Canadian Loyalty

rewards-cards

Loyalty cards and points, that is!

I have a few store rewards cards. I’m aware I’m exchanging personal information (my buying habits) for a few bucks, and I make reasonable attempts to stay informed. I don’t mind using cards or apps if the programs are understandable and not too cumbersome.

First, I look at what groceries I have on hand, and how to use them up.  I look at the local grocery stores, what their pricing is like generally, and in which areas I can save the most. I check the weekly flyers and look at vouchers I’ve received in the mail. I make meal plans and grocery lists based on what is seasonal and on sale. After that, I decide where to shop and how to pay.

I shop at Costco once a month, either Sobeys (supermarket) or Walmart weekly, plus a local produce market, a discount bread store, and Bulk Barn, each occasionally. We don’t have any competitors for Costco, like Sam’s Club or BJs. For full-service supermarkets, my town has only Sobeys or Superstore. When I last updated my price book, Sobeys cost the same or less than Superstore, on average, for the things I buy regularly. I find Walmart has better prices on specific items that people are price-sensitive about, but not across the board.

By choosing Sobeys over Superstore, I am practically choosing a whole shopping ecosystem. Sobeys has an affiliated gas station and pharmacy, so by using the same chain, I get coupons, offers and discounts for all of them. The Superstore chain goes even further since they have gas bars, pharmacies, banking services and credit cards – as well as owning the discount grocery store No Frills.

Walmart

The only way to get rewards at Walmart is to get one of their Mastercards which gives 1.25% back on Wal-Mart purchases and 1% in Wal-Mart credits on stuff bought elsewhere. I don’t have one.

Costco

My Costco membership is $55 a year ($63 with tax) and I spent $1271 there last year, so the membership fee was equal to a 4.95% surcharge on my purchases. I have to think about whether the deals – and the large quantities – are worth it. However, a quick comparison of prices between Bulk Barn and Costco has shown Costco to be the winner on several things I buy often, such as raisins and nuts. I also need to remember to compare prices on car tires there, and other non-grocery expenses.

At Costco, I could pay double for my membership to upgrade to an executive membership and get 2% cash back. I don’t spend enough there to justify the fee. Costco also has a no-fee Platinum Mastercard which earns 3%, 2% and “up to 1%” back on restaurant meals, gas and “other” (that is, all their merchandise, plus purchases elsewhere). I found a more suitable credit card for my needs.

I already have no-fee accounts at my bank so I saw no need to switch to PC Banking at Superstore.

Credit Card

Last year I decided to up my game with a cash-back credit card. I previously had a no-fee card with no rewards. The new Visa costs $99/year (first year free) and gives 4% back on groceries, 2% on gas and recurring bill payments, and 1% on everything else. In the first year, I earned $350 back, plus another $100 discount on a car rental.

There’s always a catch. It uses the Visa vendor codes to determine which stores are grocery stores. Sobeys and Superstore are supermarkets, while Walmart is not (and Costco doesn’t accept Visa in Canada). So, I only get 1% back on groceries bought at Walmart. I could order Costco gift cards online (the site accepts Visa) and get 1% cash back with my credit card.

Air Miles Card for Sobeys and Lawtons

Meanwhile I use my Air Miles card at Sobeys and Lawtons (pharmacy). You get 1 “mile” for every $20 spent. It’s also good at Staples, the liquor store and other fine establishments 🙂 Now there is a site where you can get Air Miles for shopping online at some of my favourite stores like Sport Chek, Marks, Reitmans, Roots and Bench. But you can’t get Air Miles from the local stores and I’d rather shop in person. I could buy gift cards for several of these stores at Sobeys. Since Visa codes it as a grocery store, I would get 4% cash back if I use my credit card.

I get Air Miles offers in flyers, in the store and mailed to me. They track my spending habits and offer me Air Miles on things I normally buy, like kiwi fruit and avocados. They also encourage me to spend more: if I spend $50 a week at the store, they know that and send coupons for more Air Miles if I spend $65 next week.

Air Miles are redeemed at a flat rate of $10 in grocery credit for every 95 miles earned. So, every Air Mile is worth 10.5 cents. It is easy to figure out deals. This week’s flyer offers 10 bonus Air Miles if you buy a shampoo and conditioner for $4.99 each. The Air Miles are worth $1.05, about 10% off the purchase.

