Rewarding Times

It’s pretty amazing how American consumers have become such rewards addicts over the last few years. In the field where I work (payments, credit cards, etc.), rewards-based credit (and now debit) cards have become all the rage. In my personal case, the card I keep in my pocket (not my wallet) for everyday use is one of the best rewards cards available — offering high rebates on gasoline purchases, etc. Some ridiculous percentage (like over half) of the credit card volume in the US is now done using some sort of rewards-linked credit card.

Manufacturers have become addicted to rebates. Take a look at consumer electronics stores — rebates galore. Same with wireless phones. Of course, they know that rebates have high perceived value with much lower actual value due to ‘breakage’ — folks who simply fail to claim a rebate for whatever reason. (In my case, it’s usually because I forget about the great deal and threw the box away — with the damn UPC code that’s inevitably required to claim the reward when I stumble upon the receipt the next time I clean out my pockets!)

I’m a fan of rewards that don’t require me to do hardly anything. My primary ‘top of wallet’ credit card falls into that category — I save money every month that otherwise would be just going out the window. On the other hand, I hate the rebate and rewards voucher approach — relying as they do upon breakage to keep their costs down.

I was pleased to see this week that has announced a new rewards program of the do nothing kind that I really like. If you use as your search engine (by logging on to A9 using your username/password), you’ll automatically get a discount on your purchases at Amazon. No rebate forms, special boxes to check — just automatically. Amazon and A9 say they’re “sharing the pi” with this approach — providing a 1.57% discount (pi/2) if you’re a loyal A9 searcher. Much nicer than their earlier (and frustrating) paper-based rewards voucher credit card program done in concert with BankOne/JP Morgan Chase.