly policy next month.

Choice Privileges members must remain active in the Program to retain the Choice Privileges points they accumulate… Beginning February 1, 2016, members have until August 1, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time to engage in a qualifying activity before this forfeiture policy is enforced. Any qualifying activity after February 1, 2016 will keep members’ points active for an 18 additional months.

The new 18-month extendible-life policy is hardly the industry’s most liberal. But it’s a night-and-day improvement over the current rule.

Choice Privileges members will welcome the change, but should also be wary of any offsetting negative changes that might follow. In the loyalty game, net gains are a rarity; more often, it’s one step forward, two steps back. In this case, the concern would be that Choice will ratchet down the generosity of its periodic points promotions.

Reader Reality Check

Better, right?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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