Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Cover the benefit to businesses from loyalty programs

March 3, 2014

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Photo: Ghana News

Buzzing around on errands, I flicked the radio to top-of-the-hour news and couldn’t believe it when the lead story – ahead of another winter weather blast, deadly overseas strife and Arizona’s controversial “religious freedom” bill – was word that Delta plans to make it harder next year for flyers to qualify for elite membership status.

Well, we know where our priorities lie.  The notion that Delta’s millions of Skymiles members soon will be judged not by how far they fly but by how much they pay for tickets (which actually makes sense) apparently trumped all other news of the noon hour.

The Delta announcement is part of a trend of airlines tightening up qualifications in their frequent flyer programs; travel expert Peter Greenberg says on his blog that a number of airlines are making it more difficult, or more costly in terms of points expenditures, to qualify for free tickets.

With travel season approaching (none too soon) for spring breakers and summer vacationers, you easily can localize the Delta headlines with a round-up of the terms and conditions of flyer reward programs at the airlines that serve your local airport; keep in mind a lot of people earn points via affinity credit cards and other affiliated rewards programs, so assess the effect on them as well.

A USA Today travel site offers an engine that compares various frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs; you can study it for methodology.   It’s unclear how that site is affiliated with WebFlyer.com, which seems to share a URL and is a trove of rewards-program information.

Flyertalk.com, which bills itself as an online travel community, hosts a number of bulletin boards in which frequent travelers are buzzing about topics you may find story nuggets in.

Some savvy flyers in a thread about the Delta changes are giving interesting examples of how their usual ticket purchase will stack up under the new system; I wonder if small businesspersons and entrepreneurs who depend on mileage rewards programs or business credit-card spending (points accrual)  to underwrite some of their travel expenses will need to find a new strategy.

If you’re gearing a roundup toward travelers, don’t forget about hotel and casino/resort loyalty programs as well; I was surprised the other day to receive an e-mail from the Best Western rewards program asking me to vote for it in the Freddie awards.  Yes indeed, the hotel and air loyalty programs have their own annual awards; here’s a link to the Freddie site which says this years winners will be crowned April 24 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.  (The awards are named in honor of Sir Freddie Laker, a major 20th century play in commercial aviation and founder of one of the first discount, no-frills airlines.)

It’s a cute concept and got me to thinking – why not do a round-up of local loyalty rewards programs?  Maybe even do an online poll asking readers/viewer for their favorite local points programs, be it the “10th car wash free” at the local service station, a frequent coffee-buyers club, hardware store points or deals for frequent customers at movie theaters and attractions.  Consumers might enjoy being alerted to deals they weren’t aware of, and on a more substantive level you can take a look at the marketing strategy behind loyalty programs, and how small and local businesses can use them to their advantage.

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