Membership Rewards

As I opened my wallet today — the one on my phone — I was struck by the number of  rewards program cards I have. I don’t have the quantity, points or status rivaling the character George Clooney played in Up in the Air, but I have my fair share.

The cards made me wonder…What is it about rewards programs? Why do we accumulate cards and points? Do the freebies and perks amount to anything significant? In my opinion, there IS something to the idea of belonging…to being part of a club…to being rewarded for participating…to feeling valued…to being appreciated for one’s loyalty.

I am a Sephora VIB (Very Important Buyer). Actually, I’m a VIB ROUGE. This status requires a minimum annual spend of $1,000…a sum that’s not difficult to achieve when I buy products for my daughter and sister too. Does being a Beauty Insider really matter? Do I buy into Sephora’s claim that “product addiction can be a very beautiful thing”? Sure, I appreciate the yearly birthday gift. Yes, I like cashing in points (though I hoard most of them) for free trendy products. But everyone knows I already have more make up and samples than I need or can use. So what’s the point? I just like being a VIB.

I have a Starbucks Gold Card. I went on a rant a few years ago when I lost that status (the highest offered), but managed to maintain it ever since. You earn two stars for each dollar spent and achieving Gold requires accumulating 300+ stars a year. As Starbucks says, “it’s nice to be rewarded.” I certainly appreciate the annual birthday drink and other free coffees throughout the year. Why? Because I do.

Those cards are small potatoes, however, in comparison to my husband’s status as a Marriott Lifetime Platinum member. This elite status has enabled us to stay — and be upgraded — at Marriott properties (and get a free water bottle!) across the United States and Europe without paying a dime. While it means he travels too much, and stays almost exclusively at Marriott hotels, this reality has afforded our family numerous vacation nights that we otherwise might have been unable to take. Does it matter? Yes, it does.

Like him and anyone who travels, I too have my various hotel, car rental, and airline cards. But I haven’t traveled enough — or consistently used specific providers — to reap the benefits of those programs…with one exception.

I confess that I’ve been in a serious relationship with Delta’s Skymiles program for a long while. Thanks to my regular travel to Israel for the past six years, I’ve easily reached Delta’s Platinum Medallion status. Reaching Diamond Medallion however — the highest level of all — was a pipe dream; especially when Delta changed the requirements (qualifying miles and dollars spent) for 2018, which now will forever make it beyond my reach. But then, I received an unexpected surprise.

This week I learned that my office is holding an all-staff retreat in Israel during the second week of January. I set about trying to book my flights, knowing there are no non-stop ones from Atlanta to Tel Aviv. New York is the usual and most likely pass-through location. Experience with delays and flight cancellations due to inclement weather during winter months, however, has taught me to avoid JFK whenever possible. So, what are my other options? Amsterdam, London, Rome or Paris.

Paris…and then an idea crystallized…

As seductively and as sweetly as possible, I cornered my husband. “Honey, how about kissing me under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower this New Year’s Eve?”

“Are you trying to make Diamond?” he immediately barked. So much for subtlety. So much for romance. “Yes,” I said matter-of-factly. “I have to go to Israel anyway and the one leg to Charles de Gaulle gets me there. I want a Diamond and you can have a soufflé.” He wasn’t happy or pleased for me (I knew he was jealous!!) and I wasn’t sure how far I could push him. But then, a few hours later, he announced that he booked a room at the Marriott on the Champs-Élysées and I knew I was in. Ooh la la!

Membership  has it’s rewards. And 2017 has proven to be a good year.


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