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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  • Anon says:

    £500 in fuel surcharges, I doubt it. What flight/airline/class?

    You pay taxes and airline fees on almost all flights.

    You don’t say what class you fly, but taxes are much higher for business.

    Hope your seriously not comparing reward business class with cash economy ticket?

    Also redeeming miles on Economy flights is rarely good value (although I did it this year on a outbound BA 241)

    • Charlie says:

      I think the point was £500 in cash towards fees that include fuel charges.

      I had to pay exactly £523.56 per person, when redeeming BA’s 2for1, to HKG in business.

      Somebody somewhere (at BA) has already worked it all out, that is how to make a profit out of the Avios game that they let us play with. In this context you can think this is a scam…. but the facebook posts calling Shopper Points a scam did not put it in this context.

      • mark2 says:

        These charges are spelled out in black and white before you pay; in my terms that is not a scam. You choose to buy the product.

    • Fenny says:

      Going back to the days of Airmiles, you paid for your flight with miles (plus cash if you didn’t have enough). I had enough Airmiles to fly to the US each year for no additional cost.

      Since Airmiles became Avios, it doesn’t matter how you fly, there is a cash element. BA redemptions are not great value, although RFS are worth it. Virgin miles seem to be more use to me, as paying £495 for an UC flight to Boston was cheaper than the cash price of an economy ticket.

  • whiskerxx says:

    (tiptoes into the room)…
    The Facebook comments are symptomatic of todays society. Social media, or anti-social media, allows anonymous users to say what they like – so I will take this opportunity! 🙂
    As Henry implied, more politely, up the thread, most people are inherently stupid/apathetic/lazy.
    In this time of so called austerity, I find it astonishing that far more people aren’t looking to save more money. Even those with higher disposable income (including the 50% HFP readers earning £500k+ per annum :-)) could make easy savings and put their money to better use.
    Browsing the “HIgh Street”, local town or online provides great insight to this. Thousands of identical commodity items sold at huge price differentials amongst well know retailers. Why does anyone buy Duracell AA batteries from Boots, when the same thing is available at less than half their retail price in the shop next door? I guess its generally that people can’t be bothered. Its easier to cough up the extra money than walk 50 yards. With that mentality trying to switch people onto money saving routes that involve more hurdles is difficult. Martin Lewis has made a fortune from it, but it was his personality that really grabbed peoples attention. its difficult to have much personality on Facebook.
    Back to money saving – why do people use Blinkbox, Prime or DVD’s when pretty much everything is available for nothing??

    …(tiptoes out again)

  • James says:

    I think the reaction of the advert is simply that we live in a world where people dare not click on things anymore, yes they want those 1000 points but they do not want the virus that may come with it.

    I am one of those people, I do not click anything and I only open emails from a know source.

  • sangu says:

    The problem with Hilton/Intercontinental redemption is there is no availability for a family of 4.

    I have all these points but cannot find a room, the same with airlines

    • InsideFlyer Tom says:

      Use my trick for Hilton “family of 4 redemptions”: book for 1 adult and 2 kids, then use the “partner stays free” option (available to all HHonors members) to get your other half in, too.

      Obviously depends on your kids ages(!) but through cunning use of cots, twin “queen bed” rooms and sofa beds (Hampton great for these), I’ve had a lot of success. I do have a 2 and 4 year old though, might be a slightly different story when they’re 12 and 14…

    • Rob says:

      You can, but you can’t be picky. There are some London IHG and Hilton options which can sleep 4 in a standard redemption room because I’ve booked them for my brother and his family. You need to book well ahead though as there are only a handful of hotels that do it.

      • Jude says:

        Are you able to give the examples that you know of or is there any easy way to search? This is what has always put me off The Hilton card.

    • Chelseafi says:

      I’m off to NY next summer hols family of 4 (boys 18 & 16), First class return LHR to JFK using 2 BA 241, staying Intercontinental TS using the IHG buying points £189 PN all four of us. no problem with availability if you plan ahead.

