Can loyalty programs really help you beat inflation?

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Everyone loves a bargain or a deal — even more so during a period of rising prices — which is why 8 in 10 Americans are members of at least one loyalty program. In fact, half of consumers say that retail, food and other loyalty programs are more important than ever, according to the latest LendingTree survey of nearly 2,100 Americans.

 

The top reason to sign up? The ability to earn points, say three-quarters of respondents, translates to discounts, freebies or other perks.

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Keep reading to see which loyalty programs are the most popular, which demographics are most likely to sign up, and get expert tips for deciding if a loyalty program is right for you.

Key findings

  • With inflation soaring, half of Americans think loyalty programs are more important than ever. Six-figure earners (57%) and millennials (56%) are most likely to say these programs have become more critical, while Gen Zers (43%) are least likely to agree.
  • 80% of Americans are members of at least one loyalty program. A higher rate of Americans are members of loyalty programs for miscellaneous retailers — think big-box retailers (Walmart and Target), e-tailers (Amazon) and drugstores (CVS and Walgreens) — than any other industry category tracked, at 65%. Food and dining is next at 61%.
  • While loyalty programs incentivize consumers to increase the frequency with which they shop with a brand, that doesn’t always translate to increased spending. Although 72% of members say they shop more at companies with loyalty programs, only 52% say they spend more because of them.
  • Consumers place more weight on rewards than security. More than half of loyalty program members (52%) say they’d leave the program if the rewards weren’t worth it. But only 41% say a data breach would cause them to end their membership. As for what leads consumers to join loyalty programs, 75% cite the ability to earn points.
  • Even though many consumers have moved online to do their shopping, people are still getting in-person pressure to sign up for loyalty programs. 50% of loyalty program members say they signed up at the checkout counter. Women are especially likely to register for rewards while checking out in person (57%, versus 42% of men).

As Americans battle inflation, many consumers place increased importance on loyalty programs

Loyalty programs reward and incentivize customers to shop with a particular store or brand. Consumers can usually get perks, discounts and other benefits for signing up or registering as a member — and for free, in many cases. Loyalty programs are prevalent across multiple industries, including retail, travel, food and dining and more.

 

As people look for ways to save money to offset rising prices, 50% of consumers say loyalty programs are more important than ever.

 

“They’re right,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “With the cost of seemingly everything getting more expensive by the day, the perks that can come from a loyalty program can be really helpful.”

How Americans feel about loyalty programs

Whether you’re talking about free shipping, a free sandwich, discounts on cat or dog food or anything else, every little bit can help.

 

“The right loyalty program can help people make their dollars go just a little bit further,” he says.

 

Millennials (ages 26 to 41) (56%) are more likely to value loyalty programs than other age groups, as are the highest income earners (those earning $100,000 or more).

Loyalty memberships by the numbers

Loyalty programs are super-popular with Americans — 8 in 10 say they’re members of at least one. That percentage jumps to 94% among those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more, compared with 73% who make less than $35,000.

 

“Unfortunately, that means that many of the folks who most need the help that some of these loyalty programs offer aren’t taking full advantage,” Schulz says.

Loyalty memberships by the numbers

Loyalty programs are the most popular in the following categories:

  • Miscellaneous retailers (i.e., big-box stores, online retailers and drugstores): 65%
  • Food and dining (including grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops and food delivery services): 61%
  • Shopping (clothes, makeup and shoes): 48%
  • Entertainment (such as movie theaters, video game stores, bookstores and event tickets): 38%
  • Travel (including airlines, hotels, vacation rentals and gas stations): 38%
  • Pet stores: 37%

“It’s great that people aren’t just taking advantage of high-profile, big-ticket loyalty programs, such as those offered by hotels and airlines,” Schulz says. “The truth is that smaller, regular purchases at grocery stores, restaurants, pet shops and drugstores can add up to real meaningful rewards in a pretty big hurry. With rampant inflation, that matters.”

 

Loyalty programs do draw repeat customers, with 72% of members saying they shop more at companies with loyalty programs. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean people spend more.

 

Loyalty program spending habits

And that may indicate that shoppers are using these programs wisely, Schulz says.

 

“Retailers love loyalty programs because people who sign up for them are more likely to become regular customers,” he says. “That return business makes these programs a big win for retailers, even if customers don’t go overboard and spend extra when they’re there.”

 

Considering that a May 2022 LendingTree survey found that 1 in 4 Americans were boycotting a product or company, brands need to do all they can to stay on customers’ good sides.

