It’s the bargain shopper’s conundrum: on the one hand, if you sign up for different frequent shopper programs, you may get discounts. On the other hand, the discounts may not be great unless you spend a ridiculous amount of money, you have to give up personal information, and then you have fifty million cards to keep track of. Jewel famously got rid of its card, because the company found it to be more trouble than it was worth. At the same time, many local businesses are participating in programs that work at many places. Here’s a brief overview to help you decide what works for you:
Spring Rewards: We’ve written about Spring before. You sign up online with your credit card, then find a participating restaurant. The savings from those restaurants is credited to your card; there are no points to redeem or track. The advantage is the simplicity, and the downside is that you have to give your credit card into to the company.
Belly: Stores that accept Belly have tablet computers that customers can use to earn points at that location. Customers need either the Belly mobile app or the universal BellyCard to earn points. On the plus side, it is used by more than 6,000 businesses nationwide. On the downside, you must remember to check in with Belly separately from paying for your transaction.
Five Stars: You can sign up online or pick up a card at a participating business. To earn points at a participating business, you either show your card or give the cashier your mobile phone number. It’s simple, but it is not as widely accepted as Belly.
The best card is the one that you’ll use enough to earn whatever credits are on offer. Also, these programs often change or go away, so don’t hoard your points in hopes of earning a massive prize. Settle for smaller rebates as you go.