Feb 24 2011
01:02 pm

We've been on the City of Alcoa's program for a month's worth of pickup cycles now. We earned 500 reward points for the period.

Depending on how and where you shop, the points could be worth considerably more than the $3 per month fee we pay. There aren't that many retailers of interest to us, though, and I'm not sure if we could ever use up all our points. And the offers aren't that much different than the numerous coupons and buy one/get one free offers you get in the mail.

Most rewards require a purchase, which means planning your purchases or remembering you have points before you go shopping. Some are coupons that are mailed (more planning), some are coupons you can print yourself, and some are redeemable online coupon codes (for online purchases).

Here are examples of some we might actually use:

• Dick's Sporting Goods: $15 off purchase of $75 or more (75 points)
• Kashi: $2 off any one Kashi product (10 points*)
• Staples: $10 off purchase of $50 or more (10 points*)
• Fresh Market: Free reusable shopping bag (25 points)
• Green Mountain Coffee: 10% off online purchase (40 points)
• Earth Fare: $5 off purchase of $25 or more (50 points)
• Earth Fare: $10 off purchase of $50 or more (100 points)
• Earth Fare: $20 off purchase of $100 or more (200 points)
• Fresh Market (Farragut): $5 off purchase of $25 or more (50 points)
• Bliss Home: 10% off one item up to $100 (50 points)
• Bliss Home: 20% off one item up to $100 (100 points)
• K-Mart: $25 off online purchase of $125 or more (100 points)
• Sears: $35 off online purchase of $300 or more (50 points)
• Bed Bath and Beyond: $10 off purchase of $30 or more (100 points)
• Ruby Tuesday: Buy one entree get one free up to $10 (10 points**)
• Calhoun's: $5 off order of $25 or more (50 points)
• Copper Cellar: $5 off order of $25 or more (50 points)
• Chesapeake's: $5 off order of $25 or more (50 points)
• Children's Museum of Oak Ridge: 1 free $5 child admission (100 points***)
• Mellow Mushroom: $5 gift card (100 points)
• Best Buy: $10 gift card (2500 points)
• Staples: $10 gift card (2500 points)
• Home Depot: $10 gift card (2500 points)

*Special offer, regularly 50 points.

**Special offer, regularly 150 points.

***We likely wouldn't use this one, but it's included for comparison purposes for those who might be interested and because it looks like one of the better values.

As you can see, the (almost) same-as-cash gift cards are much more expensive in terms of points, and put the (almost) cash value of points at 0.4 cents each. That means the cash value of our 500 points is $2, a loss of $1 on the $3 fee we pay. (Except at Mellow Mushroom, where our points are worth $25. Not bad, except we never go there.)

If you work the discounts you can make your points worth a lot more. The discounts above range from 10% to 50% with an average of about 17.5% and an average point "value" of 17.7 cents, making our 500 points worth about $88.50 depending on how we used them. That's not bad for the $3 fee, but we'd have to spend about $500 to get the discounts (assuming we can use the points).

So this is basically a marketing program for the participating merchants. Regardless, if you regularly purchase from those merchants and can remember to use your points, it's not a bad deal.

bizgrrl's picture

I want Target!

I want Target!

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