Online news: loyalty programs
Loyalty programs aren’t a new concept—people were collecting S&H Green Stamps in the United States as far back as the 1930s and trading them in for premiums featured in the Green Stamps catalog.1 But now things are done a little differently. Instead of stamps, you’re given a loyalty card that is swiped or stamped each time you make an applicable purchase at a participating retailer. The point collection rules and regulations vary, but the idea is the same: you get a specific number of points with each dollar you spend, and when you reach a certain point level you can redeem them for whatever rewards the loyalty program offers. Sometimes it’s merchandise, sometimes it’s a dollar amount you can put towards future purchases, and sometimes it’s travel miles with participating airlines. Other programs give you a discount upon purchase instead of requiring you to store up points.
The aim is simple: to reward your loyalty and give you a reason to keep coming back. Grocery stores, coffee shops, gas stations, book stores, banks, airlines, hotel chains—many large retailers and service providers now have loyalty programs designed to attract business and reward return customers. Even small mom and pop shops often have “buy 10, get one free” type programs to keep and attract a loyal following.
It is definitely possible to save money using loyalty programs, particularly if you’re a savvy consumer who keeps an eye on special deals and bonus offers, but be cautious about getting lured into purchasing things you don’t actually want or need just to rack up bonus points and reach your next reward level faster. The good news is that most loyalty programs are free to join, aren’t linked to a credit card and often have no expiry date, so you don’t have to rush to collect points in order to redeem them by a certain date. But of course it’s always best to double check the terms and conditions of any loyalty programs in which you’re enrolled so you don’t miss out on point redemption deadlines or special offers.
Of course, one of the concerns with being enrolled in a number of loyalty programs is keeping track of your points. Some programs make it simple by showing the number of points you’ve earned on the cash register tape upon check out. You can also often log in to a secure area on reward program websites to check your point balance and find out how close you are to the next big reward level. Some programs even send you a monthly statement.
But to make it even simpler, there are point tracker websites and smartphone apps to help you manage the various rewards points you’re earning. According to a study by Colloquy, a trade magazine serving the loyalty industry, the average U.S. household belongs to 14 loyalty programs, but actively pays attention to only six.2 Award Wallet, Mileport, and Points are three of the more well-known, free point tracker websites.
The benefit of using point tracker websites is that you only have to enter all the login information for each of the loyalty programs in which you’re enrolled once. After that, you simply log in to the point tracker website and it will automatically gather the point balance information on all your loyalty programs for you. Simple as that.
This may make sense if you’re enrolled in too many loyalty programs to keep track of in any other way, but remember that it does mean you have to provide the IDs and passwords for each of your loyalty programs. Of course point tracker websites do usually say that they take plenty of security precautions, but it’s something to consider.
If you only belong to a small handful of loyalty programs, it can be easy to track your accumulating points yourself. Set a date each month to check your loyalty program websites and write down the number of points you’ve earned to date, making sure to double check the reward levels and any possible expiration dates.
Make the most of your loyalty programs by knowing the redemption rules and regulations, checking your points regularly, and being a savvy shopper.
411126E CAN/US (04/15)