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By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 15 minute read

When I get to the register, the first thing I do is present the clerk a small plastic card. I’m referring to a shop loyalty card, not my substantial cash-back credit card. For each of the major department store chains I frequent, I have one. Using these cards has rewarded me with discounts, free merchandise, and other perks on practically all of my purchases.

Incorporating extreme couponing tactics with loyalty programs might further reduce your spending while still saving you money. Here’s how to get the most out of these tools.

Loyalty Programs in Action

There are several incentives for stores to implement loyalty programs. The receipts serve many purposes for the retailer. As you make purchases with your loyalty card, the retailer may keep track of what you’re buying to provide you with more relevant discounts and promotions.

The objective of a loyalty program is to get customers to purchase more frequently and exclusively at one store, rather than going elsewhere to conduct their purchasing. By spending more, you may earn more points and advance to more valuable reward tiers like “silver” or “elite,” where discounts are far more generous. This is done in the hopes that you would frequent their establishments more frequently.

However, you need not be devoted to a particular store to take advantage of its loyalty program. There is no cost to join the loyalty programs of many retailers, so you may sign up for as many as you like and use them to gain discounts at any store you frequent. The only restriction is how large you want your wallet or key ring to be, or, if you prefer digital access, how many apps you want to have on your phone.

Almost all major retailers provide some sort of customer loyalty program. Rewards may be earned at a wide variety of retail locations, including grocery shops, supermarkets, restaurants, drugstores, and even beauty supply and pet supply boutiques. However, not all membership rewards systems are the same. Listed below are a few of the most cost-effective and convenient options.

Customer Loyalty Programs That Work

Department Stores

Loyalty programs are available at virtually every major department shop. These megastores have everything under one roof, so it is in their best interest to get you to do all of your shopping there. Both upscale and affordable department shops have rewards schemes that customers praise.

  1. Bloomingdale’s

Customers who sign up for Bloomingdale’s Loyallist program are rewarded with exclusive access to sales and special offers. Besides being a great resource, membership is totally cost-free.

As a first step, Bloomingdale’s rewards its Loyallist members with points for every dollar they spend in any of its locations. Most payment methods get 1 point each $1 spent, however the Bloomingdale’s credit card earns 3 points per $1. Bonus points for footwear, makeup, and fragrance. If you have an American Express card with the Bloomingdale’s logo on it, you may use it everywhere American Express is accepted to earn points.

In exchange for 5,000 points, you will receive a $25 gift card. Loyallist is convenient since you don’t need to register for an account or fill out a form to redeem your points. Your reward card will instead be handed to you when you make your purchase. Except in some restaurants and cafés, you may use it for whatever you buy in the shop or on the website.

In addition, Loyallist members receive free shipping on almost all items at Bloomingdale’s online store. When they purchase something in-store that has to be transported from another facility, shipping is on the house. Furniture, beds, gift cards, and items bought from Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store are the only things that can’t be returned.

  1. JCPenney

JCPenney has a rewards program that is quite comparable to Bloomingdale’s, except it’s considerably more generous. Instead of earning 2 points for every $4 spent, you’ll only get 1 point for every $2 spent in-store or online. But just 200 points get you a $10 rewards voucher when you check out. When comparing JCPenney and Bloomingdale’s, it’s clear that the former offers a more generous cash back incentive.

Quicker methods of gaining benefits are available. With a JCPenney credit card, you may earn double the points for every dollar you spend. Throughout the year, the shop will provide extra points for purchases of selected merchandise. Extra benefits include a birthday present just for members.

  1. Kohl’s

Yes2You Rewards, Kohl’s reward program, awards 1 point for every $1 spent. Once you’ve accumulated 100 points, you’ll get a $5 bonus the first of every month. Therefore, not only do you get 5% cash back on all purchases, but you also need less points to redeem an award.

You will also receive a gift on your birthday and be invited to exclusive “bonus point events” throughout the year when you sign up for Yes2You Rewards. If you have a Kohl’s Charge card, you’ll have access to exclusive savings offers. Yes2You Rewards, like many similar schemes, does not cost anything to join.

The only caveat is that rewards must be redeemed within 30 days after being earned. That being said, it’s not exactly rocket science. Rewards can be used on purchases made in-store, online, or through the Kohl’s app.

  1. Macy’s

The Star Rewards program at Macy’s is divided into four tiers.

