Big Lots recently started a loyalty program that rewards shoppers who make 10 purchases of $20 or more. That’s $200 of random crap. I mean, great deals!
But it got me thinking. What makes a good loyalty program? What makes you roll your eyes and shop somewhere else?
For instance, I think Barnes & Noble’s $25 membership is ridiculous. Whoever heard of paying to get a discount on books that are available for free at the L-I-B-R-A-R-Y?
Other factors that make for poor loyalty programs: buy-in fees, expiring rewards, blackout dates, fees to use rewards, and extra hoops to jump through to earn or redeem rewards.
Factors that make for valuable loyalty programs: free membership, choices for rewards, the option to receive occasional emails about rewards, easy redemption process, toll-free phone number for questions about rewards, website with info about the program.
I’m starting a list of stores with great loyalty programs. Please add your faves and ones you avoid.
REI: Buy a lifetime membership for $20 and get 10 percent off all full-price purchases. Plus, their return policy is as generous as it gets. If you aren’t satisfied with an item, bring it back. If you cited your membership number when you bought it, their system will remember exactly how much you paid for it.
Walgreens: You don’t even have to JOIN their loyalty program to get the benefits, called Register Rewards. Every month you can earn RR on certain items. A piece of paper will print out at the end of your transaction that you can apply toward a future purchase. Watch out! RR expire about 2-3 weeks after you receive them and you have to buy as many items as you have RR. I.e., if you are using three RR, you have to buy three items, so it makes sense to tack on extremely low-priced items to a purchase so you can use all your RR.
Safeway: Your loyalty card is tied to your phone number and using it can shed 30-40 percent off your tab.
Macys: The best way to get Macy’s coupons is to open a Macy’s charge account. Even if you only use your card once a year Macys will send you an un-ending stream of coupons, many of them good only when you pay with your Macys card. I frequently receive 20 percent off coupons and coupons for $10 off a purchase of $25.