AIA recently announced some awful changes to the Vitality program, which kick in from 20 July 2020. The long and the short of it is that Vitality members now have to work harder for fewer rewards.
|😱 How is AIA Vitality changing?|
From 20 July 2020, the team challenge will be removed, and the individual challenge points target will be changed from 250 points to 200-400 points, depending on the member.
There is no more guaranteed S$5 voucher upon meeting the target. Instead, members will get one spin of the Vitality Wheel, a game of chance where there’s a 75% probability you’ll receive less than S$5, a 20% probability you’ll receive S$5 and a 5% probability you’ll receive more than S$5.
AIA will also cease to offer cash rebates on Emirates bookings, awarding “Vitality Coins” instead. The rebate will be cut from 50% to 20%, with a maximum base fare cap of S$500, and a maximum of one use per membership year.
Platinum members will no longer receive their S$150 cash bonus, instead receiving 2,000 “Vitality Coins” (worth a S$100 voucher).
For the full details and analysis, read this post
Safe to say, members are none too pleased about the changes, with gnashing of teeth and rage quit threats aplenty. There’s even a petition (rather badly worded but it gets the point across) circulating with more than 1,000 signatories.
Say what you will about online petitions, but the backlash has been sufficient for AIA to issue a statement defending the changes, and offering a pro-rated refund of Vitality memberships.
Here’s a copy of the email that AIA Vitality members received yesterday:
We recently shared with you the new features and revisions that we are bringing onboard to AIA Vitality. In anticipation of the new programme launch on 20 July 2020, we would like to take this opportunity to share with you some highlights of the programme that has benefited members like yourself.
Bringing focus back on enabling healthy living
AIA Vitality was introduced with the purpose of encouraging members to make healthier choices. As the first insurer to put our customers’ health as a focus, we are so proud to have motivated over 150,000 of our members to make significant improvements in 2019 to their health through their clinical reports:
• 51% have improved in their blood pressure
As the programme evolved, while we see improvements in members’ health, we had to make the hard decision to refine the programme. Because over time, AIA Vitality has been strongly perceived as a rewards programme, where we have noted instances where members gamed the system to earn rewards such as the use of a steps shaker and submissions of invalid health reports. These actions have greatly deviated from our original purpose where rewards were meant as a little encouragement to motivate you to get on a healthier lifestyle.
Therefore, to maintain the sustainability and credibility of the programme, we need to get members to prioritise their health. The new features and revisions to AIA Vitality aim to do that with personalised weekly fitness challenges to pace and spur members to go the extra mile, and new rewards structure as sweeteners along the health and wellness journey.
Option to terminate by 31 August 2020
We understand you may want to reconsider your membership given the recent changes. If you choose to terminate, we will offer a one-time pro-rated refund for those on annual membership payment. You may send in a termination request to https://www.aia.com.sg/en/vitality-termination.html by 31 August 2020. All requests will be processed accordingly. There will not be any recovery for benefits and rewards consumed including insurance premium discount that has already been applied.
We would be sorry to see you go but we sincerely hope that you continue to take steps towards staying healthy.
Your health is every choice you make
We hope to seek your understanding on the basis of the recent refinement to the AIA Vitality programme, and we will continue to refresh it annually to encourage the right behaviour and incentivise positive behavourial change towards healthy living.
We remain committed to AIA Vitality and are confident that together, we can support you to live healthier, longer and better lives.
There’s quite a bit to dig into here, so let’s take it point by point.
First of all, let me just say that the overall tone of this email is a lot less grinding than the initial announcement. It’s amazing what a little frankness and honesty can do.
The initial email that AIA sent out should go down in the PR playbook as how not to announce a devaluation. It constantly amazes me how companies think they can dress up bad news with fancy infographics and excited language, and customers will be none the wiser.
The fact is: no one likes to have the wool pulled over their eyes, and AIA’s attempts to paint these changes as positive and done nobly for the welfare of customers just come off as disingenuous.
In contrast, the second email strikes a more subdued tone. “People are abusing the system and we need to act to keep the program sustainable” is more than fair, and I think if they’d led with that then people would be a lot less incensed than they are now.