Last year I earned $70 from Air Miles (in credits to be spent at Sobeys or Lawtons).

If I buy gas at Fast Fuel, which is owned by Sobeys, I get a coupon for 3.5 cents off a Sobeys purchase for every litre of gas I buy. That’s $1.40 for a 40-litre purchase. Over a year, I got $17 to apply to grocery purchases.

The last two cards I have are small-time.

Plum Rewards and Shoppers Optimum

I am not much of a book buyer (hello, library!) but I have a loyalty card for the book store anyway. I get about $5 off every year with my card; possibly $10 if I buy some books as gifts!

I have a rewards card for Shoppers Drug Mart. I don’t buy much there but I earn $30 or so in credits per year. I mostly only buy sale items because their prices are high. Although they’re a drug store, they sell cards, gifts and small electronics, so I have no problem spending my Optimum points. A person could earn a lot of points if they regularly bought diapers, skin care products or vitamins and supplements there.

cdn-tire

Canadian Tire Money

It wouldn’t be a truly Canadian money saving post without mentioning Canadian Tire money! Canadian Tire is an automotive and hardware store which also sells housewares, pet food, etc. Their prices are not brilliant but they have a lot of sale items each week. I use their auto shop for oil changes, tire changes and car repairs. For decades, they gave 3% back if you paid cash, in the form of colourful bills. More recently they swapped out the “play money” for electronic points – at a rate of only 0.4%! I could not be bothered getting a card. Checking back, I spent almost $2500 there last year on car repairs, a new lawn mower, etc. so I could have earned $10 back!

That’s all for me – one credit card, Air Miles and two small rewards cards.

Last year I used a couple of coupons to get $2 off Weetabix but that is the only relevant coupon I found all year! And I got two free items in buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deals, supposedly worth $7.28.

My grand total for 2016 was:

  • 350 + 100 = 450 for credit card cash back (99 fee from 2nd year forward)
  • 70 from Air Miles
  • 17 from Fast Fuel
  • 5 from Chapters Plum Rewards
  • 30 from Shoppers Optimum
  • 4 in Weetabix coupons
  • 7 from BOGO offers
  • and I have $7 in old, unspent Canadian Tire “bills” (still redeemable)

for a grand total of $590. I like to think I earned all the bonus money from purchases I would have made anyway and I was not influenced at all by earning extra points 🙂

This is not a sponsored post and it has no affiliate links. I am not even promoting any of these cards or programs, just noting what I have cobbled together. Probably the PC Plus system at Superstore is just as good. This was minimal effort for $590. It was probably more effort to do the math for this post than to manage my points and cash back for the whole year!

What works for you?

See also: My 7 Rewards and Membership Cards and Goodbye, Store Rewards!

13 comments

  1. Margie in Toronto

    I am a loyal Loblaw & No Frills shopper so my most useful loyalty card is the PCPlus one – last year I think I earned about $160 worth of groceries from points. I check the weekly flyers and only buy what I would normally – not just to earn points.
    I have an Optimum card for Shoppers and use my Airmails Card at the LCBO (Liquour store) and Rexall Drugstore mostly – probably only earn about $15/year on these cards.
    I also have a PLUM card for Indigo – last year I probably earned about $30 worth of discounts – this year will be far less as I’m really cutting back on books & magazines.
    I also have a reward card from The Bay and last year that earned me about $60 worth of discounts and my Talbots loyalty card earned me $50. I had a lot of new clothes to purchase last year but this year purchases are being kept to a minimum so there won’t be much.
    The only one that I’d say really makes any significant difference is the PCPlus one. Now if they had one for Bulk Barn I’d probably be earning quite a few points there as well!

  2. We have just three loyalty cards these days: Costco, a visa card that offers either cash back or miles (our choice), and a newly acquired Hawaiian Airlines card. By signing up for that card and spending $1000 in the first 90 days I will earn 50,000 bonus miles. We did this with my husband’s card, and then cancelled it. I will cancel mine as well once those miles show up in my account! We used to spend $300 – $400 per month at Costco back on the mainland, but here it’s more like $400 – $500 per month (groceries and gasoline), so the executive membership makes sense. We use cash there though, so no need for their rewards card. We charge our recurring bills on the visa card (cable, phone, etc.) and then pay it off every month. I also charge airline tickets on that card because we get a double reward for those. These three are easy to keep track of; any more rewards and I think I’d start getting confused (and spend too much!).

