loyalty cardsA new U.S. study from hotel loyalty program Wyndham Rewards reveals that while the majority of Americans (77%) see significant savings potential in loyalty programs, nearly a third (32%) don’t feel skilled enough to actually take advantage of them. What’s more, 64% say they would go to extremes—take the middle seat on a plane every trip extreme—if it meant someone would professionally manage their memberships for them.

This means that while travel remains high on the priority list in 2016—more than half of Americans plan to travel more this year—many of the countless rewards programs designed to help them stretch their travel dollars are proving too unwieldy for them to reap the benefits.

“Loyalty programs should be seen as financial tools that we can all leverage to maximize the return on our travels,” said Noah Brodsky, senior vice president of worldwide loyalty and engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group. “Unfortunately, over complication and constant devaluation among many programs are leaving a number of travelers confused and disappointed. A good loyalty program does the opposite, which is why we created the new Wyndham Rewards. We make it simple and easy for members to earn what they want most: a free night.”

Other key findings from the study:

Travelers are optimistic, yet cost-conscious… especially women

Although consumer sentiment towards the U.S. economy continues to improve, the vast majority of Americans (71%) consider themselves “cost-conscious.”

  • Women in particular showed a focus on savings, as 35% plan to spend less in 2016 than in 2015 while only 19% of men feel the same.
  • Women also more frequently identified as “very cost-conscious” (40% of women vs. 24% of men).

Travel – a big part of the 2016 budget

Lower petrol prices across the country and a decrease in fuel surcharges may help make it easier to travel for less in 2016. That’s welcome news, as the study shows not only do most consumers plan to travel more in 2016 (53%), but their travel aspirations include road trips, exploring the country and visiting loved ones.

  • Travel will play a prominent role in annual budgeting as 83% say travel will comprise at least a quarter of discretionary spending, while 40% say at least half of discretionary spending will go towards travel.
  • More than half (54%) put exploring new locations within the US on their 2016 travel wish list and more than a third (39%) are planning more frequent visits to out of state family and friends. With gas prices at their lowest levels in more than six years, 26% plan to take a cross-country road trip this year.

Over the top sacrifices for simplicity and savings

Reinforcing the challenges of keeping up with and managing the growing number of loyalty programs in which the average American is enrolled, the majority (64%) are willing to go to extreme lengths to have their memberships professionally managed for a year. Of those that would:

  • 31% are willing to manually do their own taxes for a year.
  • 26% are willing to sit in middle seat on every flight for a year.
  • 21% are willing to give up social media for 6 months.
  • 12% are willing to downgrade to a flip phone for 6 months.
  • 10% are willing to have in-laws live with them for a year.