Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

What I have learned about ‘loyalty’ and ‘deals’ in the first week of Shopper Points

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Ten days ago, I launched Shopper Points.  This is a site devoted entirely to Tesco Clubcard and Nectar and is designed to help the many, many people who come to HfP looking for Clubcard deals but are put off by the frequent flyer focus.

All of the best Clubcard deals will continue to be covered on Head for Points, but Shopper Points will cover all bonus point offers.  We – and I genuinely mean ‘we’, as I have someone helping me write it – will also be desperately trying to find some value in Nectar for the Sainsbury’s shoppers out there 🙂

Anyway ….

To launch the site, I booked some Facebook advertising.  This was targetted at people who had shown an interest in Clubcard and the ad promoted my exclusive TopCashback sign-up deal.

What could go wrong?  I was showing an advert to people who are already interested in Clubcard, offering them 1,000 points for joining TopCashback.  TopCashback, remember, is a business with 4.5 million existing members and is one of the fastest growing private companies in Britain.  If you choose the free option, it doesn’t cost you a penny to join.  Who could be unhappy about that?

Suddenly, however, I start getting comments posted on the Facebook ad.  (The ad was technically a post and could therefore be commented on.)  ‘Scam’.  ‘Must be a scam’.  ‘Seems too good to be true, must be a scam peeps’.  ‘Scam’ etc etc.

These were comments posted by people who had been shown the ad in their feed.  Without actually bothering to read about the deal, they decided to diss it.  Not one person actually gave any reason for saying what they said.  These are people who had already shown an interest in Clubcard, remember.

This has never, ever happened with any Head for Points article.

It set me thinking.

Shopper Points - Header

Let’s look logically at some of the deals I discuss on HfP.  Let’s take the Hilton Visa card, for example.  This gets you a free night at ANY Hilton Family hotel when you spend just £750 – a pretty easy stretch for most people in a full-time job.

This bonus is worth £250 if used properly, ie at an expensive Hilton, Conrad or Waldorf-Astoria.  On that basis, why haven’t 2 million people taken out this card?  Why doesn’t everyone in the UK travelling to New York get this free card, spend £750 and get a free night in a suite (the hotel is all-suite) at the five-star Conrad?  A couple could get two cards and get two free nights.

Let’s take something more straightforward.  Amex Gold is free and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points.  Even if you ‘waste’ them by redeeming for Amazon gift codes, you will still get £100.  OK, hitting the spend target on this card is harder but it is still £100 for almost nothing.  For someone on the average UK salary of £26,500 (£81 per day net) we are talking about 1.25 days of salary for 20 minutes work of filling in the form and cancelling the card later.

When I go into John Lewis, I am bombarded with people desperate for me to take out a John Lewis credit card – for which I will get a £10 sign-up bonus.  Hilton will give you something worth 25x as much.  Amex Gold is worth at least 10x as much.

Why do these deals never go mainstream?  I know that frequent flyer schemes are complex – this site wouldn’t have much to write about if they weren’t! – but the Hilton and Amex Gold offers are straightforward.  The personal finance sections of the newspapers don’t cover them, even though they get excited about a free £10 John Lewis voucher.

As I found this week, the very idea that a company may be giving away 1,000 Tesco points as a marketing incentive is seen as literally unbelievable by some people.  Logically it is sensible marketing by TCB, especially compared with an expensive TV or press campaign which would cost them far, far more per new sign-up.

In the frequent flyer circle, we ‘get it’.  We understand why companies offer deals, even deals which seem remarkably generous.  Even Qatar Airways £800 business class fares to Asia make sense when you know they have a high sunk cost (a plane), a perishable product sold in a small market (business class seats from Copenhagen) and modest variable costs (low fuel prices). It isn’t really ‘something for nothing’ when you know how the business works.

Similarly, TopCashback knows after all these years how much revenue it will make from the average new member over the first few years.  If they can sign people up for, say, 50% of that cost (ie the cost of the Clubcard points) then it makes perfect sense.

Do the wider general public fail to understand how business works?  Or have they been burnt by too many dodgy deals in the past?  Whatever the reason, the reaction I got to my Facebook advertising this week was absolutely not what I expected.

