How many loyalty cards do you have in your wallet (or e-wallet)? We’re guessing at least a dozen.
But some you swipe constantly, and it feels like you never get any rewards. Others, you use occasionally, and you stack up money off at lightning speed.
Today, we’re breaking down how loyalty programs work, and which stores you need to make sure you collect points with.
The Lowdown on Loyalty
Loyalty programs give you rewards for shopping at a specific store. These rewards generally come in the form of:
- Points, which can be redeemed for money off purchases
- Access (sometimes free) to events
- Early access to sales
- Extra online sales events
- Discounts off product lines
- Free gifts
- Free shipping
Stores are getting even more competitive with their loyalty programs, which means you get plenty of benefits, like freebies and sales. But the most important – and most confusing – part of loyalty programs is points. Let’s break it down.
How Do Loyalty Points Work?
Spending at a store will earn you loyalty points back, which can in turn be spent on another purchase.
Now, exactly how many points you earn for how much spend differs from store to store. For example, at Store A, you might get 1 point for spending $1. At Store B, you might earn 5 points for spending $1.
Assume Store B is better? Think again. There’s something else to consider here: how the points you’ve earned convert to dollars. In this example, 100 points at Store A gets you $5 off, while 1,000 points at Store B gets you the same amount.
That means that, at Store A, 1 point is equal to 5 cents off. And since $1 earns you 1 point, for each $1 you spend, you get 5 cents back.
At Store B, 1 point is equal to 0.5 cents, and $1 earns you 5 points, meaning that every $1 you spend earns you back 2.5 cents.
Understanding these conversions allows you to shop smart. For branded items you know you can purchase in multiple stores, choose to shop where you can earn the most back!
The Secret Weapon to Save with Loyalty Programs
Want to compare every loyalty program and see which stores you can save the most at? Meet Ruby, the app that allows you to stack every deal, discount, and loyalty reward.
See points converted to dollars (and then back again), and even sign up for any loyalty programs you’re interested in, all in the app.
2021’s Best Loyalty Programs
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble is a bit of an outlier because they don’t do points. Instead, in return for $25 a year, you can get generous discounts on books, including 10% off everything in-store.
Points: No Points
- 20% off your first purchase
- 10% off in-store
- 40% off hardcover bestsellers in-store
- Free shipping on all orders
- Early access for events and special sale prices
- Special birthday offer, straight to your inbox
Here’s the hack for the Ulta loyalty program: the more you spend, the more points you earn, and the more you save when you spend your points. When you join the Ulta loyalty program, you’ll automatically earn 1 point per $1 spent. As you spend more in a year, you’ll move up the member ranks and earn more points per dollar spent, plus access even more rewards.
When it comes to how those points convert back to dollars as a discount, the more points you use in one go, the more money off you get per point.
Cost: Free. Spend $500 in a year to become a Platinum Member, and spend $1,200 to become a Diamond member.
Points: The more you spend in a year, the more points you earn per dollar you spend. On the basic Member level, you earn 1 point for every $1 you spend. You save 3-6 cents per point – spend more points in one go to save more per point.
- Bonus points & savings
- Points never expire for Platinum & Diamond members
- 2x points month & free gift for your birthday
- $10 coupon on your birthday for Platinum & Diamond members
- Exclusive deals, gifts & Early Access for Platinum & Diamond members
- Diamond Gift, $25 services reward, and free shipping for orders over $25 for Diamond members
Join the Nordy Club to earn at least 1% back on all your luxury clothing and accessories. The real key here is to get a Nordstrom credit card to double your points, and to splurge on those bonus points events. In the past, Nordstrom has offered up to 5 times the regular points!
Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent, and redeem a $10 Nordstrom Note for every 1,000 points you collect. Which means for every $1 you spend, you earn 1 cent back. If you spend with a Nordstrom credit card, you earn 2 cents back for every $1 you spend.
- Members-only sales
- Exclusive offers
- Members-only events
- Bonus points events, where you can earn up to 5 points per $1 spent
There are three tiers in Sephora’s Beauty Insider program. To become an Insider is free. Moving up the loyalty ranks comes with increased benefits, including more money off per point and extra discounts on sales.
Our top tip for Sephora’s loyalty program? Take advantage of those points multiplier events – as a Rouge member, you can earn 4 times the points you normally do.
Cost: Free. Spend $350 in a calendar year (January to December) to become a VIB, and spend $1,000 to become a Rouge member.
Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent, and get $10 off with 500 points. That means $1 earns you 2 cents back. If you spend over $1,000 in a year, you’ll be a Rouge member so you can redeem $100 for 2,500 points. That would mean you earn 4 cents for every $1 you spend.
- Get extra discounts on seasonal savings events: 10% for Insiders, 15% for VIBs, and 20% for Rouge members
- Get free standard shipping (with a minimum order value of $50 for Insiders and $35 for VIBs)
- As soon as you’re an Insider, you get a birthday gift, plus access to 2x points multiplier events and sweepstakes.
- VIB members can shop at 3x points multiplier events, while Rouge members can shop at 4x points multiplier events.
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Looking for home goods deals? If you spend at least $150 at Bed, Bath & Beyond every year, it’s definitely worth shelling out $29 to join BEYOND+. With a membership, you automatically get 20% off all your orders.
Cost: $29 per year
Points: No Points
- 20% off all your orders
- Free shipping
- 50% off interior design services
Making Saving with Loyalty Points Easy
That’s our pick of the top loyalty programs right now. To compare and sign up for loyalty cards, download Ruby – you can explore loyalty programs and see how loyalty points convert into dollars, all on the app.
It doesn’t stop there. You can also search for coupons, and combine discounts plus loyalty automatically at checkout.