Grab users rail against revised reward system; lament lack of competition

Grab users rail against revised reward system; lament lack of competition

Grab ad
Grab app advertisement at a train station in Singapore on Feb 10, 2016. (File photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: Many users of ride-hailing app Grab have voiced disappointment over the recent changes to its reward system, citing how it has become more difficult to accumulate points and redeem cash rebates.

Grab began notifying its users last Friday (Jul 20) via their mobile phone apps that it had revised its GrabRewards loyalty programme, by modifying the policy for earning and redeeming points. At the same time, however, Grab has lowered the threshold for members to qualify for its Silver, Gold, and Platinum membership tiers.  

Most regular Grab users Channel NewsAsia spoke to criticised the changes, and many acknowledged that there were limited viable alternatives for them to turn to. 

Brandon Wee, a 34-year-old Grab Gold member, told Channel NewsAsia that he used to earn 240 points for each ride from his home to the office. However, last Friday, he noticed that the same ride, which usually costs S$15, earned him only around 60 points.

Revised Grab rides
The revised points exchange rate for Grab rides. (Photo: Grab) 

Following the revision, Gold members who used to earn 16 points for every S$1 spent will earn just 4.5 points now. The point exchange rate before Friday's revision was 16 times across all membership tiers for GrabPay, and eight times across all tiers with cash payment.

"It's an outrage. I use the points to redeem cash rebates that I'll activate for my subsequent rides, but it's so difficult now to collect enough points," said Mr Wee. 

"It just gets harder to benefit from the system. The sad thing is, it's not like I can stop this and turn to Uber," he added. 

Grab's revision of its rewards system came almost four months after it acquired rival Uber's Southeast Asia operations. The deal between Grab and Uber recently came into the spotlight after Singapore's competition watchdog said earlier this month it has resulted in "substantial lessening of competition" in ride-hailing platforms, making it harder for new players to enter the market, and resulted in higher prices. 

Commenting on this, engineer Abdul Razak, who uses Grab to commute daily, told Channel NewsAsia that he believes the company is able to revise its points system with "little impact on its market share" because it is the only "large scale ride-hailing firm" left in Singapore. 

Mr Abdul Razak highlighted that following the recent revision, points needed to redeem a S$5 cash rebate for the subsequent Grab ride has increased for Silver, Gold and Platinum members. 

Previously, Silver, Gold and Platinum members needed 2,100, 2,000 and 1,900 points respectively to redeem the rebate. Regular members needed 2,200 points. 

Following the revision, members across all tiers need 2,220 points to redeem the same rebate. 

Mr Abdul Razak, who is a Platinum member, said: "It defeats the purpose of us paying so much to earn that high tier membership. It's like they no longer care about loyalty, (they) should just do away with the tier system then." 


Despite the cons, some users said that the revisions have been positive in certain aspects, especially in terms of GrabFood and GrabPay in-store purchases.

Revised Grab Pay
The revised points exchange rate for GrabPay merchant purchases. (Photo: Grab) 

Bank officer Celena Tan, who works at Marina One, told Channel NewsAsia that when she uses GrabPay to purchase a bun from a bakery near her office for S$1.50, she now receives eight points for GrabRewards, when she would have received an "insignificant" number of points prior to the revision.  

Revised Grab Food
The revised points exchange rate for GrabFood. (Photo: Grab) 

"(The changes) are useful for people who utilise GrabFood and GrabPay for merchant payments," said the 30-year-old, who also uses Grab rides three to four times weekly. 

She felt that the revised policies have made it easier for users to ascend membership tiers, giving users a low threshold to qualify for Gold or Platinum memberships. 

"Now, becoming a Platinum member is quite an achievable target ... there is a low threshold and it's good," she added. 

Ms Tan, however, acknowledged that the way Grab communicated the revisions in its reward system could have been better, as she only realised the changes after noticing a large decrease in points received after a ride. 

"I think there wasn’t too much publicity, it wasn’t something that people were looking forward to ... more can be done to raise awareness about this," she said. "If it's (Grab's) intention to move towards GrabFood and merchant payments, it's good to let customers know." 

Despite the changes, Ms Tan said that she will continue using Grab. 

"We don't have much of a choice ... the (GrabReward) scheme makes them more attractive. Uber used to have a rewards system, now it's just Grab. And ComfortDelGro has just the app. The rewards scheme is good for people chasing redemption points," she added. 

Source: CNA/am (ra)