  • Bronze. Everyone may sign up for and use the Star Rewards program’s bare-bones version at no cost. In addition to earning one point for every dollar spent at Macy’s, Macy’s Backstage, and Macys.com, you can earn bonus points during designated “Star Money Bonus Days.” Earn 1,000 points and receive $10 in “Star Money” to use on anything in the shop, excluding gift cards, services, and fees. While your points will never expire, you can only use Star Money within 30 days of receiving it. It may take some time, but ultimately, you will be able to cash them in. The program’s perks include birthday gifts, early access to sales, and discounts.
  • Silver. Your Star Rewards membership will be upgraded to Silver if you are a cardholder of either the Macy’s credit card or Macy’s American Express card. When you reach this tier, you’ll get two points for every dollar you spend. Moreover, you receive Star Passes that may be redeemed for a 25% discount on any day of your choosing. This is in addition to the many advantages already enjoyed by Bronze members.
  • Gold. You’ll get Gold status with your Macy’s card if you spend $500 or more in a single calendar year. You now get three points for every dollar spent, in addition to the Silver level benefits you already enjoy. As an added bonus, Macy’s offers free delivery on all orders, no minimum required.
  • Platinum. Platinum members of Macy’s are cardholders who spend $1,200 or more annually. There is no cap on the number of points they can accumulate, and they receive 5 points for every dollar spent.

When you use your American Express card at Macy’s, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Star Rewards, and you may earn points on purchases elsewhere, too. You may get 3% cash back at participating eateries, 2% at grocery shops and petrol stations, and 1% at any other American Express merchant.

  1. Nordstrom

You may join The Nordy Club, Nordstrom’s loyalty club, at no cost to you. For every dollar you spend at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, HauteLook, or Trunk Club, you will earn 1 point. With as few as 500 points, you may exchange for a $5 Nordstrom Note good for any purchase.

Members of the Nordy Club also enjoy additional benefits. They enjoy first dibs on certain brands during Clear the Rack events and other Nordstrom deals, and they get to shop the store before the general public. A curbside collection service is provided at no cost, as are certain simple changes.

They can also attend Nordstrom’s beauty and fashion seminars. Spending more money in the shop will get you better perks. If you spend $500, you’ll qualify for “Insider” status, which grants you double points on all purchases, both in-store and online, on a single day each year.

Spend $2,000 and you’ll be upgraded to “Influencer,” unlocking double points for two days and early entry to fashion shows. The “Ambassador” level is reserved for people who spend above $6,000 annually. A Nordstrom to You personal shopper will visit their house three times, and they’ll be invited to invitation-only parties.

This service is available without the usage of a Nordstrom debit or credit card. On the other hand, if you have a Nordstrom card, you may take advantage of certain additional benefits. The Nordstrom credit card offers three points for every dollar spent, while the Nordstrom debit card offers two points.

All of the privileges of the Insider tier are immediately unlocked for cardholders. In addition, they get up to $100 in free adjustments every year and early access to Nordstrom’s annual July sale. At long last, they receive a $40 bonus. Nordstrom Reward for using your new Nordstrom credit card the same day it is issued at Nordstrom, Nordstrom.com, or Nordstrom Rack.

  1. Sears

The Shop Your Way rewards program is still operational at the stores that have survived Sears’ bankruptcy and shop closures. Some of its advantages are:

  • Accumulated Rewards Point System. When you shop at Sears, Kmart, or Lands’ End, you’ll get 10 points for every dollar you spend. A dollar off your next purchase for every one thousand points you earn. In monetary terms, that’s the same as a 1% rebate on all purchases.
  • Unexpected Bonus Points Deals. When you check out, you may occasionally receive a promotional discount. There is no need to put off redeeming these benefits until your next trip; you may do so immediately.
  • Discounted digital content available only to subscribers. Find member-only discounts and coupons by searching the Sears website or the Shop Your Way mobile app. A voucher may be added to your account with a single click. To use a coupon you’ve saved when buying online, all you have to do is click a link. At the register, you may load all your coupons at once, and the redeemable ones will be applied at checkout.

Joining Shop Your Way doesn’t cost anything. However, for an additional $39 a year, you can upgrade to Shop Your Way MAX and receive even more perks. You get double the points for every dollar you spend, plus an extra 3,000 points per month absolutely free.

All online orders ship for free within two days, and for only $3.99, you can have them delivered the day after you place them. If you’re interested in giving the software a trial, you have 90 days to do so at no cost.

