In what could be a game-changer for the loyalty industry, Rite Aid, Macy’s, ExxonMobil and several other businesses are joining forces with American Express to launch what’s described as the United States’ first coalition loyalty program. Points earned by doing business with one participant in the Plenti program, can be redeemed with any other participating member.

“This is a perfect time for a coalition loyalty program in the U.S.,” American Express president Ed Gilligan said in a statement announcing the Plenti partnership. An American Express subsidiary already manages cross-retail loyalty programs in Germany, Italy, Poland, India and Mexico. But Plenti will be a first for the U.S. that’s not based solely around gas rewards.

In addition to Rite Aid, Macy’s and ExxonMobil, the other inaugural members of the partnership are AT&T, Nationwide, Direct Energy and Hulu. American Express is promising many more members to come after the program launches in May, such as a grocery store, home improvement store and a restaurant chain. The idea is to have just one participant per type of business, such as a single grocery store, a single drug store or national restaurant chain, so participants aren’t inadvertently driving business to a competitor.

Participating shoppers will not have to sign up for an American Express card or use any particular form of payment, but they will need a Plenti membership. Retailers like Rite Aid and Macy’s, which already have their own loyalty programs, will roll them into the new program. Current loyalty members will eventually have to swap out their current cards for new Plenti-linked loyalty cards in order to participate.

Shoppers will be able to earn points by, say, filling up at an Exxon or Mobil station, buying products at Rite Aid or Macy’s, or by paying their insurance, phone or utility bill. Every 1,000 points earned will translate into at least $10 in savings. So if you earn 1,000 points through some combination of Rite Aid shopping, Exxon visits and your monthly bill-paying, you’ll be able to get $10 off your next purchase at any participating retailer – not just the one where you earned the points.

For Rite Aid shoppers, this morning’s announcement confirms what has been something of a worst-held secret. Long-standing rumors that the drug store chain’s +Up Rewards program would be ending led to speculation that something bigger was up the retailer’s sleeve.


With the official announcement of Plenti, Rite Aid has now finally confirmed their demise – or rather, their “transition” to Plenti points. “Plenti points hold the same value as +UPs and offer even more value to customers since they can be used for savings at Rite Aid as well certain other Plenti partners including Exxon and Mobil and Macy’s,” Rite Aid says on its newly-unveiled dedicated Plenti website. Plus, “customers have at least two years to use them.”

+Up Rewards, which allowed shoppers to earn cash-back rebates for buying promoted products that can be used to save on their next purchase, might seem somewhat redundant with the launch of Plenti. But shoppers will have to accumulate points in order to see any savings under the new program, as opposed to earning near-immediate savings with +Up Rewards. And Walgreens’ launch of its own points-based Balance Rewards program did not stop it from continuing its similar Register Rewards offers, though the emphasis now is clearly on earning points by buying promoted products.

While some Plenti participants will stick to a straight points-per-dollar-spent model, Rite Aid is expected to follow the Walgreens’ template, of offering bonus points for buying products featured in its weekly circular. Unlike Walgreens, however, shoppers won’t be limited to spending those cash-back rewards at Rite Aid.

“Our customers told us that adding the ability to earn and use points for savings in our stores and at eligible Plenti partner locations, while saving up to 20% every day in our stores, significantly increases the appeal of our program and creates more reasons for them to shop at Rite Aid more often,” Rite Aid senior vice president of marketing John Learish said in a statement. Rite Aid will continue to brand its loyalty program as wellness+, and members will still be able to earn points toward Silver and Gold status, which allow for additional perks.

Consumers “want to be rewarded for the dollars they spend day-in and day-out at their favorite stores,” Macy’s chief marketing officer Martine Reardon added. “Macy’s is excited to be a part of breaking new ground for American consumers with a program that is focused on rewarding them frequently and with greater cumulative value.”

For most participating businesses, Plenti will be a welcome added perk. For Rite Aid, any excitement about the program is tempered a bit by some shoppers’ disappointment about the loss of +Up Rewards, and frustration at Rite Aid’s weeks-long silence on the issue. Now that details about Plenti are emerging, it’s unclear how many upset +Up Rewards fans will make good on their pledge to bail on Rite Aid altogether.

But if they do any shopping at Macy’s, ExxonMobil or other Plenti partners in the meantime, they’re going to earn points that can be redeemed for Rite Aid discounts. So given the choice of shopping at a competing drug store chain, or a place where they can use their accumulated points to earn discounts, Rite Aid’s participation in Plenti may well win their loyalty in the end.

And that, after all, is the whole idea.


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