American Express’ VP of partnerships & brand on how the business builds long-term loyalty

Heather Laverne, vice-president, partnerships & brand at American Express, on why it’s important to reward card holders with flexible offers.

Heather Laverne, vice-president, partnerships & brand, American Express
Heather Laverne, vice-president, partnerships & brand, American Express

What are the key objectives for the American Express Membership Rewards programme?

A key business aim of the programme is to increase customer engagement and loyalty with the American Express brand and their chosen card.

We know from our own research that Membership Rewards is a key reason why many customers carry one of our charge cards – it is seen as a point of difference. The scheme is special in terms of the flexibility it offers cardmembers – there are hundreds of rewards options across travel, retail and lifestyle, and  points never expire.

Which partners do you work with?

American Express works with more than 80 partners and brands in the UK in order to offer cardmembers as much choice and variety as possible. These include travel, shopping (luxury and high street), dining, retail, fashion, entertainment and charity partners. Also included are loyalty scheme partners, such as airlines (frequent flyer programmes) and hotels (frequent guest programmes).

Why is it effective for American Express to offer rewards outside the travel space?

We recognise the importance of offering our cardmembers flexibility. Although travel is a very important element in the Membership Rewards programme, it is vital that we offer a selection of partners across other categories so that cardmembers have choice and flexibility in redeeming their points.

How successful is the rewards scheme and which partner offers prove most popular?

The programme is over 20 years old but we continue to develop and enhance it by regularly adding new partners and redemption options, such as ‘pay with points’ traditional gift cards, merchandise and points transfer partners. In addition to the choice and flexibility it offers cardmembers, another reason for its longevity is that it is simple and straightforward for customers to understand.

Some of our most popular redemption options include airline points transfers, merchandise and shopping with points online.

How do you make sure these rewards and offers are relevant to the target audience?

Customer segmentation is important. We market the programme in digital channels and send targeted communications to inform cardmembers of new partners and rewards options relevant to them.

Hide Comments1 Show Comment
  • Gareth Abel 18 Apr 2016 at 11:46 am

    With all due respect to Heather, if her equivalent at HSBC or Barclays had been interviewed about their own Rewards / Loyalty programmes I wonder how different the answers would have been ? Doesn’t mean that AMEX shouldn’t do this (of course they should – they have commercial objectives to achieve after all). I can’t spot a unique differentiator here.

  • Post a comment

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here