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(NECN/NBC News: Chris Clackum) – If you’re looking to cash in some reward points for, say, a vacation destination this year, you better be booking real soon. Some changes are in the works that you're probably not going to like.
It has become a rite of passage about this time every year that hotel chains that offer reward points change the rules.
But this year, travel experts say, the changes are unprecedented.
"Almost every single hotel chain has jacked up, extraordinarily, the amounts of points that you need for a free night," says Brian Kelly, thepointsguy.com.
Extraordinarily, as in doubling the number of points needed for a free night's stay, and, some chains, like Hilton, are starting the changes at the end of this month, which Kelly says might prove to be too much for, otherwise, loyal customers.
"So, I think once people start seeing that, you know, these points that they accrued for years are now worth about half as much, I think they're going to start losing customers," Kelly says.
The changes at Wyndham have already taken effect with many of its hotels actually requiring fewer points for a free stay. Although, nearly a fourth will require more, while Marriot and some others are just introducing more expensive tiers.
"This year, they've created this new super tier...so, if you want to stay...go to New York on that once-in-a-lifetime trip...those hotels are almost doubling in the amount of points you need," says Kelly.
There is a way, however, to avoid using more points, but Kelly says you must act now.
You can book travel into the future but you got to do it by the date the changes go in effect."
And going forward, he says your membership in reward programs should be as diversified as your retirement portfolio.