Like most consumers, my wallet is bulging with half a dozen co-branded credit cards that let me earn rewards at the places where I shop the most. Every time I approach the checkout I sort through my cards with all the skill of a Vegas dealer, carefully selecting the right card for the job.
But that popular, if somewhat tiring pastime may be about to go the way of the dinosaurs thanks to a new rewards program that American Express will launch in the coming months. The "Plenti" program is the first rewards program in the US that lets you earn and redeem points at many different merchants through just one rewards program.
The Plenti rewards program is a joint venture between American Express and partners Macy's, AT&T, ExxonMobil, Rite Aid, Nationwide, Direct Energy and Hulu. As soon as the program launches you will be able to earn and redeem rewards through a single rewards program at all of these merchants, with or without an Amex card.
An Ebiquity consumer research study commissioned on behalf of American Express at the end of 2014 indicated that a majority of Americans preferred to take part in a joint loyalty program featuring a number of retailers rather than maintain separate accounts for different types of purchases (see Amex news release).
American Express has successfully run similar multi-merchant rewards programs outside of the US, and personally I can't wait to give their latest rewards program a bash. Since I make purchases from many of these companies regularly (think gas, clothing, mobile phone service), I expect my rewards should add up pretty quickly.
Being able to earn points at all these retailers, and redeem them at any of these big name merchants also has a lot of appeal. For example, you can earn points when you tank up at Mobil or pay your Nationwide insurance premiums, and then redeem those points towards Hulu benefits or your Macy's fashion shopping. The number of rewards you can earn is up to the merchant, and can vary with special promotions.
The coalition plans to add nationwide retailers in other categories to the program to increase its appeal and usefulness to members.
Since the Plenti program is not connected to a specific credit card, you can use any accepted payment network and still earn Plenti rewards. That means you can combine the rewards this program offers with the cash back or rewards you earn with your rewards credit card by using your card to pay at Plenti partners, and score twice.