Do you carry around loyalty program cards?

This morning I made a post about how I organize my wallets based on whether I’m traveling or not, and it seemed many of you were surprised that I carry around my elite cards, for both airlines and hotels.

I think the reason behind carrying around airline elite cards is pretty clear. They’re sometimes needed for lounge access, and they can also be used to pull your information up quickly on a kiosk when printing boarding passes (for whatever reason a credit card often doesn’t work for me).

But more of you seemed surprised by the fact that I carry around my hotel elite cards as well. My strategy is usually that when I check-in I hand the front desk agent my credit card, elite card, and ID. There are a few reasons I do this:

  • Some hotels check-in elite members or club guests in the club lounge, and when that’s the case the agent can send me there before even having to pull up my reservation.
  • Some hotels have “elite” check-in lines, and given that I’m young I tend to get some flak for using them, so being able to show an elite card right away prevents any issues.
  • I think it’s a useful reminder of your status, since not all agents seem to pay an equal amount of attention to it. When I don’t show my card or mention my status I find many agents at US properties completely forgot about club access, free internet, upgrades, etc. When I hand them my card, on the other hand, it almost always prompts them to mention elite benefits.

Anyway, am I the only one that carries my elite cards and hands them over when checking in at a hotel? Maybe I’ve been wrong all along…

Filed Under: Hotels, Travel
  1. Airlines are important to keep with you in case you want lounge access to partner’s lounge. Some will require the card (AF is notorious).

  2. I do the same. Take all the ones I think I might need on trips, but clear them out when I’m home. And for the same reason you do, makes it easier when checking in. And I don’t have to spell my name for all around me to hear.

  3. I carry my passport and airline elite cards because I never know when I may be making an “emergency” trip to Europe and I may be on a partner airline. Only way to get club access.

  4. I carry them too – Air, hotel, priority pass, car rental… But I don’t carry them in my wallet – I keep them in my carry on bag.

    Hotel cards certainly do seem unnecessary to carry though. If you made your reservation right, they always have your loyalty number and elite status with your reservation.

    I hand them the card (and my credit card and ID) anyway, but they usually hand it back and say ‘We already have that on file.’

    I don’t travel internationally that much (and don’t need to prove my 1K or EXP status for lounge access), so the reality is that I could leave all of these cards at home and it would have zero impact on my travel experience…

    Maybe I’ll try that on my next trip and see if I feel differently not having them with me. My elite status security blankets… šŸ™‚

  5. I always carry around the airline one…. I will carry a hotel elite card if I booked via a 3rd party (hoping to get elite benefits on an ineligible stay) or if I need to add my SPG # to someone else’s folio so I can get credit for it šŸ˜‰

  6. I always have my Qantas card with me but that’s because we need to have it there to swipe at restaurants where you can earn points at. Otherwise I carry the cards I have elite status when I travel

  7. I carry less and less of them.

    But I do carry my AA Exec Platinum card if I go out of the country. Will also carry hotel cards of those I have reservations if I have status and am out of the country.

    In the US, I don’t carry any.

  8. I have a whole stack I take when I travel – Global Entry, United, AA, Amex Platinum, Clear, PriorityPass. Surprising how often you actually need them to access lounges…

  9. Huge stack of cards here too but rubber banded together. Awardwallet summary card on top.

    With iPhone passbook think this will vanish someday.

  10. Actually, in stead of carrying around all the cards, I downloaded the Awardwallet app and have all the numbers and info stored there (Except American/recently Delta of course)

    Earlier in the year I jumped on Club Accor Platinum like the rest of the Frequent Traveller world since it was free, even though I rarely stay at any hotels within the group. This year I went to Bangkok and stayed at the Novotel to get some use out of the Platinum status.
    The ladies at reception kept pushing me for my Platinum Loyalty card (which I had obviously not yet received because there had been no activity on the account.) It was odd that they would insist on it, even though I gave them my Accor number displayed on my phone’s Awardwallet App. Oh well, I got a one category upgrade and a welcome gift so it doesn’t matter, but they almost found it strange I didn’t have the card with me…

  11. Is it bad that I carry around my Qantas Platinum Card even when I am not traveling.

    Everything else stays at home, until I actually travel, and what lucky does at check in I do as well, easier work for the check in staff.

  12. I only carry the loyalty cards that I know I will use and have already made reservations for my stays during my trips. This also allows them to see my how my name is spelled [reception always has trouble] and get potential upgrades I may not have been aware of when planning my stay. I definitely made sure I had one on hand in particular during a recent trip to Seoul, Korea it allowed me free WiFi access during my stay, something most 5star hotels charge for at a premium.

  13. I had to go to a United gate and ask a United agent to call the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto in order to gain access. They wouldn’t accept my boarding pass, which clearly had my VIP level on it. I won’t soon forget that lesson!

  14. I carry them all in my carryon, but almost never show them anywhere unless something is wrong with my reservation.

  15. @LARandy. I’ve gone one better. I got told off by the agent at the United Club in SFO for not having my United 1K card with me, when my boarding pass had my United number and status printed on it.

  16. I carry my Emirates and Turkish Airlines cards with me always. And my Priority Club Platinum. Otherwise, I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t think Hilton has even sent me a new card for the last few years – the one in my desk has a 2010 expiry date (even though my status is up-to-date).

