Editorial Policy

Store Loyalty Programs — Worth it or Not?

Allie Johnson

March 28, 2013

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.