Welcome to true fungibility of your points, at least in one program. There was talk about this back in April and at the time I expressed some concern that the margins for arbitrage in the programs are eroding. These sorts of redemption options are definitely a move in that direction and as of this past week at least one of them is actually live.
Loylogic has formally launched the PointsPay platform. The system allows points to be instantly converted into a cash balance on a real world credit card that they issue to you. It has $0 credit on it by default and only when you use the app to transfer points over does the card become useful for running charges. And once the transaction is complete any leftover credit on the account can be pushed back into points. It is great from the perspective of increasing flexibility with your points. But it still raises concerns from my view about just what the future of travel rewards in the industry.
For at least 1,500 Etihad Guest members the program is attractive enough that they’ve had a CC issued as part of the program and 50,000,000 points have been loaded into the system. That’s not a ton per person – on average it won’t get you further than Tehran or Karachi, assuming you want to return to Abu Dhabi – so maybe it is just members closing out small balances, not redeeming tons of points at this level.
And maybe this is a great way to redeem points otherwise orphaned in an account. When I flew Emirates earlier this year my only viable option for the points was to credit them to their Skywards program. And they’ll die in that program, orphaned and useless to me. I don’t mind too much as I got great value on that ticket even without the points, but getting a few dollars worth back wouldn’t have been so horrible.
The technology behind the program is awesome and both Loylogic and Etihad deserve to be congratulated for the creativity of coming up with the plan and the ability to execute on it. I just worry that it is changing the game to my personal detriment. At least they are giving away 100,000 points as part of launching the program; maybe someone will get something fun for free out of the deal.
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