If you haven’t signed up for reward cards at your favourite retailers, you’re missing out. Rewards come in many forms, from free merchandise and groceries to cash back, gift cards, travel rewards, movie tickets and more. Here’s how you can use these cards to take your holiday savings to the next level.
Getting in on the action.
Enrol online or sign up for free at your local retailer. Free memberships are issued right on the spot and you start accumulating points immediately. Signing up doesn’t mean that you’ll have to lug more plastic around in your wallet, either. There are small key fobs and even downloadable apps for your smart phone that keep the pockets light and the process digital.
In the store, your loyalty card gets scanned at checkout. When shopping online, you’ll use your membership code. Points are awarded based on the total you spend after discounts and coupons. You can check your point balances online any time but retailers often display the available rewards right on the checkout screens.
Merchant credit cards.
Merchants are now partnering with credit card companies to embed their reward programs right into credit card transactions. These programs commonly award points on purchases you make regardless of where you shop, but grant higher reward points if you shop at the merchant.
Start by assessing where you spend your money and what your goals are for saving. Are you looking for ways to pay less at the checkout? You want a card that gives cash back. Are you seeking free travel? You want something that accumulates travel miles. Each loyalty program has unique rewards that can be targeted to your lifestyle. Some even offer free gas at the pumps.
As a tip, get a merchant reward credit card for the store you shop at most frequently. But keep an eye on interest rates. Although most cards have no annual fee, some charge higher rates. These cards are most beneficial if you pay off your credit card in full each month.
Cash back incentive programs work several ways, depending on the card you get. Some give you instant savings on the purchase you are making, while others provide an annual rebate on your total spending or let you apply the amount to your credit card bill. Cash back incentives can range from .01 per cent to 5 per cent or more depending on where you spend. The average is 1 per cent. Free money!
Patience is a virtue when travel is your goal. You’ll need to use the same reward card on most purchases to rack up enough points for a free flight, car rental or hotel offer. But there are ways to reach that beach in Aruba faster by seizing on bonus point opportunities.
Bonus points, sometimes up to 5,000, are offered for adding authorized users to your account or choosing paperless statements for reward credit cards. Also keep an eye out for specials that announce, “Earn 3X the Points” or “1,000 Bonus Points.” Many of these opportunities apply to online purchases or specific brands.
These translate into a myriad of tantalizing perks. Free merchandise, gift cards, trips to spas or concert tickets are all yours for the taking when you build up enough points. You can even pay for annual memberships to your buyers’ club, make a charitable donation or use them for your holiday gifts. Scan the offers right on your retailer’s online reward page. Being loyal has its benefits.