Do you frequent a particular mall or restaurant? Do you have a favourite airline carrier that you like flying with? If you do, you are a prime candidate for a privilege or loyalty card offered by retail vendors, airlines, hospitality companies, banks and other service sectors in the UAE.

These cards linked to customer loyalty programmes, signify a host of rewards and benefits that accompany allegiance to a brand or establishment. Backed by Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, they are also potent marketing tools to track and increase customer spending, retain customers and create a stronger identity among a plethora of brands that are fighting to capture consumer attention.

These cards are extensions of loyalty programmes — some of which have conditions for eligibility and others that don't restrict membership. Some programmes offer discounts while others use a points-based currency to trace usage of the card. These points are often redeemed for products or services.|

Privilege cards can be part of loyalty programmes that are run by a single brand, which only reward spending at that company, or partnered programmes such as Air Miles, which bring together several brands and allow members to earn rewards much faster. "Customers benefit by making their everyday shopping contribute towards getting great rewards, and participating companies benefit by better understanding their customers and by being able to easily reward them for being more loyal," says Dave Battison, CEO, Rewards Management Middle East (Air Miles), a free loyalty programme with a million members.

According to Battison, members earn points by shopping at more than 100 participating companies in the UAE including Spinneys, Damas, Axiom and Lamcy Plaza. "When you have enough points, you can redeem them for a massive range of rewards, from electronics and jewellery to flights and family days out. Members swipe their Air Miles card with every purchase at a participant to get the Air Miles added to their account. You can also earn Air Miles on all purchases on HSBC credit cards, so you can effectively double dip by paying with your HSBC card at participating companies," he says.

The Landmark Group's Centrepoint Privilege Club, which has more than 165,000 customers today, offers its members points for shopping at outlets. The value-added services they offer include exclusive promotions, sneak sale previews, free gift vouchers and lucky draws. Members can earn points at stores such as Babyshop, Shoe Mart, Splash, Home Centre and Lifestyle, and partner stores such as Ecco, Lee Cooper, Bata, Fun City, Retro, Pablosky and Valencia.

Malls that offer privilege cards include Wafi City and the Sharjah City Centre. Partner malls Mercato and Town Centre also offer their customers a privilege card that is linked to the Privilegeplus loyalty programme. The Privilegeplus card offers exclusive discounts at participating restaurants, beauty, retail and entertainment outlets, along with monthly draws. To become a member, a customer has to submit a completed application along with receipts to a total of Dh1,500 for purchases made from either Mercato or Town Centre or both.
Malls and retail outlets aren't the only ones offering loyalty cards. The Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) has also launched its new chip-based loyalty cards. The loyalty application that resides on the chip allows customers to get great rewards based on the RFM (Regency, Frequency and Monetary) principle. This means that ADCB cardholders will now be able to receive instant discounts/free gifts based on how often and how much they spend each time at the participating merchants locations.

People remitting money through the Thomas Cook Al Rostamani Exchange can also avail of the IntroCard. This privilege card gives members worldwide accidental death insurance cover of Dh20,000 in association with Arab Orient Insurance Company, among other benefits.

American Express, which issues credit and charge cards, also has a ‘Membership Rewards' customer loyalty programme that allows card members to gain points on card transactions, and redeem them for great rewards including travel, fine dining, leisure activities, charity and shopping benefits.

Some hotels in the UAE also have loyalty programmes for regular guests. The Dine In by Hyatt loyalty programme offers rewards each time a member dines in participating restaurants such as the Grand Hyatt Dubai, Hyatt Regency Dubai and Park Hyatt Dubai. The Marriott also has a programme called Marriott Rewards.

Some of the oldest and most established loyalty programmes are the frequent flyer schemes offered by airlines either individually or as part of a group. Amercian Airlines was the first to set up a loyalty programme about 25 years ago. Since then numerous airlines have implemented air miles programmes, and have created networks such as Skyteam, Star Alliance and One World Alliance. Emirates and SriLankan Airlines offer customers rewards and benefits through Skywards, which is a frequent flyer programme.

Kashmira Motiwalla, Skywards Manager of Product Development and Marketing, says, "Skywards has cemented a reputation for outstanding performance among the world's top frequent flyer programmes — our enthusiastic member feedback and industry awards are testament to the quality of Skywards. We provide members benefits unrivalled by most other programmes including no blackout dates and access to miles accrual on all fares — even if they are discounted. In addition, members can benefit from not only travel benefits but also lifestyle rewards with the growing list of redemption partners in Dubai and abroad."