Comments (110)

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  • RIccati says:

    Re: John Lewis card, it is funny how one hand pushes the card — everyone in store wants to subscribe you, while the other hand applies strict lending criteria. They would like a unicorn as their customer.

    Perhaps there is a manager somewhere looking down at whole idea of polluting the population of JL customers with people who had less than a decade history of running the same accounts, etc.

    • RIccati says:

      Back to substance: every information search comes at a cost. Think of the effort one’s brain has to go through once opened to the sea of new information, categorising deals, establishing trust markers, making decisions and following on them — all does not come easy and takes up capacity.

      It is easy to recognise “This is a scam” responses as protective and conserving.

      On some secondary level, the person wants to gain and realises there is a chance they miss an opportunity, hence comes the negative attitude.

  • Mr Bridge says:

    your right, some people fail to grasp marketing deals, or how to fully benefit from them.
    You either get it or you don’t, thankfully more don’t than do.
    Takes me back to the good old days of HFP when there was just a few experts placing comments.

  • RK says:

    Ultimately, some people just don’t get it.

    I have a friend who books £700-£800 economy flights to Hawaii twice a year and when I tell him that BA has an ex DUB sale in Business class to HNL for about £900 and that he will get £150ish in avios and probably qualify for silver, his reaction is that a) he collects United miles and b) he is not convinced it is worth the extra £200.

    I guess maybe some people are just not like us…

    • JoshBosh says:

      Offer to pay the 200 pound for him if he still does not find the worth after flying it.
      I paid for my mother to go club world ex-dub to Las Vegas for a milestone birthday this year. She has vowed that she won’t fly economy long haul again, especially with the ex-eu prices i’ve been showing her every time she comes over.

    • CG says:

      I’ve stopped having the conversation with people about points and air miles. It goes in one ear and out the other. Everyone wanted to know how we managed F to JFK with BA then when I said air miles everyone’s eyes glazed over as if I was being some sort of tight spendthrift. I do actually get sneered at by some for using vouchers, Amex cards, codes etc. I’ll think of them paying full price when I raise a glass of Grand Siècle in the Concorde Room next time.

  • James says:

    The average person is scared and confused about taking out a credit card (especially an amex, the devils card not accepted anywhere) it seems. From my own conversations with my friends and colleagues, they are usually interested but shy away from the credit cards due to some idea that it must either A) smash your credit history or B) be a scam.

    • Stu R says:

      Interestingly, I heard a story about a young person at work a few weeks ago, earns around £90K, never uses a credit card, pays cash/debit card for everything.

      First time buyer; mortgage application declined due to lack of credit history!

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      This is generally the response I get! I have one friend who is on exactly the same page, my other half puts up with it as long as I do all the work, and my sister is partially convinced, but all my other friends and colleagues are completely oblivious!

      I often get mocked at work for refusing to carry cash, or insisting on buying rounds in the pub by credit card – this works in my favour though – team meal out? I’ll take the cash and pay the whole thing on my Amex, I’ve usually got a spending target to reach ;o)

      • CC says:

        Ha! Same here I’m always paying the bill and getting the money. I even paid off 5 x mates skiing holiday last year on my BA card that put me well on the way to the 241. I wasn’t even going with them!

    • Jovanna says:

      What is it with Amex? I was in Edinburgh recently and it was accepted hardly anywhere. Even KFC declined it! You would have thought I’d just whipped out a steaming turd…

      • Simmo says:

        I’d say the opposite tbh,

        In past years AMEX has had the ‘It’s hardly accepted anywhere’ tag.
        AMEX has worked hard to lower/match card fees here in the UK and except for a few major chains; KFC being one of them I don’t struggle in the slightest.

        Despite the low transaction values even McDonalds and Poundland take AMEX.

        On the other side of the scale, my local Indian and Pub have both also taking AMEX.

      • Richard says:

        I live in Edinburgh, and I *really* don’t have any problem using my Amex. You must have been unlucky with the particular places you went to.

