Read E-Mail, Will Travel

American Airlines announced that it had reached an agreement with e-Rewards to give its AAdvantage members the chance to win bonus miles by receiving and responding to email marketing messages.

The new agreement means that e-Rewards’ 1 million members can earn frequent-flier miles, in addition to rewards from other e-Rewards participants like Blockbuster, Hertz, Compaq and Hilton.

“We are delighted to be part of this unique program,” said Ed French, AAdvantage program president. “e-Rewards represents an exciting new way for our members to earn AAdvantage bonus miles.”

The company began sending emails to select AAdvantage members weeks ago, inviting them to become e-Rewards members to earn bonus miles. Beginning today, members who did not receive an invitation can request one from e-Rewards’ Web site.

Programs like e-Rewards, which gives members discounts from businesses in exchange for reading marketing messages and responding to short surveys, could be a boon to email marketers. The industry has continues its robust growth, with $1.4 billion spent in 2002, according to Jupiter Research, which is owned by the parent company of this site. However, the deluge of spam landing in consumers’ email in-boxes threatens to drown out email marketers’ messages.

Members enrolling in e-Rewards fill out a detailed questionnaire to determine their points of interest and to set the number of marketing emails they are willing to receive each week. The company then matches up the profiles with participating marketers. E-Rewards members can earn up to $1 for each they read and responded to.

e-Rewards claims its by-invitation-only policy ensures an attractive user base of highly educated, affluent consumers.

The world of frequent-flier miles contains a sizeable contingent of enthusiasts devoted to going to bizarre ends to pile up miles, sometime reaching into the millions. Sites such as FlyerTalk.com and FrequentFlier.com chronicle the many ways to gain extra miles from airlines’ rewards programs. In 1999, David Phillips caused a stir by racking up an astounding 1.2 million miles — enough for 31 round-trip tickets to Europe — by purchasing over $3,000 worth of Healthy Choice pudding.

e-Rewards has been a survivor of the online rewards industry, which was much hyped in during the Internet boom. But dot-com era companies like CyberGold and Beenz failed, in part because they sought to reward members with their own online currency. Beenz, for example, rewarded members for doing things like visiting a Web site or shopping online with “beenz” that could be spent at its network of partners. Beenz shut down in 2001, and CyberGold was eventually acquired by MyPoints.

But online rewards programs like e-Rewards and MyPoints live on, relying on gift certificates rather than online currency. Like e-Rewards, MyPoints offers consumers the chance to earn gift certificates by reading email and taking surveys.

The e-Rewards deal is not American Airlines’ first foray into the online rewards sector. In 2000, it signed a deal to make its miles available via AOL Rewards program, which rewarded members for shopping at AOL’s e-commerce sites. That program ended last March.

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