✈️ Delta’s loyalty test

Friday, September 15, 2023 by Snacks
When the buffet is already empty (Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

When the buffet is already empty (Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

When the buffet is already empty (Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

When the buffet is already empty (Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images)

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Yesterday’s Market Moves
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Hey Snackers,

Watch out, PSL: brands are increasingly adding apple-scented products to their fall lineups, worried that shoppers may be experiencing pumpkin fatigue. Apple-spice latte, anyone?

Stocks perked up yesterday after chipmaker Arm’s strong market debut and resilient US retail sales. Traders are expecting the Fed to skip a rate hike at its meeting next month. 

🧠 Test your Snacks-pertise! We’re excited to introduce “Snacks Seven,” a weekly quiz testing your knowledge of recent news. Pop in to take the quiz here. You’ll have the best business banter at any weekend hang.


1. Delta overhauls its loyalty program as more Americans splurge for status in the skies

Clutch your Biscoff cookies… Delta announced drastic changes to its loyalty program, upping the criteria for elite status and lounge access. Previously, Delta fliers could join its “Medallion” program ranks by flying a set # of miles, booking a set # of flights, or spending a set amount of $$. Beginning next year, only the third metric — which Delta calls “Medallion Qualifying Dollars” or MQDs — will count toward fliers’ status (silver, gold, platinum, and diamond).

  • Easier earning: More purchases will rack up MQDs than before, like car rentals, hotel stays, and getaway packages booked through Delta Vacations.

  • Steep ascent: For the second year in a row, Delta is raising the bar for how many MQDs fliers must earn to climb the Medallion ranks. In that time, it’s jacked up the entry requirement for diamond status by 133%.

  • Lounge layover: Delta is also limiting the # of times eligible cardholders can visit its Sky Clubs, and barring anyone in basic economy (even Amex holders).

Crowded lounges… it’s not just your imagination. More travelers are signing up for rewards programs. Enrollment in American Airlines’ AAdvantage program was up 60% earlier this year from 2019, while United said its cobranded-card signups jumped 30%. In response to the surge, American upped its requirements to join AAdvantage, while American Express started charging platinum cardholders $50 per lounge guest.

  • “Downgrade apocalypse”: what one expert called the first quarter of this year, saying about 20M US travel loyalty members had their status downgraded.


If everyone’s special, no one feels special… one of Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s favorite sayings. As more folks sign up for rewards programs and credit cards to gain perks, airlines want to make exclusive, well, exclusive again. By centering its loyalty program on dollars spent, Delta is focused on catering to its biggest splurgers, rather than growing loyalty members.

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2. Car-insurance rates spike the most in 47 years, and they aren’t the only premiums rising

Paying a premium… for your premium. US car-insurance prices are up 19% from last year — the biggest annual spike in 47 years. Driving is taking a bigger chunk out of Americans’ monthly budgets, from rising gas prices to higher maintenance costs to near-record vehicle prices. Pricier insurance is adding to drivers’ woes: 

  • Insurers like State Farm and Allstate cite higher accident levels, rising repair costs, and climate disasters as reasons for premium hikes. Example: Colorado’s blizzards, hailstorms, and tornadoes have led to a 52% spike in premiums since last July.

  • The costliest policies are in Florida, where drivers pay an average $3.2K/year (a 15% increase from last year). Louisiana drivers pay the second-highest premiums ($2.5K/year) and those costs are expected to rise 18% this year.

  • As premiums balloon, some consumers are opting for cheaper rates with a higher deductible (and less coverage). Some may even (illegally) ditch insurance. 

Feeling the pinch… but not covered for pinches. Auto insurance isn't the only coverage trending up. Health-insurance costs are projected to rise 6.5% next year, the most in more than a decade. And home insurers have been approved for double-digit rate hikes in 31 states since the beginning of last year — and some have ditched climate-disaster-prone states like Florida and California altogether. Even pet insurance is soaring.


Insurers benefit when their services aren’t used… not your typical business model. Auto insurers reaped at least $29B in profits in 2020 as Americans drove way less but kept paying premiums. Health insurers like UnitedHealth saw a similar benefit during the pandemic when people avoided germy doctors’ offices. Now that highways and waiting rooms are packed again, insurers are having to shell out more $$.


3. The Crypto Catch-Up…

🪙 Coins… A report said that 90% of crypto trading volume takes place on only eight platforms. That may provide some traders more liquidity, but also risks putting crypto’s eggs in just a few baskets.

🌶️ Spicy… This week Binance.US’s CEO, head of risk, and head of legal all left the company. The exchange has struggled to maintain its market share after the SEC sued it in June, accusing it of operating illegally in the US. 

💰 Spendy… FTX got the US bankruptcy court’s OK to sell off its $3.4B crypto stash as part of an effort to repay creditors. The bankrupt exchange is (for now) limited to selling $100M/week.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • VFX: Avengers assemble: Marvel’s visual-effects artists unanimously voted to unionize for better work conditions as labor gains momentum. There's still no end game in sight for the dual Hollywood strikes.

  • Public: Shares of SoftBank-owned chip designer Arm surged 25% after it debuted on the Nasdaq yesterday in the biggest US IPO since Rivian’s in 2021. The slow IPO market has picked up with more listings. 

  • Fill: US retail sales grew at a faster pace last month, driven by spending at the pump. Gas prices rose ~6% from July to August after OPEC+ supply cuts. Yesterday, the average gallon was $3.86 — a 10-month high. 

  • Division: Video-game developers were fuming after popular game engine Unity — the backbone of “Pokémon GO” and “Among Us” — changed its pricing model with new fees. Developers threatened to switch to other engines. 

  • Fire: Lawsuits say firemen’s gear exposed them to toxic chemicals (PFAS) that could be contributing to cancer cases. One defendant, 3M, has said that it would stop manufacturing PFAS by 2025.

Snack Fact of the Day

Barbie toy sales are up 25% since the “Barbie” movie came out


  • Consumer-sentiment data

  • First day of Hispanic Heritage Month

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: Delta and Mattel

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