How to Keep Track of Your Points Schemes
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Customer loyalty is not what it sounds like on the tin. You do not get something for nothing. When it comes to spending on your shop, big chains use loyalty cards for a few reasons. Firstly, to encourage spending in their store. Secondly, to track what you buy so they can use that information to predict future shopping habits. Just so we are clear, it does pay to be tracked. If you are going to spend money, you might as well get as much back from it as you can. This could be in the form of points/vouchers etc.
Most people spend money in lots of different places, most tend not to stick to one supermarket chain for example, or the same restaurant. Knowing this, some people are overwhelmed by the amount of loyalty schemes available and decide that they only want to fill up their wallet/purse with the ones they tend to shop in most. I have come up with a few strategies to manage the plethora of loyalty cards and here are a few:
First off, if there is a scheme, us it.
ORGANISE YOUR CARDS ELECTRONICALLY/MANUALLY
I write down all the schemes I am a part of so I don't have to remember
I purchased a card organiser where I store all of my physical loyalty cards. You can check prices on your local Amazon here. If I'm going out somewhere, and I know I'm going to a specific shop, I take out the card. This is my preference, I prefer real cards as it reminds me to use them. A key fob also works well, since they're really small. I get them when they're available.
There are apps where you can store all of your loyalty cards so you never have to carry a card with you. Personally, I get irritated by the fact that not all loyalty schemes are yet available on them, so I would have to remember if they're on the app or not when in store. A card is always available. Card storage apps will get better in future, and I am prepared to switch to them when they do.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR POINTS
I keep track of my loyalty account balances in the same way as I track my bank balances. It usually takes about 15 mins to check all of them online. Using a password manager is useful here. A password manager like Keychain for MacBook (others are available) means you just have to go onto the login page and your details are automatically filled in. (Hint: This also allows you to store different, complex passwords for different sites, making your accounts more secure)
Above is a simple table I made on Apple Numbers. I write in all the schemes I am a part of (left) and update the point balances on the same day every month. I update this on the same day I update my account balances, so everything is done at the same time. On the right, I have included a "Best Way To Maximise" column where I add details on how to maximise the points and redemptions.
Maximise your value per point
Sometimes rewards schemes, like Tesco Clubcard, offer you the option of an in-store voucher, or a voucher with a reward partner. Normally, the £:p (Pound to point) ratio is better if you redeem with a reward partner (like a restaurant chain) rather than an in-store voucher.
Watch out for point devaluations
The problem with saving points is that you never know when they are going to get devalued. For example, 100 points in a certain loyalty scheme might get you a £10 gift voucher. One month later, the same 100 points might only get you a £5 voucher. In my opinion, large point balances are better in credit card rewards schemes (eg. Amex Membership Rewards) where they have lots of redemption partners. Similarly, large point balances in air mile schemes can save you thousands of pounds if you redeem them for the right seat. So just be aware that point devaluations can occur. Don't treat points as absolute savings, in my opinion.
Credit Card Introductory Bonuses
When you are considering an application for a credit card, the introductory bonus is an important factor. You will usually, but not always, have to reach a minimum spend in a certain amount of time. For example, you may have to spend £1000 on the card in the first 3 months. The starting date could be the date you received the card, it could be the date you applied, or somewhere in between. If it is not clear, ask the card company. Ask them the exact date that you have to reach the minimum spend and write it in your calendar.
I was given 3 months to spend £1000 when I received my Amex Rewards card. I checked the exact due date with Amex and noted it down. I had to reach a £1000 minimum spend by the 14th of October, 2017 to be awarded 10,000 Amex MR points. So I set a reminder for the 14th of August and September to remind me to hit the minimum spend. I never spent more than normal. Instead I used a few tricks to hit the minimum as soon as possible.
- If someone kind, that you trust (eg. a family member) is making a purchase, ask if they can give you the money instead so you can then purchase it using the card.
- The voucher trick. If it counts towards your minimum spend, buy a voucher that you know you will redeem (like a major supermarket voucher).
Download a free copy of the Apple Numbers template I use to keep track of credit cards, credit score etc.
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