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TPG reader Stephen sent me a message on Facebook to ask about a new rewards program from Amex:
“Hi! I’ve been enjoying your postings. What are your thoughts about Plenti?”
Earlier this year, Amex launched a new loyalty program called Plenti, which offers rewards across a coalition of merchant and retail partners. The roster is still small, feauturing 11 brand partners that vary pretty widely from Direct Energy to Hulu to Exxon/Mobil. Each partner has its own earning structure (like 1 point per dollar spent on your AT&T bill, or 1 point for every $3 on insurance premiums from Nationwide). On the redemption side, points are generally worth 1 cent apiece toward future purchases from the same list of partners.
Plenti doesn’t have any impressive travel partners — apart from gas, there’s just Alamo, Enterprise and National car rentals — but it does have a few things going for it. First, you’re not locked in to any particular method of payment, which means you can earn Plenti Rewards on top of whatever points or miles you’d normally get from your credit card, as well as rewards from each partner (like Star Rewards at Macy’s). That creates some opportunities to maximize your purchases by double- or triple-dipping.
Second, while the everyday earning rates are uninspiring, there are some special offers for bonus rewards that give you a decent return (like 500 points when you spend $25 at Rite Aid). That equates to a 20% discount, and again, it’s in addition to whatever other points you earn.
All that said, I’m not impressed by Plenti so far. The list of partners is too short and the incentives just aren’t enough to get me interested. For example, the standard offer from Exxon and Mobil is 1 point for every gallon of gas you buy. That will probably get you 10-20 cents back for filling your tank, which might cover the fuel you burned getting there. Some of the offers are more rewarding, but at best you’re getting about 1% back.
I love to maximize my spending, but maximizing time is important as well, and it’s not worth going out of your way to earn what might amount to only a few cents extra. If you already do business with these partners and if it’s not too much hassle to keep track of offers and incorporate Plenti into your purchases, then you might as well get the extra return. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother — your time is too valuable!
When it comes to award travel, I prefer to focus on the easy wins. I take advantage of bonus spending categories and online shopping portals to boost my rewards for each purchase. I look for special offers from airlines and hotels to make my flights and stays more lucrative. I also earn big chunks of points and miles by getting in on the best credit card sign-up bonuses. Those strategies (and others) help me rack up rewards quickly, and give me a much better overall return.
Plenti will be more worthwhile when Amex expands the list of partners and begins offering redemption options outside of those partners (like cash back or gift cards). However, I think the biggest step would be to allow transfers from Plenti to Amex Membership Rewards. Even if the exchange rate isn’t good, access to flight and hotel awards would make the program way more compelling.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
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