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.
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.
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.
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.
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?