  1. Target

Saving money at Target may be done in two primary ways. The Target REDcard credit and debit card may be used throughout the store, and the Target Circle program can be used to locate discounts on certain goods. The two can be combined for even greater financial savings.

The REDcard offers a 5% discount on all Target purchases and has no yearly fee. Items bought at a discount, gift cards for a specific business, and coffee from a Starbucks within the store all count. Moreover, you may take advantage of Target.com’s free two-day delivery on most of your purchases with this offer. In addition to the perks and benefits enjoyed by all members, certain services are reserved for those who have joined. Plus, if you pay with your REDcard, you’ll get 30 more days to return your Target item.

You may access Target Circle by downloading the free Target app for either iOS or Android. To utilize it, simply preview the available deals before heading to Target and pick the ones you wish to use. You may also add discounts by scanning barcodes as you buy. Then, at checkout, use the Target app to pay and get your discount.

In addition to the savings from the Target Circle promotion, using your REDcard will earn you a further 5% off your purchase. Additional coupons may be used with Target Circle and REDcard using the Target mobile app.

  1. CVS

With the CVS ExtraCare card, you may get 2% back on almost every purchase you make. ExtraBucks is the name for the bonuses that are given out. When you make a purchase, you can get instant gratification in the form of printed rewards; quarterly payments are made on accumulated rewards.

To redeem your ExtraBucks, simply present your ExtraCare card and the printed rewards voucher. Don’t forget to pay in your rewards before they expire.

ExtraCare provides a number of additional savings in addition to the ExtraBucks. Discounts, email discounts, and in-store coupons are all available to members. The store’s ExtraCare Coupon Center lets you scan your card for access to weekly discounts and other savings opportunities.

  1. Rite Aid

Rite Aid’s wellness+rewards program is unique in that members don’t need to carry around a physical card to earn points. Instead, you may access your member benefits by entering your phone number at the cashier. There are four distinct forms of incentive in the program:

  • Special Offers Available in Store. Many of the goods in the shop are discounted or offered at a buy-one-get-one price just for members. The retail flyer may also contain special discounts and deals.
  • Load2Card Discounts. Rite Aid provides its members with weekly discounts that may be viewed on the website. To get these savings, just add the promo codes to your wellness+ account and then use your account information to pay at the register.
  • Inspiring Wellness+ Bonus Dollars. Wellness+ members immediately get digital coupons when they make purchases of eligible products, whether in-store or online. You have 30 days from the date of issuance to redeem your rewards at any Rite Aid location or online at RiteAid.com.
  • In other words, Wellness+ Points. Spend $1 at Rite Aid, get 1 wellness+ point. Each filled prescription can earn you up to 25 points. Earning more points will allow you to redeem for better prizes. As a Bronze member, you will initially have access to in-store discounts, email promotions, and Load2Card Coupons. If you earn 250 points in a calendar year, you’ll be upgraded to Silver status and eligible for a six-month period of 10% off practically all purchases. If you earn 500 points within a year, you’ll be upgraded to Gold status and eligible for a 20% discount on all purchases for six months.

Rite Aid also provides additional benefits for seniors beyond those already mentioned. The first Wednesday of every month, members of the wellness65+ program receive a 30% discount on all non-prescription products. Featured items and information at these “wellness65+ Wednesdays” are always related to a different health theme. Additionally, members of wellness 65+ are eligible for a free consultation with a pharmacist that includes a discussion of their Medicare Part D prescription coverage, a review of their current medicines and vaccines, and a blood pressure assessment.

  1.  Walgreens

Walgreens’s rewards program, Balance Rewards, is unlike any other. Customers may earn prizes for doing things like exercising and getting their weight and blood pressure checked for free with this program.

Whenever you’d like, you may trade in 1,000 points for a $1 discount on any purchase at Walgreens or Walgreens.com. Request point redemption by presenting your card or providing your phone number at checkout. If you don’t use your account for a year, or if you don’t log in for six months, your points will expire.

If you sign up for Walgreens’ Beauty Enthusiast program, you may rack up points more quickly. For every $50 you spend on cosmetics in-store, you will receive 5,000 points, which is equivalent to a $5 incentive. You may create your own beauty profile and receive recommendations based on your unique needs, as well as access expert beauty lessons and free product samples.

