Conflicted About Reward Cards

rewards-programsI have a love/hate relationship with reward programs.

I love it when I finally discover that I’ve earned $350(!) back from using my Visa credit card.

I hate it when I think about all the times I’ve used my Staples rewards card to end up earning nothing. (As a result of this apparent road-to-nowhere program, I only whip out my Staples card when I know I’ll save on a particular item.)

I love it when I use my Wegman’s grocery card for my weekly purchases; I usually accumulate up to $10 in “savings” every trip.

I hate it when the bookseller cashier looks at me incredulously when I reply that I don’t have a Border’s/Barnes and Nobles card. Am I the only one who refuses to take advantage of the bookstores’ rewards program?!?!? (For some reason, knowing that a list is being kept of of all the books I buy creeps me out.)

My ambivalence about rewards programs was stirred up yesterday when my trash hauler launched a new program to encourage recycling, RecycleBank. We can earn points through the amount of refuse recycled each week and redeem them for fabulous prizes. (Well, maybe not fabulous prizes, but certainly more than I’m getting now, which is simply the satisfaction of being green).

But that means someone/somewhere will be tracking my trash. Yuck! That privacy-invading thought definitely gives me pause. However, after realizing that RecycleBank points can go to an giftcard to feed my Kindle habit, my privacy need has diminished. I sign up for the program!

A quick inventory of my participation in rewards programs reveals:

Wegman’s card (always used)
Staples, CVS, Safeway, Giant cards (only used when purchasing sale items)
Food Lion card (only used during my beach vacation six years ago; time to throw that one out)
Smoothie King punch card (never remember to use)
Hair Cuttery card (recently thrust into my hands by my stylist: I’ll probably toss that one, too.)

What do you carry in your wallet?

And how do you balance .. privacy … ease of use … and actual rewards given the effort … when deciding whether to participate in a rewards program?


  • Catherine Says:
    8-5-2010 08:18:33

    I think that any sense of privacy we have is an illusion. I just read about the pervasive use of tracking and information sharing among websites. When I sign onto msn, every place I go is tracked unless I change my privacy settings.

    The only use I can find for my Staples card is free recycling of all my printer cartridges. The grocery store cards seem to offer the most savings.

    An inventory of my purse reveals Staples, Safeway, Hallmark, Panera, and Great Harvest bread. Hey, I get a free loaf next time I go after about two years of carrying it around.

  • Sharon Says:
    8-5-2010 08:39:29

    Hmmmm. Good question. I grocery shop at Hannaford because they don’t require a card to write a check like Shaw’s does, and that’s because I don’t like the idea of Shaw’s tracking my purchases. On the other hand I still have a Sam’s card, have to to get in the door, and that doesn’t bother me because I chose to join. I also have rewards cards for two local drug stores, where I rarely shop. I have used my Barnes and Noble card for 15 years; funny that I don’t mind them knowing what books I purchase but don’t want another store tracking my groceries. My favorite card, though, is my LLBean credit card because I get “Bean Dollars” to spend any way I choose in the store or online. We have some very nice items we wouldn’t have if not for those Bean Dollars.

  • Kathleen Says:
    8-5-2010 15:20:32

    I have way more reward cards than I need, most of which I find pretty worthless (except for the Giant card, which is offering discounts on gas this summer). However, the one I do love is the Godiva card. Every month you get a free truffle, even if you never buy anything. Mmmm…free chocolate.

  • Cindy's Coffeehouse Says:
    8-6-2010 10:28:35

    I don’t like all the information compiling that goes on these days, but I guess I’ve accepted that, unfortunately, we’ve lost a lot of privacy in our lives. Elaine, I feel the way you do about bookstores compiling lists of what books I buy. That’s why I don’t use their reward cards. However, I use Amazon and I know Amazon does that, whether or not I have a discount card. I do use one grocery store discount card because it does offer sizeable savings.

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