Anybody who travels by plane and charges his ticket on a credit card today expects to receive some kind of Credit Card Rewards. Customer loyalty was sought and rewarded before the advent of credit cards as we know them today. The forerunner to present-day rewards began in the 1800s when the Sperry & Hutchinson Company began offering S&H Green Stamps, also known as Green Shield Stamps.
Not Exactly Like Modern Frequent Flyer Programs
In 1934, well before modern credit card companies were awarding Airline miles, American Airlines and the Air Travel Association instituted the Air Travel Card. The traveler could pay for his ticket in installments and receive a 15 percent discount from any of the member airlines. Texas International was first with the idea of offering actual miles to inspire loyalty among travelers in 1979.
The American Airlines AAdvantage Program began in 1981 and rewarded flyers with American Airlines Advantage Miles. Not wishing to be left out, United Airlines initiated United Mileage plus Miles in that same year. Shortly after, Delta Air Lines started its own program, which became Delta Skymiles. The following year, British Airways advertised their Executive Club.
Airline Rewards Were Not the Only Credit Card Perks
Competition among airlines was heightened with the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. In 1982, AAdvantage, which had been finding new ways to reward its frequent customers and build loyalty among them, began to cooperate with British Airways so that its members could fly to Europe. In addition to offering various upgrades, discounts and other extras, they became the first to offer travel on an international carrier.
In the early programs, Airline miles were intended to establish customer loyalty and were given to reward travelers for repeatedly using a particular airline. Later, as frequent flyer programs developed and credit card offers became more competitive, people were given points for almost any credit card purchase. It was not necessary to first buy a plane ticket or to travel on a particular airline or route to receive additional miles.
Other card companies were rewarding their customers as well. AT&T Universal Card began offering discounts on telephone bills and the Discover Card gave its users a cash refund at year’s end based on the amount they charged on their cards.
The promise of airline points made credit card companies more competitive and their offers more exciting. Major banks with Delta or United imprint offered airline or hotel rewards. Someone could charge almost any commodity on his AAdvantage or Delta Skymiles credit card and accumulate points to be used not only for airline travel, but for cash or merchandise, hotel rooms or car rentals.
Card companies began offering extra points or miles to entice users to their loyalty programs. Some extravagant sign-up offers promised thousands of points to new enrollees, but along with these promotions there were often restrictions such as blackout dates or very limited seating. When taking advantage of Credit Card Rewards now, users have many choices as to where they will fly at no cost or at a discount and how much more they will be able to spend when they get there, gifts for being loyal customers.