Avoid loyalty cards. Avoid frequent flyer programs. Avoid any type of loyalty scheme, store cards or points systems. Why? Because they lock you in and take away your ability to choose the best option in the current situation.

An example. This morning I had a couple of hours to burn before I met with a friend. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out and my walk into town was an absolute joy. My plan was to while away the time reading a book, and I really wanted to do so in a coffee shop where the sun was blazing in. Instead I chose to go to a coffee shop where I had accumulated enough stamps on their loyalty card to get a free coffee. It was a nice, and I enjoyed my coffee, but it wasn’t where I really wanted to be. It wasn’t in the warmth of the sun.

My ability to choose the best option in the moment was affected by my loyalty to a particular chain, and the lure of a free coffee. Of course, it wasn’t a free coffee. I had to buy nine before that to qualify for it.

Another example. I recently bought a flight home to Australia. I’ve flown with Singapore Airlines on my previous two trips and so, against my better judgement, I signed up for their frequent flyer program. While I was shopping for this most recent flight, another airline was consistently coming out cheaper. But because I wanted to accrue miles I chose Singapore.

Loyalty (lock-in) strikes again.

The lesson here is to keep your options open. Choose freedom over loyalty. The benefits you gain, the money you save, when you’re free to choose what you really want will far outweigh any reward you get from any corporate devised loyalty scheme.

This reminds me of Choose Opportunity, not Loyalty, rule 4 in Derek Sivers’ How to Thrive in an Unknowable World:

Have no loyalty to location, corporation, or your past public statements.

Be an absolute opportunist, doing whatever is best for the future in the current situation, unbound by the past.

Have loyalty for only your most important human relationships.