Rewards lure Americans into brand loyalty

Though there are various reasons that people decide to sign up for a brand membership, most do it for the incentives: 75% to earn points, 66% to get discount codes and coupons and 56% to access special deals. In particular, female loyalty shoppers are more into discount codes and coupons than their male counterparts (71% versus 60%).

 

“Over the years, many companies have gotten smarter about what they offer in these programs, doing a better job of catering to the specific needs and wants of their customer base in a way that more general rewards programs can’t,” Schulz says.

Why people enroll in royalty programs

But just because someone joins a loyalty program doesn’t mean they’ll be loyal forever, as respondents shared various reasons why they might leave. Interestingly, more consumers would leave a loyalty program over a perceived lack of rewards (52%) than those who would leave because of a data breach (41%).

 

“News of data breaches has become white noise to millions of Americans,” says Schulz, adding that some people barely even notice.

Why people leave loyalty programs

On the other hand, a great loyalty program can certainly drive someone to change the businesses where they spend their money.

 

“Better discounts, shorter routes to earning free stuff, exclusive deals — these are all things that can help someone extend their budget and could absolutely get people to change their habits,” he notes.

 

Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25) are most likely to leave because of excess communications from the brand (26%, versus 18% overall). In contrast, older consumers — Gen Xers (ages 42 to 56) and baby boomers (ages 57 to 76) — are loyal for the long run, with 1 in 10 saying that nothing would cause them to leave.

Half of loyalty program members signed up at checkout counter

Consumers most often join loyalty programs via the brand website (61%), but 50% of loyalty program members say they signed up at a checkout counter. Women are much more likely than men to register in person (57% versus 42%). Just about half of Gen Zers and millennials say they signed up through an app.

Where people sign up for loyalty programs

Ultimately, people sign up in the most convenient way for them, and not because they feel pressured — just 5% of Americans say a sales associate talked them into joining a new program. The other reasons given for joining a loyalty program include:

  • Discount on purchase (66%)
  • Ability to redeem points for rewards (56%)
  • Access to special sales or discounts (50%)
  • Sign-up bonus (44%)
  • Free birthday gift (39%)
  • Access to special contests or prizes (22%)

Are loyalty programs right for you?

Joining a loyalty program is often a no-brainer, especially if it doesn’t cost you anything but a couple of minutes to join. Scanning your loyalty card or giving your phone number or email can equate to special discounts and savings.

 

That said, you don’t have to join every loyalty program — as an example, if you only make a one-off purchase. Here are three things to keep in mind when signing up for a loyalty program:

  • Stick with stores you already frequent. Simply put: “The best loyalty program for you is one that fits your lifestyle best,” Schulz says. “If you’re already shopping at a store regularly and haven’t signed up for their loyalty program, there’s a good chance you’re leaving money on the table.” And in today’s economy, that’s one of the last things you should be doing.
  • Be mindful of store credit cards. Retail stores often prompt you to sign up for their store credit card to get discounts. An October 2021 LendingTree survey found that 54% of Americans have store credit cards. While it is a form of loyalty, opening a line of credit is a bigger commitment than just a quick registration with your name, email and phone number. For one thing, anytime you open a new credit card, it impacts your credit score. The other big issue is that once you start using the card, you don’t want it to cost you more. “Store credit cards can be useful and can come with great discounts and perks,” Schulz says. “However, if you carry a balance, they’re just not for you because of their sky-high interest rates.”
  • Don’t chase rewards. “One of the first rules of rewards is to not overspend to get them,” Schulz says. “No matter how lucrative the rewards, spending yourself into debt just to get them doesn’t make sense.” For example, he explains, you don’t have to be an accountant to see that paying a 25% APR to save 15% off a purchase is a bad deal. A less obvious example is buying things you don’t need to meet a spending requirement that qualifies you for a higher loyalty program level.

Methodology

LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,082 U.S. consumers, fielded June 10-14, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

 

We defined generations as the following ages in 2022:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 25
  • Millennial: 26 to 41
  • Generation X: 42 to 56
  • Baby boomer: 57 to 76

While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (those 77 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.

 

This article originally appeared on LendingTree.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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I am all about frugal living. I live frugally. I blog about frugality. Frugal, I am thee.

 

I wanted to share some of the best frugal living tips I could put together. I got some help with this post. Since frugality takes so many different forms and since we all have such different living experiences, I asked many people for their best frugal living tips.

 

I was not disappointed! I got some fantastic suggestions. Some I already do. Some I plan on doing. Some are not at all applicable to my or my lifestyle but may help you.

 

I hope some of these frugal living tips help you be frugal, whether you choose to live frugally or you live a life of frugality out of necessity.

