CitiBank‘s introduction of the ThankYou Point Sharing App has proven to be a unique venture into the social media world for this personal finance stalwart.
By allowing its customers to share through Facebook their rewards credit card points to meet personal or group goals, it’s become another example of how social networking has changed a lot about how we manage our daily lives–from adjustments in the way we communicate, to how we share opportunities to save money.
But as is the case with anything shared over the internet, there are benefits and drawbacks, along with some very serious dangers to consider. Identity theft can make signing up for a shared rewards program a potentially risky proposition. Should it remain an individual benefit or become a group effort?
ThankYou Point Sharing App Offers Group Benefits
In early January, Citibank launched its Facebook app to customers interested in taking a different approach to credit card rewards–think of it as the virtual version of the company’s series of ThankYou credit cards. Instead of cashing in on points individually, they can now team up and use their points to meet group goals.
In an MSN Money article, Ralph Andretta, head of Citi’s loyalty programs and co-branded cards, explained that the new app would give customers the opportunity to help a friend fly home from college, or even team up for a big-ticket reward, offering greater flexibility for joint users.
Here are a few basics of the app:
- It allows for transfer of reward points to another ThankYou member.
- There is no fee to use the Transfer Points feature.
- There is no minimum number of points required to participate in the program.
- Pool recipients must be individuals and cannot be an organization, even if the goal is to use the points for a charitable donation.
- Points expire 90 days after being transferred into a pooled account.
The ThankYou Point Sharing app builds on a service Citi introduced last year, allowing customers to transfer points to each other on the bank’s homepage. After receiving positive feedback, company executives decided to expand the rewards sharing capability by offering it through social media.
Individuals who are interested in signing up for the new rewards option can visit the Citibank US Facebook page. The page features a short description of the program along with a “Get Started” button that opens to a similar page.
After signing up for a “ThankYou Account,” members are able to set up a rewards pool by naming a recipient and explaining its purpose. To lure customers to sign up for the app, Citibank gave away 2,500 free rewards points to each of the first 4,000 people to join.
ThankYou Point Sharing App Risks May Outweigh Rewards
The opportunity to pool credit card rewards though the app is the first offered from any bank, available to both Citi credit card users and checking account holders.
But while it may present exciting options for users, experts recommend that customers proceed with caution.
One threat that could come with the sharing program is loss of points. Because naming a recipient–and giving that recipient control of any contributions once points have been pooled–is a requirement of the app, you run the risk of losing your points if the recipient decides to spend them without your approval.
Another issue is that the app is able to collect personal information from Facebook profiles. While Citi has said that it doesn’t share any customer account information with Facebook, one has to wonder why and how the bank pulls its customers’ personal data.
However, one of the largest ThankYou Point Sharing App risks is identity theft. As we all know, hackers do an amazing job of tapping into personal accounts and stealing information (and money).
The threat with sharing something as personal as your own rewards points with a group is that any member’s Facebook account could be hacked, threatening not only the points in the pool, but the personal information of all members in the group.
Caution When You Click
So before signing up for the app and adding others to share points, consider using a Facebook page that shares as little of your personal information as possible. Also, don’t participate in pool sharing with a person you don’t trust.
And if you don’t have an overall good feeling about sharing your points with others, you may be better suited to use credit card rewards individually.