You will find loyalty programs in many industries. Although their history is somewhat controversial, the gambling industry is credited with avoiding the most common scams and tricks that discourage people from joining loyalty or rewards programs.
As with all things, read the fine print. When you consider joining any rewards program, understand the terms and conditions you are accepting.
Casino loyalty programs were first launched by land-based casinos. They are now common among online casinos as well. In some states, like Pennsylvania, casino loyalty programs may have to comply with certain requirements to ensure their fairness and transparency.
Why do casinos offer loyalty rewards programs?
As with any industry where competition gives consumers a fair choice, the gambling industry turns to non-gaming incentives to make themselves more attractive to players.
A rewards program differs from a promotional offer like a signup bonus in several ways. But the loyalty program and the promotional offers all have the same goal: to make playing a casino’s games more fun and worthwhile.
Although some casino rewards programs allow customers to purchase points – the travel and hotelier industries do – the point of the loyalty plan is for customers to earn points toward their next reward levels.
In other words, a loyalty program is not designed to be another service or product you pay for – it is meant to enrich your experience as a customer by increasing the value you receive for your money.
A reward program is an ongoing benefit. A promotional offer may be time-limited and only provides for a limited number of uses.
A loyalty reward program may offer a comprehensive list of benefits with qualifying requirements. Any single promotional offer is limited in its benefit and applicability.
Many loyalty programs include different levels of rewards
Whether you’re collecting frequent flyer miles or frequent stay points, if you have participated in a loyalty program for the travel and accommodation industries you most likely know how accumulating points unlocks new levels of benefits.
Many casino loyalty programs use similar arrangements to reward continued participation.
Some loyalty programs reset reward requirements every month or year. Some programs allow you to “roll over” your points into new reporting periods. You may still face a time limit of 2-3 years before you must earn more points to retain a certain loyalty level status.
The fewest benefits are awarded at the starting level. As you earn more points you unlock new levels of benefits. The best loyalty programs – like the iRush Rewards program in Pennsylvania and New Jersey – lock you into a specific tier for more than 1 month.
Whether the lock-in period lasts 1 month or 1 year, many systems use a rolling period qualification. That means your tier level depends on how many points you have earned “to date” within the rolling period.
The iRush Rewards program uses a 60-day rolling period.
This means you may drop tiers as well as gain tiers quickly.
Most players never wager enough money to qualify for the most elite-level tiers. Don’t look at those tiers as something you have to achieve.
While the casino would appreciate your business they are satisfied with happy, returning customers. You may not have the gaming budget to sustain the amount of play required to qualify for the most exclusive tiers.
How are reward program points earned?
In a nutshell, you must spend money on qualified purchases. Cashing in reward program points won’t earn you new points.
For online casino reward programs, you need to make wagers either by playing games or by making sports wagers.
Your betting activity is tracked by gaming type and you’ll earn reward points at different rates and – sometimes – toward different tiers.
In the iRush program there is an inverse relationship between the amount of risk a player takes on games and how many points the player earns per wager.
In other words, if you only play a game with a theoretical Return To Player (RTP) of 94%, you’ll earn reward points faster than someone who only plays a game with a theoretical RTP of 99%.
Slot game players earn points faster than blackjack players. The higher earn rate for reward points is a slight compensation for the higher risk entailed by playing a game with a low RTP.
Remember that some slot machine games have higher RTPs than others, and a few may approach the theoretical returns of card games like baccarat and blackjack.
Sports bets have their own earn rates. Parlay bets offer the most aggressive point awards, as the more teams you include in your parlay bets the more points you earn per dollar.
A straight bet (single team) earns reward points at a rate of 1 point per $10. A 10-team parlay earns 1 point per dollar wagered.
How are casino loyalty reward points used?
Because each program is different it’s impossible to explain how they all work. But here is an illustrative example using the iRush Rewards program.
Your player account includes a reward program avatar, button, or menu option. You’ll always be able to see if you have been enrolled in a loyalty reward program and what your current status is. There is usually 1 dedicated screen for the player reward program but some programs may use several screens.
Casino members earn two kinds of points: loyalty points and bonus store points.
Think of loyalty points as what you need to qualify for a tier.
Think of bonus store points as what you used to purchase rewards from the iRush Rewards bonus store. Unlike some rewards programs, the iRush Rewards system doesn’t reduce your tier level when you spend points to buy bonus benefits.
Tiers in reward systems are usually easy to understand. However, some systems may only list how many points you must earn after reaching a previous tier, whereas other systems list how many points you need to reach any 1 given tier.