 

Living a frugal life is not only about not spending too much money, saving for retirement, stocking up an emergency fund or avoiding credit card debt. When you live a life of simplicity, you can spend time and money on what’s important to you. The best frugal living tips are the ones that work the best for you, the ones that will help you start living frugally and make your life easier.

 

Of course, if I can help you spend less money while you also work to make extra money, then you will be setting yourself up for a lifetime of financial success. Being successful financially can give you options in life, and then you can also help others by giving and using your power (after all, money is power) to help others.

 

 

 

 

Jorge Villalba/istockphoto

 

Creating a budget that works and then STICKING TO IT is the best and biggest frugal tip anyone can give you. Creating a budget gives a structure to your spending, which allows you to spend on what you want and not spend on what you don’t want to spend on. That is the definition of living a frugal life.

 

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When you find a great deal, buy in bulk. If meat is on sale, have your butcher cut it up into smaller pieces and then wrap them separately. Label everything clearly! Buying large amounts of meat is usually cheaper than buying individually cut pieces.

 

Detlef Voigt / istockphoto

 

Cooking ahead for holidays and big meals will be a lot less stressful if you can freeze a lot ahead of time, and that will free you up for other things. Time is also money and being crunched for time also makes you spend more.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Reduce your shopping trips so that you spend less time in stores. The more time you spend in a store, the more likely you are to spend money. Make a shopping list of the main things you need so that you have a guide to help you stay on task.

 

 

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Buy what’s on sale and then plan your meals around that. The number one way to save money at the grocery store? Plan your meals around what you buy, not the other way around.

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

We don’t eat out. We experiment at home! We don’t go to bakeries; we figure out something fun with the kids from home. You can make so many meals and treats at home with a little planning and creativity.

 

 

bhofack2/istockphoto

 

Keep your freezer stocked with meals, so you don’t need to get take out when you are stressed or overwhelmed. When you cook, then double the recipes so that you have food ready to eat. Soups freeze well and are great for this type of thing. This is particularly important before a major holiday (Pesach, anyone?) or if you are having a baby. Have freezer meals ready to go so you can save money on take-out.

 

 

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Keep frozen fruit and vegetables in your freezer so that you can make quick smoothies and vegetable dishes in a pinch. You can take the slightly browning fruit (from those bananas you bought on sale and that no one eats even though your kids told you that bananas are their absolute favorite food) and freeze them for really cheap snacks and smoothies.

 

 

Qwart/istockphoto

 

We don’t have cleaning help. We clean one floor together as a family every Sunday, and we often turn it into activities.

 

 

GeorgeRudy/istockphoto

 

Train your children from very young ages to do chores and household cleaning, according to their ability. Have a list of things that need to get done nightly, weekly and monthly. Make it a fun family activity you can do every night.

 

 

evgenyatamanenko

 

My kids wear really lovely hand-me-downs. You can trade with other families or shop at thrift stores to get nice clothes for you and your kids.

 

 

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I decide before each season how much of each clothing item my kids need and only buy that amount (if some of it is from hand-me-downs, even better). Sales were causing me to overbuy until I set it up this way.

 

 

Andrii Shablovskyi / istockphoto

 

Choose the right place to live. We live in an area where families are happy with little, making it easy to live below our means and our kids to have fewer expectations. Choosing where you live is a key part of being content with your frugal life.

 

 

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Turn down the heating and put on a thick sweater. The house doesn’t need to be warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt and bare feet in the middle of winter.

 

 

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Automate everything: bills, savings, fun money, etc. Use the extra mental bandwidth to implement money-saving systems. When you automate, you don’t have to second tons of time thinking about money: living a frugal lifestyle does not mean that you are always concerned about money.

 

 

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Library card is like the biggest one; I don’t buy books anymore. If you decide to invest in a Kindle or other e-reader, you can also get tons of free e-books online.

 

I love using my library’s Libby App to get free books downloaded to my kindle no matter the time of day. Libraries also offer many other services. Some have games you can borrow, discounted passes to museums, and many other free or cheaper things. Get a library card!

 

 

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Everything in the Amazon cart has to sit for 24 hours. Anywhere you shop online, keep your stuff in the cart for 24 hours before purchasing to reduce impulse spending. An extra perk of this trick is that companies will often send you a coupon code for items you left in your cart to entice you to buy.

 

 

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Avoid big name brands and look for value in products. Buy generic brands as a rule and only buy brand-name when you have a coupon or you are sure of its value.

 

 

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Get freebies! Books, samples, baby gear. Get all the freebies you can. These freebies will help you spend less money on items you are not totally sure you want to buy yet. Especially with baby gear, this can save you a lot of money!

