How much should memories cost? Why loyalty cards can go a long way
A hospitality card
Many hotel groups run programmes that entitle members to special offers and discounts at their properties. And last year, I signed up for the Gold membership to the loyalty programme of one of India’s best luxury hospitality groups.
I received a classy welcome package and a card that earns me points for every rupee that I spend, for stay or dining, at any of their properties. It essentially translates to a 15-20 per cent discount on everything. But that’s not the best part. Every year I get about 10 assorted vouchers that entitle me to room upgrades, discounts on dining, half-price on weekend stays and complimentary rounds of drinks with friends. But that’s not the best part. They also give me one free room night; in Mumbai, they have three hotels, including an iconic South Mumbai heritage palace, worth at least ₹10,000. But that’s not the best part. If I pay an additional ₹5,000 when I use this voucher, they will upgrade me to a club room/junior suite subject to availability. I exercised this option and was floored — they upgraded me to a heritage suite that costs upwards of ₹60,000 a night! I recovered my initial membership fee many times over in that stay itself.
The airline-bank credit card
Many banks have partnered with airlines to launch co-branded cards. Every rupee spent earns you frequent flier miles that can be redeemed for free flights. Last year, I signed up for the Platinum membership of one such card. As a welcome gift, I was given thousands of complimentary miles. But that’s not the best part. I was also given complimentary membership to the Gold level of the airline, free lounge access at all major domestic and international airports, and a host of other privileges. But that’s not the best part. I started charging all my big-ticket purchases on this card, including auto and life insurance, and once I crossed a certain threshold, I was given a free room night, no fine print, at a leading hotel. But that’s not the best part. These mundane spends on insurance and utility bills earned me enough miles for a few complimentary domestic flight tickets.
But that’s not the best part. In a world where service orientation is fast losing its meaning, these are organisations that have set the highest benchmarks in customer service. And possessing these memberships elevates me to an ‘emperor of the world’ treatment at every step. They talk with care when I connect with them. They honour all reasonable requests. They call me before special occasions and politely check if I have made any plans. And if I do visit them on a special day, they ensure that they inundate me with wishes and surprises. And that is the best part. The warm memories they leave me with. For around ₹10,000 per annual membership, it’s a steal!