Loyalty cards are a great way to save money, that don't require you to bring your coupons with you. It seems like most stores actually offer them now and a lot of restaurants do too. The image above are a few that are in my wallet at all times. Don't worry you don't need an extra wallet just for the cards - often they provide a small key chain version for you to take with you too (I have too many of those to count) I'll go through some of their benefits later in the article. But first, let's cover some basics.
Where do you get loyalty cards?
There are two ways to get loyalty cards, physical cards or digital ones. What's the difference??
Physical cards you have to go into the store and get the card. They may have you fill out a form there at the store, have you mail it in or have you register the card online. OfficeMax, for example, has you fill out the form in store. It only takes a few minutes, but you can always fill it out and mail it in if you don't want to hold up the line. Red Robin has their Red Royalty card they've recently launched - they hand you the card and apply it to your current transaction and you register it online. Often if they have you register the card online there is a perk to this (extra coupon, free appetizer etc).
Digital loyalty cards are similar to the physical cards, but you sign up online. A great example of this is Meijers Mperks program. You sign up with your cell phone number, load the coupons you want on the card digitally - and at checkout you put in your phone number and it applies the credits, coupons and etc you have on the card.
What are the benefits?
Free stuff, coupons and "member's only exclusive deals"
Here are a few perks of different loyalty card programs:
Kroger - If you shop at Kroger this is a must have card. Their weekly sale prices only apply if you have this card. But the best thing is, they've launched their gas program. For every $1.00 you spend in the store you get 1 point, for every 100 points you can save 10¢ off per gallon at Kroger Gas Station or at Shell Gas Stations. If you don't quite have 100 points, you will still automatically save 3¢ per gallon at the pump. But if you get 1000 points - you can save $1.00 off per gallon! OK, that seems extreme.. I never get near $1000 in groceries per month (points reset every month) and I doubt most people do. But if you buy gift cards you get double points, and near major holidays they give you quadruple points for gift card purchases. So you spend $100 and get 400 points, or 40¢ off per gallon! Not a bad trade off!
Meijer's Mperks - As I mentioned before this is a digital card. You sign up online with your cell phone number. Your number becomes your card number. Just for signing up you get a $2.00 off your next purchase coupon on your card. You can sign into Mperks with your phone number and pin and load digital coupons that can be used on your checkout order. These coupons can be only used once. Rumor has it they will allow you to stack these with manufacturer coupons soon!
RiteAid Wellness - This is essential for every shopper who plans on couponing at RiteAid. The +UP rewards they advertise only apply if you have a Wellness card. But what else does it do? For every 100 Wellness points you earn using it, you get a 10% off your whole order coupon! That's a nice little perk.
CVS card - This has been a favorite for years, you get ECB (extra care bucks) for every purchase using this card. Some deals even give you ECB just for purchasing. Your total ECB comes out every quarter, and will print at the register. Recently CVS stores have installed a Red coupon Machine - I refer to this as the coupon slot machine. You go in with your CVS card and scan it - it spits out coupons. No more waiting until your receipt prints to find out if you have a coupon you might have been able to use. Instead you hold them in your hand, can shop and even have your ECB in your hand to use on that purchase. Sometimes CVS advertises a special Extra Care special if you scan your card at the kiosk. A couple weeks ago it was a free Hershey's Bar, a month or so back it was a free Green Card (bring your own bag earn an ECB for every 4 visits!). One thing about the Coupon Kiosk most people don't know - you can keep scanning. I like to scan my card until it says "no more coupons today, please come back tomorrow" not only do you get all of your available coupons but it plays that cute little jingle each time!
Qdoba Card - I'm not going to admit how long I've had one of these cards.. let's just say it's almost been double digits years.. But this is one of my favorites. When you first sign up for a card you get a free chips and salsa. Then for every 10 entrees (or 1000 points) you get a free meal. They have played with this in the past so it was 1300 points, but realized it worked better with an even 10! They offer double points Tuesdays too, and by joining you get member only coupons for B1G1 meals, or even free meals. You even get a free meal the month of your birthday!
Biggby (Formerly Beaners) - Free Coffee/Beverage for every 10 you purchase. Free Drink the month of your birthday.
Caribou Coffee - This one is an online only type thing. Register with them and you get exclusive coupons, B1G1, Free Birthday drink etc.
Panera Bread Company - I'm not quite sure how they've set up their points system. But I have them scan it every time I go in for a salad. You get free breakfast items, free smoothies, free entrees, and for your birthday usually a free pastry item!
Red Robin Royalty Card - This is a new kid on the block, but already a favorite in our house. Just for getting the card you get a free appetizer (in the first 2 weeks after registering). After you register it online you get a $3 off a dine in purchase. For every 9 entrees you get 1 free, and if you visit 5 times in 5 weeks you get a $20 credit. Red Robin is in our "weekend rotation" of places we default to when it's too hot to cook. After I registered the card, I kept the $3 off coupon a week or two (last 3 weeks I believe). I applied it when we got our 9th and 10th entrees (10th was free). Our total bill was $8.00 for dinner for two. The next week, I did a pick up order, and since we had our 5 visits in - it was completely free. Yes, take out dinner with a $0.00 bill! It was fantastic!
Target - It's not exactly a loyalty card, it's more a digital coupon system. We all know they have their printable coupons online. But if you sign up for Target Mobile you get exclusive coupons to use. They tend to send you 10 a month, but they are often high value coupons - better than their printables. $5 off accessory purchase of $30 or more etc. The only downfall to Target Mobile is often the cashiers are unsure how to apply the coupons, or get confused when you ask them to scan the barcode on your phones screen.
Does my store have one?
Other stores offer loyalty cards etc as well. Pet stores often offer a "buy X amount of pet food get your next one free" deals with their cards - that has saved me a few times making sure our cats had food.
I'm not sure if every store has one, or if your personal store has a card. If they do, they often list it on their website. If you see they have a loyalty card - check if they have member only digital coupons, or printable coupons!
There are a lot of loyalty cards out there, I've only listed a handful of the programs above. If you know of any other useful ones feel free to let me know!