April 20, 2015

Free Money- rewards programs

N.B. I had done a post on Ebates earlier (here) but this post is more general & has other examples.

Rewards programs are also known as loyalty programs. These are designed to encourage the customer to increase purchases from a company with some direct reward to the customer. 

Consumers have so many choices in the market place and companies use this method as a way to build brand loyalty and to say thank you for their business. Consumers love these programs as they are getting something extra for what they are already paying for. 

Businesses not only aim to have a satisfied customer, then want a loyal one that keeps coming back and, to go even further, where that customer makes a referral. Referrals are advertising gold. It's free advertising for the company. Loyal customers will also overlook the occasional error and not be turned off from the company unlike a first time customer.

3 Types of Reward Programs

Rewards programs generally fall into three main categories.
Some financial institutions utilize a combination:

  1. Frequency/Points—rewards account holders for using a product or service
  2. Membership/Recognition—acknowledges the longevity and value of the account holder relationship
  3. Relationship/Pricing—offers account holders discounts, better rates or bundled services
The more innovative programs have gone beyond points to
include all product lines within a financial institution, which
ultimately stimulates the growth of relationships.
Source: https://www.harlandclarke.com/dv/08Q1/01.php

These rewards can include not only discounts but other perks such as upgrades, refills, cash back, waived fees and free products.

There are even applications to help you manage your rewards programs in one place. These include Google wallet, Passbook & Passsource.

Several years ago I used to travel using mostly 1 airline. I used them because they offered 2 free checked bags. They would advertise their frequent flyer program during the flight and I would ignore it. It was free to sign up and I was using their service anyway so I decided to sign up online after my second flight. I had always heard about the program, years before I actually flew with them. I thought the only way to really benefit was to fly a whole lot and I wasn't going to be doing that as I barely could afford a flight in the first place. I did about 2 or 3 trips a year to the US to visit my mother in NYC. Fast forward 3 years later and I have a 'free' ticket to Florida (I'd have to pay taxes) but it's significant savings. I got free money on money that I had already paid and would have spent anyway. Imagine if I didn't sign up? Some airlines also allow you a 6 month grace period to add the trip to their frequent flyer program. 

I also am a member of Pricesmart, which is like a Costco or a BJs. It's membership shopping. Besides being able to enter the facility and shop, there really aren't any other perks. I pay about US$30 a year for membership and that allows you to get 2 cards and you can enter on each card with another person. To save money on the membership fee, I split it with a friend of mine. She got one card and I got another and we can shop independently. What I have realized too is that even though there isn't really any other benefit besides entry, it still saves me a lot because items cost a lot less in Pricesmart when I compared prices of the exact products to other regular supermarkets. People say you have to buy bulk and that you don't end up saving because you have to spend a lot more but I'm the proof. It works out either way. If I buy 32 rolls of tissue this month, I don't have to buy tissue for another 4-6 months. I also can go with my sister or a friend and split the costs by buying bulk. It's not rocket science and I save money. Pricesmart & other membership clubs offer credit cards to its customers as well. Even more savings to the customer, given that the customer is responsible and pays off what is used, etc. You have to be careful though and really examine what you get versus what you pay. I didn't get a Pricesmart credit card because when I compared the credit card fee and the % cash back I got when I looked at my average monthly purchases, I didn't benefit that much. If I was making purchases for a household of more than 2, then maybe it would be worthwhile. Remember to do your cost/benefit analysis with any rewards program.

I have a Magna card. It was free to sign up so cost was zero. Benefit? I get cash back if I shop at participating retailers. I'd shop there anyway so this is free money. It's similar to Ebates (see my post here). I get a check every couple of months and I can use the cheque to make purchases at the same participating stores. 

There are so many rewards programs. I could go on and on but in conclusion:
  •  If you are making a purchase, see how you can maximize your purchase. If it's a one off purchase, check Ebates. If it's a place you regularly shop: check Ebates too if it's online, & find out if the company has a rewards program and/or a credit card. You can also check online for a coupon- that's another post ^_^
  • Ensure that you do your cost/benefit analysis. Read the fine print or call customer service and ask questions
  • It's free money! You get back something for spending the money you already have or would spend. 
Happy Frugal Living!

All opinions expressed here are mine and I have not been compensated by any company.