Loyalty programs, and/or loyalty cards, are THE hot new thing in the shopping world, both online, and in your local brick and mortar stores, or service companies. Have you heard of them? When customers like them, they keep returning to that store or chain for more points and rewards, or discounts, making them a loyal customer.
Maybe you have a loyalty card, and don't even realize it. Like, do you collect Air Miles? Aeroplan? How about PC Plus points when you buy groceries?
You may already be familiar with rewards, or cash back when shopping. For instance, if you shop regularly at Superstore (also known as Loblaws, Supervalu, and other such names depending on the part of Canada you are in), you will probably be using the PointsPlus card. This is a rewards points system that adds to your card as you do your shopping. When you have more than 20,000 points on your card, you can use them for groceries or other products. Every 1000 points is worth $1.
Air Miles is such a loyalty program. Other chain stores have similar ideas.
Canadian Tire has long had a special program with their own Canadian Tire Money (coupons that looked a bit like cash) for many decades. Jokes about their "funny money" have gone around for ages, yet most people that I know carry those unique bills in their wallet and use them for cents off at their next purchase. Some have collected them for years, then go in and use them to buy products. I've heard that Canadian Tire wants to phase this out, but they still gave me their "funny money" (coupons) the last time I bought something there.
I had assumed there might be all of six to seven such rewards cards and customer loyalty programs. When I did some research online I discovered that my county, Canada, has 66 of them! I learned too, that European and Asian countries have been the most enthusiastic users of these programs. North America is just beginning to catch on.
Merchants like to explain to customers that these cards will benefit them in better prices, or cash back, and special deals that others will never see. However, the merchant sets them up because they will benefit their business too. Otherwise they wouldn't bother with all that record-keeping, and apparent loss in sales. You see, the merchant gains loyal shoppers or members who will come to their store or service more often in hopes of getting these bargains and great deals.
If you go to a favourite gas station or grocery store, and suddenly find their loyalty program has been dropped, it will be because the merchant wasn't benefiting any more. Or - maybe they found a better one to join, run by another loyalty program which takes care of the details.
I read that some stores have found these programs rather cumbersome, so a few have eliminated their program and they just offer everyone who buys gets a flat discount. Good for them! I'm glad they can think fairly.
So, don't feel badly about taking advantage of the better loyalty programs.
Ah, but how to choose?
If you are a Canadian you may find a study by Environics Research Group very helpful. They were looking for a way to compare the various customer loyalty programs and cards. However, there were so many variables that they found that rather hard. Instead, they turned to finding out how long it takes to benefit from these cards. Their published report breaks down about 66 such programs in Canada, and you will find the results and the Appendix with the lists interesting. They show how many months it takes to get $100 value (or merchandise) from each card. A few at the bottom of the charts are marked as ones where you will NEVER see any value for your efforts. You may want to have a look so you know which cards tos avoid altogether.
According to their research, the credit cards that will get a program member to a cash equivalent or merchandise reward the quickest tend to be either retailer-specific or bank issued credit cards.
On this site I have recommended rebate shopping sites, like Big Crumbs (which has just become MainStreetSHARES.com), Ebates, and the Great Canadian Rebate site. You sign up for free, and before you shop online you login to one of these sites, click on the link to the store you want to shop at, and later you get money back from your purchases there. Loyalty programs are much the same.
You are a savvy, power shopper. Right? It is important then, to be up-to-date on this matter and to find the best loyalty program, (or programs), for you to use.
* you should not have to pay to obtain such a card or membership. Remember the merchants are benefiting too.
* You should see cash or tangible rewards within a month or two. Immediately would be best!
* You should benefit if you invite your friends to join
* It should not be complicated!
Well, guess what! There is another - NEW - Rewards, or Loyalty program available. It works in just such a way, but with hundreds and hundreds of stores and chains. Not just one chain. You only need to flash this loyalty card at a point of sale in a physical store or service, - or click first on the store's link in the central site online - and you earn cash back AND shopping points. You can save up the points, and then use as discount coupons, or outright purchases of special items.
Lyoness is this loyalty program. It was too new in Canada, to make it into the Environics' study, but it is a clever, totally free plan to benefit you from almost all your regular shopping. It started in Europe in 2003 and has been growing there, and all over Asia by leaps and bounds. Now it it taking North America by storm.
Lyoness can only be joined at the invitation of a current member. If you have been waiting for someone to give you an invitation, I'll be glad to do that; I just need to know your email address first.