Discovery Vitality have just launched their new version of active rewards. This is an objective look at all the changes – as well as some of the best and worst ways to spend your reward miles.
Follow the Money
Let’s lead with the money – will the new gameboard leave you richer or poorer than you were before. For the majority of people, you will earn more Discovery Miles with the new board. Although there is a small amount of variability, the old game board would usually have a total of around 4245 miles available on the 20 tiles, this gives an average reward of 212.25 (4245/20) Discovery Miles per tile.
The new board will have a lot more variability on the tiles (more about this later) but an engaged Vitality member can expect to have a total of between 7000 and 8000 miles per week across the 20 tiles on the new board.
The following calculations are based on a Black Suite banking client (your amounts may differ depending on which Discovery Bank product you have which is explained later in the article).
My board last week had a total of 7676 which equates to an average of 383.8 Discovery Miles per tile. This leaves me 172 miles better off per tile, which equates to an extra R17.20 per tile picked.
However, previously you could earn four plays by meeting your fitness goal, driving goal, spending goal and a bonus play if you meet all three that week. Sadly, the bonus play now falls away but the math says you are still better off:
212.25 miles x 4 = 849 miles (R84.90) on the old board versus 383.8 miles x 3 = 1151 miles (R115.10) on the new board.
By my calculations, if I had maxed all the possible tile rewards on my new gameboard, my total tile value would have been up to 11195 miles, which averages to 560 miles per tile.
If you were extremely lucky on your tile picks, the maximum miles you could earn on the old board with four picks was around 1600 miles whereas you can earn a maximum of 4500 miles with three picks on the new board (R160 versus R450). Throw in the occasional Rewards Multiplier (allowing you to double your tile’s value) and the maximum increases to 6000 miles (R600).
As a comparison, my best ever week on the old board earned 1560 miles and last week I earned 1800 miles on the new board (photos above).
Shirts for Streakers
There are some additional benefits with the new board. These include the ability to earn a double-your-money Rewards Multiplier (i.e. so if you pick a 1500 miles tile you would earn 3000 miles from that tile) and a ‘sneak peek’ ability to look under a tile to see what’s there before picking it. The sneak peeks are earned by ‘acing a goal’ (e.g. doubling your fitness goal, doubling your spend goal or having a perfect drive week) and you can earn a maximum of three sneak peaks per month.
Other enhancements to the program are special high-quality ‘brag’ shirts for completing 100, 200, 300, etc. consecutive fitness goals (I’ve got a 300 shirt and my eldest daughter reckons it’s my favourite item of clothing) and the ability to bank a ‘rest week’ for every 25 consecutive fitness weeks. The latter is great if you are sick and cannot meet your exercise goal but don’t want to lose your fitness goal streak.
Miles of Tiles
There are now seven special tiles whose value will vary week to week based on various factors. They only appear on your gameboard if their value is above 100 Discovery Miles for that week. For first time users it might seem complicated but it’s easy to understand once you get used to the new system.
There are three partner tiles for groceries, pharmacy and fuel* whose amounts are calculated based on your largest transaction at the relevant partners over the previous week. Qualifying partner spend is converted to miles on a 1:1 Rand to Miles basis with tiles capped at 1500 miles, depending on your Discovery Bank product. For example, if you spend R2,000 on groceries at Pick n Pay this week and you have a Discovery Bank Suite product, you will have a 1500 grocery tile on you gameboard next week.
* I’ve seen some complaining online that “now Discovery want us to fill up with petrol every week.” This is not the case. If you did not fill up last week you get a normal rewards tile rather than a special fuel tile (i.e. so you don’t lose out on anything). I generally fill up once a month and therefore once a month I will have the opportunity to uncover a special fuel tile.
There are three reward tiles based on your previous week’s reward cycle and you have to have met the relevant goal last week to unlock the tile this week. Exercise and spend miles work on last week’s points (1 point = 1 mile up to a maximum of 1500) whilst drive is a rather paltry 250 miles if you met last week’s goal.
The last tile is the Discovery tile based on the number of Discovery product holdings you have. A full house across Discovery Bank, Health, Insure, Invest and Life earns you 750 points (the amount drops to 500 for holdings across four product houses, 350 for three, 250 for two and 200 for one).
Changes to the Spend Goal
Whilst the points earning and rewards thresholds for exercise and drive don’t change, get out your Discovery Card because the major changes are on the spend goal. I queried the rationale behind the change and was told by Discovery Bank that, “The updates to the spend goal are to better align it with the existing exercise and drive goals and simplify the rules.”
Under the old system, there were ‘transaction ranges’ and you earned a certain number of points based on each transaction and where it fell within the range. I think you earned 0.5 points for a R50 transaction, 1 point for a R100 transaction and 2 points for a R1000 transaction. You needed 15 points to meet the goal.
The downside was that it was quite complicated to try to figure out how to achieve your goal and if you made a large purchase like a new big screen TV you only earned a couple of points towards your goal. The upside was that the prudent spender could achieve the goal with lots of small transactions (e.g. with 15 x R100 transactions).
Under the new spend goal, your spend points earned are now directly correlated to your spend and are not capped, with 1 point earned for every R10 worth of spend. Therefore, you don’t have to split up your transactions to achieve your goal. For example, if I buy a bunch of roses for my wife for R50, I earn 5 points and if my wife subsequently lets me buy that big screen TV I’ve been eyeing for R10,000, I’ll earn 1000 points.
