American Express Co. has broadened its successful frequent traveler program, Membership Miles, by adding 30 partners offering a variety of retail goods and services.
The New York company has renamed the program Membership Rewards to reflect that it is no longer targeting just travelers. Currently, there are two million American Express cardholders enrolled in the four-year-old program.
Like its counterparts in the bank card business, American Express is trying to appeal to a larger consumer base. In an effort to shed its elitist image, it has been aggressively marketing a series of credit cards targeting less affluent consumers.
National retail franchises like Tower Records, WaldenBooks, Filene's Basement, and Nobody Beats The Wiz are participating in the new customer loyalty program.
Still, American Express has not abandoned its roots among upscale consumers. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tourneau, and Caswell-Massey, were also recruited.
Three car rental companies and nine gourmet food companies have been added as well.
Previously, Membership Miles had agreements with 13 airlines and hotels.
Acknowledging that it has become more expensive to acquire customers, Philip J. Riese, president of American Express Consumer Card Services, said as a result, customer loyalty "is becoming more important. We cannot and do not take our cardmembers for granted."
Cardholders, except those with the Optima True Grace card and some corporate cards, earn one point for every dollar they spend on their American Express cards. The points, which unlike those in most programs do not expire, may be redeemed for gift certificates, merchandise, and travel.
"Membership Rewards offers a greater variety of rewards at a range of spending levels," noted Mr. Riese.
For example, 3,000 points will earn $50 gift certificates at Timberland and Filene's Basement, or 10,000 points will garner three $70 gift certificates for floral arrangements at FTD Direct.
From Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, however, Membership Rewards cardholders will earn two points for every dollar they spend, when they shop at 20 of the retail and gourmet partners.
Like Membership Miles, the new program costs $25, and $50 for corporate card customers. The annual fee is waived in the first year.
A spokeswoman said that some corporate cardholders will be excluded by their employers from participating, and that, "it is not economically feasible at this time" for American Express to make the program available to Optima True Grace customers.
American Express launched a national advertising campaign on Thursday, including television, newspaper, and magazine spots to promote Membership Rewards.