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Whittling away rewards can alienate customers on loyalty programmes

| Marketing and Promotions

Consumers love loyalty rewards programmes, but they really, really hate it when the rewards get diluted after they’ve signed up.

FNB has announced yet another change to its cardholders’ airport Slow Lounge benefits from next month, one that will not sit well with Premier cardholders who make up the bulk of the bank’s card base.

The big change is that all free Slow Lounge visit allocations will move from monthly to annually.

So while Premier credit card and cheque card holders can now visit a Slow Lounge at no charge before their flight’s departure twice a month, from January those on the lowest eBucks level will be allocated just two lounge visits for the entire year.

Even on the highest eBucks tier — Level 5 — they’ll qualify for 12 free Slow Lounge visits a year: half what they get now.

"There is definitely going to be unhappiness in the Premier space," said FNB credit card CEO Chris Labuschagne.

FNB knows all about cardholder backlash over Slow Lounge rewards downgrades.

The unlimited Slow Lounge visits when the perk was introduced in 2010 became six visits a month, and then two a month and then only from 90 minutes before boarding time.

But while the bulk of FNB’s 450 000 affected cardholders are Premier cardholders, the majority of the 50 000 Slow Lounge visits on average every month (many repeats) are by private client and wealth clients, Labuschange said.

Their annual lounge visit allocations are more generous than those of Premier clients, but not nearly as generous as those they currently enjoy.

Private Clients will be entitled to between six and an unlimited number of visits annually and wealth clients to at least 12 annual visits.

Unlimited free visits remain for qualifying FNB Private Wealth and RMB Private Bank customers on eBucks reward levels 4 and 5.

The bank has plans for some less client-alienating ways to reduce Slow Lounge overcrowding — next year the Slow Lounge at OR Tambo International Airport will be increased 40% and a new lounge will be opened at Lanseria.

And, says Labuschagne, the benefit of annual lounge visit allocations is that cardholders can use their allocations to plan lounge visits with their families.

TMG Digital

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