TD, Aeroplan change rules of reward plans: Roseman
Credit cards that offer rewards can be attractive. But what if the rules change before you take that long-awaited trip?
Dan Belanger hopes to go to Hawaii for a vacation in early 2017. He’s been accumulating points for three years on his TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card.
“Out of the blue, I received a letter from TD on Sept. 28, saying my points were being devalued, effective Nov. 15,” he told me. “Under the new rules, the first 300,000 points redeemed are worth $ 1,200 instead of $ 1,500. If you fail to use points in excess of 300,000 in a single transaction, they will ding you 20 per cent on subsequent transactions.”
The Book Any Way travel purchase program was modified for competitive reasons, said a TD spokeswoman. However, the current value of points for travel redeemed through Expedia for TD was maintained.
“Any change in a rewards program can be a sensitive issue for customers and we always consider that before making a decision,” Barbara Timmins explained. “We also announced enhanced travel insurance benefits (extending your medical coverage from five to eight days) and greater booking flexibility (lowered minimum increments from 10,000 points to 200/250 point levels).”
Andy Georgiades said the changes were more helpful to the companies involved than to him.
“I don’t know what customer research went into this decision, but I would have gladly given up the ‘benefits’ of additional insurance and booking exclusively with Expedia to maintain the value of my points.”
Brent Hill said being steered to one travel supplier limited his ability to get bargain prices.
“I book directly with Sea World or Disney for my family’s travel. Hotel websites offer pay-in-advance deals that are superior, but are not matched by Expedia as well. The card should be rebranded TD Expedia Travel Rewards.”
Customer rewards and loyalty programs are known for changing the rules in midstream. Their agreements are written in a way that allows extreme makeovers.
Aeroplan is one of Canada’s oldest loyalty plans, started in 1984 as a division of Air Canada. It is now run by a separate company, Aimia, which has many airline and retail partners.
I often hear from Aeroplan members who have lost their points because they didn’t stay active for a one-year period. These rules have been around since Jan. 1, 2007.
Aeroplan also planned to make points expire after seven years; that date-stamping idea was so unpopular that it was scuttled a few months before the scheduled start date of Jan. 1, 2014.
On Sept. 25, Aeroplan announced another set of changes. It was revising mileage levels required for flight rewards and reclassifying certain travel zones based on their location.
As an Aeroplan member, I was keen to see the revised terms and conditions that take effect Dec. 15. There are some notable changes:
My advice: Don’t believe rewards and loyalty plans are created to make your life better. Their primary loyalty is to their business partners.
Don’t believe the marketing materials. Read the terms and conditions, plus the revisions. Call the company to ask what they mean. Only in the fine print do you find the truth.
Don’t stay loyal to a plan whose rules change to your detriment. Check online to find objective comparisons, such as at Rewards Cards Canada and Greedy Rates.
Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ellenroseman.com
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