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.