This kind of incentive plan is becoming increasingly common in the hyper-competitive long distance industry, as companies try to maintain their customer base. Sprint and MCI WorldCom already have plans in which customers can earn airline frequent flier miles by placing calls, or simply earn credit against their phone bills.
But the "points" model--in which a Web surfer can earn points for patronizing advertisers, and can then spend those points on products or gift certificates--is also popular online, as portals like Yahoo and Excite@Home add it to their list of services.
Sprint has been a major advertiser on MyPoints for some time, and provides calling cards as rewards for the site's members. But this agreement--in which Sprint will pay more than $5 million for exclusive access to MyPoints' 4.2 million members--marks a substantial expansion of the relationship.
"This is a very important partner," said MyPoints spokesman Geoff Ossias. "We've never done an exclusive relationship before. Long distance is an extremely important part of the direct marketing sector."
Under the agreement, Sprint subscribers will gain 1000 "points" for signing up through the MyPoints agreement. That's enough to cash out for a $10 gift certificate at selected retailers, the company says.
Sprint, the No. 3 long distance provider, agreed to merge with MCI WorldCom in a $129 billion agreement last month.