If you’re like most people, your wallet is stuffed with shopper cards that you may or may not use. Also known as loyalty, club, membership and rewards cards, the free bar-coded cards are offered by retailers selling electronics, books, office supplies, sporting goods and pet-care products. American households on average belong to 14 loyalty programs, but they don’t use them regularly. On average, eight of those 14 hadn’t been used in the past year.
So, should you bother cluttering your wallet or keychain with these cards? Here are some tips to maximize your savings with shopper cards:
1. Obviously, you can score some good savings and rewards with shopper cards, that’s the main point. But you really have to work it to get the maximum benefit. For example: your supermarket might offer excellent prices on their "club card" items. But they’re hoping you buy more quantities than you need, or, once you’re in the store, you could be tempted to buy other items at higher prices. So, before you leave home, carefully peruse the store’s flyer, and make up a shopping list consisting only of the bargain items.
2. Do some comparisons: those special shopper card prices might actually be higher than the everyday low prices offer ed by discounters such as Target or Wal-Mart or various online merchants. Discount club memberships such as Costco or Sam’s Club can offer great savings, too, but often you have to buy in quantity, not always a money-saving choice for a smaller household.
3. If it’s a rewards program, such as cash back or gifts after a certain amount of purchases, think twice. If you are absolutely sure you would normally spend the rewards-qualifying amounts, fine. But don’t start inflating your buying just to get rewards; you won’t save money that way.
4. Think about your privacy. Shopper card programs collect your personal information, and when they are scanned each time you shop, the retailer is collecting information about your buying habits. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can allow the merchant to figure out what products people want the most, so they can carry those products in their inventory. Also, the information allows them to tailor special coupons or sales that you might find especially useful. Still, some consumers are uncomfortable with the idea, and choose to provide fake information to obtain a shopper card and preserve their privacy.
5. Declutter your wallet. Consolidate up to 6 shopper club bar codes/store names onto one little wallet card, a t www.keyringthing.com. Print a paper version of the consolidated wallet card for free, or pay $3.97and they’ll ship yiou a plastic version. Your local retailer’s card not listed? The website provides instructions on how to create a bar code to add to your card.