Scan and Save: Store Rewards Quiz

By: Staff
Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

Using a rewards program to make your money go farther can be a good idea. It's a good idea for merchants, too. Let's test your shopping smarts when it comes to rewards programs. Are you a savvy shopper or just a savings wannabe?

Rewards programs encourage you to buy more from the merchant offering the card. What's the benefit to the consumer?

Rewards programs can work a number of ways, but the basic premise is simple: The more you buy, the more you save.

Why should you use caution when signing up for rewards?

Both of the above. You may be surprised at how much information those cards are accumulating about your personal habits, and using a passel of them can make finding your keys on that crowded key chain a hassle.

What type of retail purchase is the most popular for rewards?

Where retail purchases are concerned, grocery is the most popular. Grocery stores will typically offer instant discounts on food and other perks like customized coupons.

What's one of the big gotchas when grocery shopping using a rewards card?

Although sales can be very enticing when you use a grocery rewards card, you may also throw a few regularly priced items in your cart while you're there that would have been less expensive at a discount market. Solution: Research your purchases before you buy.

What's the easiest way to sign up for a grocery store card?

Fill out an application at the customer service desk. Grocery store rewards cards are usually free.

What type of rewards card is the most convenient to use?

Although personal preference has a lot to do with the type of card you'll find the easiest to use on a regular basis, there are services around that will consolidate all your rewards cards into one easy to carry card or app for your smartphone. Think of it as a kind of "universal remote" for rewards cards. So the tricky answer here is neither. If you're interested in checking out card consolidators, take a look at the KeyRing Thing or the KeyRing app.

Are frequent flier mile rewards free?

No. There are typically additional fees and a number of limitations involved when redeeming rewards. Frequent flier rewards can still be a great bargain, but be sure to read the fine print before you sign up.

If you don't fly often, can you still earn rewards miles for free round-trip tickets to exotic locations?

Yes. Look for travel rewards cards and regular credit cards that let you accumulate mileage points for non-flight purchases.

Can you get discounts on prescriptions with drugstore rewards cards?

At some chain drugstores, rewards can be applied to prescription discounts. Programs vary widely from retailer to retailer, so check the membership policies before you join.

What's the best rewards card?

One big problem with rewards cards is that they encourage you to either buy more of an item than you need or to purchase products you won't actually use. The best rewards card for you is the one you use to purchase products you'd buy anyway, but they offer those goods at a better discount or with another type of beneficial perk added.

What do the experts consider one of the big downsides to participating in rewards programs?

Although waste and hidden costs are potential problems for people who aren't careful about the way they use rewards cards, experts are very concerned about the loss of privacy involved. What, where and how much you buy says a great deal about you -- more than you may realize.

What percentage of American consumers belongs to a grocery store rewards program?

According to a report published by First Data Corporation in 2008, 62 percent of consumers in the U.S. belong to one or more grocery store rewards programs.

What is one potential downside to letting retailers learn too much about you?

They can use the information to encourage you to overspend -- and they know what items are likely to be the most tempting. Sure, you have willpower, but that instant coupon for perfume, cat treats or cheesecake may catch you at a vulnerable moment. Cha-ching.

What's one way to get around potential spam problems when sharing your e-mail address on a rewards card application?

Applications may be confirmed via e-mail, so giving a false e-mail address may not be a viable option, and opting out of e-mail notifications may lose you some good savings opportunities. If you hate spam, try opening a special e-mail account to handle material you think could be troublesome, and route e-mail traffic to that account exclusively. If a sender becomes too much of a problem, you can always unsubscribe or block the account as a last resort.

What are inactivity penalties?

As with some gift cards, non-activity for a period of time or non-participation can result in forfeiture of points. We've said it before, when you sign up for a rewards program, read the fine print and remember the rules. Where rewards are concerned, you can sometimes save big or score neat prizes. The rules can be strict though, so it pays to be informed.

Retailers have a lot to gain by turning visitors into loyal customers. What percentage of a retail store's sales typically comes from a core base of loyal shoppers?

Around 50 percent of a retailer's sales comes from a small (15 percent) dedicated group of regular customers.

How do you save the most with rewards programs?

Rewards programs are designed to encourage you to buy more from a specific retailer. The more you buy, the more you save. If you would buy those products anyway, you come out ahead. If not, you may break even or possibly lose money.

Are rewards credit cards a good deal?

Rewards credit cards can be a great deal if you pay off your balance every month. If you don’t, the rewards you earn won't offset the interest charges -- and the possible annual fee -- you'll have to pay.

What types of rewards are the most popular with consumers?

There are lots of ways rewards programs can be structured, but consumers appear to prefer instant gratification in the form of immediate discounts on purchases.

What single thing can help a consumer get a credit card with the more attractive rewards program attached to it?

That would be a high credit score. Work to maintain a FICO score above 740.

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