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Store Loyalty Programs — Worth it or Not?
Do you ever find the credit cards in your wallet getting lost among all of those store loyalty cards you signed up for?
If you’re like me, you probably carry around way too many of these cards. In fact, a January 2013 survey by Edgell Knowledge Network showed that the average U.S. household belongs to a whopping 18 store loyalty programs.
I belong to fewer than 10, but that still feels like too many. I signed up for many of the programs, including the ones from CVS and Rite Aid, because I thought it would help me save a few dollars. But some of the programs have just been a hassle. For example, at CVS I often forget to pull out my card. And when I do get “Extra Care Bucks,” coupons on my receipt, they tend to get lost in my purse and I forget to use them before they expire.
Nonetheless some of the programs work well for me. For example, I have a Pet Supermarket card that gets me a coupon for a free bag of dog food (a $20 value) every few months. I shop there all the time because it’s the only local place that sells the pet foods I prefer to buy. And I always remember to use my card because the store employees remind me every single time.
So, how do you decide if you should sign up or say “no thanks” next time a cashier offers you a loyalty card? Here are some things to consider:
- What do you have to do? MSN Money advises consumers to think about how much time and effort they have to put into a store loyalty program. Remember that it takes time to keep track of all the cards, sort through terms and conditions and redeem your rewards. Is it worth it?
- Will you end up spending more? Part of the aim behind store loyalty programs is to get consumers to spend more. If you find yourself buying more or buying things you wouldn’t otherwise have purchased, you might want to rethink your participation, according to YourLifeforLess.com. Spending $10 to save $1 doesn’t make sense. For me, that’s why the pet food program works so well: It’s something I’d buy anyway.
- What do you actually get? According to the research by Edgell Knowledge Network, 81 percent of consumers enrolled in loyalty programs don’t know the benefits. So, it’s a good idea to read through the terms and conditions, find out exactly how the program works and see what kind of benefits you’d get.
- How does it make you feel? Do you get overwhelmed by having so much plastic and digging around every time you want to use a card? Or by having to use a smartphone app to keep track of all of your loyalty programs sans plastic, as Digitwirl.com recommends? Do you forget to cash in your rewards, then get annoyed at yourself later? If that’s the case, it might just make sense to streamline your life and concentrate on saving money in other ways.
Low Interest vs. High Rewards: Which Should You Go For?
In today’s guest blog, Michael Dolen of CreditCardForum explains why you’re not likely to find a card with both a great sign-up bonus and a long 0 percent period — and how to choose between these two perks.
Whether it’s a lingering debt hangover from the holidays or just wanting to find a better rewards program, the first part of the year is one of the most popular times to apply for a new credit card.
As a result, card issuers are offering a plethora of great sign-up incentives, featuring low interest rates and big rewards bonuses. For example, you can find 0 percent APR card offers for up to 18 months or 40,000 bonus points deals. Unfortunately, however, you’re not going to score both a long interest-free period and a juicy bonus offer at the same time. Here’s why…
Reason No. 1: Zero percent offers cost banks money
Granted it’s not a lot these days, but banks still have to pay interest on the money they borrow and then lend out to you in the form of a 0 percent offer. Because the bank is already taking a hit on these offers, it’s much less inclined to take another hit by also giving you a cash or points bonus.
Reason No. 2: Two different types of customers
It’s true that everyone likes to earn rewards, but generally speaking, a customer with credit card debt has different priorities from the rewards chaser. People with debt are looking to minimize their interest costs. Those who always pay their bills in full each month, on the other hand, are much more focused on rewards programs, since the APR will be largely irrelevant to them. Rather than target both types of customers with the same offer, most banks prefer to create different cards and incentives for each group.
Reason No. 3: Higher rates help offset the rewards expense
It costs money for credit card companies to give us cash back and airline miles on our purchases. Some of that expense is offset by the processing fees (the fees merchants pay to process your card). In addition, any finance charges we pay on balances also help pay for the rewards. This is why the best reward cards almost always have higher interest rates (not to mention annual fees!) than low-interest, plain vanilla cards.
For example in my review here of the Chase Freedom card, I discuss how it gives up to 5 percent cash back and has a variable APR of 12.99 percent to 22.99 percent. On the other hand, the APRs on low-interest cards from Simmons First National Bank, a purveyor of plain vanilla cards, are astonishingly low at 7.25 percent or 9.25 percent.
Aim for rewards or low rates, not both!