Members of Balance Rewards may take advantage of exclusive discounts at Walgreens, in addition to earning points. Paperless coupons can be added to the customer’s loyalty card or the Walgreens mobile app, where they can also save their prescriptions and images.

Members of Balance Prizes who are also members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) receive bonus rewards. If customers link their Balance Rewards and AARP cards, they’ll get 50 points for every dollar spent on Walgreens’ own brand health and wellness goods and 30 points for every dollar spent on Walgreens’ own brand cosmetics. And with every vaccine they get, they get a thousand bonus points.

  1. Papa John’s

Reviews consistently rank Papa Rewards as one of the best chain restaurant loyalty programs out there. Basically, for every dollar you spend, you get one point in this program. In exchange for your loyalty, Papa John’s will give you $10 in “Papa Dough” for every 75 points you achieve. You may redeem Papa Dough by logging into your PapaJohns.com account and selecting “Use Rewards.”

If you’re a Papa Rewards member, you can earn as many points as you like. As long as you maintain active account usage, your accumulated reward points will remain valid. If you don’t earn or redeem any points for a year, though, they will be lost. Within six months after receipt, Papa Dough will spoil.

Members may also take advantage of the program’s many discounts and access to exclusive merchandise. As an example, on their birthday, all members may get a free dessert at any U.S. Papa John’s that participates in the program.

  1. Starbucks

Significant modifications have been made to the Starbucks Rewards program as of April 2016. Before then, no matter how much you spent at a Starbucks, you only earned 1 star (the equivalent of 1 point). When you’d accumulated 12 stars, you could trade them in for a complimentary meal or drink.

The new system has a higher learning curve. The old system of earning stars was changed to award 2 stars for every $1 spent. Every month, there is a special day known as Double Star Day, where every dollar spent earns four stars instead of two. Extra points are available for taking advantage of email-only deals.

Supermarkets

Unlike some other types of reward programs, grocery store loyalty cards are not based on how much money you spend. To receive discounts simply for having a store loyalty card, you don’t have to spend a set amount.

Even if you don’t plan on shopping at Giant or ShopRite much, it’s still beneficial to sign up for a store card. In the few cases when you will actually put the card to use, you will receive all of its benefits without having to do anything special. However, there are other stores that provide discounts on petrol in exchange for increased spending, rather than free food.

One such company is Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the United States. This corporation owns a wide variety of grocery store names, including Smith’s, Fred Meyer, Fry’s Food and Drug, Harris Teeter, King Soopers, QFC, and a number of others. For every dollar you spend using your shop rewards card at one of these locations, you’ll receive one gasoline point.

With gift cards, you can double your points for every dollar you spend. You may save $0.10 off every gallon at any Kroger gas station for every 100 points you collect. At the low price, you can get up to 35 gallons of gas.

You may save up your points for larger savings, up to a maximum of $1 per gallon, if you use them. The maximum amount of points that may be redeemed at once is 100, and this amount can only be used at participating Shell stations.

You have the option of using your points all at once or saving them up for multiple purchases. You may check your point balance at the bottom of your receipt or manage it in the app or online at any time. The app also shows the date when the fuel points expire. All points earned in a given month expire at the end of the next month.

At Fred Meyer stores, the rewards program is even better. Along with your fuel points, you earn 1 Rewards Point for every dollar you spend at either Fred Meyer or Fred Meyer Jewelers. If you earn 500 Rewards Points in a three-month period, you’ll receive a Rewards Rebate coupon in the mail. You can spend this money on your next shopping trip, just like cash.

The Albertsons family of grocery stores, which includes Albertsons, Safeway, Shaw’s, and Vons, has a similar rewards program. However, its program, called “just for U,” gives you a choice about how to use your points. You earn 1 point per dollar spent on groceries or pharmacy purchases and 2 points per dollar on gift cards. You can cash in these points for discounts on gas at participating gas stations or on specific grocery items at Albertsons stores.

Bottom Line

The aforementioned customer loyalty programs are the cream of the crop. Sign up for the shops’ loyalty programs if you do a lot of shopping there.

But that shouldn’t convince you to start making purchases at places you don’t already frequent only to rack up points. If the business is inconveniently located or out of stock on the items you need, the loyalty program is useless.

Instead, shop exclusively at your favorite retailers and inquire about their rewards programs. Even if they aren’t as generous as the ones we’ve just discussed, it’s still preferable to receive mediocre rewards frequently rather than exceptional ones infrequently. The most effective loyalty program is the one you really utilize.

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