Rewarded for Loyalty

Using rewards programs to save money

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Victoria Ashford is a maven of reward and cash-back programs. A leadership and career coach in Denver, Ashford has reaped significant rewards by taking advantage of programs offered by airlines, credit card companies, and retailers. These programs encourage loyal buying by using a rewards system of points, discounts, cash back, and other incentives.

Ashford travels frequently for business and takes advantage of airline loyalty programs, some of which are tied to her credit cards. Using her Southwest Airlines Visa, for example, she earns at least one point per dollar spent. When those points reach a certain level they can be traded in for free tickets. The program also waives baggage and flight change fees, saving Ashford even more money.

Over the last few years she has earned 10 free flights, six of which included first-class trips to big-city destinations. As Ashford has learned, those incentives can translate into significant savings over time. She estimates saving about $8,000 on flight fees alone, plus money she saved on baggage fees and other perks.

Workplace loyalty may have gone the way of the eight-track tape, but retailers, airlines, and other organizations have found a way to stoke customer loyalty by incentivizing their “members” to spend money with their establishments.

Customer loyalty programs have proliferated over the last few years as companies such as drug store chains and department store retailers have caught on to their value. Experts say that taking advantage of loyalty programs, especially in tough financial times, can prove to be a practical part of a budgeting strategy this year and beyond.

When selecting which loyalty programs to participate in, Ashford suggests reading the fine print and ferreting out those offers that will yield the best results and require the least effort on your part. “These programs are designed to entice consumers,” she says. “Any deal is only as good as your understanding of the program details and your commitment to using the program to your advantage.”

Take, for instance, Best Buy’s Reward Zone. You earn one point per dollar spent in-store or online. You will receive a $5 reward certificate for every 250 accumulated points. Spend $2,500 at Best Buy or BestBuy.com in one calendar year and you’ll get Premier Silver status. At that level you’ll get 1.25 points for every dollar spent, plus other perks.

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