With a similar dynamic goal mechanism to exercise and drive, if you achieve your spend goal every week, the points needed will slowly increase like with the exercise goal. My initial spend goal is 375 meaning I have to spend at least R3750 this week to achieve the goal and, as a Black Suite banking client, this will escalate to maximum goal of 750 (i.e. a weekly spend of R7500). Similarly, if you miss your goal, the spend algorithms will dynamically adjust to make your goal more achievable.
The new spend goal requires a consistent weekly spend which may not suit some members spending patterns (for example, at the end of the month when I pay my rates I easily achieve the goal but other weeks may be more difficult). For those that do a few large weekly transactions, the new weekly spend goal will suit their spending habits but others may find that the new goal mechanism is more difficult to consistently achieve.
One very minor gripe is that that points earned are rounded down. For example, if I spend R799.99 I earn 79 rather than 80 points towards the goal.
A factor that does make the new spend goal more difficult is that you can no longer carry over excess spend points towards the following week’s goal. Instead, you need to meet your spend goal every week in order to close the ring – similar to how it works for the exercise and drive ring.
The new spend goal has an impact greater beyond just the tile for members who’ve activated the iPhone reward. One of the best benefits for banking clients (and the reason why I originally opened a Discovery Bank account) is that you can get a free iPhone (the model depends on which banking product you use) and pay if off by achieving your weekly goals over two years.
You need to hit 11 out of 12 exercise, drive and spend goals per month. If you achieve less than 11 goals in the month you have to pay in a certain amount depending on the number of goals achieved and phone you have. The iPhone benefit is amazing (I am on my second one and have not paid a cent towards either phone) but changing the rules whilst the benefit is likely to result in some social media chatter.
More Bank for your Buck
Overall the spend goal is often perceived as the odd one out. There is a clear benefit to both the member and Discovery of doing regular fitness (I am healthier and drastically reduce my risk of developing non-communicable diseases) and driving well (I am less likely to have an accident) but one could argue that spending more money on my credit card only benefits Discovery Bank.
I posed the question as to whether there is a danger that spend goals promote irresponsible spending to Discovery Bank who explained, “With Discovery Bank being a new entrant to the market, the goal here is not to incentivise excessive spending but rather incentivise people to move their existing spend to Discovery Bank. This allows clients to not only accurately track their spend, but make the best use of the Vitality Money Financial Analyser tool that automatically creates budgets, and has the ability to warn you through smart notifications when you are at risk of exceeding your budget.”
However, whilst the overall Discovery banking platform is jam-packed full of nudges and incentives for positive financial behaviour, I think there is still an opportunity to relook at how the weekly spend goal is achieved. This has been at the forefront of my mind during this week’s jogs (aka my ‘deep thinking’ sessions) to earn my fitness goal – and the Discovery can expect a barrage of suggestions in their inbox.
Wait for Wednesday
Another change is the addition of Instant Rewards. For long time Vitality users, these are similar to the old ‘pre-miles’ Active Rewards system where you could pick a weekly reward from a list of vendors (for me it was usually a Vida cappuccino). My advice is to ignore the Instant Rewards and wait for your Wednesday gameboard play.
There is a famous behavioural study (ABSA also turned this into an advert) where a marshmallow is placed in front of a child, and they are told that they can eat the marshmallow now but if they wait a few minutes they will get two marshmallows. The Instant Reward option will appeal to people who are desperate for a caffeine fix as well as those that struggle with delayed gratification and can’t wait for the second marshmallow.
Essentially the Instant Reward allows you to trade a cup of coffee immediately after a goal is achieved instead of waiting for Wednesday morning when the gameboard plays are activated. However, this is a suboptimal way to spend your rewards miles as waiting for your Wednesday tile is usually more valuable.
For example, to spend Discovery Miles on a Vida coffee through Vitality Mall costs 150 miles*. Based on my current level of engagement, my average tile reveal will be around 400 miles. The early bird may gets the worm, but the patient Vitality member gets a second cup of coffee (plus 100 miles change)!
* Depending on which Vida coffee you choose, the 150 miles will get you a beverage of up to R40 value so, whether you choose the Instant Reward or wait for Wednesday, you always win.
The Best Way to Spend your Rewards
If you can avoid the allure of an instant coffee, the best way to spend your stash of Discovery Miles it to wait until 15th of the month and use them on Mile Ð-Day. You can get up to a 20% discount using miles at any of the Discovery partners (which includes major retailers like Makro, Pick n Pay, Game, Loot, Takealot and Sportsmans Warehouse) but on the 15th of each month the discount doubles.
This means that I can buy R1000 worth of beer from Makro and pay for it with just R600 worth of Discovery Miles. My stated lifetime ambition is to secure a beer sponsor – and the Discovery Vitality rewards program is probably as close as I am going to get! My daughters (who get to pick my tiles for me) have done well over the last couple of weeks and my April beers are already paid for!
Giving Discovery a Run for Their Money
According to Dinesh Govender, Discovery Vitality CEO, in 2022 over a million coffees and smoothies were redeemed through the currency of sweat. In addition, a massive 6.6 billion Vitality fitness points were earned and over nine million goals were achieved. On balance, Active Rewards 3.0 is a great enhancement to the Vitality program and I am looking forward to given Discovery a run for their money by earning as many miles as I can!
The author has been a salaried employee of Vitality Global, which is part of the Discovery Group, since September 2021. However, this article is written in his personal capacity. He is a long team fan of the Discovery Vitality program with 383 consecutive fitness goals achieved, and is busy paying off his fourth free Apple Watch and second free iPhone.Follow Running Mann: