Saturday, October 15, 2011

Loyalty Points and Programs: Are They Worth The Effort?

Considering the deal we just got on a cruise I booked a few days ago,


More on that in a bit.


Seriously, I'm always totally amazed when I speak with people who don't take advantages of ways to save money. Or get "free" money. Over the years, I've heard excuses such as, "Takes too much time", or, "What a hassle". One of the prime examples of this is when the topic of clipping coupons comes up. In my opinion, anyone who does not take a few moments each Sunday to go through the weekly coupons is a bit of a moron. Yeah, yeah, you DON'T clip the ones you never intend on using, I say this to address those who moan, "You end up spending more because you buy things you normally wouldn't buy". Really? That same "logic" could be applied to seeing an ad in a paper for a bandsaw on sale at Home Depot so you run out and buy it, even though you have zero clue was a bandsaw is or what to use it for. Duh! You clip what you use, just as you shop sales for things you use.

One of the jazziest moments in my life was when I had over $200 worth of groceries in my cart at a store in Colorado Springs,but, thanks to their triple coupon Sundays and the other various deals they had with their loyalty card, I paid a whopping $42. I have never reached that nirvana again, but, I keep on trying.

Let me digress a second to say that one thing I absolutely love about shopping at Publix here in Florida is they don't have loyalty cards. They have weekly specials and deals that are available to anyone who wanders into the store to take advantage of them. None of this, "Do you have your XYZ card with you?" and the hassle of digging for it, scanning it, etc. And, if you can't find it, they may or may not give you the specials, anyway. So, I'm not a huge fan of having to have a card to scan to save money, but, don't get me wrong, I'll do it if it will save me money!

Here is another no brainer. I don't know how many times I've tried to get people I know to sign up for My Points. It works in two ways after you sign up. First, you get daily emails advertising products and services from companies that have also signed up with My Points. With the majority of these emails, you click on a link and immediately get 5 points added to your account. That's it. You don't have to buy the product or service. Another way to get points is to do all of your on-line shopping through My Point's site. They have partnered with MANY on-line merchants (products and services) that people use on a routine basis. There are a few hold outs (like Amazon and Keurig) but the biggies are there, even e-Bay. Here is how this works. Say you want to send someone flowers. You go to My Points site, search on flowers and gifts, pick the vendor you want (either by you know you like them or because they are offering the most points per dollar). Say you pick the old stand-by, FTD. Well, they are currently offering 20 points per dollar spent (I know because I just checked). So, you buy an arrangement for $30 plus tax, delivery, etc. Say that all adds up to $45. Once the payment's been made, you get 45X20= 900 points added to your My Points account just for that transaction. Believe me, the points really add up at holiday time!

If a person wants, they can also take part in surveys to get more points; I did this for awhile but I did find that a bit time consuming. Especially since I never seemed to qualify after answering the preliminary questions. However, just answering those few questions generally nets you 10 points.

And the purpose for doing all of this is? You use your points to buy gift cards to merchants, restaurants, etc. Again, some pretty good ones to chose from. Barnes and Noble, (my favorite) Kohl's, Target, California Pizza Kitchen, Outback Steak House, etc. I've received gift cards and used them myself or given them to others for gifts. They typically run in $10, $25 or $50 denominations. To get a $50 card, you have to have somewhere around 7,000 points. But, hey, you got it for FREE. Go on! Sign up already!

Which brings me to loyalty programs with credit cards. Only on a rare occasion will I use a credit card when I don't get something for using it (are you listening, AMEX?) Therefore, we typically use two cards. Chase Ink for business where we get one point per dollar spent (sometimes more if the transaction was for certain things like gas) and then trade the points in for credits to our balance. I think every 5,000 points = $50 credit. You can also use the points to buy gift cards but we've decided we like this option better.

We use a Royal Caribbean Visa card for just about anything and everything we can non-business related. The points add up quickly (plus we get double points anytime we purchase anything from Royal Caribbean; cruises, paying the dreaded end of cruise bar and excursion tab, etc.)

Note: It probably goes without saying but I'll say it, anyway. In order to get the points, you have to pay your balance off in full each month. Or, maybe you get points for making the minimum payment, I don't know for sure since it's been years and years and years since I've only made a minimum payment on anything.

Ok, my grand finale here. I just booked a four night cruise in an aft balcony stateroom out of Tampa on Jewel of the Seas. After the point redemption process, the cruise fare (before taxes) is $216 per person. We had more points to use, so we also have a $250 on board credit. So, just to make it simple, apply half of that per person (we'll easily blow through $250 in four nights) and you have a cruise fare of $153.50 per person. Oh, and we're not even that high up (yet) with RCI's Crown and Anchor Society. Once we have a few more cruises under our belt, we'll save even more. As it is, they do give us a coupon book when we get on board good for a few free drinks, discounts on excursions, merchandise, etc.

Like I said. Is it worth it?

Hell, yes.

No. Brainer. Unless, I suppose, you don't have any brains at all.

Mrs. B


Mr. B said...

Yes, it is a no-brainer, isn't it? TA

Analee said...

n's thing for last week must have been coupon clipping. i have a wallet full. i don't just buy to buy cause i have it though. i only use them if i need that item. TP and lunch meat (for the kids) is a common one for me.

i do love coupons though. and sales even more.

great deal on the cruise!

i'm shopping for a new camera now. saving my dough so i can buy it - and finding the best deal so i can buy more for less. great topic!

Doc said...

I agree on everything but the credit cards. Getting the points is nice, but it is awfully easy to outspend your income with a credit card.

I guess the only way you could sanely use a credit card is to use a check register and keep track of what you're spending.

Mrs. B said...

Doc...yes, it can a challenge not to over spend. Probably what I should have written is, if you are planning on spending the money anyway (or have to) AND you pay off your balance every month, why not use a credit card where you get something in return.

How's that? :-)