I haven’t gotten to the laundry in a while, and it just kind of built up

August 21, 2011 at 8:45 am Leave a comment

by Tony

Not sure if you caught this story, but it goes to show you how far people will go to collect frequent flyer points. Mint ends frequent fliers’ dollar-coin scheme: The U.S. Mint has put an end to a crafty frequent flier rewards scheme.

The scheme was started by savvy travelers back in 2008 when the U.S. Mint launched a “direct ship” program to sell and ship dollar coins directly to the general public in hopes of increasing the use of the coins.

A few frequent fliers got the idea to buy the coins with credit cards to accumulate rewards points, then deposit the coins at a bank and pay off the credit balance.

Word of the strategy spread on blogs, with at least one frequent flier claiming he bought $800,000 in coins on his credit cards to boost his rewards point total.

When the U.S. Mint got word of the scheme, the federal agency contacted anyone who bought more than 1,000 coins within 10 days, asking whether they were using the coins for general use, as the program intended. Although the scheme did not break any laws, Mint officials said they wanted to make sure people used coins as intended.

The coin guys obviously took it to the extreme, but we’ve heard many tales of frequent travelers going on one last seven-leg trip in December on their own dime to secure airline status for the next year.   If you’re like me, you’ve probably pondered how you can leverage this kind of behavior into something more positive for your travel program. And as I pondered this I started to consider the topic of gamification that has been so hot lately.

What looks like a generational move towards gamification (my oldest daughter leads many virtual lives in which she has amassed a great deal of virtual currency), is in fact not that new. Hell, I started “gaming” the system at St. Michael’s School when I was in 6th grade (it involved those candy bars we used to sell to raise money and I will spare the details to protect the innocent).

When you think about it, whether planning a seven-leg journey with just the right amount of legs or miles, or buying coins to collect miles, you are in fact gaming a system, hopefully to your advantage.

Now as you probably know, we’re pretty big on the whole user-centric approach to things at RC, and we’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

How can we capture this fervor that people have to play and win a “game,” into something positive for everyone (the gamer, their company, and the service provider being gamed). I’d be interested to know if anyone has dabbled in this area and if so, how successful it was (or wasn’t as the case may be). Has anyone out there “gamified” their travel program yet? I think this might be one of those transformational opportunities, and would love to hear if anyone agrees.


Attention travel managers: What’s getting in your way when it comes to managing corporate travel online? http://goo.gl/tQEmf

Entry filed under: Tony's thoughts, Travel Technology, Uncategorized, User Experience. Tags: , , , .

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