How many of you are a member of a loyalty points program? I’m willing to bet that most of you are part of some program, likely it’s in one of the more popular programs like Aeroplan, Air Miles, Esso, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), or even Shoppers Drug Mart. Personally, I have accounts with all mentioned, but with a significant collection of SPG points. Aeroplan and Air Miles come in a very distant second and third.
Although I have multiple accounts, I find it most effective to focus on your favorite program instead of spreading out the points too much. Here are some ideas on how to maximize loyalty reward points.
Get the Credit Card
Getting an affiliated rewards credit card is perhaps the most powerful way to build a collection of points. There’s a reason why the CIBC Aerogold is the most popular VISA in the Canadian market which is because they have a stranglehold on the popular Aeroplan program. Air Miles can be collected through a BMO MasterCard or AMEX, SPG through AMEX, Esso points via RBC Visa, and Shoppers Drug Mart and Sony via MBNA.
The strategy here is to funnel all spending through the card to accumulate as many points as possible. I put every expense possible on a credit card for the points (paid off every month) so it doesn’t take long before a meaningful balance accumulates in the points account. Before moving to my primary cash back credit card, I used the late MBNA SPG card which helped pay for many vacation hotel stays over the years.
Use InStore/Online Bonuses
If your favorite rewards program has as associated brick and mortar store, like Air Miles, then it’s likely that they have weekly specials that offer bonus points for purchasing certain items. For example, Sobey’s sometimes has promotions where you get bonus points if you purchase a group of items. Sure, you may end up with a pantry full of ketchup bottles, but if it’s something that you’re going to use anyways over time, it may be worth it.
In addition to in-store deals, there are ways to build points online. For example, AirMilesShops offers Air Miles for simply using their site as a portal before shopping in one of their affiliated online stores. AirMilesShops will receive an affiliate commission for the sale from which they will credit Air Miles to your account. Everyone wins!
For Aeroplan, they occasionally offer extra points via Esso, Tropicana, and even Costco. It’s simply a matter of watching for deals and collecting points for something that you’re doing to spend on anyways.
For Shoppers Drug Mart, they often offer double points for certain products, or even a multiple of points collected on particular days.
Claim Rewards that Give the Highest Return
One strategy that I often use is to claim the rewards that give the highest return on spending. For example, with Aeroplan, claiming first class tickets can give up to 8% return, SPG “cash and points” can be around 6%+ return, claiming car washes with Esso points gives around 2% and two for one movie tickets with Air Miles works out to be around 2%.
How do you calculate the return? Simply take the dollar cost equivalent of the reward dividend by the spending required to accumulate the reward. For example, if a car wash retails for $10 or 500 points, and it takes $500 in spending at Esso to accumulate 500 points, then the return of $10/$500 = 2% return.
Which loyalty programs are your favorite? How do you maximize your points?