Loyalty programs have been around for as long as most of us can remember, but they have enjoyed something of a renaissance in the modern world.
One of the most familiar places that one can take advantage of a loyalty program is at one’s favourite coffee shop chain, where you are often giving a card that requires a certain number of stamps, one per drink, which when full will gift the holder a free beverage.
It’s always nice to get something for nothing, especially when it is something you would’ve spent money on anyway, and that’s why these loyalty programs are so popular.
However, there is another popular modern industry in which loyalty programs are frequently offered, and that is the online casino industry.
Many sites offer loyalty, VIP, or rewards programs (also often referred to as schemes, but less often due to the connotations of the word, one assumes) which offer increasing bonuses and treats as a player spends more and more money at an online casino.
These programs can see a player pick up a variety of rewards, from bonus funds, to cashback, to tickets to event, and much more.
At first, these programs can seem complicated, but all online casino loyalty programs tend to (with very few exceptions) follow a similar set of rules. Once you understand these, it becomes much easier to understand how each one operates.
Usually, a loyalty program will have several stages, the average is five. The most popular terms for these stages (although they do vary substantially between casinos) are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond, so we will use these terms for this example.
You will start at Bronze level, and the more games you play, and the more money you wager, the higher up the stages you will climb. Bronze players will usually receive a small selection of rewards, perhaps a small cashback bonus on all losses, a certain amount of free spins on select slots every month, or perhaps a deposit bonus per week.
As you move up to the Silver stage, the bonuses will normally stay similar in terms of what is offered, but the amount will rise, so if you were offered 5% cashback on losses at Bronze level, this may rise to 10%, for example, at the Silver level.
As you rise up to the Platinum and Diamond levels, you may find that not only do the amounts offered from the bonuses rise substantially, you will also be granted other, more exciting rewards.
Most online casinos will offer a personal account manager at the highest level, which is a person (or persons) who is dedicated to serving you, and will normally be regularly available for you to talk to, if not 24/7 in some cases.
Along with this one-on-one service, other rewards available at Platinum and Diamond level can include:
Free or Discounted Hotel Rooms
Free or Discounted Meals and Drinks
Free or Discounted Shows
Higher Table Limits
Higher Deposit Limits
Invites to Exclusive High Roller Events and Tournaments
Luxury Gifts and Holidays
Obviously, you have to spend a lot of money at an online casino in order to find your way up to the higher echelons of a loyalty program, but if you are something of a high roller and want to know how you can get involved with such a program, it is normally very simple.
There are several ways that online casinos allow access to their loyalty programs. One of the most popular, however, involves you not having to do anything at all.
Often, signing up to a casino and making your first real money wager will automatically put you at the lowest level of a loyalty program (the Bronze level if we continue our earlier example).
At other sites will necessitate that you contact the online customer service and request one, or you will be offered one (often several times) by live chat workers while you are at the casino.
Other VIP programs don’t offer lower levels. These are exclusively for high rollers, and although in some cases you can request to join up, you will often have to be invited, something that will tend to happen after you have made a few big money bets and made it clear to the casino that you are something of a high roller.
Loyalty programs should always be free, if you are offered a loyalty program that is not, it is worth putting some research into the casino that you are playing at, because it may not be as trustworthy as you first assumed.
In almost all cases, in order to work your way up through the levels of a loyalty program at any online casino, you will need to collect points. These points won’t only cause you to rise up through the levels, they can also often be exchanged for gifts or bonuses.
This sounds simple enough, and in essence it is, you simply play your favourite games like you normally would, and you will earn points while you do so.
However, it is often slightly more complicated than that, because you may find that certain games give less points than others at online casinos. If you are happy to just play your favourite games, and treat the collection of points as a secondary perk, then you don’t have to worry about this. But, if you are looking to make quick progress up to the Diamond level (again, sticking with our example) then it is definitely worth checking out what games will help you do that in the fastest time.
The main thing to be aware of here, is that casinos handicap the conversion rate, meaning the games with the worst odds at an online casino, will be those which offer you the highest conversion rate on your money into loyalty points.
This means that slot games almost always have the highest conversion rate into points. Something that will not bother a lot of casinos players due to the ever-increasing popularity of video slots.
However, the odds being the worst at a casino, means that if you are betting big amounts, you may find that you make substantial losses which cannot always be made up for by the bonuses available at Diamond level.
On the other side, Blackjack often has some of the best odds at an online casino, so the casino in question will tend to tip the odds in their favour by offering a (often substantially) lower conversion rate.
This could mean that you would have to bet £2 on blackjack to gain the equivalent number of points as you would by wagering £1 on slots, or it may mean, depending on the casino, that the ratio is closer to £10 on blackjack for every £1 on slots.
Collection points is often a slow process, predominantly because there will usually be limits on everything. Obviously, a certain amount of points is necessary to make the move from Bronze to Silver levels, and then from Silver to Gold, and so on, but it doesn’t stop there.
You will also often have to earn a certain amount of points to unlock the rewards available on each level, i.e. if you have gained yourself 20 points by playing your first game at an online casino you have just signed up at, and have just joined the loyalty program for, you are unlikely to be given a cashback bonus on losses you have accrued, instead there will be a minimum amount of points you have to gain, 500, for example, before the casino will give you cashback on your losses.
It is always worth taking the time to read the small print and details of any loyalty program, and one should never consider the offer of cashback as security on losses they cannot afford to take.
When it comes to gaining points quickly, it becomes a matter of preference. If you want to gain your points quickly, and you are in a position to make some losses (possibly some large ones) along the way, then playing slots is the right choice for you, because you will gain your points at a higher pace and work your way up to Diamond level in the swiftest possible manner.
However, say that you do not want to risk such losses, and say you have a skill when it comes to poker, for example. If you are substantially more likely to win at poker than you are at slots, then you may decide that collecting your points slower, but without making losses as considerable as those you could make on slots, then it is probably in your best interest to take the time to play the games you know, as opposed to essentially buying your way up the stages.
There is no right or wrong way to do this, and obviously all gambling comes with a risk of losses and a chance of wins, so it is not to say that you won’t lose money on poker or win money on slots as you collect your points.
But, it is worth taking the time to figure out the type of player you are, and how much you are willing to risk in order to work your way up the levels and get to those big prizes at the top.
It may sound like a confusing world, and to an extent it is, but once you have a sense of how a particular loyalty program works, you can then decide how best to take advantage of the opportunities it has to offer.