Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Loyalty programs - make your points work for you

In my experience, saving money is an integral part of the farming lifestyle. Happily, I have come to see this as a game of sorts. Each deal I score or way I devise to make do with less gives me a kind of “high”.

Mindful utilization of various loyalty programs can go a long way for the frugal farmer(ette).

In the last year, I’ve swapped points for several hundred dollars in merchandise.

Here’s how I did it:

1. Combine offers whenever possible so your points accumulate in fewer programs.

For example, I opt to earn Aeroplan points instead of Esso points when buying gas at Esso. I don’t use other ways to earn Esso points, but I do use other “streams” that accumulate Aeroplan points.

My HBC points earned at the Bay and Zellers are automatically converted into Air Miles, instead of HBC points. Again, I use other ways to earn Air Miles points.

Therefore I’m collecting points in two programs instead of four, increasing my chances of reaching a point goal.

Although I haven’t used it myself, there are point swapping sites on-line such as

2. Maximize your points within programs by keeping an eye on their special offers.

Shoppers Drug Mart is not a store I visit frequently due to their (usually) higher prices.

But if I do drop in to pick up any sales there – I make sure to buy their gift card first (to collect their store points twice – once for buying the gift card, then again for spending it). I also try to limit my visits to point massing events like 20x the points days.

Real Canadian Superstore is my favourite loyalty program. Last year (yes, I am anal enough to keep track) we earned over $500 in free groceries. Other than buying most of our groceries at their stores, we also bank with President’s Choice (no fees!), and use their (fee free) credit card.

3. However - watch the credit cards that earn points.

I did have a credit card that earned airline points, until I sat down and deduced that I wasn’t recouping the $180 in annual fees each year in perks.

Also, sometimes “point” credit cards have a higher interest rate, which may negate the benefit of the perk.

4. Keep your eye on all the prizes
It may be more worth your while to trade points for smaller rewards such as gas or grocery store cards, rather than saving them up for years for a trip that may never happen.

Also, some sites like Air Miles often have deals where the required amount of points for an item are lowered.

How have you used your points?

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