US Airways' newly announced "Grand Slam" promotion is modeled on the multi-partner offers that Northwest's marketing department used to trot out on a regular basis and that will likely become part of Delta's marketing tool kit when SkyMiles and WorldPerks are merged later this year.
These offers have a predictable format, allowing program members to earn bonus miles in a two-step process. First, points are awarded for selected partner transactions. Next, those points are converted into bonus miles.
The short-term goal of such promotions is to generate extra sales for the participating companies. But more important is the long-term goal of training consumers to routinely channel their purchases—travel and non-travel—through companies affiliated with the mileage program.
As a fan of directness and simplicity, I've always found this approach unnecessarily convoluted. Why not simply offer bonus miles, without injecting the complication of an intermediate earning currency such as points?
With the upcoming US Airways promotion, Dividend Miles members can earn up to 50,000 bonus miles, including 4,000 elite-qualifying miles, for doing business with program-affiliated companies between September 1 and November 15.
Each partner transaction earns one point—or one hit as it's called in this promotion—and bonus miles are awarded after every four hits. At the low end, 4,000 miles are awarded for four hits. And at the high end, the maximum of 50,000 miles are earned for 28 hits. The 4,000 elite-qualifying miles are awarded after 12 hits, together with 12,000 base miles.
Among the qualifying transactions: flights on Asiana or Singapore Airlines (but not, strangely, on US Airways); charges to US Airways debit and credit cards; hotel stays; car rentals; purchases at the Dividend Miles Shopping Mall; and transferring hotel points into Dividend Miles. For each category, there is a maximum number of hits that can be earned. Example: only six hits may be earned for hotel stays.
If you plan to participate, be sure to register first. Only transactions completed after registering count toward the hits and bonus miles.
So, is this offer really a grand slam? For those whose normal travel and spending patterns put significant bonus miles within reach, it is. Otherwise, it's a ground-rule double at least.