None of us wants our dying words to be, "Make sure you redeem all my points and miles." So loyalty consultancy Colloquy suggests shoppers plan ahead.
Research released today by Colloquy shows the after-death transfer to loved ones or friends of rewards earned in customer loyalty programs may not always go as smoothly as expected or desired.
For example, US Airways provides clear online policies governing the transfer of miles to proven beneficiaries. Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, have written policies prohibiting such transfers.
Marriott Rewards points can be bequeathed in a will, but Hilton HHonors points expire when the collector crosses over in pursuit of redeeming his or her more heavenly rewards.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts clearly states that unredeemed Starpoints can be transferred to a family member or friend — as long as the recipient is an active Starwood Preferred Guest.
The Colloquy report, "Inherit the Windfall: Passing On Loyalty Points," comes from Colloquy Research Director Jeffrey Berry. Colloquy is the research group for LoyaltyOne, a global provider of loyalty and marketing programs.
Inherit the Windfall reveals inconsistency, complexity and lack of clarity in the after-death point transfer policies of major loyalty programs in the U.S. airline, hotel and credit card sectors (See chart). United MileagePlus imposes a transfer fee, while other programs offer free transfers. Some programs require point redemption within a certain time frame after the collector's death. Some transfer polices are available online, some aren't.
These dissonant characteristics seemingly contribute to confusion among those who participate in reward programs. Of 1,200 consumers surveyed by Colloquy, only 12 percent said they were aware of their favorite loyalty program's policies regarding member's points. Fully 76 percent of respondents said they've never considered how companies handle their points upon death.
Just because loyalty customers aren't thinking about death doesn't mean they don't care about the disposition of their points. No less than 48 percent said it's important for a program to have a transparent transfer policy in place.
That desire creates an opportunity for marketers. "Ensuring that a loyal customer's heirs will benefit fosters the kind of trust that must be at the core of an intimate relationship between brand and customer," Berry said.
Starting with a recommendation that loyalty programs establish clear, transparent policies, Berry provides in Inherit the Windfall a full set of tips that marketers can use to strengthen relationships with best customers regarding the point transfer issue.