Friday, October 31, 2014

An Insider’s Guide to Shoppers’ Best Rewards Programs

If you sometimes feel like coupons are the bane of your shopping existence, you might be onto something.

Unused coupons can be haunting due to the slight sense of guilt of spending more than you needed to because of coupons having gone to waste.

Then there’s the fact that coupons just take so much time to use. You first have to find the coupons and then plan your meals well in advance to be sure you can use the products you buy. You have to sort and organize the coupons. Not to mention the amount of time it takes to run multiple coupons at the checkout lane, while a line of shoppers behind you sighs with impatience.

Better Than Coupons

If you’re looking to receive the savings that coupons can provide without all of the hassles and time commitment, you may want to try a store’s loyalty program instead. You’ll still receive benefits of discounts, rewards and rebates, but you won’t have to spend hours clipping, sorting, and using coupons.

The idea behind a store’s loyalty program is that by offering you rewards and discounts, you’ll be a more frequent shopper at that particular store. And while there are mixed feelings on whether loyalty programs actually work in the way the stores intend, it makes little difference to you, as you still will receive the benefits of the loyalty program.

Some of the benefits you may receive from your store that make a loyalty program more advantageous than the process of clipping coupons include:

     Overall discount per transaction
     In-store member-only automatic coupons
     Reward points based on spending amounts
     Cashback bonuses
     Discounts on gasoline
     Free shipping or gift wrap
     Special shopping hours for members only

Finding Loyalty Programs

As shown in the infographic included here, nearly every major store brand in the United States now offers some sort of loyalty card program. Each store has slightly different perks, so it can be a little confusing to try to compare program to program. You may be best served by sticking to loyalty programs for your three to five favorite stores, just to make sure you’re not overwhelmed with plastic cards and advertising.

For those who are tech-savvy, digital options exist for helping you organize the data from your loyalty programs and save time overall. Some loyalty programs have smartphone apps that make it easier to track the potential rewards.

Others send you text messages or e-mails that alert you to special discounts while you’re in the store. Others only have a plastic card or a key tag for you to carry, so if you prefer digital tools with your loyalty program, seek out those types of stores.

Protecting Your Data

With the various data breach stories in the news these days, it can make you leery to share personal data with a store. But you can’t sign up for the loyalty program without sharing certain types of data, such as your e-mail address, cell phone number, and credit card data.

If you feel like the data the store is requesting is excessive and may threaten the safety of your personal identification data, just don’t sign up for the program.

You’ll also likely have to agree to receive marketing data and advertising from the store. So read the fine print on the sign-up form and choose your loyalty program carefully, ensuring that the personal data you’re sharing will be protected and isn’t going to result in you receiving so much advertising that the rewards aren’t worth the hassle. After all, the reason you want to start using loyalty programs in the first place is to save time.

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