http://www.billshrink.com/blog/11905/the-best-and-worst-loyalty-programs/ It seems like every company has some sort of loyalty program these days. Unfortunately, many of these programs are not worth the time, money or effort required to get any real benefits. There are, however, several outstanding loyalty programs that reward customers in generous proportions. Here are our picks for three of the best, and three of the worst, loyalty programs: BEST Virgin Airlines Image SourceAlthough airline loyalty programs have gained a bad reputation in the past, Virgin Airlines has set out to change that. In addition to offering access to clubhouses and expedited upper class check-in, Flight Club members have the opportunity to work their way up a three tier loyalty ladder that offers the potential for earning back up to 100% of all base miles traveled. Virgin also allows Flight Club members to carry on extra baggage and to take a fast track route through security. This is one loyalty program that is sure to save time and money in the long run. Starbucks Image SourceStarbucks’ rewards program goes beyond the traditional coffeehouse punch card. Their reward card allows customers to receive free drinks on their birthdays in addition to a free drink with every 15 purchases. The unique thing about the Starbucks rewards program is that it is completely personalized. They offer customers special offers and coupons based on what they purchase the most. Customers are sure to be thanked for their loyalty through this innovative program. Kroger Supermarkets Image SourceWith gasoline being so expensive, Kroger Supermarkets offers one of the most valuable rewards programs. With the Kroger Plus program, customers receive points with each in-store purchase. These points are accumulated constantly and turn directly into discounts at Kroger fuel pumps. With frequent purchasing, Kroger Plus members are able to receive up to 40 cents off each gallon of gas they purchase. Just by choosing the right supermarket, customers have the ability to save every time they fill up. WORST Air Canada Image SourceOne thing many people fail to understand when considering a company’s loyalty program is that these plans often have hidden disclaimers that you may not be aware of, as is the the case with Air Canada’s Aeroplan. As far as mileage earning goes, the Aeroplan seems to be a very promising program that rewards customers generously by enabling them to use their accumulated mile points to purchase anything from vacation packages to name brand merchandise. Unfortunately, these points come with one very restricting requirement. Air Canada customer, Peter Holmes, points out that customers must book a flight with the airline every 12 months in order to keep points active. So, no matter how many points you earn, they aren’t worth much if you stop flying with Air Canada for a year. Remember to always read the fine print when signing up for loyalty programs. Subway This program claims to replace their old stamp card, but it seems to be a downgrade from the old system. Rather than gaining credits for each purchase a customer makes, this program awards one point for each dollar spent. Only once a customer spends $75 can they cash in for one free $5 footlong. So, unless you’re a frequent customer, spending $75 for a $5 sandwich probably isn’t worth it. Lowe’s In order to ramp up its competitive forces in the home improvement market, Lowe’s quickly implemented a loyalty program; however, they may have rushed into it a little too quickly. The promise of a 5% discount on every purchase sounds nice, but it comes with too many hidden terms to be useful. Mike Troy of Retailing Today points out the important fact that these discounts cannot be used on products boasting the Lowe’s low-price guarantee, and they will not work with in-store or online coupons. Unfortunately, Lowe’s attempt at a loyalty program comes with far too many disclaimers, preventing any potential benefits.