Airline Frequent Flyer Miles, 30 Years Later

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The popularity and pervasiveness of airline programs has given rise to a profusion of loyalty-type marketing programs in other areas of business, many of which go so far as to use miles as their earning-and-burning currency, even though there's nothing remotely distance-related being measured or rewarded.

According to the latest loyalty census conducted by COLLOQUY, a marketing research and consulting company, the number of U.S. loyalty-program memberships more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, from 973 million to 2.09 billion.

Today, COLLOQUY estimates the value of loyalty points issued across all consumer programs at $48 billion, about $622 per household, with the average household enrolled in more than 18 programs and actively participating in 8.4.

Thirty years ago, as American's marketing mavens prepared to take AAdvantage public, they could scarcely have imagined how many consumers would be touched -- directly and indirectly, for better and for worse -- by their brainchild.

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