As my key ring continues to get bulkier and bulkier, I’ve noticed that almost every retailer has its own loyalty or rewards program. If actually used, these programs can be a great way to get free stuff and save lots of money. It goes without saying that you should be using your grocery store’s rewards program, but many other retailers offer similar rewards programs. As a graduate student on a budget and always on the go, I’ve personally found these to be the most rewarding:
Card (Panera Bread): On the nights that I have class, I am out of the house from 8 am until 11 pm. Now I know that the best way to save money is to pack meals, snacks, water, and coffee for the day, but this is not always an option. When I do eat out, Panera has been a great option. I can head to Panera between class and work to relax, get some homework done, and get a quick bite to eat and a coffee. What’s great is that with the MyPanera card, my coffee is usually free. This card gets you tons of free things such as lattes, smoothies, and bakery items that are automatically loaded on to your card and are a nice surprise at checkout.
Starbucks: Although Starbucks can be a bit expensive, during finals it can be a necessity especially when it is conveniently located so close to the library. Right off the bat, you get a free drink on your birthday. Every time you pay with your registered Starbucks card or the Starbucks mobile app, you receive one star. Once you reach five stars, your card upgrades to a green level card and you receive rewards such as free refills and free syrups. If you collect 30 stars in 12 months, you reach gold member status. This means for every 12th star, you will get a free drink and you will also receive special offers and coupons.
My DSW Rewards: While living in Boston, there have been (too) many times when I have had to run out and buy a pair of snow boots or rain boots. However, DSW’s rewards program made me feel better about my last-minute, unplanned purchases. For every $150 spent, you receive a $10 coupon for your next purchase. Members also get deals like free shipping and special rewards on their birthday. It’s a good way to avoid credit card debt.
My Bolt Rewards: As a constant traveler between Boston, New York, and sometimes Philadelphia, My Bolt Rewards has saved me a substantial amount of money and lots of frustration. Take eight trips on Bolt and you are eligible for a free one-way trip, valid at any time (even during peak holiday travel times when prices are inflated). Also, as a Bolt Rewards program member, you receive an “A” level boarding pass, which allows you to board the bus first and skip the long line.
CVS ExtraCare Card: With two CVS stores within walking distance of my house, I tend to stop at CVS for toothpaste, computer paper, eggs, pretty much everything frequently. However with the ExtraCare card, I earn 2% back in the form of Extra Bucks which can be used as cash at CVS. Every 3 months, your Extra Bucks will print on your receipt. The ExtraCare card also earns you in-store sales and rebates that come in the form of ExtraCare bucks. Also, CVS tracks certain types of purchases. For example, for every $50 you spend on beauty products, you receive $5 in ExtraCare bucks to be used on beauty products.
Also, consider downloading the free Key Ring app that you can use to scan and store all of your existing loyalty cards, sign up for new programs, and access exclusive coupons and discounts.
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