American Express has announced the launch of Plenti, a cross-brand loyalty rewards program with AT&T, ExxonMobil, Macy’s, Nationwide, Rite Aid, Direct Energy, and Hulu. Plenti members will earn rewards points when they shop at any one of these affiliated chains, with or without an American Express card. There are no membership dues or costs associated with joining. Consumers are given rewards for brand loyalty, with no extra strings attached. Amex plans to release the program sometime in Spring 2015, with an expected arrival date of May.
How will Plenti rewards work? Each participating merchant will decide how it will give out points. Not every purchase will be eligible for earning Plenti points, and you will not always earn the same amount of points per $1 spent. Amex’s press release implies you will be able to earn Plenti points as follows:
- ExxonMobil – whenever you buy a tank of fuel
- AT&T – by paying for qualifying wireless services and eligible charges on bills
- Nationwide – by making eligible property and auto insurance payments
- Rite Aid – with purchases of beauty, health & wellness, and everyday products
- Macys – most purchases with the store, excluding some luxury brands from select NYC and San Francisco stores
- Hulu, Direct Energy – customers can earn Plenti points here by simply paying their bills
Some of the language surrounding point earning remains vague, and we will most likely have to wait until May to find out exactly what constitutes “eligible” or “qualified” purchases. So far we only know of Macy’s luxury brands being disqualified from earning Plenti members points.
Nationwide’s participation is also very interesting. Few other auto insurance companies offer rewards programs – one of the major exceptions being Allstate’s Safe Driver Rewards.
Plenti Rewards vs. Amex Membership Rewards (MR) Note that the Plenti and MR programs are not the same thing. The latter is American Express’ credit card rewards program. You get MR points by using your participating American Express credit card at any location. If one of those locations happens to be a brand mentioned above, you may present your Plenti card and earn Plenti points, alongside MR points.
How will Plenti points be redeemed? 1,000 Plenti rewards points will equal at least $10 in savings, according to Amex. You will be able to offset the cost of any bill/charge with any of the participating program merchants. We can analyze this point system the same way we do with credit cards, to see how it stacks up. We will work off the assumption that spending $1 will earn 1 Plenti reward point. As of yet, point distribution is uncertain. American Express stated in their press release that there will be opportunities for consumers to earn more points by activating “special promotional offers”, which is sure to mean that Plenti participants will have the chance to earn more than 1 point per $1.
The value of a single Plenti point is $10/1,000 = $0.01. Therefore, if we earn 1,000 points for spending $1,000, we earn back $10 worth of value – or a 1% rewards rate. While we normally would be unimpressed by this number, we must remember one key factor. The Plenti card is not a debit or credit card. It’s not a form of payment at all. You can use the card on top of any other rewards program you may be enrolled in through a credit card to maximize the value you get out of each purchase. Whenever you shop at any of the participating brands using a Plenti card and say, for example, the Citi® Double Cash Card you will be shopping with a much higher rewards rate.
Signing up for Plenti Rewards Details for signing up have not been released yet, but we anticipate that Amex and participating vendors will launch coordinated marketing campaigns closer to the launch with more information. Consumers will likely be issued a card or key fob, and they'll function like any other in-store loyalty cards. It's also possible that consumers will be able to amplify their rewards by using the Plenti card with existing vendor rewards programs and a cash back credit card.
Given that the program is free to sign up for, and has been a success in other countries – it is known as ‘Payback’ in Poland, Germany, India, Mexico and Italy – consumers should keep an eye out for its launch.