For a few extra gigabytes of data - would you agree to allow your cellular company to track every website you visit, web search you conduct, application you use, and even the physical locations you travel to?
And to then use this information to allow marketing partners to target you for postal, email, text message, Internet, and mobile advertising?
If this sounds like a small price to pay for a few more juicy gigabytes - Verizon has a sweet deal for you!
Verizon has recently announced an expansion of the Smart Rewards loyalty program to now allow 5,000 accumulated points to be traded in for an additional 1GB of "MORE Everything" data.
This is not an additional 1GB/mo - but just 1GB you can take advantage of until the end of your billing cycle.
The nice thing about spending accumulated points on data this way is that you can bank up the points and spend them during the months you need them - cashing points in on heavy use months to avoid $15/GB overage charges.
But... Points? How do you get them? Is this actually a good deal?
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Verizon Smart Rewards
When you initially sign up for the Verizon Smart Rewards program, you earn an initial 10,000 points - enough for 2GB of data. You then earn additional points based on how much you spend on your monthly bill, and for things like signing up for paperless billing (500 points/month) or using auto pay.
You even earn 3,000 points for recycling old phones at a Verizon store.
Depending on your monthly usage, most customers will probably be able to earn at least a few thousand points per month, with an initial sizable bonus stash accumulated for signing up for various programs.
You can then redeem your points in a variety of ways - ranging from entering sweepstakes to redeeming towards buying gift cards at a discount. Smart Rewards members are even eligible to participate in live online auctions, and a Verizon daily deals promo.
Since Smart Rewards points do not expire as long as you are a member, even if you could care less about all the shopping promos - over time you can accumulate enough points to cash in for extra gigs any time you need them.
It all sounds pretty harmless. If you don't mind the catch.
The Catch - Verizon Selects
Hidden in the fine print of the Smart Rewards program is the catch:
Participation in Smart Rewards may require enrollment in Verizon Selects, which personalizes marketing customers may receive from Verizon and other companies by using information about customers' use of Verizon products and services including location, web browsing and app usage data.
Verizon is not at all clear about the "may" here - some customers seem forced to participate in Verizon Selects to get rewards, and others are being allowed to opt out after they initially sign up.
Verizon has a cute video that makes Verizon Selects seem to be a great deal that will ensure that you only see advertising more relevant to you.
But Money Magazine warns that signing up for a program like this is "dumb", saying:
"Verizon’s program, while not all that different from many others in the marketplace, stands out because it’s especially invasive, allowing the bots to track members’ locations, web browsing history, and app usage, among other things. What’s more, the program’s rewards, which mainly consist of discounts on merchandise rather than cash back or discounts on, I don’t know, say, … your monthly Verizon bill! seem pretty lame."
The Consumerist site takes a similar stance - pointing out that "there’s no such thing as a free lunch."
Is It Worth It?
If you know what you are getting into - the Rewards / Selects programs can be a reasonable way to accumulate some extra data, potentially saving you some overage charges down the road.
But if you sign up - go into it with your eyes wide open. How much loss of privacy and potential spam is a gigabyte worth to you?