The problem with AIA’s changes
AIA says they have a problem with gamers, and these changes are meant to address that problem.
See, I agree with this, but only 50%. That’s because there are two factors to consider here: the earn side, and the rewards side.
On the earn side, we all know someone who’s using a step shaker to earn extra points. A simple search on Lazada or Qoo10 will throw up numerous listings, and even if you don’t resort to that, who amongst us hasn’t idly shaken their Fitbit a few extra times before going to bed?
This goes against the spirit of the program, and AIA is entitled to take action. The upcoming changes go some way towards ensuring that people actually get their heart rates up, instead of putting a fitness tracker on the cat. So this, to me, is pretty acceptable.
What’s harder to accept is the changes to the rewards side. AIA has replaced the guaranteed S$5 weekly reward with a “Vitality Wheel”, which members will now spin upon achieving their weekly goal.
AIA likes to portray this as a fun gamification feature, but to do so is to ignore the fact that there’s a 75% chance you’ll be worse off, and your expected payoff is now 30% lower than before.
|5%||Surprise prize with minimum value of S$10 , or at least 200 Vitality Coins|
|20%||100 Vitality Coins|
|15%||80 Vitality coins|
|20%||60 Vitality Coins|
|40%||40 Vitality Coins|
|Expected Payoff= 70 Vitality Coins (S$3.50 worth of vouchers)|
|Green= Better Payoff, Red= Worse Payoff, Plain= Status Quo. Odds based on AIA’s revised T&Cs
This is cost-cutting masquerading as gamification. If the issue is that people are abusing the system by clocking points they shouldn’t have, fine. Adjust the earning mechanism and close the loopholes. Set new targets that are more difficult to game,
But having achieved that target, is it not demotivating that the payoff is now random? Why should someone who has played by the new rules now be rewarded with as little as 40 coins (equivalent to S$2 worth of vouchers)?
The logic just doesn’t flow, and reminds me of a chat I had with Bank of China back when they announced some revised terms and conditions for the BOC Elite Miles Card. In short, they were adding more rewards exclusion categories, and capping the maximum points that card members could transfer in a single transaction.
See, BOC also claimed to have a gamer problem. People were abusing the rewards system by charging psuedo-cash transactions to the card, generating tons of points and cashing out. The new rules, they argued, would make this behaviour harder.
I agreed with what they said…50%. If the problem is gamers, by all means tighten up your earning rules and adjust your system so that such transactions don’t earn points. But how is it fair to penalize everyone by implementing a points transfer cap? This means that card members who legitimately earned their points will also be adversely affected, and it’s really a form of collective punishment.
Refund option for AIA Vitality
AIA is offering disgruntled Vitality members the option to cancel and refund the remainder of their membership. Termination can be done through this online form, and requests must be made by 31 August 2020.
There will be no clawback of any benefits or rewards consumed up to the point of cancellation, including previously-received premium discounts.
Do note that the Terms and Conditions at the bottom of the cancellation form state that there is no refund of membership fees. I’m assuming AIA simply forgot to update this page, as their email states very clearly that a pro-rated refund will be offered.
Should you cancel AIA Vitality?
The answer to this really depends on how much you’re saving on your insurance plans.
An AIA Vitality membership costs $8 a month, or S$96 a year. Each member starts with a 5% base discount off their premium (plus a first year only additional 5% discount), which is adjusted up or down by 1-2% each year depending on Vitality status.
A maximum discount of 15% (and minimum discount of 0%) can be attained, meaning that even ignoring the vouchers, you could still end up better off.
You’ll have to do the math and see if the savings on your particular AIA plan justify the cost of Vitality (and also, whether you could find similar coverage for less through other insurance carriers).
AIA is offering Vitality members the opportunity to cancel and refund their memberships, which I believe is the right move, given how the value proposition has been nerfed big time.
While I’m fully on board with the idea that earning rules have to be tightened to block gamers, I think the random rewards system unfairly penalizes members who have worked hard for their reward. It’s of course AIA’s prerogative to make that change to preserve the economics of the Vitality program, just as much as it’s the customer’s prerogative not to continue their memberships.
Will you be keeping your AIA Vitality membership?