To illustrate, you may see a tier chart that looks like this:
- 100 points to reach 1st tier
- 200 (additional) points to reach 2nd tier
- 300 (additional) points to reach 3rd tier.
In the alternative style you would see a chart that looks like this:
- Tier 1 – 100 points
- Tier 2 – 200 points
- Tier 2 – 600 points
Either way you see it, you’ll need to earn 300 points to achieve Tier 2 status and 600 points to reach Tier 3.
Each tier provides its own unique benefits but members continue to receive the benefits of all lower tiers.
In the iRush Rewards program, bonus store points are used to redeem special offers such as free spins, free games, and/or guaranteed bonus money. Some of the options can only be purchased at higher tier levels.
Unlike the tier-earning points, the bonus store points are deducted from your account each time you redeem them for purchase.
About the iRush Rewards Bonus Bank
Players who earn free game play can “bank” those free bonus dollars until they are ready to wager them. This preserves your bonus rewards.
You can only use “Active Bonus” amounts but may have more bonus value saved in your Bonus Bank. You only need to look at your Bonus Bank balance and choose “Activate”, typing in how much of your earned bonus dollars you want to activate (make available) for game play.
Can players lose reward program status or benefits?
Yes. If the system awards points in error or if a game malfunctions, you may lose points you thought you had earned. The terms and conditions usually reserve all errors in the casino’s favor.
At most you’ll probably only lose a few points due to a malfunction. But in an extreme case you might notice a significant discrepancy in your rewards account. Don’t hesitate to contact customer support to learn why your status or points balances changed.
In most cases players may not realize their points about to expire, resetting their status. Or players may forget that they used bonus points for free play.
Always be courteous and respectful of casino staff. They are just doing their jobs, working to ensure you have a great experience.
Also – and this is very important – take steps to ensure your computer isn’t hacked. If you’re running Windows 10 on the desktop you are protected from the most common threats by the operating system’s built-in “Windows Defender”. Some people install additional security software.
Smart phone users must be more careful. You may want to install a security app to protect your login credentials. And avoid using free Wi-Fi unless you can really verify the network is legitimate.
You are responsible for protecting your account from unauthorized access, and for protecting your login credentials on your phone or computer.
And don’t allow other people to use your gaming accounts.
Do reward programs work the same way for land-based and online accounts?
This varies by casino management company. Let’s say you have a rewards program account for a casino with both a website and a land-based location. It’s your responsibility to know the rules and conditions you agreed to.
Some programs include everything in both land-based and online rewards. Some programs may offer more rewards for online play or land-based play. This may be because they are building up their online clientele. In a small state like New Jersey this may not make much sense, but in larger states where it can take an hour or longer to drive to a casino the online rewards may convince people to start playing.
However, some of the benefits may only be redeemed in person at a land-based facility. Such benefits may include free meals or VIP luxury gifts. If you are in doubt about how a casino’s rewards program works for land-based and online play, ask customer service for clarification. Don’t guess or make assumptions.
How do players achieve VIP or elite status in rewards programs?
You may see that the highest tiers are reserved or “by invitation only”. It is natural to wonder how to reach those tiers in the rewards programs.
Honestly, industry insiders say these tiers are intended for the “whales”, the people who deposit large sums of money with casinos. They are the big spenders – who also tend to be the big losers.
Whales can sometimes win. They play the same games as everyone else. They happen to make much larger wagers so the volatility in their games is much higher than in most casino games.
Reward programs at this level are carefully monitored by management. The average player will never make enough $500 wagers to qualify for these tiers. It’s not a goal worth pursuing for most people.
The goal of every casino is to build its business. They do this by bringing in more players, earning more deposits, and stimulating more game play.
Loyalty reward programs give players something beyond the chance of a next win to play for. They are like micro-rebates that add up over time. In a way, a loyalty rewards club membership acts a lot like your own personal progressive jackpot.
The way progressive jackpots work is they deduct small amounts from each wager made on a game. Over time they are awarded randomly. The best progressive jackpots are the bigger prizes.
The difference between joining a rewards program and playing progressive games is that you know with the rewards program you’ll achieve higher tiers and be able to claim more benefits as you make more wagers. You don’t even have to lose to claim your benefits.
If you had to choose between joining a rewards program and playing only progressive games, you’d have to decide if you’re willing to settle for guaranteed smaller returns. In other words, the rewards program takes some of the sting out of losing and some of the risk out of gambling.