As many of you know the AIR MILES Expiring Miles fiasco came to somewhat of a close late last week when they finally dropped their expiry rule after threat of legislation, a damning MarketPlace report and of course 9 months of really bad press. If you watched the MarketPlace piece you'll have seen members cutting up their AIR MILES collector cards and I've heard many more stories of people letting go of the program. So what are some of your other options? In this three part series we'll look at three types of reward programs that make the most sense for Canadian but please be aware there even more options beyond these three (ie Frequent Flyer programs, Frequent Guest programs, proprietary retail programs etc.)
In part two we look at Proprietary Credit Card Reward Programs. These are in our opinion the best option for most Canadians! Just check out our feature from this time last year entitled Why proprietary credit card reward programs are the best option for most Canadians. We won't rehash the whole feature in this post but will give you the highlights as to why we think they are the best option and why they make for a great option outside of AIR MILES and even other traditional loyalty programs. Add to that the beauty of these proprietary credit card reward programs is that you can still swipe you other loyalty cards at retailers to earn miles or points in those programs!
Here are five reasons Proprietary Credit Card Rewards programs make so much sense if you are dropping AIR MILES and in particular if you have or had an AIR MILES co-brand credit card:
Save Money! While trips may not come 100% free (rarely do they with any reward program nowadays) these proprietary credit card reward programs provide instant rewards to help you save money on vacation or give you the ability to travel more luxuriously. For example you've budgeted $5,000 for your vacation and you have $1,500 worth of points from your credit card program. You can choose to save and make that vacation cost only $3,500 or you can still spend your $5,000 and boost your budget to $6,500 using the points. That $1,500 could get you the 5 star hotel with a private beach versus the 3 star one down the road with a shared beach.See how the Rewards Canada family has saved money with proprietary programs in our Redemption Stories section!
Flexibility! Already shown in the example above, credit card rewards provide tons on flexibility. Some cards are more flexible than others so we recommend reading our feature showing that Not all Travel Points and Hybrid Credit Cards are created equal. That aside, most of the programs let you redeem points whether or not you have the full amount required to cover the entire price of travel, they let redeem for any airline, any hotel, cruises, all inclusives, you name it, you can redeem for any travel really. In fact you can keep collecting points and redeem after you travel with many of the programs as well, which means that impromptu train ride from Brussels to Amsterdam can be covered with points when you return home! And when you compare proprietary credit card travel rewards programs to cash back programs, you get access to your points all year round not once per year like most cash back cards.
Value Retention! Credit Card reward program points tend to retain value longer than traditional reward programs. We've all seen it, when programs choose to raise the amount of miles needed for awards, Aeroplan, AIR MILES, SCENE and many others adjust their redemption rates with regular frequency. This is especially the case with those of you hoping to save up enough miles to redeem in those programs. We've only had one case of a credit card program adjusting their points value this year and this was the first case in at least a half dozen years. So credit cards aren't immune to it but if history is any indicator they are more likely to retain their value longer than other reward programs.
Double Dip! As mentioned above, you don't need to ditch your traditional reward programs. In fact we encourage you to collect them hand in hand with your credit card reward program. That's the beauty of a credit card reward program when you redeem the points for travel, you still earn the frequent flyer miles on the flights or frequent guest points on hotel stays since you are technically buying revenue tickets, hotel stays etc. The airline, hotels etc. do not know that you are redeeming points for it. Related: Which credit cards can be used to cover award ticket taxes, fees and surcharges?
No Need to Hoard! This ties in with point #3 dealing with value retention. To reach some higher end rewards with traditional programs requires years of earning miles or points leaving you open to point devaluation. With the majority of the proprietary credit card programs offering partial redemptions you can redeem your miles or points at any time for almost any value. Think about it, even if you only have $200 in points per year you can use those every year to save $200 per vacation. It's the same as holding on to them for three years and then saving $600. In fact using them sooner and keeping that $200 in a high interest savings account just gives you an even better return!
Remember to read our whole piece on Why proprietary credit card reward programs are the best option for most Canadians so that you can learn all you can about these programs and how they can benefit you. Proprietary Credit Card Rewards Programs provide an amazing alternative option if you are leaving the AIR MILES program or not! By getting into one of these programs you are alleviating yourself from the burden of having to save miles for years on end, you aren't at the mercy of only a select few flights being available and much more.