  17. I’ve also used them to access Priority Security when not flying the airline I’m elite with (and thus I don’t have something on my boarding pass indicating access).

    I wouldn’t say I need my cards a majority of the time, but I also don’t know ex-ante when I will need them. So they do sit in my travel wallet, which is in my laptop bag.

  18. I live in Japan and generally I carry my JAL card with me all the time. It is not only JAL mileage but also a Bic Camera (think Best Buy) point card, as well as functioning as a Waon cash stored value card.

    I don’t think these added functions are available to people living outside Japan.

  19. Hilton still hasn’t sent me one.

    Airline card gets the most use, but have everything else stuffed in a travel wallet that generally comes with me.

  20. I carry mine too! I have a business card holder (about 4.5″ x 10″) full of my FF and award cards that I put in my carry on luggage. You’d be surprised at how many times I’ve pulled it out for an unexpectedly needed card.
    And – if I don’t have a card for a program, most of them let you print out a “card” from their website, which I also do and then put in the business card holder.

  21. I, too, carry around my loyalty cards. I, too, am young. And, I, too, understand the need to carry around the loyalty cards. My wallet is too thick, and perhaps too superficial, but, I like you, value my loyalty…er, cards!

  22. I usually use the loyalty card as the card to insert for room power in hotels! (and also lost numerous cards this way.. haha)

  23. Only when I travel, I’ll make sure I have my Star Gold card handy and maybe a hotel card given a reservation.
    I also add two ATM cards with foreign travel for currency exchange.

  24. I wonder if you get an EXP colored card in the new Apple Passbook…that would be smart!

  25. I’m in SPG hotels weekly almost year round and rarely if ever experience issues with them not having my SPG status on file and recognized. Once or twice a year they leave internet charges on but in each instance it wouldn’t have been different if I showed my physical SPG Platinum card – they had the number on file, just erroneously charged for internet (and refunded it subsequently).
    I travel for business though so I doubt I receive the same level of skepticism you do even though I’m only 24.

    Still, if you book your reservation correctly I’m not sure how you could have issues with status not being recognized? If I’m ever unsure I just clarify that I want the points as my amenity and they remember to go through the Platinum perks.

  26. I don’t typically carry them… However, I DO carry them when I’m traveling internationally. In the US, 99% of my travel is with my preferred airline carrier and preferred set of hotels. They don’t need to see my card… but when I’m going international, trying to access some kind of lounge, well then I’ll bring the cards.

    Oh – there is one BIG exception! I’m 1K with United, but I don’t have any status with any other airline. Somtimes if I’m flying another carrier, I’ll bring my 1K card with me to the security line to try and get advanced boarding. It works about half the time so it’s worth it ;-).

  27. I always have my FF cards with me in a separate travel wallet that stays in my laptop bag.

    And I always present them along with ID and credit card. I’m hard hearing with “echoing” places like hotel lobbies and airline terminals being the worst. Having all tidbits of info about me in front of the Rep reduces the amount of conversation needed.

    I also like being prepared. In the rare cases my FF (or ID) card was actually needed, it’s already out. I don’t hold up the line while I go fishing.

  28. I carry them every day, in a seperate business card wallet. I NEVER know when I will need them, a phone number off them, or when I may get rerouted on a business trip and end up in some chain I don’t know my number for.

  29. I always carry them as well. They have helped me in numerous ways. For example, last week I was checking into a Hilton where the line for “Diamonds and Gold” was a mile long (as was every other line). The gentleman at the counter said “If you can show me your Diamond card I can take you next”. I had mine and saved an easy 40 minute wait…

  30. When checking in with SPG, I always ask if a Gold upgrade is available. That ensures the hotel recognizes my status. I’ve never needed the physical card.

  31. Ben- I think I have you beat regarding being young. I’m a 16-year old Priority Club plat, Hilton Gold, Hyatt Diamond, ClubCarlson gold, Best Western Diamond, Accor plat (or whatever the free one was) and A3 Star Gold. I think the worst hotels are the Hyatt Regencies in the US, especially in the Midwest, because almost every time I’ve either gotten the “stink-eye” or been confronted about being in the elite line. It’s compounded by the fact that I work conferences of teenagers, and some (HR Chicago esp) don’t think I want a newspaper, club access, etc. If I need to ask for turndown/newspaper two days in a row something’s wrong. I’m almost never without my cards, so I can show them that I DESERVE that room for my elephant and helicopter landing pad.

  32. i always carry my elite member cards with me and showed them to check in. usually they told me they do not need them. But there was once at Marriot that I did not showed my card to check in. Then, I found I did not get the points. I contacted marriott and they told me my points were given to another marriott reward account/person (simply because i did not show my card). that is the primary reason I always showed my card in order to get my bonus.

    When I checked in, they usually gave my room card the access to executive lounge. So, carrying an elite member card is no longer useful after checking in. But I found I should ask them the extra access. They might not give me unil I ask.

  33. Always carry all cards. You NEVER know if there’ll be a change (cxl/delay) which you’ll then be rebooked on different carrier or alliance. Also for hotel I take the cards I will need. Been asked a few times.

  34. I do not carry awards cards or GOES with me – keep them all on line with Trip It Pro. Has never been an issue – till I learned the hard way that Emirates clubs can only upgrade you on certain flights once it has passed to gate control if you have your loyalty card with you. I do keep my CLEAR card with me

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