Ah, yes…it’s been an exciting year in the rewards program biz. Lots of comings and unfortunately lots of goings, too. Please join me on a trip down memory lane as we revisit some of the biggest stories of 2005.
It was a LONG year…so, settle in, get comfy, and then click “Continue reading…”!
January: Sploofus (more of a game site than a rewards program, but somehow we adopted it as one of our own) began WordRounds, a highly addictive timed word definition game. They then added team play, which started out fun but by February had become divisive and had to be discontinued. Some Memolink users were shocked to find long-outstanding redemptions begin to appear in their mailboxes. They were not terribly shocked to find sometimes they received a redemption other than the one they requested. Macy’s announced the March launch of their new rewards program, Star Rewards. Game Show Network started their rewards program, powered by MySony.
February: OTXsx was launched. Sadly, it took until November for them to properly credit all referrals made to the program. Giving2Gether.org was launched, a revamp of an older program, to much fanfare as they offered rebate rates that were truly outstanding and almost unrivalled. But without means in place to make profit SOMEWHERE, the program fizzled, morphing into BigCrumbs.com in November, a confusing mutli-membership level site pushing referrals in exchange for lower rates and drawing entries. All three Memolink-licensed sites (PCHPoints, LuckyPoints, and SavingsRegisterRewards) dropped the value of their Site of the Day from 25 to 10 points, and of their site visits from 3 to 2 points. Bad omen, as we came to find out later.
March: Busy month! MyPoints raised the number of points needed to cash out for some of their GCs ($25 Macy’s and B&N GCs were increased from 2750 points to 3000 points… they’re now up to 3250, an almost 20% jump within 9 months). Perhaps to soften the blow, they temporarily brought back Max, the triangle-shaped mascot that appeared onsite briefly for free points. CoolSavings.com launched their own rewards program, FreeStyle Rewards. SixQuestions upgraded its site after a brief beta-testing period. Too brief, apparently, because a glitch enabled members to earn and redeem millions of points over a weekend, crippling the site. They had to restore the system to a backup point a few days prior to fix things. SmartEPoints closed down and Vesdia (parent company of several rewards programs including StockBack and NestEggz) launched a new charity rewards program, FundraiserRewards. QuickRewards.net resumed its daily paid emails after a long hiatus, then passed a milestone: its 10,000th payout! Some PTR fans were sad to see AprilGoldsGetPaid2ReadEmail finally bite the dust (never did get paid by her).
April: Ahhh…a relatively quiet month. The big news item was that BzzAgent launched its book site, Penguin BzzChannel. Nine months later and I still haven’t been invited to a campaign there. Also, the GreenZap program was introduced as an alternative to PayPal, though it still hasn’t worked out to be much of anything, IMHO. We had a bit of a scare when Ginger of Sdrawer.com announced her retirement…until she bowed to user pressure and agreed to stick around a while. And I launched my new freebie/deal site, TipBlog.com.
May: SixQuestions infuriated members by cancelling redemptions and requiring people to re-request them. They said that a system glitch forced them to restore the system to a backup prior to those redemptions being made. Some members are still waiting on those redemptions; with one exception, no one’s been paid since October. Memolink suspended its referral program while they made changes. Sploofus members were diggin’ the new WordPuzzles game AND the five new monthly prizes. MyPoints began an instant win game but the odds of winning were ridiculously low. They revived the game in November, cutting the size of the prize but upping the number of winners. Members of Memolink and the sites they ran (LuckyPoints, SavingsRegisterRewards, and PCHPoints) were up in arms because of crediting problems — offers weren’t crediting or they were crediting to the WRONG site. My quote, “I’m beginning to see a pattern here that I do not like. We’re going to have to watch to make sure the sites Memolink runs under license (PCHP, SRR, and LP) do not go down the drain the way Memolink did” was actually pretty prophetic, as we saw just a few months later. By month’s end, another prophetic observation came along: I predicted that big changes at MyPoints were probably coming soon, as United had assigned a senior VP to assess UAL’s ancillary businesses, “starting with MyPoints,” according to the press release.
June: FusionCash.net was launched. SavingsRegisterRewards eliminated their Site of the Day and their other site visits, though the free daily points for trivia remained. Soon after, LuckyPoints dropped the value of their Site of the Day to 5 points. Memolink notified members that they were redesigning their website. Freeride raised the cost of all of their redemptions by 500 points. ClickToTheMagic’s owner, Bonnie, posted on her site that she was resuming her focus on her program, promising that late redemptions would be caught up and placing the blame on time constraints, cheaters, and cash flow timing problems.
July: Many feared the impending doom of the PTR industry as PayPal cracked down on sites they felt were just multi-level marketing scams. Sites panicked, putting up “we are not a MLM” disclaimers. It blew over like it had in the past. Bonnie of CTTM promised all redemptions would be caught up by July 22. Unfortunately, six months later, many are still waiting. The new site design she promised was coming “soon” did go live, though…in late December. Memolink followed through with their promise/threat of a new site redesign, but members were disturbed to find that while their point balances were multiplied by 10, the points earnable for on-site offers were not…in some cases, offers were now worth over 30% less than before. Redemption costs were multiplied by 10, too, making it harder to reach cashout. Memogold status was now offered only to those members who could “fill their stars” (the star system was never explained except that members who earned Memolink more money would be rewarded). And in a move that startled everyone with its unprofessionalism, Memolink employees were caught posting comments to this site, professing to be happy, loyal Memolink members aghast at my scathing reviews of Memolink. A simple IP address lookup busted them. They continue to monitor this site, but have gained the wisdom to do so without comment (or to use a proxy server). MyPoints’ new site went online, but without all the drama (because THEY didn’t rape their users; cashout costs remained the same though a few redemption options were MIA for a while). Meanwhile, Ebay discontinued their Anything Points program. And we finished up the month with a big, prize-filled, mega-chat with owners or reps from ClickToTheMagic, CreationsRewards, Giving2Gether, QuickRewards, QuizPoints, and Sploofus.
August: Memolink ticked some people off by revealing that a glitch in their new site (obviously not throughly beta-tested) caused some members to have account discrepancies. My favorite rewards and deal forum, BigBigForums, was hacked. It was offline for about a month.
September: The Chicago Tribune newspaper reported that United Airlines told their Chicago bankruptcy court that they intended to sell MyPoints. MyPoints still hasn’t mentioned this little fact to their members. BabyMint was sold by Vesdia to Collegiate Funding Services. Memolink changed its referral program, zeroing out all prior referrals in everyone’s accounts. LuckyPoints and SavingsRegisterRewards announced that they would be closing. PointPool began including with snail-mailed redemptions a letter promising site improvements and better customer service.
October: I released my annual shopping rate comparison for 18 rewards programs, converting points to percentages as required. Number one, Giving2Gether, is now defunct. Freestyle Rewards began sending out paid emails (just 5 points apiece, though). Days of Our Lives launched their new rewards program, powered by MySony. Ebates started their Double Rebate Tuesday promotion. And last but not least, CompareRewards.com celebrated its fourth birthday.
November: Greenpoints was down for a while due to a hurricane (Wilma, maybe?). Vesdia became part owner and manager of the SchoolPop rewards program. BzzAgent took some heat for giving advance copies of their founder’s book to their members, then giving them points for reviewing it on Amazon. PCHPoints, the last of the rewards programs Memolink ran under license, announced it was closing. Parade Magazine started their own rewards program, ParadePerks.
Here’s to a profitable 2006 for everyone!
2004′s Year in Review is here.