Reporting Jim Donovan
By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Shoppers are ditching those plastic loyalty reward cards and going high tech! As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, some are taking advantage of a growing number of stores and apps that are getting creative on how customers earn discounts and free stuff.
Shopper Joanna Alva earns points she can redeem for discounts and gift cards at thousands of retailers by just walking into certain stores and scanning featured products using an app called “shop kick.” Alva says, “I don’t have to do anything to really get the points and get rewarded for shopping.”
Retailers are finding all kinds of new ways to woo you, from letting you merge points with friends to partnering with other companies so you can use your reward points in other stores. But the biggest trend in rewards revisions: dumping those plastic membership cards for something else. Mark Johnson with the Loyalty Marketers Association says, “They’re using mobile. They’re using your cell phone.”
The number of retailers offering special deals if you check into their store on Facebook or Foursquare is skyrocketing, as well as the number of businesses that will text you coupons. Another new trend is called “gamification.” Soon, players can stop by sites like Gamify.com and earn real life rewards.
But always read the fine print. And, advocates warn, be careful when it comes to store credit cards that offer you cash back and discounts some cards will share your info with third parties. Plus, Gerri Detweiler, the director of consumer education for Credit.com says, “A credit card rewards program can cost you a lot more than the rewards you earn, especially if end up carrying a balance and paying interest on that card.”
If Joanna links a Visa to her shop kick account, she’ll earn more points if she pays with it. She says, “I’m not so much worried about my information being sold as I am about getting the better deals.”
By the way, if you rack up reward points don’t forget to spend them. One report found U.S. consumers earn $48 billion a year in points and miles but fail to redeem one-third of those points and miles.