Earn Travel Points By Watching Ads

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Until recently, consumers had to spend money to earn airline miles, but some new online alternatives have made it possible to earn travel points by spending time instead.

E-miles.com, a website that launched in 2006, gives users the opportunity to earn points towards major airlines and hotels in exchange for watching 30-second advertising clips and providing some brief feedback afterwards. All the user has to do is register an account and provide basic information about herself (name, email and zip code), though no information as sensitive as a physical address or phone number. E-miles then uses this information to help companies like Disney and Nordstrom pick out their target demographic and test specific ads.

In essence, the site functions as a kind of virtual focus group, where the payoff is complimentary travel rather than cash.

“Airline miles and travel points are a particularly good motivator for consumers,” said Mark Drusch, president of e-miles.com and a former executive at Delta, emphasizing that the site is first and foremost a marketing tool. “This is a way for us to communicate to a company that someone saw their ad and responded to it.”

But even if the focus is on helping marketers, the site claims to be a good tool for consumers as well.

The site partners with several big name travel companies including airlines like Delta, AirTran and Continental and hotel chains like the Hilton so that consumers have the option to earn miles for an airline or points towards a free night’s stay at a hotel.

After each 30-second video, the user is prompted to answer four questions, many of which require just one-word answers. For their trouble, advertisers generally reward consumers with five airline miles (or hotel points) for each video and the questions that go with it. So users could potentially earn 100 airline miles by watching 20 ads and answering the corresponding questions, a process that would likely take 10-15 minutes.

To sweeten the deal, the site also offers up to 275 airline miles to users just for creating an account, meaning one could earn nearly 400 miles in the first half hour on the site.

It’s a novel idea but needless to say, the service has a few drawbacks. For starters, users are only able to select one airline or hotel to earn rewards for, and can only change their selection if they move to a different location or the travel company eliminates service in their area, as this would effectively render the rewards points useless.

The bigger issue though is simply the matter of privacy, as users are effectively trading personal information about themselves and their interests to retailers in exchange for a few rewards points.

While e-miles.com is careful to only ask users for a limited amount of information, just handing over one’s name, zip code and email address could potentially be enough for some retailers to find out more, perhaps through a social network or, as it happened recently, by inputting the information into the databases of other retailers where the customer has shopped.  To be fair though, even if this happened, the worst case scenario is just that the user might be spammed with promotions to his personal email or home address.

Perhaps the most obvious complaint is simply that one would have to watch dozens of videos and answer countless questions to earn enough points to pay for a trip out of state, let alone out of the country. By comparison, credit cards like Visa and Mastercard will give customers enough miles to fly around the world twice for every $1,500 they spend.

It’s probably not worth replacing your credit card rewards program with offers from sites like e-miles.com, but this service still has great potential for consumers to supplement those rewards programs and earn even more points.

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the BankingMyWay.com Credit Center.

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