Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saving at Christmas – Part III

I'm still bouncing around a few ideas about which subject to cover next… ah, so much to say…
November 6, 2007 Tip: Cash Back or Rebate Websites
November 8, 2007 Tip: Price Guarantees and Price Protection

Today's Tip: Retailer Loyalty Programs

I hate it when I'm trying to check out at a store and they ask me if I'm interested in opening a store credit card account. If I wanted to open a credit card account with the store, I would have grabbed one of the flyers sitting by the register. Pfft. But every so often, a retailer catches me off guard with the "Apply today and take an extra 10% off your order." Depending on how much I'm spending, that can be tempting. If you plan to spend a hefty amount at any store, be sure to look into their credit card and loyalty programs ahead of time. While I'm not a fan of opening credit card accounts on a whim, I do find great value in loyalty programs.

You already have a lot of exposure to loyalty programs… Airline frequent flyer miles are an example of a type of reward program. As are supermarket/drugstore cards, casino club cards and hotel priority club cards. This is a tool that many retailers utilize to reward their frequent shoppers.

How it works: Typically, a customer earns points for each dollar spent at the store. Points are accumulated and later cashed in for gift certificates to the store. In some cases (like grocery or drugstore), it requires membership to take advantage of a special price. Member-only coupons are often sent out as well. One of my favorite loyalty programs is the Best Buy Reward Zone. I receive coupons in the mail from Best Buy so if I'm in the market for something, I factor that in when determining the best place to purchase the item. For each purchase made, points are accumulated which ultimately translate into gift certificates. Sometimes there are promotions offering double points on specific products; making the trip to your gift certificate goal much shorter. There are tons of free programs out there covering a wide variety of retail sectors - like Staples, Borders, Dick's Sporting Goods and American Eagle. If you shop somewhere often, even if it's just a local merchant, ask if they have a loyalty program.

Some of the programs are stand alone but others are tied to a credit card. I have no problem applying for a free card as long as is unassociated with applying for credit. Never apply for a credit card just because you think you'll reap the benefits of the reward program – make sure you really want their credit card! If it's somewhere you shop often and would have opened a credit card anyway, then the loyalty program that comes along with it is a bonus.

Everyone hates spam, but if a store regularly emails coupons, it's worth wading through some junk. Check out the email signups with your favorite retailer - sometimes just providing your email will land you some coupons that you wouldn't otherwise have. I have an email account set up specifically for these types of registrations so I have some control over the spam landing in my in box.

While these reward programs won't necessarily help you in your quest to save money before Christmas, the points will add up and provide some opportunities for later savings. Just think – you'll be able to use those gift certificates for birthday gifts in the new year or even a little something for yourself.


  • Deb

    Oh gosh, Christmas time is when I say " what the f---, its just money". My kids want so many books, and musical things, I dont see any harm in those.
    I love being a mom, but it is some days, just down right... exhausting! This is the hardest job I have ever had, and honestly, its the longest job I have had. I have been home for 5 years now, an accomplishment ! I just thankgod for these kids every day of my life! Come on over to my blog, take a look at the kiddos!
    Have a good week, and BREATHE!

  • Anonymous

    Did you ever have one of those clerks insist on your giving them a reason why you don't want to open an account, it's brutal sometimes. I was trying to pay for pants at Sears one day and the clerk wouldn't let up. "Well why not, it only takes a few minutes, can't you take a few minutes to save 10%. You can always cancel if you change your mind" After saying NO again, she asked "Why not? Oh, is your credit that bad?" No it's not, I just don't want a Sears card. I swear they get bonuses for each one they get people to apply for with as hard sell as they are.

  • Michele

    Many moons ago I worked at Dillards in the China department and we were "highly encouraged" to sign up new credit card members ... it was strongly tied to our raises/bonuses and then I think they even made it mandatory ... X number per month or we were out.

  • Michele

    I've tagged you on my blog ... hope you don't mind : )