  3. PC plus card and PC MasterCard for both dh and I, and we get a lot back through that. Plum rewards card; I love magazines, and I buy a lot of childrens toys at Chapters on clearance , so get they top up my card to $5 off quite a bit. Shopper’s I rarely shop there, but do have a card. I have both aeroplan and Airmiles, I use both occasionally and cash in once a blue moon. I keep various loyalty cards just because, as I may as well earn something than nothing!

  4. I tend to rely on my reward points at Sainsburys and then wait for the double up week April and November to exchange them. I get minimal cashback on my debit cards as I don’t buy the branded goods that have the offers attached. I often get Tesco and Waitrose coupons and money off and I use them to do a grocery shop for items I can only buy in those stores. Other than that it is just the odd coupon.

    • Double up weeks sound good – we don’t have those. I expect the reason I don’t earn a lot of Air Miles is the same as you; I buy fewer branded items that have bonus points attached.

  5. EcoCatLady

    I gave up on Costco a few years back. The math just didn’t work for me – I didn’t save enough to cover the cost of the membership, the huge quantities don’t work well for one person, and the long drive to get there meant I could only bring myself to go a few times per year.

    The one program I use quite frequently that you haven’t mentioned is Amazon Prime. I have a Prime membership as well as an Amazon Prime Visa card which gives me 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases. I know people have mixed feelings about shopping online, but there are sooo many things that I can buy on Amazon at less than half the price of what I’d pay buying them locally – with the added benefit that I don’t have to drive all over town to get them. Example: I go through one canister of whey protein powder per month, which on Amazon costs about $14.50 (not counting the 5% cash back) – and the cheapest I can get it locally is $45! So just that one item saves me $360/year – and when you throw in the cases of cat food (cheaper than local not including the 5% cash back, plus free shipping), the Prime membership pays for itself in spades. The added benefit is that I really like the free movies.

    • I’ve never even thought of using Amazon Prime since I only order the occasional book from Amazon. I have no idea what their prices are like for other things I buy. It costs $79/year in Canada. The movie streaming service only became available in December in Canada, so prior to that, Prime was for the 2-day delivery only (we only have one day delivery in 2 Canadian cities!)

      • EcoCatLady

        I don’t buy most day to day stuff on Amazon, though they do have a service called Prime Pantry for that sort of thing, but I haven’t found the prices to be worth it. Mostly I buy specialty bike & cat stuff, but anything that’s off the beaten path a bit tends to be cheaper on Amazon than it would be to buy locally. So I buy all of my special hypo-allergenic sunscreens & lotions etc there. It’s also great for gifts that have to be shipped across the country anyway. This year they even started gift wrapping in reusable cloth bags, which I think is pretty cool.

        The most hilarious part of my Amazon shopping though, is that my parents want the convenience of ordering things online, but they’re terrified of giving out their credit card number online, so they use me as their online shopping service. It works out OK for me because they pay me back in cash (rounding up) with dinner out as a thank you. I secretly think it’s all a ploy to ensure that they get to see me at least once a month! 😉

        Anyhow, there are a bunch of other benefits that I’ve never used, including free & discounted music streaming, free & discounted kindle books, unlimited digital photo storage, free & discounted gaming – I think you can even sign up for digital streaming TV through Prime. Not sure if any of that is available in Canada yet, but for me, it’s a really good deal.

  6. Fiona

    That is a really sizeable amount of rewards for no excessive effort! I think Rewards systems work ok if they don’t become an end in themselves. If it is something that fits my usual buying patterns without even thinking about it, I might get involved. Do you find the quantities at Costco overwhelming?

    • That’s it – I don’t feel my rewards program are any effort, and they don’t change my buying habits much. I have a list of about a dozen items I always buy at Costco, but there are far more products I can’t buy there because of the sizes. I am limited to non-perishables or things that fit in my small freezer!

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