If you are shopping at the same three or four stores every week and redeeming for the same annual vacation, you may be stuck in a rut. Canadians have been participating in coalition loyalty programs like AIR MILES or Aeroplan for decades, earning rewards for everything from regular household purchases and business travel. One of the advantages of coalition loyalty programs is that there is a wide range of retailers creating many opportunities to earn miles. The best programs will offer enough options to grow and flex with your changing needs, and will also reward you for stepping “outside the box” if your lifestyle or shopping preferences evolve.

“One of the advantages of coalition loyalty programs is that there is a wide range of retailers creating many opportunities to earn miles.”

For example, today you may be a busy traveler racking up miles on business flights and hotel stays. But if you find next year that you get a new job and travel less, you would still want to earn the same amount of points by shopping at your favorite merchants with bonus-point incentives. If you add a baby or home ownership to your life, you would want your loyalty program to reward you for the many new purchases you will be making.

Know your options

Take a moment to make sure that your program can grow and change with your evolving lifestyle. When evaluating program flexibility, we recommend focusing on the two key activities of loyalty program participation: Earn options, and redemption choices. On the earn side, look for these particulars:

  • Store options: Are there enough shops for all stages and aspects of your life — home renovations, kids, travel?
  • Payment terms: Do you earn no matter how you pay, both in-store and online? Does the program offer a credit-card option for ‘double-dipping’ to earn even more points per purchase?
  • Social good: Can you earn points for healthy and “green” activities, like recycling or installing energy-efficient light bulbs? 
  • Bonus potential: Do you take advantage of the “extra points” offers in your program, or do those incentives always seem to be for purchases you will never make?  
  • Special offers: Are the coupons and offers you receive becoming more and more relevant to what you buy, and what you want to buy?  
  • Cost: Is there an annual fee? That payment might be worth it if the program contains your preferred mix of retailers, plus better opportunities to earn and redeem points. 
  • Mobile options: Do you spend a lot of time online and on your mobile device? If so then make sure your coalition has a mobile app. Also look for a virtual mall where you can earn for shopping online, or social media networks where you can learn about, and take advantage of, more earning opportunities and contests.

Make sure that when redemption time comes, your program has the flexibility to offer you an item or experience that will fit your changing needs.

Tailor the fit

If your program already fits you well, then you’re probably on track to earn enough points to redeem for something truly special. Make sure that when redemption time comes, your program has the flexibility to offer you an item or experience that will fit your changing needs:

  • Merchandise: Is there a wide variety of items, and is it easy to select them either over the phone or online? Can you gift items, and ship them overnight or to an alternate address?
  • Travel: What is the minimum requirement to redeem for a ticket, and will you be able to earn that within your targeted time frame? Are the blackout dates too limiting? 
  • Cash and discounts: Can your points be used for cash discounts at the register? 
  • Donations/transfer: Can you redeem for an airline ticket that a friend or family member can use? Can you donate points to people or organizations? Or offer legacy points in your will? 
  • Social change: Can you designate points to go to a relief effort or charity at any time, not just during times of particular need?

Most of this information should be found on the program’s website, or by calling the customer service center. Take a moment to evaluate your program, and make sure that it will keep rewarding you no matter what twists and turns your lifestyle takes.


editorial@mediaplanet.com