Rewards Programs Don’t Reward You As Much As They Used To

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(June 27, 2014) — More and more businesses are offering reward points these days. Unfortunately, many of these new reward programs are barely worth the hassle.

And even the good ones, such as airline miles, are becoming a mere shadow of what they used to be.

Where are the 25,000-mile free flights? Remember when you could earn 25,000 airline miles, usually through a credit card, and get a free ticket anywhere in the U.S.?

Those days are long gone.

Most travelers know it’s almost impossible to find a basic 25,000-mile free seat anymore. Typically, you have to spend 35,000 reward miles for a free domestic flight, and a flight to a popular vacation spot (I’m looking at you, Vegas) can be 50,000 miles.

And now for 2014, Delta and United and have just made it tougher for bargain-hunting travelers to earn miles. They now reward you money spent, not actual miles flown.

This benefits business travelers whose companies pay full fare, but it hurts the bargain-hunting vacationer looking for that $250 roundtrip flight.

Not Just Airlines

And from the “Doesn’t That Stink” file, there are other stingy rewards programs.

The Sears Shop Your Way rewards program? The Consumerist web site calls it “not very rewarding.”

Verizon’s Smart Rewards? National consumer guru Bob Sullivan says you have to use your points to bid on items. He claims it’s very hard to win anything, which is reminiscent of those penny auction websites, circa 2010.

You might give up and say “doesn’t that stink?”

Credit cards, debit cards, banks, airlines, all have gotten stingier.

Bottom line: Rewards are great if it’s a business you use a lot and they don’t cost you anything. But if they force you make extra purchases or choose a more expensive travel option, then it may be a case of Don’t Waste Your Money.

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