There are some cards that offer both 0 percent APR and a rewards bonus, but you will see their offerings in both categories are mediocre at best. If you want to get the top balance transfer offers on the market, then you will want to go after a card that gives you that and nothing else. On the flipside, if it’s the rewards bonus you are after, you will see the most generous cards don’t give you 0 percent — and if they do, it’s only for a relatively short period of time.
Now if you still insist on having your cake and eating it, too, the best way to accomplish that will be to apply for two separate offers — one for low interest and another for rewards. Be forewarned, however, that every time you apply for a card, the issuer will check your credit, which will temporarily ding your credit score. My advice is to apply for the card you want most first, then wait a month or two before applying for another card.
Michael Dolen is the founder and managing editor of CreditCardForum.com, which is the leading online
forum solely dedicated to credit cards. His “no holds barred” credit card reviews and commentary are regularly featured in financial publications and websites such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg and US News & World Report.
His knowledge and expertise come from real world experiences. After being left with monstrous medical expenses from an auto accident at age 18, he strategically used 0% credit card offers to finance his out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance. These days, he’s debt free and focuses on finding new ways to maximize rewards and milk cardholder benefits. As a small business owner, he’s also well aware of the struggles that both entrepreneurs and established companies face when it comes to business credit in today’s economy.
When he’s not busy surfing the Web for credit card deals, you will likely find him surfing the waves along Southern California’s coast, where he lives.
LivingSocial enters the rewards card business
LivingSocial, the major competitor of daily deals giant Groupon, has teamed up with Chase Card Services and Visa to offer a different take on a rewards program.
The LivingSocial Rewards Visa Card will give LivingSocial users points on all purchases made anywhere, but the rewards will pack extra punch if the card is used to buy a LivingSocial deal.
The program is geared toward the daily deal addicted. Rules say card members earn five reward points for every dollar spent on LivingSocial purchases, three points for every dollar spent on dining and one point for every dollar spent on any other purchase.Essentially, LivingSocial fans who sign up for the card will get 5 percent back on all their purchases at the site.
“We are pleased to offer social-buying enthusiasts a product that enhances their shopping experience with the ability to earn rewards for their purchases,” Dan Dougherty, director of Chase Card Services, said in a statement.
For each 100 points, cardholders get one LivingSocial Deal Buck. As part of the first-year promotion, cardholders get 10 Deal Bucks for making 10 purchases each billing cycle. They’ll also get 30 Deal Bucks upon approval for the card.
Deal Bucks are applied to the cardholder’s next eligible purchase on LivingSocial, and there’s no limit on how many program participants can rack up.
Combining daily deals programs with their card offerings might be a good deal for issuers, as the daily deal crowd appears to be a safe bet in terms of creditworthiness.A September 2011 Lightspeed Research brieffound that, relative to the overall U.S. credit card holder population, Groupon and Living Social customers:
- Are about 50 percent more likely to have household incomes above $75,000.
- Have higher credit scores.
- Make three times as many credit card purchases.
- Are about twice as likely to pay their monthly credit card balances in full.
There are potential rewards for merchants, too, in the form of new and repeat business.
Daily deal companies, which offer online users everything from low-cost manicures to painting classes, to discounted international vacation packages, have been criticized because often the customer uses the deal and never returns.
The new credit card, however, will include incentives for repeat business, John Bax chief financial officer of LivingSocial, told Reuters. LivingSocial has not yet released specifics. Yet Groupon has approached the repeat-business problem by offering loyalty incentives (like extra discounts for returning to a business, or for spending a certain amount).
“We will use this as a platform to encourage people to come back to merchants,” Bax said. “Small and medium-sized local businesses will never be able to have their own credit card or loyalty program. We will be able to bring them the benefits of that.”The co-branded credit card is the first of its kind. Yet issuers and card networks have been making forays into the daily deals market for some time now. In March, for example, American Express launched a daily deals program with Twitter. MasterCard, meanwhile, announced in April that it would be partnering with the Chicago-based Local Offer Network.
Citi Bank Decides to Give “Extra Cash” to Cardholders
When it comes to the type of plastic many people are opting to get in their pocketbooks this summer, there is no doubt that rewards credit cards are the one. Over the last couple of months, within the card industry we have seen a complete overhaul of rewards consumers’ receive. Nearly every issuers has introduced something new that would hopefully give them the edge among cardholders, and one issuer in particular has recently announced their newest program. That issuer is Citi Bank, and with their "Extra Cash" rewards program they are looking to become the leader when it comes to putting more money in cardholders’ pockets.