 

 

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Shop garage sales for old toys. Especially big outdoor toys or toys made of plastic like a plastic slide, a toy kitchen, riding toys, etc. These are easy to clean and hold up well, even if a few families use them. Garage sale shopping is a great way to get expensive toys for very cheap.

 

 

istockphoto/PaulMcKinnon

 

I don’t have a house phone. Since everyone has a cell phone, you don’t need a house phone. If you do need a phone for the house, get a cheap prepaid cellphone for emergencies.

 

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Cut down on meat, chicken and fish in your diet. These are usually more expensive, and you can save money by buying healthy beans and grains instead.

 

 

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

 

Buy a large freezer. Your freezer will pay for itself in six months or less, I promise you. If you have to, keep it in your patio, garage, anywhere you can get electricity and somewhat protect it from the elements. Mine is outside right now getting rained on, but it has a few garbage bags on it to protect the wires from getting wet.

 

 

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Be creative with what you find. For example, If you have a chest freezer, take the door off and an upright freezer, remove the door and turn it on its side. Drill some holes in the bottom, and fill it up with dirt. Now you have a raised garden bed that won’t kill your back. Of course, that only works if you find an old freezer, but you can go dumpster diving or drive around and see what is being given away for free.

 

 

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Do free fun things with your friends and kids. Good thing I have tons of ideas on how to have fun on a budget. I wrote about 45 free things to do with kids indoors and 9 fun things to do with kids at home. If you don’t have kids, you can still do free stuff at home instead of going out (and spending money!). You can have a board game night or even have a romantic date night at home.

 

 

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Use money-saving apps. Spend some time to sign up for Rakuten (Ebates), Ibotta and use the cashback apps to save money on things you are already buying.

 

 

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When you go shopping, go to the clearance aisle first. When you shop online, look in the clearance tab first. Never pay full price is a good rule to help you live a frugal life.

 

 

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Using a drying rack to hang your clothes will not only save you money on your electric bill but will also make your clothes last longer, and you will need new clothing less often.

 

 

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Credit cards can be a useful tool, and some credit cards offer excellent cashback opportunities that you can use to get perks, free gift cards, or even use the cash back to pay your bills. (REMINDER: only use a credit card if you can afford to pay it off in full. Do not go into credit card debt just to get some perks).

 

 

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I know this a long shot but if you don’t care about the newest and the best, try to find someone who either cares about the latest upgrade or try to find someone who constantly gets free upgrades. You can then get or buy their phone or tablet for cheap.

 

For example, my sister-in-law’s phone broke, and the sound does not work well. She was able to get a new one for free, and I took her old one. For the price of a pair of headphones, I have a perfectly good smartphone. Be creative in how you can do things like this.

 

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Some of these frugal living tips will be exactly what you need. Some will be so out of touch you will want to throw your device across the room. The point of these tips is not to assume that everyone will gain from them or that everyone will even save money by using them. The point is to help you realize the different ways you can start living your best frugal life.

 

 

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Living a frugal life means making do for what doesn’t matter. It means not filling your life with things that don’t matter. It means stripping down to the things that matter. It means not devoting time and money to things that don’t matter.

 

There is an inherent value in doing with less regardless of the amount of money you have. Even if you have a lot, there is value in doing with less, eschewing materialism, reducing your waste as much as possible, and leaving the smallest physical footprint in this world as possible.

 

There is something good about living a frugal life. Frugal living can be rewarding in many ways. There is something about doing with less, about trying to have less materialism in your life.

 

Phynart Studio/istockphoto

 

We also need to understand that saving money is a necessity in the world we live in. When you spend all your money on things that you don’t need or you spend your money because you are in the habit of spending, then you are giving up any financial freedom you may be able to have in your future.

 

Good money habits included cutting down on spending and making more money. You need to find places in your budget to cut down so you can save more money and be prepared. Be creative in where you save and work to find more places to save money without compromising on your happiness.

 

There was a time in my life when I was unemployed, and we (my husband and I) had very, very little money. It was a dark, depressing time. I was extremely hesitant to use credit cards or dip into savings because I had no idea if I would ever get another job or be able to pay it back. I had watched too many people sink deep into credit card debt, and I didn’t want that happening to me.

 

I was on a tiny, strict budget, and I really stuck to it. I sometimes look back and wonder how we managed to make it work, and I honestly don’t know. We had so little. Being frugal-not-by-choice is a terrible situation to be in.

 

From that moment onward, I decided that I would actively embrace frugal living whether I had to or not. I would make frugal living as a value that I espouse.

 

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