American Express Launches Multi-Brand Loyalty Program Plenti
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This spring will see the launch of a new loyalty program managed by American Express that may change the way some brands seek to reward faithful customers. Named Plenti, it will be the first so-called coalition loyalty program in the United States. Launching initially with 8 different brands, Plenti will offer shoppers the ability to earn and redeem Plenti Points across all 8 members.
The launch brand members include Exxon, Mobil, AT&T, Macy’s, Hulu, Nationwide, Direct Energy, and Rite Aid. Even though American Express is managing the program, shoppers will be able to earn Plenti points regardless of what payment method they choose. Plenti will be free to join and available to anyone 13 years of age or older. In the press release, American Express and the member brands cite recent studies that suggest 72% of Americans favor a loyalty program that allows redemptions and earnings with multiple brands rather than just one.
Explaining its decision to manage the program, American Express touted its experience with Membership Rewards, as well as the 2011 acquisition of Loyalty Partner and its coalition loyalty management subsidiary, Payback. Payback is already managing coalition loyalty programs with 60 million members in 5 different countries.
Plenti points will be redeemable at a rate of 1,000 points for $10 at any of the participating brands, though it’s not yet completely clear how points will be earned. I suspect the program will operate at its base as a simple 1% cash back savings, with special offers to gain bonus points through an online marketplace. Plenti has followed up to my inquiry and given the following earning rates as examples:
– Earn 1 point per $1 spent of your monthly phone bill at AT&T
– Earn 200 points after you make your first fuel purchase at a participating Exxon or Mobil branded service station
– Earn 100 points after you spend $80 on qualifying purchases at Macy’s
– Earn points on rotating product offers, such as 400 points when you buy two bottles of vitamins
Will Plenti offer any real incentive to shop at participating brands? At face value, if my 1% cash back assumption is correct, not really. Some of the above examples provide better than 1% cash back, but seem to be pretty targeted. Plenti could provide some great double or triple dipping opportunities. For example, if you can shop at Macy’s.com through another online shopping portal that offers bonus points or cash back, and still receive credit card rewards and an extra 1% back via Plenti, the total savings could be substantial.
For example, you could triple dip by using the Chase Ink Plus Business Card at your local Staples or OfficeMax to buy Macy’s gift cards, which would earn you 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar or 5% cash back, respectively. You could then go through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal to earn (currently) another 3 points per dollar spent at Macy’s.com. Add on the (theoretical) 1% back from Plenti, and your total return is over 15-20% (based on my most recent monthly valuations). Of course, make sure you always read the fine print of your shopping portal to see if you can use gift cards and still earn cash back or rewards.
If Plenti’s online marketplace offers bonuses, it could be more lucrative. The American Express Sync deals have come in handy a few times. If those are the types of bonuses we can expect, then I’ll be interested to see what Plenti brings to the table.
I may not go out of my way to switch insurance companies because of Plenti, but once the full earning details and online marketplace bonuses roll out this spring, something may catch my eye. Initially though, my strategy will likely be to use Plenti to supplement shopping I already do at the member brands.