So what exactly is "Extra Cash"? In short it is a way that Citi cardholders can earn discounts in many of the most popular reward redemption categories in the credit card industry (travel, entertainment and merchandise). As those carrying eligible cards are automatically enrolled in the program they will receive the equivalent of 10% of their purchase amount in "extra cash dollars" which can be used on a wide range of items within an online shopping mall. In all, Citi Bank says that these cardholders can save up to 40% on merchandise bought using the extra cash dollars.
Already this year we have seen great rewards such as cash back, increased points and increased mileage offered just for making purchases that are normally made every day. As the year goes on consumers should be able to expect that issuers will become even more aggressive in their fight for gaining cardholders and market share. We have yet to get to the time of the year where rewards really seem to give consumers the most for their money, so for cardholders 2010 could be one of the most rewarding ever.
Discover’s Ever-Growing Focus on Credit Card Rewards
As we move throughout the summer and credit card issuers look to find ways to get consumers to make more purchases on their cards, there has been one type of card that has literally stolen the spotlight. That type of plastic is a rewards credit card and many people have started choosing this type over many others that they may have primarily used in the past. Because of the amount of attention these cards have garnered we have seen quite a few issuers release new reward cards in hopes get consumers’ attention. Overall in the last couple of months it seems that even with that focus, issuers have yet to keep up with Discover, whom once again made news with their reward program.
It was recently announced that cardholders can now look forward to new ways to spend their hard earned rewards points as they have redesigned their reward redemption site. With the redesign, Discover states that there will be hundreds of new brand-name merchandise as well as other options which include charity donations, cash via direct deposit as well as statement credits. Many of the newer merchandise allow cardholders to snag great things for as little as $20 that would be earned by making purchases with their plastic. For many if not all of the merchandise that is redeemed cardholders will even receive free shipping which is a plus no matter how you look at it.
Besides a redesign of their redemption process, Discover has made other big moves dealing with rewards. At the beginning of the year a contest named "It Pays to Discover Everyday Giveaway" was launched which gives cardholders the opportunity to win a grand prize of 1 million dollars as well as other cash prizes. Another way that Discover has decided to give extra rewards was by giving those that serve in the United States military double cash back and miles on purchases made on military bases from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lastly they recently were named the official card of Six Flags Theme Parks and give cardholders the opportunity to receive savings as well as bonus points for using Discover plastic for tickets as well as other purchases within the park.
A Look at Financial Rewards Credit Cards
When it comes to reward credit cards that give cash back have you considered plastic that can be attached to brokerage accounts? While for some consumers this type of plastic does not seem that appealing at the moment, for many others it has been a serious thought that can end up paying off in the long run. As they have been getting more attention over the last 12 months financial reward cards are drawing much more then consumers that invest on a regular basis. Many newer cardholders have chosen this plastic as a way to save for the future by simply charging what they would have spent anyway on everyday purchases. By paying off the balances at the end of the month, the rewards are not negated and build up over time.
So have you been researching for the best financial rewards credit cards? If so, what is at the top of your list? While there are many to choose from, there a couple of cards that seems to stand out above the rest. Each offers the cardholder something a little different, but both offer valuable rewards that have the potential to pay off big in the long run. They can be found in an article entitled "Editor’s Pick: Best Financial Rewards Credit Cards 2010". The two that are mentioned within this article are the Bank of America Upromise Card and the Fidelity Rewards American Express Cards. While the Upromise Card is connected to accounts that can help fund your child’s education, the Fidelity Rewards Card (which has three different offers) gives you the ability to do the same or direct the funds to an IRA account. In all, while these offers may be a little difficult to get approved for by some, for those that are able to get a hold of any of these plastics it is well worth it.
Comparing Reward Credit Cards? This Can Help.
When it comes to reward credit cards, there is no doubt that they have become one of the most popular types of plastic of 2010. Over the years we have seen many changes that have made reward cards more rewarding than ever, and many can ultimately pay for themselves with double rewards on everyday purchases. Because of these changes even during a time where cardholders’ interest rates have risen, these types of credit cards have continued to be one of the top choices.
