By Noah Henry • August 13, 2013
If your wallet’s thicker than a dictionary, it’s necessary to do some inventory to see which cards you carry are useless or expired. Often, the bulk comes from stacking up on rewards cards. For the sake of your wallet’s real estate, we’ve plundered and pillaged the furthest corners of commerce to discover the best loyalty programs that exist.
Choosing loyalty programs is like choosing your best friends—you want to find ones that won’t eventually break your heart. Unfortunately, some stores offer empty incentives to lure customers in, but provide no real benefits in the end. According to a survey by ACI Worldwide, 44 percent of people have had a negative experience with a rewards program. For the sake of the let-down loyalist, we’ve weeded out the words, chosen the best, and listed them as follows:
Like toothpaste and deodorant, beauty supplies need constant renewal after such frequent use. The sheer volume of upkeep requires placing your loyalties in brand that’ll steadily reward you with each buy. If you become a Beauty Insider, for every dollar you spend, Sephora places one point in your Beauty Bank. Every 100 points allows you to choose one Beauty Insider deluxe sample with your purchase. After you’ve accumulated 500 points, Sephora grants you a free, limited-edition set for Beauty Insiders only. Beauty Insiders also receive presents on their birthday. Now, that’s beautiful.
Diapers.com isn’t just about diapers; they’ve got the whole spectrum of parental needs—diapering, formulas, cleanliness supplies, bath products, skincare, and just about everything else a newborn requires. For every purchase you make, you get 5% back in your customer account, which is then automatically applied to future orders. Diapers.com also gives you the choice of donating $5 to charity or receiving $5 credit each time you refer a friend. Friends get 20% off on their first order.
ELECTRONICS: Best Buy
People shop at Best Buy for their respectable prices and wide selection of consumer electronics. When you enroll in Best Buy’s Reward Zone, you get one point per dollar spent and receive $5 reward certificates for every 250 points. Membership in the Reward Zone also provides exclusive access to special events and members-only offers. The Reward Zone Platinum MasterCard is the next step up, giving you 2.5 points for every dollar spent, saving you a total of 5% on every purchase.
PetSmart’s PetPerks is a coupon-based rewards program, giving its members thousands of in-store discounts upon registration. Your pet gets a free treat for its birthday as well. PetPerks members can customize their account to receive email alerts when their favorite brands go on sale. As we all know, pets consume food like it’s nobody’s business. Having a shop like PetSmart to provide exclusive discounts and other benefits only adds to the enjoyment of owning a pet.
TOOLS: Ace Hardware
Tools dull, paint chips, pipes break. Ace Hardware rewards the repeat shopper with Ace Rewards. Members receive exclusive benefits including 10 points for every dollar spent, $5 back per 2,500 points, 1,000 bonus points upon registration, coupons, and home improvement tips. Ace’s special credit card, the Ace Visa Card, gives customers up to 10% back quarterly in Ace Rewards Points, up to 5% back on Ace purchases, 2% back on gas and groceries, and 1% in rewards everywhere else the Visa is accepted. Construction workers, home improvement aficionados and hobbyists get a leg up with these programs.
FLYING: Southwest Vacations
Southwest is one of the most generous airlines, the recipient of many awards for promotions like Bags Fly Free, Companion Pass, and absolutely zero change or cancellation fees. If you fly Southwest on a frequent basis, you should take advantage of the Rapid Rewards program. As a member, you can redeem your points for seats, earn up to 12 points for every dollar you spend, and fly during blackout dates. Rapid Rewards E-mails also give you the latest promotional offers. Earning enough points—after roughly 10 flights—can get you a free flight.
SPORTING GOODS: Sports Authority
By joining The League at Sports Authority you can receive 5% back in Reward Bucks every three months and one point for every dollar spent. This is absolutely ideal for sports-lovers.
CAR RENTALS: National
No one likes wasting time waiting for a car rental after they’ve landed. What makes National’s Emerald Club special is its speed and choices. Available in 56 cities nationwide, this program gives customers one credit per rental, with seven credits earning a free rental day. By flashing your Emerald Club card you get to bypass the counter, drop your car off without checking for damages, and choose whichever car you’d like at the price of a midsize. The Emerald Club is great for those who tend to be fashionably late for flights.
As if Starbucks needed more incentives to attract customers, My Starbucks Rewards gives caffeine junkies Stars, and the more Stars they receive, the greater the benefits. The first time you use your card, you get something to eat or drink on your birthday. You get free refills at no charge after five Stars (Green), and after thirty Stars (Gold), you get all the benefits you’ve gained plus free food and drink for every 12 Stars, a personalized Gold card, and special offers and coupons exclusive to your membership.
The REDcard gives you 5% off on Target’s already-low prices, along with free shipping and 30 extra days for returns. If you’re feeling charitable, you can opt to donate 1% of your REDcard purchases to an eligible K-12 school. Saving plus giving equals awesome.
Stack coupons on top of customer loyalty benefits for the ultimate way to save!
Noah Henry Noah Henry is an amateur movie critic, foodie, bowler, and beer reviewer. But he's no amateur when it comes to saving money, so listen up!