        To answer the question though, it’s because it’s more expensive for the merchant to process (or at least it always used to be – I believe it’s been changing recently). And if you do try to use an Amex where it’s not accepted, the system usually just acts like the card is completely invalid, rather than coming up with a sensible “sorry but we don’t take Amex” message. So you can see how shop assistants might get the idea that it’s somehow dodgy.

        • Jovanna says:

          It was mainly bars, as we were on a ‘weekender’ but there were a couple of large chains that refused the Amex. Quite a number of establishments also wanted a 50 pence surcharge for using a debit / credit card – something you expect from a sole trader not a large business. I’ve checked my debit card statement, which I used when the Amex was rejected. Here’s the list:

          TILES
          KHUSHIS
          BRASS MONKEY
          TIGER STORES
          THE BARONY BAR
          DIRTY DICKS
          KFC
          BLACK BULL
          THE BASEMENT
          JOSEPH PEARCES
          CAFÉ PICCANTE
          VOODOO LOUNGE

          As you point out, in the Brass Monkey, the card appeared invalid and staff wanted to know where I got the card from. I had to produced ID for some reason.

      • Richard says:

        The vast majority of my purchases go through my Amex, easily 95%, either over the counter, online shopping or even Paypal. As Richard above says, fees are changing… there was a piece on the news last week about the processing fees becoming more favourable, so perhaps more retailers will accept Amex in the future.

      • Charlie says:

        KFC not taking AMEX is so annoying, particularly in my household. It’s probably the only chain related food spend that goes onto VISA!

      • Fenny says:

        I bought Pa some socks in Sports Direct this evening. I asked if they took Amex and the cashier said “Yes, I thought pretty much everyone does these days”. Some places don’t, but I pay for about 90% of my shopping with Amex these days. Of my regular destinations, only Aldi doesn’t accept Amex.

  • danksy says:

    Oh well… you can’t win ’em all! Many of my friends have the same attitude. A friend of mine who’s off on honeymoon in Jan WILL NOT sign up for a ba gold card…he doesn’t fly regularly but I told him the lounge passes would ease him to Syd and back if nothing else.. Ho hum

    • danksy says:

      I meant amex gold

      • Jeff says:

        People like this simply don’t understand (or simply choose to ignore) – it’s their loss, nothing more. Sometimes it’s best to save one’s breath!

        • Tilly71 says:

          Same here, sister in law flyes ba to Madrid, pays full wacky prices as in may school hols. When I mention I could get you them club Europe flights for a tiny amount of what their paying I’m met with a glazed look, I mention using clubcard and avios and that’s the end of the subject, ok go and pay £400 for your economy seats.
          Then I get a call, can you find us the best rate children’s isa?

  • DaveP says:

    Keep doing the excellent work that you do, Rob. There are always going to be naysayers to any promotion and those who can always find some reason not to do something. I have colleagues at work who are amazed/bewildered by the flights I take using miles/reduced prices (not many flights a year admittedly) and say, ‘Tell me more’, but then suffer from inertia when I tell them to jump onboard the HfP habit. Ah well, their loss!

  • Worzel says:

    This has made me laugh, as I wonder how long it would take me to run the idea of the Travelex Supercard past my family and friends! 🙂 .

  • fiona says:

    Some people might remember the double the difference days in tesco. Over the promotion I built up a stock of so much that it took over my dining room. I told folks how it worked ( and I didn’t cheat ). Nobody did the same. They couldn’t be bothered doing the research, even when most of it had been done for them.
    Very similar with BA miles/avois . I only do leisure flights yet every year I have a long haul in first, amongst other flights. I have tried explaining how we have done that. People think it’s great but can’t be bothered to try it out.
    I don’t understand it but at least I’ve tried!

    • xcalx says:

      “Some people might remember the double the difference days in tesco”

      Remember it, we are still using the dishwasher tablets along with lots of other household products we gained from that particular Tesco mishap, at one time we had over 150 free bottles of Turner Road wine and another that has slipped my mind . I am also still using my wrongly priced £299 sat nav , DAB radio Ironing system etc etc from the Tesco R&R days .

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