Rewarding Yourself with Rewards Programs
By Yolander Prinzel
Rewards programs and loyalty incentives are not the exclusive domain of credit card companies. Many retail establishments are realizing the benefit of offering their repeat customers loyalty-based rewards that are not tied to a credit card and are giving free merchandise, meals and discounts in exchange for them. But how do you know if your favorite shops and cafes have a reward program? Not all of them are obviously advertised or promoted so one of the most valuable things you can do whenever you go out shopping or out to eat is to ask. And don’t limit yourself to asking in national chain businesses only because many independently owned coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants in your neighborhood could offer this incentive.
Major Rewards Programs
It would be impossible to list all the rewards programs out there in this space, so you’ve got to do a little research on your own. Some of my personal favorite loyalty and reward programs from national chains include:
Borders Rewards – Unlike some other bookstores, membership in Borders Rewards is free. For every $150 per year that you spend in “qualified purchases,” you get $5 in “Borders Bucks” that you can spend online or in-store. You also get special sales and coupons sent to your email address. For more information or to join, visit the Borders Website.
Subway – Not only can you eat fresh at Subway, you can also eat cheap when you get the Subway Rewards card. For every dollar you spend you earn 1 reward point. 10 points gives you a free cookie, 15 points a free bag of chips and 75 points a free foot-long or salad. To get a full list of all the foodstuffs you can redeem your points for or to get details about the program, visit the Website.
Best Buy – When you are a member of the Best Buy Rewards program, you earn one point for every dollar you spend at Best Buy. Once you have earned 250 points you receive a $5 rewards certificate to use in the store. Best buy has also partnered with Borders and Expedia, so you can even earn Best Buy Rewards points while shopping there. To find out more, visit the Reward program Website.
Keeping Rewards Rewarding
A rewards program still needs to be used responsibly in order to actually benefit you. Remember, these programs are usually created to stimulate sales — they aren’t charitable actions. So keep the following in mind before whipping your reward card out:
- It is never a good idea to spend money for the sole purpose of gaining points toward the program. No matter how tempting the sound of “free” may be, money in the bank is always more valuable than rewards points.
- Comparison shopping is still important. Yes, if you buy a new television at Best Buy you could earn $20 in rewards points, but if the television is $50 cheaper elsewhere, then it doesn’t make any sense.
- Rewards expire. Keep track of yours and understand when they will expire. Strategically make useful and smart purchases so that you can gain points in time to combine them with old points and avoid expiration.
- Read the reward program literature. Sometimes, certain purchases are not qualified while other items might receive double points. You must become familiar with the guidelines of your program to get the most out of it.
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