Everyone’s familiar with those credit cards that give you frequent flyer miles when you make purchases, but there’s also a burgeoning market for apps that are eager to reward you for just about anything — if you’re willing to let them monitor your location 24/7. Miles is the latest such app offering points for a variety of travel methods, and it’s currently available just for iOS.
In exchange for enabling location services around the clock for the app, it will divvy out points for all methods of travel, even your feet or a bicycle. In fact, Miles gives you more points if you use more environmentally friendly transportation, like taking the bus to work instead of driving by yourself. The app has also partnered with Lyft and Uber to integrate your shared rides.
You may ask yourself, “How can an app possibly monetize people walking or biking around?” Well, the Miles app takes your location history, strips your personally identifiable information, and sells the anonymized data to the companies offering rewards, like Target, Whole Foods, and Starbucks. So if you live near one of those stores, you should start seeing offers for them in your app. Miles’ developer ConnectIQ Labs does not publicize a full list of who it’s selling this data to.
And the more active you are with Miles, the more you get rewarded. Accounts are divided into three tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The baseline Silver tier hands out 100 free points a month, 5,000 points on your 1-year anniversary, and not much else. The Gold tier bumps you up to 200 free points a month and gives you discounted rewards. The Platinum tier gives you 400 free points a month, increases your rewards discount, and gives you early access to rewards.
To get into Miles’ Gold tier, you need to earn between 750 and 1,999 points every month. Platinum requires 2,000 points a month. Basically, the more location data you feed the app, the better your return. Perhaps to get you motivated, the home screen features a Trending Now section where you can see a feed of other users earning and redeeming points, kind of like Venmo but hopefully without its unsettling privacy issues. Another motivator is the constant pop-up reminder to enable 24/7 access to your location data.
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In plain English, ConnectIQ Labs holds all the cards. We also could not find any provision within the app or on the website for actually canceling your Miles account. So if you have second thoughts about all of your location data that they’ve collected, it doesn’t look like you’ll have many options for getting fully removed from the system. There’s also that nagging issue of not knowing who is buying your data, or what the buyers’ own ethical restrictions are, if any.
On the bright side, using the Miles app costs you nothing, so it’s at least worth a look.
- A new travel rewards app called Miles lets you earn points for walking, running, biking, and public transit, in addition to trains and planes. It’s currently only available for iOS.
- The app monetizes low-impact travel by selling anonymized location data to various companies. This app must have location services enabled 24/7 to work. The app maker retains the right to keep your location data indefinitely, and we did not detect a method for canceling your account.