Making the Most of Rewards and Membership Programs

You can enhance your saving and budgeting strategies by enrolling in strategic reward and membership programs.

 

They are offered for hotel stays, airline travel and credit card purchases. However, many of the most commonly used rewards programs are membership-based programs for specific businesses. Your favorite grocery, retail and drugstores probably all offer rewards programs. They are also offered by most large retail stores and wholesale clubs. However, rewards and membership programs do not all offer the same types of benefits or work the same way.

This can cause problems when you are trying to maximize your reward program bonuses. It can also make deciding which reward programs to join difficult. After all, you do not want to waste time trying to get rewards from a program with a poor benefit earning structure. You will benefit more when you select useful programs and understand exactly how those membership programs work. Below are some tips for making the most of rewards and membership programs.

Join the Reward Programs Most Likely to Benefit You

Many reward programs are free to join. However, that does not mean joining all of them is a good idea. Splitting your attention, and your spending, between too many programs will make it harder to earn rewards from each program within a reasonable amount of time. You may also become frustrated with trying to juggle too many programs and stop using all of them entirely. To avoid the hassle, join reward programs that will most likely benefit you.

If you are not sure which programs will help you the most, examine your lifestyle. If you like to travel, an airline rewards program or hotel membership program may pay off quickly. Similarly, you may always shop at the same retail or grocery chains. You will earn reward credits quickly when you sign up for memberships offered by those chains.

The following rewards programs are among some of the best:

  • REI: Co-Op Membership
  • Amazon Prime
  • Nordstrom
  • LL Bean
  • Banana Republic
  • Kohls
  • Macy’s
  • Sephora

Understand the Rewards You Should be Receiving

To maximize your reward and membership program earnings, it is important to monitor your progress frequently. You can only do so if you fully understand the rewards you should be receiving. It is easy to sign up for a store rewards program while making a purchase, but the cashier may not explain your benefits to you. You must take the time to look up the program benefits on your own when you return home. Alternatively, if you join an online rewards program, you must visit the website detailing the program rewards system that will be used. Possible types of rewards include, but may not be limited to:

  • Coupons
  • In-store savings
  • Extra rewards from partnered businesses, such as gas stations
  • Free samples
  • Points redeemable for products
  • Extra perks and level systems based on purchases made

You must be particularly careful when using point-based rewards programs because rules are often put into place governing earning and redemption. For example, you may not earn points on certain types of purchases. On others, you may earn double points. Additionally, you must understand how much each point is worth. For example, 100 points may be equal to one dollar in one program, but 1,000 points may equal one dollar in another. Some programs also allow you to roll unused points into the following calendar year or continue to accumulate points indefinitely. Others may require you to use points by a certain date or lose them. Point expiration is common among airlines and hotel chains. It can also occur in retail and other reward programs.

Make Sure Each Program You Join is Actually Rewarding

The main reason to join a rewards program is to get actual rewards. Therefore, you should not join a rewards program that does not seem lucrative. For example, a local grocery store may offer you discounts when you buy certain products as a reward program member. However, if another local store has lower everyday prices than the final amounts you are paying after receiving your discount, you are not being rewarded.

Similarly, if you have to purchase a large amount of goods to receive a small amount of cash back or points, it may not be worth it. That is particularly true if you are dealing with a point-based rewards program and the points expire after a certain period. Also, beware of card-based programs, such as those offered by popular restaurants and sandwich shops. If you forget to bring your card or misplace it, you will miss rewards.

 

Disregard the Reward Potential When Making Purchases

Most reward programs have two goals. The first is to encourage you to do ongoing business with a company or group of companies. The second is to entice you to make extra purchases each time you do business with that company or group of companies. Therefore, when making a purchase at a store where you are a reward program member, it will help to pretend you are not in the reward program. Ask yourself if the product or service you are buying is one you need or your purchase is solely based on the potential rewards you can earn. Your reward programs should give you bonuses for making purchases you would make anyway. They should not cause you to purchase items you do not need.

Keep a Spreadsheet with Reward Program Information

To make the most of rewards and membership programs, you must understand how the programs compare to each other. You must be able to quickly identify which membership to use in certain situations. Comparing reward programs can often seem like comparing apples to oranges. Also, some programs offer multiple benefits. For example, the cash value of points can be easily quantified, but the values of free samples, coupons and other perks must also be noted. The easiest method is to keep a spreadsheet detailing the approximate value of each program point. You can also attempt to calculate the value of performing certain actions within each program. By doing some online research, you may find other consumers who have already listed the values of some reward programs.

You can also use your spreadsheet to track your reward program earnings. One benefit of tracking your earnings is you will know when you have enough points to redeem. Cashiers may not automatically tell you your point balances when you shop unless you ask. You will also be able to see how quickly you are earning rewards in each program. Then you can focus more on the most rewarding memberships. If your rewards program points expire after a period of time, using a spreadsheet to track them can also help you remember to use them while they are still valid.

 

It might also interest you: