Greg Duncan wallets full of empty promises on plastic cards

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    If you are like most people then your wallet or purse is jammed packed with so many loyalty or reward points cards that they leave little room for important items like your drivers license and healthcare card.

    You may have had some cards for years in the hope of collecting enough points or miles to fly away on a dream vacation someday. Good luck with that.

    Seriously, have you tried to exchange or use points or miles lately? You’ll incur a costly fee to do so and your options will be strictly limited to “eligible” items or be subject to impossible blackout schedules. These types of cards offer little in the way of a tangible reward or benefit that I can determine. Sadly, I have a wallet full of empty promises on plastic cards that really only seem to offer an invasion of privacy and a benefit to the card issuer, retail or otherwise.

    This has been easy to determine by the volume of personal emails I receive weekly by card issuers and retailers along with an incessant volume of unsolicited offers from other retailers that happen to be affiliated to the parent company. In each case, the solicitations I receive demonstrate fine-tuned messaging that capitalizes on an in-depth knowledge of my shopping habits. They know when and where I shop, and what items I regularly purchase, of course.

    They know too when I’ve been naughty or nice, like it or not. The use of my recently acquired SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) Inspire card has prompted timed weekly emails with offers of booze each and every Thursday morning because, as it turns out, I usually purchase firewater and wine on Thursday afternoons.

    Yes, I have a membership rewards card issued by our government controlled liquor corporation and who wouldn’t? The thing is, I’ve only accumulated 5 dollars worth of exchangeable point value over an entire summer of purchases. So, I have been gladly handing over and sharing personal information every time I have used one of these cards when making a transaction, whether that be at a grocery checkout, a pharmacy, or when filling up at a gas station.

    It’s not new news that the use of these cards facilitates collection of personal information and data. However, the ability to use and share that information across a digital hemisphere using evolving methods is worrisome, I think. Curiously, advertising appearing on some social network feeds increasingly correlates to the hard copy cards in my wallet. Not because I’ve clicked and liked, but because I’ve used the card in store. If you’ve ever offered up your email address or phone number to Facebook or Google and have used similar info when signing up for a rewards or points card, you’ll understand.

    I may assign a chosen card or two to an app that will organize them for me now, thus eliminating any need for a hard copy, but likely will cull the herd of loyalty and reward cards to almost zero unless someone can prove to me that continuing to use them has value. 

    On the other hand, a hyper-local loyalty card that encourages and rewards customers that spend dollars in locally owned small businesses could be a good idea and I’ll expand on that notion next week.

    Swipe or scan your card and weigh in on the matter.