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Is Loyalty Program Exchange Site Points.com Worth it?

March 7, 2012
3 mins
A stylish young woman with short hair sits on the floor drinking a coffee and interacting on her mobile phone

Who doesn’t like free stuff? The question is rhetorical, but given that roughly nine out of ten Canadian households belong to at least one loyalty program and we collectively hold more than 100 million rewards cards – offering us everything from discounts on gas and groceries to free coffee and airline tickets – it’s pretty obvious we really like to receive free stuff for shopping.

And the retailers really like that we like them because, in addition to building brand loyalty by enticing consumers to frequent their store over the competition, they gain reams of valuable data about our spending habits.

Yet, according to a recent survey by research firm Colloquy, most of us aren’t all that impressed with what we are getting. The complaints range from limited access to desirable flight times to the fact that with some programs you have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to gain even token rewards.

Do you fall in the disenchanted camp? Then maybe you’ll find that a site like Points.com can boost your spirits.

What is it Points.com?

The site is designed to help users collate and keep track of all their various rewards programs in one location and then, if they want, buy or trade unwanted points in exchange for the ones you really want to cash in on.

What Programs Are On It?

The site claims to have more than 100 airline, financial, hotel, and retail loyalty programs, including Aeroplan, Air Miles Canada, Esso Extra, HBC Rewards, Petro Canada Petro-Points, Sears Club, and Via Rail’s Preference. That said, not all programs enable you to use all the site’s functions. If you register your Air Miles plan, for one, all you can do is track your balance on the site and keep up to date on program incentives.

The Pros

Got a bunch of points you don’t think you’ll ever redeem, like those old gas card points you earned back when you had the gig driving a delivery truck, that you can hardly use now that you’re living in a downtown condo and don’t even own a vehicle? Then trade or exchange them for ones you really can use. You can even trade your points for gift cards, turning Esso Rewards points into credit with retailers like Amazon.com.

The Cons

Nothing in life is free, even when swapping rewards program points. The trade-in values other members offer can seem less than fair. A recent search to see what others would offer for 10,000 Aeroplan miles ranged from 2,000 American Airlines Advantage miles to 5,000 with Alaska Airlines’ program, plus up to $100 U.S. in trading fees.

Exchanging points from one program to another can be even worse, with the exchange rates sometimes making the currency counters at the airport seem like non-profit charities: those same 10,000 Aeroplan miles are worth only 3,733 American Airlines miles with a direct plan to plan swap (though you do avoid the trading fee).

Oh, and to get $10 in Amazon.com cash, you’ll need to spend 1,898 Esso Rewards points. Assuming you earned those points buying the cheapest grade of gas, that $10 gift card cost you $1,898 in fuel.

Allan Britnell

Toronto-based freelancer Allan Britnell is an award-winning writer with nearly 20 years’ experience. He covers a diverse range of topics, including DIY and professional home renovation projects, nature and the environment, small business, personal finance, and family and health issues. He is also the managing editor of Renovation Contractor, the publication written for small- and medium-sized contracting and custom home building companies. He lives in Toronto with his wife, two daughters, and their dog, Oscar.

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