“Loyalty” programs at their most basic are simply a way of saying, tangibly, “Thank you for shopping with us”. Like the “bakers’ dozen”, which, if you are a cynic, probably started with a baker who couldn’t count, but was more likely a sale gimmick - buy twelve and get one “free”.
Setting aside discounts at sales time my first encounter with points accumulation, like most of us, came from a frequent flyer program and after crossing the Pacific several times on business we finally managed to get a “free” flight. On another occasion when trying to get a free flight using “points” we discovered that the ONLY 2 business class seats that could be bought on that plane for that flight had been taken the day before ( the first day they were available) and there were no more “free” seats on that plane- due to take off in eleven months’ time!
Since those early days so many points givers have popped up and ALL of them involve spending money before you get points, unless you transfer a huge debt from one bank to another. Even then the money has been spent.The old expression that “there is no such thing as a free lunch” definitely applies when discussing those lovely “points”.* If you are a stickler for the truth and not a cynic to boot it's believed that this phrase originated from the practice of medieval English bakers giving an extra loaf when selling a dozen in order to avoid being penalized for selling short weight.