Canadians Love Their Loyalty Cards, but Sitting on $16 Billion in Unused Points

Canadians love their rewards credit cards and loyalty programs and it's becoming increasingly clear just how much we are, and aren't, using them. A new study by Bond Brand Loyalty shows the average Canadian participates in 12.2 loyalty programs, up a whopping 25 per cent in just four years. However, many of us are not spending our points. Right now, there are $16 billion worth of points left unredeemed by members in Canada.

"The fact that Canadians have collected and not redeemed such a high level of points suggests Programs could be doing a much more effective job of engaging members and driving redemption behaviour," said the report.

What's more, many of us choose what we buy and where we shop because of these loyalty programs. The study found 66 per cent of Canadians change when or where they shop to get more points and 58 per cent said they adjust how much they spend to maximize loyalty benefits.

Still, one quarter of Canadian loyalty program members have not redeemed any of their points, ever, and the report says those members are more likely to walk away dissatisfied with the program. More than four in 10 of us (41 per cent) don't even know the value of the points we're sitting on.

The most successful programs are those where you redeem often

Loyalty programs where rewards come frequently, or easily, have the highest levels of satisfaction in Canada. This includes debit and credit cards, as well as in-store rebate cards like coffee cards and gas points cards.

Programs that partner with brands, like Air Miles and Aeroplan, scored the lowest in terms satisfaction, reports CBC.

There may be other factors in why those programs are turning off some members. Last year, Air Miles' parent company, LoyaltyOne, instituted a rule that unused points for many of its members would be expiring. It later revoked that rule, but Bond Brand Loyalty suggests it hurt satisfaction levels with the program. In a more recent development, Air Canada announced last month it would be dropping Aeroplan and would be starting its own loyalty program, throwing more uncertainty into the mix for long-time points collectors.

"A breach of trust is the number one anti-driver of loyalty," Sean Claessen, Bond's executive vice-president of strategy and innovation, told CBC.

What we want from our cards

Rewards are great, but they’re not the biggest driving factor in whether or not Canadians are satisfied with the loyalty programs they’re using. Members’ experiences using the cards, corresponding apps, and programs outweigh the monetary rewards they receive, according the report. Almost six in 10 (59 per cent) said program experience, brand alignment, digital experiences, and “human touch” were the biggest factors in their satisfaction. The remaining 41 per cent said they cared most about rewards, redemptions, and how much they earn.

In terms of what Canadians would like to see more of, it’s programs that meet their needs, are fun to use, and have the right level of effort needed to get the reward. These were the top three responses, while monetary aspects like “amount accumulated per $1 spent” ranked much lower on the list.

It looks like Canadians’ appetite for loyalty cards is continuing to grow fast. However, if we want to truly reap the rewards from them (we are, after all, exchanging some of our privacy and personal details to be part of these programs), it’s time to stop hoarding them and start cashing in because $16 billion worth of points is a lot of rewards to be banking.


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