The Best and Worst Loyalty Programs

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by sobore, Aug 18, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    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

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    Although 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

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    Starbucks’ 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

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    With 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

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    One 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.
     
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  2. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Impressive, another loyalty program writeup that leaves you scratching your head.

    VS is the "best" frequent flyer program, based on benefits that pretty much any serious FF program offers? He couldn't even get the name right! Have fun with fuel surcharges, and as a US-based flyer, actually using any of those benefits.

    Starbucks, 1 free every 15 is good - the best even. Subway, $5 every $75 is bad (even though 1/15=5/75), although you can probably game the starbucks for a bit more expensive beverage on the free one. Coupons for tracking purchasing behavior and a free birthday drink aren't particularly great.

    What a terrible article.
     
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  3. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    For many people, the AC plan isn't very good, but the expiration of miles after a year without crediting flights to AC--I presume the statement that one must fly AC rather than *A is wrong--is a feature shared by many FF programs and probably shouldn't be the reason to say that they're the worst, given the other positive comments made about AC's FF program.

    I'm also trying to figure out why VS is rated "best."
     
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  4. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    :confused:
    The benefits cited for VS seem to match what most carriers offer, not sure what puts them above the rest.
     
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  5. MSPeconomist
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    Even with the same benefits, they have a pretty small route network and don't participate fully in an alliance, so the benefits are really limited for most people.
     
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  6. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    The author has a crush on Branson, got a kickback, or got taken in by some marketing presentation, thought "hey, these benefits they say they offer sound pretty neat" and didn't bother to factcheck what other programs offer (or what VS offers, for that matter).

    Really none of the choices make any sense - just some random person with little familiarity with the programs and maybe an axe or two to grind throwing up a poorly-researched article.

    The actual requirement, per their website, is earn/burn activity of any kind.
     
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  7. SensFan
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    Horrible article. There are a lot of reasons why Aeroplan is a bad program, but the author should have at least looked up some of them before writing his half-truth. One must earn or burn at least once a year, but you don't need to step foot on an AC plane. Fill up at an Esso station, buy your groceries at Sobey's, fill a prescription at Uniprix, the list of earning options other than AC goes on and on.

    You want some reasons to complain about Aeroplan: sky high fuel surcharges for redemptions that include AC, seven year shelf life on points that will be starting shortly or the difficulty of finding "classic" availability. I will also ignore the fact that Aeroplan and Air Canada are separate companies.

    I am glad to see that this is just from a blog. If this had been from a journalist I would be even more disappointed by the lack of research and reasoning.
     
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  8. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Wow, Virgin's program is pretty bad as international airline frequent flyer programs go. Aeroplan is much much much much better.

    Starbucks one of the very best ? Really?

    How about best: United/Continental, American, Starwood, Hyatt Gold Passport
    Worst: Greyhound Road Rewards (Take 10 bus trips... get a free bus trip!)
     
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  9. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    Good post ! Thanks for setting this guy person straight.
     
  10. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    Anybody from Chicago remember when Dominicks used to award a free Starbucks for every 5 purchased? That was a nice program while it lasted.
    I had heard the mini RTW award redemption for 120k (not 100% sure on mileage) was a good option on AC for those that had *A miles.
     
  11. SensFan
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    The redemption levels for the mini RTW trips were bumped up mid-July. It used to be 120k in F for trips including Asia but now that is up to 175k. It isn't a horrible deal, just not as good as it was. Most of the really good redemption levels were bumped up at this time.

    AE isn't an awful program, it actually offers the exact same things as Virgin (along with pretty much every other FF program) if you reach higher status levels...
     
  12. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    thanks for the info !
     

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