Because of the attention reward credit cards continue to receive, we have seen multiple issuers release new cards to compete for cardholders’ attention. With so many cards being made available in the market today it is has become harder than ever to find the right one for you. In an article entitled "5 Tips to Compare Rewards Credit Cards" we find that looking for a rewarding plastic can be simplified a little by doing a little research. Before applying for any rewards card it is best to know the following:
- Understand the true value of rewards earnings
- Know if rewards are on a tier or can be capped
- Know if higher rewards are on a temporary basis
- Look for point expiration dates and penalty clauses
- Know if rewards can be transferred across multiple categories
Just like with any credit card, rewards cards can be beneficial when used correctly but can also be a headache if it is not. While earning double miles or additional cash back may be great, some stipulations and payment habits can sometimes end up leaving you coming up short on rewards and also ultimately cost you more in the long run. To get the most out of your rewards card it is best when payments are made on time and in full. By doing this cardholders won’t be charged late fees or interest charges which ultimately can negate the value of any rewards that are accrued by making purchases.
Some Look Elsewhere with NFL Credit Card Issuer Switch
When it comes to credit cards and co-branded opportunities it is not unusual to see companies change issuers from time to time. The most recent move involved the NFL and their branded credit cards in which Barclays was chosen to issue their cards to both fans and non-fans alike. While for some this move is more than welcomed, for others that is simply not the case. This is because at the end of the process the main focus for many especially cardholders involves points that were acquired on every purchase.
With the move from Bank of America to Barclays, cardholders were notified that they will have two months to redeem any points earned by purchases. As with other instances where cardholders were urged to redeem their points a couple of problems have risen for some. For a few cardholders the only problem with spending these points is the feeling of being rushed after the time it took to acquire the amount of points they hold. For others it is the feeling that they will not be able to redeem points for what they were striving to get sometime in the future, and will have to start over.
So will this change in credit card issuers have any effects on cardholders with NFL branded plastic in their wallet? While the answer will more than likely be no for majority of the cardholders, for some the change has them considering other reward credit cards. So far the overwhelming thought process has been that if cardholders have to start over, it seems that many are focusing on other things that could be more useful to them such as increased cash back and travel among other things. Over the last couple of months we have seen many cards that give these rewards such as these on everyday purchases and only time will tell how many of those who owned NFL credit cards will switch to these newer cards.
As Reward Credit Cards Change, So Must You
When it comes to reward credit cards, there is no doubt that they have become one of the most popular types of plastic within the past couple of years. In a recent survey asked by Bankrate.com on the reason behind getting a new card, looking for better rewards/perks received the highest percentage by far when compared to other choices. Even during times that cardholders interest rate changed dramatically, these types of cards continued to remain one of the top choices of plastic.
Because of the attention reward credit cards continue to receive, we have seen multiple issuers release new cards to compete for cardholders’ attention. With these cards, cardholders are seeing rewards that at one time were only given during a certain time period given as the norm. In addition to that while in the past you could only redeem rewards in certain purchases or categories, today issuers are removing those requirements and giving cardholders the ability to earn double and triple on all purchases.
As more credit cards continue to be released it is important to remember that while many cards may have the rewards you may have always wanted, there is much more that you must first look at before applying for the card. Just as each issuer is different so are the plastic they offer. With the increase in rewards, many issuers have also increased the annual fee as well as place other stipulation on redeeming rewards. While earning double miles or additional cash back may be great, these stipulations can sometimes end up leaving you coming up short on rewards and also ultimately cost you more in the long run.
Pay with Rewards with a MasterCard Credit Card
How many times have you let your rewards that you have accumulated by making purchases with your credit card expire? If you are like millions of Americans it has probably been more times than you would like to admit. While at the moment there are many things that can help this not be a repeat occurrence such as emails and reminders (via text), it now looks like one that should take hold among cardholders is about to become available. It is brought to you by MasterCard and you will literally be able to "pay with rewards" that you have worked so hard to get.
According to an article entitled "MasterCard Introduces New Pay with Rewards Program", saving money at the places you shop most will be easier than ever before. With this new program, merchants and other business owners will be able to offer loyal shoppers discounts at the point of sale based on the amount rewards they have earned on other purchases with their plastic. At the moment under this new program it looks as though merchants will provide customers holding their store-branded MasterCard with a rewards "redemption" card, which customers can swipe at the merchants’ stores to pay for purchases with rewards earnings.
When it comes to using rewards to get discounts on future purchases, in many aspects this is something that looks like something that can quickly take root with cardholders. As times have changed dramatically and millions of people are looking for ways to save money, this could be what issuers need to have people spend on their credit cards.