How do I use the word 'redeem'?
January 26, 2013 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I am writing copy for a loyalty program that has the usual 'earn points and redeem them for rewards' message. However, I'm getting confused about how to use the word redeem. Is it better/right to say 'redeem points for products such as laptops', or redeem points on products such as laptops' or 'redeem points against products such as laptops'? I am also considering suggesting we use the word 'spend' instead. It's a simpler and older word, and less tricksy to use. Would that be better? Any thoughts?
posted by Summer to Writing & Language (15 answers total)
If you want to go with redeem, I would use it with for. Regardless of whether or not it's textbook correct, it's the phrase used the most often and is probably least likely to trip the heywaitaminute switch.

That said, I like the simplicity of spend or use.

"Use your points to buy laptops!" "Spend your points on laptops!" etc.
posted by phunniemee at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2013

Whenever I'm not sure about usage and don't care if there's some prescriptivist grammar rule I might be contravening by choosing one over the other, I just type both phrases into Google (enclosed by quotation marks) and use whichever phase has more hits. In this case, "redeem for" wins.

On preview, rewriting for simplicity wins every time.
posted by hhc5 at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Redeem points for products...
posted by zagyzebra at 1:22 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

For. "Against" is confusing, and "on" just seems unidiomatic.

Agree that "use" is even simpler, and also easier to follow for ESL readers.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2013

Do they have guidelines at your job for this kind of thing? I could see problems with some of those from a consumer protection perspective, depending on where you are. We once were contacted by a federal consumer protection bureau at my job because the photo in an ad made an implication about the use of the product that was not possible under the terms of the agreement. The company had to pull millions of flyers and campaign materials in addition to honoring customers who got the wrong impression from the existing materials, so I get twitchy about things like that now.

Barring that, why not use 'toward'? I hve seen that before, too, and it doesn't have as heavy an implication that the points will wholly cover any one product.
posted by winna at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2013

I agree that "for" is the best use here.

However, the use of the word "redeem" is a difficulty itself, as really the core meaning is more that of "buy back", and your usage is an innovation. A word like "spend" is more immediate and simple, but there is also the worry that (I'm sure your client has) that there shouldn't any insinuation that points are cash or have cash value or cash use. Maybe "exchange" or "trade" would work well? Or if the market for these is from a younger or lower socio-economic group, "swap" might even be possible.
posted by Jehan at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I will use 'redeem for' for now, but I will recommend 'spend'. Use is not an option unfortunately.
posted by Summer at 1:42 PM on January 26, 2013

Response by poster: Jehan - I've used swap in the past but it feels slightly, er, unofficial, and the audience is global, older and professional.

And you're right, the client has misgivings about spend for the reasons you stated. I still might try and push it though. Redeem is just to Norman French for me. I keep thinking of Barons coming to reclaim their land and gold.
posted by Summer at 1:56 PM on January 26, 2013

Jehan,"redeem points for rewards" is an "innovation" that happened more than 60 years ago (in the US at least) with trading stamps. The places where you would go to get cheap blenders with your S&H Green Stamps, for example, were called "Redemption Centers".
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:24 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's "for." Just replace the phrase "redeem points" for another medium of exchange: "use money."
posted by rhizome at 3:06 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't like the word "spend". It makes it sound like I'm spending money. A lot of people like to collect points so they can give themselves "free" gifts. That's also how a lot of them are touted. (Otherwise, why would I trade 20,000 points for a $75 speaker set, when I can get $200 cash for it? But that's how some places have it set up.)

And it's definitely "redeem for". (I have lots of point based reward cards.)

Also: turns up the most (salient) results.

My opinion is based off of American English. It may be different elsewhere.
posted by ethidda at 3:22 PM on January 26, 2013

I would be very put off by the words spend or buy because I would assume I'm expected to put in some money. Even reading you all talking about it here makes me itch, I would never use your scheme with those words included.

You redeem points for goods, that's the standard usage of that term and the standard term for this situation. Anything else is a complication.
posted by shelleycat at 1:40 AM on January 27, 2013

(I speak a variant of British English by the way)
posted by shelleycat at 1:40 AM on January 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the great feedback - it's helped me clarify a lot of things.
posted by Summer at 2:19 AM on January 27, 2013

One more against spend. And for 'redeem toward' - for just the reason winna said, it implies the points cover part but not necessarily all of the cost.
posted by attercoppe at 11:44 AM on January 27, 2013

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