Today’s post highlights five simple ways to earn rewards while doing the things you’re probably already doing, at no additional cost (other than the time it takes to sign up).
1. Loyalty Cards
Examples: Wegmans, Tops, Rite Aid, Petsmart, True Value, Staples
Loyalty cards are free membership cards which allow you to get all of the advertised discounts at a particular store. If you opt into the store’s mailing list, you’ll also receive “exclusive” store coupons every so often. While these cards do take up a lot of space on your keychain (or in your wallet), they’re worth having for the stores you visit on a regular basis. If you don’t want to carry the cards around, the cashier can typically apply your membership by name or phone number.
2. Rewards Cards
Examples: Subway, Starbucks, Regal Cinemas, Best Buy, Panera
Rewards cards go a step above loyalty cards in that they accumulate points which can be redeemed for free stuff. Common rewards include a free cookie, small drink or popcorn, birthday coffee, gift certificate, movie ticket, 6″ or footlong sub, bakery-cafe item, etc.
3. Credit Cards with Rewards
Examples: World Points, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Visa Extras
I got my first credit card when I was about 18. I had no idea what was considered a “good” card or a “bad” card, so I just signed up for the first one my bank offered. The idea was to build a credit history without actually going into debt, so I used the card exclusively for gas and then paid it off every month. It took me a while to realize that there was a rewards program attached to the card, so of course I was thrilled to discover that I could get free cash or gift cards every so often… even without paying a cent in interest.
To find out which cards offer rewards, check out CreditCards.com.
4. Debit Card Discounts & Special Offers
Examples: Visa Discounts, Mastercard MarketPlace
Even if you don’t have a credit card, carrying a debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo can earn you exclusive discounts (and/or free shipping) through national retailers like Kmart, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Macy’s, Old Navy, etc. In the case of Visa, all you have to do is find a discount or special offer on their website, then click the “redeem offer” button. As long as you pay with a valid Visa card, the discount will be applied at checkout.
I haven’t tried it yet, but you may also be able to enroll your debit card in Visa Extras, a points program similar to the ones discussed in #3 above.
5. Online Rewards Programs
Examples: My Coke Rewards, McDonalds Monopoly game
Remember when you were a kid and there were prizes at the bottom of every cereal box? Apparently they can’t do that anymore due to the “choking hazards” associated with miniature toys. (This reminds me of the episode of “The Simpsons” where Bart got appendicitis from eating the jagged metal Krusty-O in his cereal.) Anyway, nowadays it’s more common to see online rewards programs like My Coke Rewards or the annual McDonalds Monopoly game, which give you points as you enter unique codes online. Points can be redeemed for sweepstakes entries, coupons, gift cards, and other free stuff.