Love receiving cash, discounts, freebies, and other perks from loyalty programs? Unfortunately, a lot of those hand-outs won’t fall into your lap — you need to keep track and stay up-to-date with your rewards so that you don’t miss out. But it doesn’t have to be difficult! We found the easy tricks to getting the most out of these rewards from credit cards, gas stations, restaurants, stores, and travel. Here’s how.
1) Sign up for free alerts.
It’s estimated that Americans have more than $100 billion in unused loyalty points, yet nearly six in 10 of us don’t know our points balances, and four in 10 of us don’t know our points’ worth. And if you don’t use points you’ve accrued within a certain time frame, they could expire and you’ll lose them altogether. An easy way to keep on top of your points (rather than log into each loyalty account and search): Download a free app, like AwardWallet (AwardWallet.com) or Max Rewards (MaxRewards.co), that monitors points you accrue from airlines, credit cards, hotels, and more — all in one place. Best of all, they’ll alert you when your balances change and before points expire.
2) Use your points sooner.
Do you wait to accumulate a large amount of points to start redeeming them? You’ll get more out of your points by cashing them in right away. That’s because loyalty programs can change at any time. And some of those changes include requiring a greater number of points to redeem for rewards. For example, last year, Chipotle raised the number of loyalty points needed to earn a free entrée (such as a burrito or burrito bowl) from 1,400 to 1,625. And Starbucks recently increased the number of star points you need for a free hot coffee, tea, bakery item, or packaged snack from 50 to 100, a free handcrafted beverage or hot breakfast item from 150 to 200, and a lunch sandwich, packaged salad, or packaged coffee item (such as bagged coffee beans) from 200 to 300. By using your points as soon as you accrue them, you’ll ensure you get the most out of them.
3) Focus on favorites.
There’s a rising trend in businesses (including airlines, cruises, retailers, and restaurants) offering “tiered” loyalty programs that give more rewards to customers who make frequent visits. So it’s smart to check your favorite brands’ loyalty programs to see if they offer more perks for your repeat business. Just one example: At Sephora, spending any amount entitles you to membership to the retailer’s “Insider” tier, earning you 10 percent off at seasonal savings events and 2X points at point multiplier events. But customers who spend $350 or more a year enter the “VIB” tier and earn 15 percent off at seasonal savings events and 3X points at point multiplier events.
4) Check here for rewards.
You already know about earning points on credit cards, airlines, restaurants, and stores, but you can benefit by checking to see if other businesses you use offer loyalty programs, even if you don’t think they would. You may be surprised! One such unexpected loyalty program could be from your local mall. To increase foot traffic, more and more malls (including Minnesota’s Mall of America) are offering rewards for shopping at any of the stores in their directory! This means if you sign up for loyalty programs from individual stores and from your mall, you’ll rack up twice the rewards!
5) Know this scam buster.
Sure, you know to regularly change passwords for your bank and credit card accounts to keep them safe from hackers. It’s also important to do the same with passwords for loyalty accounts. There’s been a sharp increase in online account takeovers (up 90 percent between 2020 and 2021 alone!), and loyalty programs are a prime target. These thieves can steal accrued reward points and gain access to credit and bank accounts you use to pay when at loyalty program-connected businesses.
Follow the Facebook and Instagram accounts for businesses where you have rewards. Many use social media to announce bonus savings and exclusive giveaways just for members!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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