[ 60 Seconds ] with M.V. Rajamannar, Diners Club Club Rewards

Any business traveler who hasn’t heard about the major changes taking place at Diners Club in the past months must be spending some serious time under a rock. To the joy of Club Rewards members (and no doubt the consternation of the competition), Diners has recently co-branded itself with MasterCard, exponentially expanding its acceptance.

There have also been some changes to the earning and burning structure; most notably, the two-points-per-dollar has been dropped to one point, and award redemption levels have been adjusted accordingly. We had a chance to chat with M.V. Rajamannar, Chairman & CEO of Diners Club Club Rewards, about the changes.

Rajamannar: Diners is the most powerful program. The customer service has been one of the third-party validated advantages; meaning among all the card providers, Diners has the best customer service.

In terms of the kind of benefits the product has: Access to about 80 lounges around the world, which Diners Club owns or runs. The quality of benefits is extremely positive.

(Then there’s the) alliance with MasterCard — whereby the Diners card while retaining all its original favor will merely ride on the MasterCard railroad. All the Diners Club cards issued in North America will carry the MasterCard logo on the front of the card. That will show the merchants that MasterCard can be accepted. Overnight, that will triple the amount of places Diners will be accepted. Around the world, that’s almost 24 million outlets. This will launch in the United States within the month.

One of the concerns is whether we would continue to maintain the current quality and current structure of the program. Absolutely. The customer will have the ability to redeem their points and miles for many different options.

One change was to simplify the accounting. One dollar spent on the card gives the customer two Club Rewards points. If they want to convert it to miles, two Rewards points becomes one mile.

So, going forward, one dollar spent will be one Rewards program point, but it only takes half the number of pints required as in the past to get an airline mile or other items we have.

InsideFlyer: Will just one statement reflect the change in a member’s earning balance?
Rajamannar: The first statement will explain clearly. We are making sure the program stays ahead and is in line with what the customer’s preferences and choices are. The changes will only make the product better.

What we are doing is keeping it a more streamlined product. We won’t want to have sub-brands; we will not have different brand names going out there.

IF: Without Club Rewards, was Diners in danger?
Rajamannar: Club Rewards has been proven to be a critical component of our overall composition.

The customer service was there, in terms of benefits, everything was there, like the lounges. These things were in place. The need for the card was beyond the need for the traditional hotels and airlines. It was coming down to card usage. What the customer wants is loyalty.

IF: You launched in Canada, four good months ago now. Have you seen different changes in the reward demands?
Rajamannar: What we have seen is a couple of things. First, there has been a substantial increase in the total spend on the card in Canada. Second, the gains were coming from outlets and merchants from sales where we had not been before. The card now is universally accepted.

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