This week in loyalty program news we see companies launching first ever programs, and others revamping current programs! Moreover, just in time for the back to school rush, Walgreens and Abercrombie & Fitch have joined the loyalty program world. In hotel news, Hilton expands, while IKEA moves into the industry! With school starting back up and summer almost officially at its end, these companies are finding ways to keep their programs HOT even if temperatures are soon to drop! Walgreens Launches First Ever Loyalty Program Walgreens, one of the nations largest Drugstore retailers, will launch its first ever loyalty program this September, called Balanced Rewards. The drugstore giant will use this program to personalize and improve sales for customers. After decades of capitalizing on the old-fashioned retail strategy, Walgreens will take the plunge into the deep pool of existing loyalty programs and attempt to make its place in the world of loyalty. Rite Aid Revamps Loyalty Program Rite Aid, a competitor of Walgreens, will begin pumping special reward points into accounts of customers that already apart of their loyalty program. Beginning next month, Wellness+ members will have +UPs loaded to their cards automatically. +UPs are special rewards earned when certain items or groups are purchased and can be used like cash toward future purchases. Rite Aid believes their Wellness+ program is different from other loyalty programs, in that it strives to combine health and wellness awards into one program. Avis Car Rental Does Away with Blackout Dates Avis Car Rental is hard at work with plans to enhance its customer loyalty program this fall. The company announced last week that it has removed the blackout restrictions on its two-day weekend rental reward certificates. This was in response to voiced concerns from customers. The change will make it easier for Avis loyalists to redeem certificates during major events and times of heavy travel, such as the holidays. Avis hopes this change will make for more happy renters! Hertz to Launch “Movin’ with Music” Online Music Store The Hertz Corporation announced the launch of a music store as part of its Movin’ with Music program. The Music Store, which should be live mid-August, allows Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members to acquire music. To kick off the launch of the Music Store, Hertz is offering 3 free song downloads per rental to Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members who rent a car through the end of August. Road trip lovers know the importance of good music for an enjoyable drive. Through the Music Store, Hertz customers will have a new way to download the tunes they love to accompany them on any drive they take! AirAsia BIG Global Loyalty Program Now Free AirAsia announced last week that it will implement free membership to its loyalty program, BIG. In the past, AirAsia frequent flyers were charged a fee to join the program. After listening to customer feedback, AirAsia realized their customers viewed the program as a “scheme” when they had to pay. Members of AirAsia BIG, known as BIG Shots, will be able to earn BIG points when traveling and shopping with partners worldwide. Hopefully, no longer looking like a scheme, this upgrade for BIG shots will result in some BIG signups for AirAsia. Abercrombie & Fitch Launches Loyalty Club The popular teen hub for all things trendy, Abercrombie & Fitch, announced last week it will launch its first loyalty club. This loyalty club will have all the traditional features of a loyalty program, including repeat customer discounts, gift certificates, member only promotions, and free shipping. Abercrombie will also allow its members access to exclusive video and photo galleries, digital wallpapers for computers and phones, and even seek advice on what to wear depending on the weather. The club site will include a five-day forecast and suggestions on how to dress for the elements. Just in time for back to school, the launch of this loyalty club hopefully will allure many teenagers to get into the loyalty game. Hilton Opening 25 Hotels in India The leading global hospitality company, Hilton, announced Monday they will open 25 hotels in India by 2016. Hilton hopes to continue expansion in their commitment to welcoming international travelers in key destinations. After launching their third hotel in India, the company is well on its way to reaching 25 by 2016, according to global head of Hilton, Rob Palleschi. IKEA Builds Budget Friendly Hotels IKEA, a store popular for their chic and cheap furniture will venture outside of their flat-pack furniture box, and create budget friendly hotels across Europe. In a world driven by a want to be stylish at a price that will not break the bank, this venture is just what the realm of accommodations needs to join the fun. These hotels are not a continuation of the stores however; no giant yellow letters in sight here. The hotels will not offer IKEA furniture that can be found in the store or display the brand name in any way. Future building sites for the 100 hotels include Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Britain, and Poland. This represents the company’s biggest real estate development to date. So travelers, put the backpacks down, leave the hostels behind, and see what “budget designer,” really means in the world of hotels. Have a great week full of deals, bonuses, and loyalty love!