What you need to know

Travel is still halted in the midst of the pandemic, delaying much of the redemption aspect of frequent travel programs. While credit card-based programs still offer opportunity for accrual, FTPs through travel companies are stymied in both accrual and redemption. Moreover, the acquisition of younger travelers for both sources of FTP remains important, yet difficult, and the pandemic is an unwelcome complication.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer usage of frequent travel programs

  • The shutdown of the travel industry due to the pandemic, and the challenges and bright spots therein

  • What consumers want from their travel loyalty programs

  • Insight and strategy regarding acquisition and retention of different demographic groups

This Report was written in May and June of 2020. While consumer data included in this Report was fielded in April 2020, the survey questions answered by respondents were developed before the COVID-19 pandemic had taken hold in the US. In general, responses capture consumers’ typical travel behaviors, not their sentiment amidst the pandemic.


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

Frequent travel program (FTP): A program wherein members can accumulate reward currency (“points”) and exchange them primarily for travel rewards, such as free flights or hotel stays. In this Report, FTPs include:

  • Airline frequent flyer programs

  • Loyalty programs for accommodations providers (ie hotels, motels, homeshares and vacation rental companies)

  • Car rental loyalty programs

  • OTA loyalty programs

  • Travel co-branded credit cards

  • Credit cards that focus on earning travel rewards, but are not co-branded with a specific travel provider

Travel co-branded credit card: A credit card that is branded with a travel provider, such as an airline, for the purpose of accruing loyalty points with that travel brand specifically.

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