According to several reports from Doctor of Credit, Plenti Rewards — a rewards program adopted by multiple retailers — is failing and likely to be killed. The Devil’s Advocate pilloried the program as early as May 2015, noting that it had all of nine partners including Direct Energy and Hulu.
There’s only so much you can spend on streaming video in the parking lot of a gas station, so it’s not surprising that American Express eventually had to support the program by adding the existing Membership Rewards as a transfer partner. They also created an amazing shopping portal, with perks like 2 points per $10 spent at Macy’s.
It’s no surprise that this idea never caught on. I think the logical choice would have been to open the Membership Rewards network, giving even non-cardholders the ability to earn and redeem these points. Sure, it would have lessened some of the exclusivity, but American Express gave up on being an exclusive, luxury brand long ago — just look at the BlueBird partnership with Walmart and the videos of Tina Fey promoting the EveryDay Preferred Card.
Broadening the base of Membership Rewards would have achieved multiple goals. First, it provides an introduction for many people to a program that they may not have considered. Awareness, interest, and consideration are the first steps of a successful marketing funnel. I still have to explain to some friends and family how points work and why they should care about travel rewards.
Second, it adds some substance to various Amex campaigns for small businesses, giving them a way to offer rewards to their customers. Why create a duplicate reward structure for big brands like Macy’s that already have one? This seems not only unnecessary but actively harmful, since a long-time Macy’s customer might wonder if the old program is being replaced. Meanwhile, my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, currently using a punch card, might favor better technology that’s already tied into their existing card processing system.
Third, it motivates people to enroll in a credit card to accelerate their ability to earn points. Coffee isn’t earning points fast enough? Buy that coffee with an Amex card. Plenti Rewards also had a credit card, which will be killed off, but wouldn’t it be better to get people to sign up for one of the half dozen existing cards that earn Membership Rewards rather than trying to create a new brand?
But none of this happened. In the end, the death of Plenti Rewards isn’t really news, since I think most people could see from the beginning that this was never going to succeed.