The travel world has been awash in sweepstakes lately. Understandably. Compared to the costs of traditional advertising, giving away a trip is a small price to pay for the exposure sweepstakes generate for their hosts. And for consumers, the chance to win a trip, even if the odds are infinitesimally small, gives sweepstakes an extra bit of traction.
Traditionally, the relationship between sweepstakes and loyalty programs has been an arms-length one. In the typical scenario, a limited-time sweepstakes features a large cache of frequent-flyer miles or hotel points as the prize. When the sweepstakes ends, it disappears, but the loyalty program soldiers on. It was never meant to be an enduring union.
Priority Club has changed the terms of that relationship with the launch of Priority Club Rewards Sweepstakes.
Priority Club Rewards Sweepstakes
Through the end of this year, and possibly longer, Priority Club members can redeem their points for chances to win prizes in a series of individual giveaways. The sweepstakes are no longer independent of the program; they're part of the program.
For the current round of giveaways, the number of points required to participate ranges from 50 for a Fuji camera to 150 points for a prize of 250,000 Priority Club points. That's a pretty low hurdle, making this option readily available to program members with modest points balances.
As the rules make clear, you may also enter the sweepstakes without cashing in points, by mailing in a sweepstakes entry form. Which raises the question: Why would you pay for something you can get for free?
I suppose the best answer is that redeeming your Priority Club points is quick and easy, whereas entering by mail is time-consuming and requires stationery, stamps, and a trip to the post office.
And in fact, after logging into the Sweepstakes page with my Priority Club credentials, I could easily image shelling out 150 points for a chance to win 250,000 points, or putting 100 points toward a chance to win an iPad. But I probably wouldn't be bothered to enter by mail.
I was also struck by the fact that paying to enter a sweepstakes—even with points—gives the experience a different emotional tenor: It feels like gambling. For better or worse, when you have a stake in the game, the outcome matters more than it would in a regular sweepstakes.
Program Feature or Limited-Time Promotion?
The initial giveaway is in place through August 11. On August 12, according to the press release, a new series of giveaways will take effect that will feature a one-million-point prize, among others. Those giveaways will be in effect through October 13. After that ...?
The rules state that there will be more sweepstakes through the end of this year, but a spokesperson at Priority Club wouldn't comment on the longer-term prospects of the sweepstakes.
My guess is that these sweepstakes will be an ongoing feature of the program if they prove popular.
For now, let's consider it a provisionally permanent program feature.
While that would be a first, it's hardly a game-changer. No one is going to ditch the Hilton or Marriott programs just because Priority Club now offers the option of using points for giveaways. Well, hardly anyone.
Nevertheless, it's an intriguing addition to a program that's already one of the industry's most robust.
Reader Reality Check
Would you redeem 150 Priority Club points for a chance to win 250,000 points?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.