What's Missing From Telstra's New Rewards Program

Image: Getty

After first announcing it last month Telstra has now officially launching its new rewards program - Telstra Plus.

From today members can start earning points that can be redeemed for for tech products down the track.

This is a first for Australian telcos, which is exciting. But it still needs some work.

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Membership is open to any Telstra customer, regardless of what their service is. From mobile to broadband and everything in between - if it comes with a Telstra bill, it counts. You do need to opt in, though. If you forget you can't try to claim missing points later.

Members earn 10 points for every $1 of eligible spend that's attached to their monthly Telstra account and/or pre-paid recharges.

There will also periodically be chances for members to earn bonus points, like when they add a new service to their account. Keeping with that theme, Telstra is currently running an introductory offer where you can earn a minimum of 1,000 bonus points (and up to 10,000) for signing up, depending on your spend.

Once you have a certain amount of points you'll be able to redeem them through the Telstra Plus online rewards store, which will be going live in July. It's unclear how many products will be available and what the ratio will be between points and points + cash redemption, but we do have a few examples of what will be on offer:

Image: Telstra

Considering that the Telstra TV3 is $219 to buy outright, it's a little tough to justify the additional 40,000 points required for redemption. That's $4,000 worth of spend in Telstra services to save $104 - if there are no bonus points in play.

Similarly, the Netgear Nighthawk M2 has an RRP of $384. To redeem through the Telstra Plus store you need to spend 15,000 points + $215. That equates to $1,500 of spend on Telstra services for only $169 knocked off. Again, it may work out slightly better if you have earned bonus points.

At least you won't need to lay down any cash for a Google Home Mini. But you will need $1,400 worth of points.

Some of these products are going to require a lot of point saving for something you still need to lay down a chunk of cash for. This will be be more plausible for some customers than others. Families with multiple phone plans and broadband through Telstra may find that racking them up won't be as difficult. But it's likely to be tough going on smaller households who don't have a slew of Telstra services under their belts. They may need to save for months or even years.

Singles in particular may find it hard to earn enough points to redeem something in a timely fashion.

To be fair, it's not like the program costs anything. If you're paying a bill anyway and can also passively earn points to get some discounts, that's great. And Telstra is the first Australian telco to even attempt a rewards system like this.

And the program doesn't just stop at point collection. It also has a member tier component that is based upon your previous 12 month's spend with the telco. The free tiers are called Member, Silver and Gold (no Bronze for some reason) and get you the following:

  • Members ($0 - $1,499 annual spend) - Have access to discounted movie and sport tickets, exclusive pre-sale tickets and money can’t buy experiences across a variety of sport and entertainment.
  • Silver ($1,500 - $2,999 annual spend) - Will receive a one-off Telstra Platinum tech support call per year and a TTVBO credit for $75 (to be activated before 31 July 2019) – the equivalent of 12 SD new release movies, and a one month Kayo Basic subscription.
  • Gold ($3000+ annual spend) - Will receive 24x7 tech support over the phone and online through Telstra Platinum valued at $120 per year. Gold members will also receive a TTVBO credit to the amount of $110 (to be activated before 31 July 2019), which is the equivalent of 18 SD new release movies, and a three month Kayo Basic subscription.

Considering that membership is free, it's fun to get bonuses for continuing to pay for something. Discounted tickets are great and this makes it feel like a continuation of the Telstra Thanks program, which will be phased out and replaced by Telstra Plus.

But to be really compelling for customers, Telstra Plus should include consistent points-based benefits for higher tier members. For example, with Qantas' Frequent Flyer program you earn 25% more points for being a silver member, 50% more for gold and 100% more for platinum.

While something that extreme may not be viable at the present time for Telstra, some extra points outside of the occasional bonuses for high tier members would certainly be a good way to attract new customers and encourage multi-service purchase.

Additionally, anyone familiar with airline-based rewards programs will know that the best way to use your points are through services (upgrades, flights, etc) as opposed to physical products. In Telstra's case, service-based redemptions aren't solidly on the table, and that's a shame.

While there has been some talk of handset discounts, there are no hard details on that as yet.

It would be amazing to see Telstra open up the redemption possibilities to include services in the future. Being able to spend your points on things like international roaming would bean extremely attractive benefit.

And perhaps this is something that is on the cards for a later date. After all, only so much can be expected while rolling out a new national rewards program.

But it's definitely something that would transform Telstra Plus from something that is nice to have for free to a program that people would seriously considering abandoning other telcos for.

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