Half of Americans Are Confused About Credit Card Rewards

Jun 5, 2018

Do your customers have a handle on their credit card rewards? Is it about miles? Points? Cash back? A mixture of all three? Do they know how, exactly, they’re earning the rewards and how to redeem them?

If you think they do, you might want to think again. A new survey by NextAdvisor found that roughly half of everyone using credit cards with rewards is more than a little murky on the fine print. The survey reported that 54 percent of people find their frequent flier programs confusing, while 47 percent say “ditto” about their hotel loyalty programs. And 45 percent admit that they’re basically in the dark about it all.

It’s ironic that so many people are confused about their rewards because most, 67 percent, say that the rewards are the reason they got the card in the first place. Let that all sink in for a minute. Your customers are very confused about the very thing they got your product for … this is not okay.

Who should shoulder the blame for rewards confusion?

Part of the blame certainly lies with the consumer, but let’s be honest, deciphering the ins and outs of some credit card loyalty programs can be as difficult as translating the Dead Sea scrolls.

And that’s a problem. Why? Competition is heating up. More and more credit card issuers are upping their game, trying to appeal to customers and their loyalties. Some credit card trends identified by NerdWallet:

More non-banking brands are issuing their own cards. Meet the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa, the Uber Visa and the Starbucks Visa. For the brands, it’s about customer loyalty.

Premium cards are increasing their rewards. All luxury, all the time. Spa treatments, first-class upgrades, events, partnering with high-end brands, the sky’s the limit.

Security is top of mind. Data breaches have many consumers concerned, so cards are upping their security measures, including no-fault fraud protection.

Long-term loyalty is winning out over signing bonuses. It’s about simplifying their reward structures, cutting out big, upfront bonuses and rewarding people who stay.

Cards as eye candy. Customizable backgrounds have been around for a while, but that customization is morphing. Metal cards are on the rise, as are cards of different shapes and sizes.

What should you do to fix this confusion?

In the face of rising competition, what can you do to ensure your customers stay loyal? Here are a few suggestions:

Simplify. Simplify the reward structure and the way the program is designed (how to earn, how much they are earning, how to redeem). Make it crystal clear. Eliminate layers of complexity.

Focus on early redemption. Making it faster and easier for customers to redeem rewards early and often drives top-of-wallet decisions and higher brand affinity and loyalty.

Seek variety. Varied types of rewards will cover a wide range of interests.

Up your customer service game. Discover is taking it to the app, where customers can connect with in-app messaging. There’s no more going through layers of people, repeating the same information before getting to what the customer wants to accomplish with the contact.

There is plenty of blame for reward confusion to go around. But if you want your program to succeed, it’s important that you adjust when you notice the program isn’t going to plan. Take a good hard look at your program; if you aren’t seeing growth – both in membership and in program engagement – it might be time dig into the list above so your program can thrive.

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