      • Jason says:

        We had a fantastic meal at that hotel( also stayed there) during October half term last year.
        Used 2 241’s and all in F, at peak times. IHG points as well 🙂

  • A- says:

    If I had a commentable advert pop up in my facebook feed I wouldn’t be too surprised if I responded with a reaction wanting to get rid of it and enact some sort of revenge by commenting negatively…I think there are a few other people out there with a similar mentality having got used to facebook without adverts…(but in exchange for loss of personal data).

    That said, for those people genuinely not interested and not interested in frequent flying programmes generally, I dont see the issue with them not wanting to take part. If everyone took part the marketing departments would have a much easier time and so offer much poorer incentives.

    If people dont want to know that’s their perogative. I don’t get any benefit from educating them on the benefits and watch outs of the FFP game, rather I make life harder for myself. For this reason I stopped talking about FFPs years ago, only sharing if it comes up in conversation or if some I respected really wanted to know.

  • Jon says:

    Rob, I’m sorry but shopper points is unusable on my iPad. Despite having an ad blocker installed, it continuously pops up with ads, until one asking to automate my SEO (whatever the hell that is) comes up and won’t go away.

    I’m afraid I won’t be rushing to the site in future, and if headforpoints goes that way, I won’t be coming back here either!

    • Rob says:

      I can block those off (EDIT: just did). I agree the current ones are annoying.

      Frankly, HFP doesn’t need ad revenue which is why I block pop-up and ‘in the margin’ ads. To put this in context, I could earn an extra £100 per day at times like Christmas, where ad demand is high, if I allowed such ads onto HFP. I turn that money down because I guess (and it is only a guess) that I can make it back by not annoying the readers and hoping they take out the occasional card referral instead.

      SP does need ad revenue as there are few other revenue sources open for it. Because I am paying someone else to handle much of the writing it will need to do about £200 per week to cover the writer plus the time I will still need to spend on it. That would require about 200,000 page views per month given what Google Adsense pays, remembering that a lot of readership is via mobile which has pitiful advertising rates. Unlike HFP, the equivalent of BA / Hilton / IHG etc is not going to ring up tomorrow and book ad space at a premium price – I haven’t even bothered producing a price list.

      The issue is that the agency does not give me veto over individual ads, some of which are more annoying than others.

      To be honest, as SP develops an independent audience (which will take 6 months) it will, effectively, develop a Mail Online demographic, more younger and more female that HFP (it isn’t a fluke that I got someone younger and more female than myself to work on it). To me, that implies that Mail Online advertising techniques – which are about 10 x more ‘in your face’ than you get on HFP and probably 10 x more lucrative – would be accepted by readers.

      • Jon says:

        You may well be right. But be careful. The aggressive advertising has put me off and likely will put others off. Might be worth toning them down whilst numbers are low, so it doesn’t put off potential users. Once they know the product and its established, then you can crank it up if needed.

        • Rob says:

          I’ve pulled it, for now at least. I agree with your sentiment.

          I need more control over it. Those ads which wrap around the blue background on a desktop, for eg, do not get in the way of content – I am fine with those.

          Even one full screen pop up per visit would be OK on the ipad. Something which reappears whenever you change the page is not good.

  • Simon says:

    the Italians have an expression which translates to “for idiots there is no medicine”! Let those who don’t understand stay in ignorance and leave those who do benefit to keep on benefitting. If everyone played the games there would be no games!

    • Fenny says:

      As Pa always says “All the more for those that do”. Usually in reference to who wants seconds/pudding etc.

  • linda says:

    As others have said on here people all have their own ways and some are very sceptical. We have neighbours same age as us and they have not changed their utilities companies in years, I keep telling them how easy it is and how much they will save, to no avail they are also on a lot less income than us.We are all pensioners.
    I always tell people what class we are travelling in, this coming year 3 x First in BA plus 2x Club all on Avios and how we did it, they are amazed but never change. I had a long conversation with a lady in the Tesco queue about points etc and she said you must write a blog about it, i did tell her about HFP. My husband calls me his own personal travel agent, i let school with no qualifications he’s got a degree in engineering, but I love going on all the travel and financial sites to try and get better rates/deals.

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