Tag Archives: credit card volume

The World of Reward Points Is Changing

The average Canadian has five reward programs of one kind or another. It might be a 10th free haircut, frequent flyer miles, 10% off if you spend over a certain amount, or rewards on your credit card.

Whatever you’ve figured out about them will be all different in the next few years. In short, the programs will be converting from volume to profitability and the opposite for credit card rewards. Right now, you’re getting rewards on your visits or spending totals. Down the road it’ll be whether you buy something profitable. No more points (or very few) to buy something at a discount, but now big rewards when you buy something way overpriced or at full retail price.

In the airline business, Air Canada has done three quiet changes to their reward programs already. Cheap seat-sale tickets now get you 25% of the miles versus full price so-called Flex tickets. Delta Airlines is already the process of fully converting their frequent flyer program. If you collect miles you need to know this. It will become the norm with every other airline. You’ll no longer earn miles based on distance flown, but on the amount you spent. It’s turning frequent flyer programs upside down. So, a last minute ticket to Vancouver at a big price will get you more miles than a discount flight to Europe.

The programs will be based on your profitability with the airline. If you make them a ton of profit – you’ll get a ton of miles. The biggest losers will be those of us who are price sensitive and bargain shop for flights. In the next few months I’m cashing out all my miles for gift cards or cash – better safe than sorry. When this comes to other airlines, you’ll be way better off getting a points reward card that lets you accumulate points for gas and other purchases – you’ll end up getting a lot more rewards than from an airline!

In the credit card world, the change will be to quantity of transactions. American Express has now introduced a new credit card that will increase your reward points by 20% once you reach 20 transactions in a month. For Amex that makes sense because their average client spends four times as much per transaction, and has a much higher average income. It’s just maximizing their transaction fees.

There was a recent study that found over a third of all reward programs are never claimed. In the airline world, according to Consumer Report, over 75% of miles are never claimed. Stop chasing and start cashing out. You won’t be a prisoner to one company or another and will become a free agent that can get the best deal from any company. I’ve started cashing out my Aeroplan miles by getting $2,000 in Esso gift cards. Check what you can redeem for the least amount of points or miles. With Aeroplan, chasing a free ticket can be a fools game. Gift cards tend to be a good deal on redemptions. Amex gift cards cost 7500 points for a $50 card whereas the Esso gift cards cost me 6500 points each.

Some pre-Christmas Good News Stories

It only seems appropriate at this time of the year to focus on some good news in the world of finances and credit. So, in no particular order, here are eleven positives that are worth sharing or repeating:

Credit & debit cards: This was the year that our volume on debit cards exceeded that of credit cards. And according to a study just released, our raw charge volume on credit cards is also down 12% to the end of September. It’s always great news when we spend money we have, instead of borrowing it!

Mortgage rates: If you refinanced, you already know that you got some of the lowest rates in a generation – even more if you negotiated properly. And it looks like those low rates may stay for another three or six months. We’ll talk about that in January with some critical things you need to know and get ready for.

Just released is a Harris poll: In the current slowdown, or tail-end of the recession, two-thirds of us still intend to decrease our already reduced restaurant and entertainment spending. Put that together with this morning’s Bank of Canada release that our savings rate is 4.7%, and I’m very happy that we’re saving more and spending less.

In that same vein, using the slogan of one of the big no-service banks, you’re richer than you think, our net worth increased by $141 billion in the second quarter of the year. It is also expected to be the same or more for the third quarter, as our retirement savings and investments bounced back big-time, and home values started to creep up again. Don’t make that out to be permission to spend stupid again, but it’s great news when our savings, homes, and investments grow.

Let’s face it, gas prices are a big dent in our wallets each month. Last week, the government owned Mexican oil monopoly paid $1 billion to hedge prices for 2010 at a $57 a barrel level. They didn’t buy oil, they bough insurance contracts that they’d get at least $57 a barrel. Since it’s in the $70 range right now, it looks like some very smart producers think there’s about a 20% drop coming next year.

Some potential good news is that the federal government is looking into the huge fees that merchants, and ultimately you and me, pay on credit and debit card transactions. IF they have the guts to act, it’ll help us all, as merchants will more than likely pass on the fee savings in a prteey competitive climate.

If you remember, in October we talked about almost two-thirds of us living paycheque to paycheque, and that being broke is a choice. At that time I offered to work with anyone who is sick and tired of being broke. So right now, there are three families in Kelowna who are on the way to becoming debt free and a special shout-out to them.

The recession appears to be over, at least on paper, in the U.S. and here in Canada. The great news is that we dodged a big bullet and didn’t have nearly the collapse the U.S. had, and continues to have. Even better news is if, and that’s a big if, we learned the painful lessons of millions of Americans, and a ton of business that went under: Debt doesn’t pay, you cannot borrow your way to wealth, and too many payments will collapse your finances sooner or later.

One financial obligation most of us have is our cell phone. The great news is that three new second-tier cell phone companies are starting up in the New Year. Guaranteed, that’ll result in a big drop in our cell contracts. If your contract is up, or about to expire, do NOT sign another three year contract and get trapped. Leave it month by month until these three are in the market. In Canada, we are way overcharged on our cell bills. In the U.S. right now, it’s $40 a month for unlimited long distance, unlimited calling minutes, and texting! Compare that to your bill. Now, if you have an I-phone, I can’t help you – you can afford a phone that’s ten times more than my monthly bill, and you’re not going to get a break.

Can it be good news that some people are going to jail? You bet. There were a number of late-night infomercial people that finally got charged. They’re off the air and no longer conning people. I’ll share some of the details with you in January.

Cash-back from your banking: Last week, millions of us received our profit sharing from the credit unions we deal with. Great news all around: Great service, you’re a member/owner, better rates, AND profit sharing. Mine was just under $400 out of $42 million from Servus Credit Union. In the Okanagan, Interior Credit union shared $4 million with 30,000 members.

I wish you a very merry Christmas, focused on the real spirit and meaning of Christmas!

George Boelcke, CCP