A Little Love for Loyalty
I finally got my wallet to snap shut the other day. I haven't been able to do that for the last decade. I took out all the loyalty cards to count how many I've been suckered into signing up for. It was a whopping 15, which is why I could never close my wallet. Some of these cards are worth the space in my wallet and the small effort to whip out when I make a purchase, others are just taking up snap space. Retailers promise to give you discounts in exchange for some facts about you and the ability to track everything you buy at their store. But I know people who stay as far away from these cards as possible. I'm actually a fan of loyalty cards, which means I'll never have a wallet that fully closes. Here are some things I've heard people say about loyalty cards and why I think they're wrong:
"The store keeps track of what you buy." Yes, they do. But most stores claim to use the information only to generate coupons and other offers based on your purchases. Notice the coupons that spit out when you make a purchase at a grocery store chain. Many of them are for items you purchased but by different manufacturers. Yes, you're handed a wad of paper as you roll away from the cashier. So you throw it away. The good news is most stores will remove your name from this service if you ask.
"The stores sell your personal information and your purchasing habits to third parties." It depends on the card. If the store is owned by a company that owns other businesses, your information may be given to those other stores within the company. The trick is to make sure you tell the store that you don't want your information going to those other stores and you're not interested in any offers. Most stores will ask for your permission to do this by making you check or uncheck a box on the application form. Look closely for it.
"You can still get loyalty card savings without signing up for the card." Sorry, but no. If you decide to not sign up for that little Giant BonusCard, you will pay the regular prices. Stores want your information and in return they'll give you whatever they promise, whether it be discounts or coupons. Hey, loyalty alone does not get rewarded in the retail world.
"You only really save with loyalty cards if you go to that one store a lot." It really depends on the card. Some cards give you a discount every time you make a purchase, whether you shop there weekly or yearly. But if you're using say a punch card that rewards you after you spend a certain amount at a store, then the card may not be worth it if you only go there a few times a year.
"Forget loyalty cards, the real savings when buying groceries is in coupons." If I had to choose between using coupons or a loyalty card when making my grocery shopping run, I'd definitely go for the loyalty card. I don't care if the store keeps a log of what I bought, I can't seem to get excited for coupons. I've really tried hard, my coupon-using friends. Is it just me or does it seem like most coupons make you buy more than one of the item? And frankly the discounts that I get from some store cards are far bigger than the coupons I've clipped.
So after years of using loyalty cards and punch cards, I've figured out which ones are my favs. As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of Giant's card and I love DSW, which sends me a $10 off coupon every few months. And I'm part of the massive following that the CVS card has attracted. I don't like punch cards. Mainly because you have to spend so much to get a minimal discount. Punch cards are only worthwhile at stores that you frequent on a weekly basis.
So are you a fan of loyalty cards and punch cards? Which ones are the best and which ones are better to pass on? Which offer a better deal -- coupons or a loyalty card? Have you been able to get a loyalty card without giving up too much information? Post a comment below.
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