Yesterday was a big day for top-tier elite members with AA and Hyatt as it was the day that the upgrade certificates they earned in 2014 had to be redeemed or they expired. These are two of the top upgrade benefits in travel, so what could be bad about them?
The Bad Thing About Upgrade Certificates From AA & Hyatt
Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades
As a Hyatt Diamond member, one receives 4 Diamond Suite Upgrades that are good for stays up to 7 nights in a row. These can be applied on any eligible rate which includes the Points+Cash rate when you mix your money and points at a fixed rate per category.
These Diamond Suite Upgrades are extremely valuable as some hotels will upgrade you to a suite that costs hundreds more per night than the base room – and it can be used for up to 7 days on a single stay!
American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades
For American Airlines, they gave to their Executive Platinum members a total of 8 Systemwide Upgrade certificates to use to upgrade any paid flight by one cabin (availability required). That has changed this year as they will only give you 4 for qualifying, but these are still very valuable.
AA does not have any fare class restrictions so you can buy a super-cheap fare and still upgrade to business class on American Airline flights – anywhere in the world! These obviously are worth quite a bit.
So, What Could Be Bad?
So, what is the bad thing about these upgrade certificates, arguably the best around? The problem is that they are so valuable. What?! As I was reading around yesterday on Twitter and on the blogsphere, I saw a tremendous amount of people talking about the hold lines with Hyatt’s Diamond line and that so many people were calling in and tweeting them to get their upgrades applied to their reservations before the clock struck midnight and they expired.
The same had been true the last couple of months for AA. Many people offering to give their systemwide upgrades to friends/family – even strangers. A fair amount of people were even talking about booking mileage runs just so they could burn the certificates on an upgrade (with the award/elite miles as a secondary purpose). Finally, others lamented how they were going to have their certificates expire.
Holding For Maximum Value
Why is this? These are not once-per-year travelers. These are people who had earned (or were matched/challenged) for the programs’ highest elite tiers so they traveled a fair amount. Why were these certificates all of a sudden becoming something that needed to be used so as to not let them expire?
From many I talked to (and my own experiences), people tend to hold on to these upgrade certificates trusting that another trip will come up later on that will present a better use for them. In the case of AA, it could also be that a family trip may be in discussion and it is hoped that the certificates would be used for that. For Hyatt, it could be that you do a lot of one-nighters (like I do) and you do not want to burn a certificate on one of those. Whatever the case, there is always an expiration-flurry as people try to maximize these very valuable upgrade certificates.
Indeed, what makes these certificates so valuable (the ease of use, the ability to upgrade from even cheap rates, the breadth of their use – anywhere in the world with AA and up to 7 day stays with Hyatt) is what makes it so hard to burn and why we are in a rush to use them at all. Trying to get the maximum value could result in getting no value at all if they expire!
Going into this year, my goal is to take advantage of them on what seems the best use for my travel schedule and not worry so much about getting the best value out of them. Last year, I let 3 of my 4 Aegean upgrade certificates expire because I kept waiting for that trip that would give me the best value.
Not this year! I plan to have them all used before the end of the validity date and to be happy with whatever value I get. In the end, these are upgrade certificates that are still going to give you some great rewards for the travel it took to earn that status so don’t stress out the value so much – just use them where it seems the most appropriate!
Does all of this mean that I would rather these be less valuable? Absolutely not! I love their value and it is one of the reasons I chose to be loyal to these programs. I just want us to be less hung up on the value we can extract from them and use them when we can.