Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

Rewards points – contact sport


I treat rewards points as a contact sport. If I’m giving my data away to banks and other organisations I make sure I’m getting best value. I was thinking of this today because I chanced upon this Open Letter To The BNZ.

Here are my thoughts on Rewards Points, which I wrote a couple of years back:

Rewards points are one great big con. Most people give away their data for very little in return. Have you ever noticed how long it takes to build up enough points to buy a worthless widget?

I got to thinking about rewards points following a discussion over Sunday lunch. Someone at the table had driven across Auckland to participate in a Colmar Brunton consumer panel.

It transpired that she’d done it for reward points, which when we looked into it added up to about $17. It barely covered the cost of her petrol, let alone time.

Rewards points, and air miles type deals can have all sorts of catches. Sometimes you need to pay an annual fee, other times there’s a minimum spending limit, or there may be a time limit within which the points must be used.

It is unfair, I had to admit, to say that all rewards points are a waste of time. But buying something because it has double rewards doesn’t make sense if you could get it somewhere else cheaper. Driving a little further to a petrol station to get a few measly points just doesn’t cut it.

Using your rewards cards effectively makes a lot of sense. I have three: Fly Buys, AA Rewards, and TrueRewards from my bank, and make a point of checking with retailers when I buy something if they take any of them. I also have my mobile phone, electricity account and a few other bills registered with the relevant rewards card provider. That way the points are clocking up without me thinking .

Redemption comes in two ways: either buying goods from a catalogue, or receiving vouchers. The latter makes a lot more sense.

If the vouchers can be used at stores you shop at anyway, then they’re as good as cash in the hand. In my case I usually take Mobil or Farmers vouchers, which I know I’ll use sooner or later

In the case of AA Rewards, the points can be used as a discount off the annual membership. This is great because it doesn’t require me to do anything except tick a box.

Personally I hate the Fly Buys rewards. When I looked this week at the items on offer, there were few I would want anyway. Even if I did want a BBQ Electronic Fork, LCD Keyring, or a copy of Nothing to Lose, by Lee Child, I’d either look on Trade Me or wait until they were on sale. By using my Fly Buys I’m redeeming my points for full price merchandise – something I never do myself.

I can and do spend the Farmers vouchers from my True Rewards during Red Dot sales, knowing that I’ve got a bargain and haven’t even paid for it. It makes me feel a whole lot better about rewards points providers snooping on my shopping habits because at least I feel I’m getting a good deal.

To make the best use of rewards points:

  • It is a good idea to ensure that you make a mental note of those stores that accept them. Some can be quite obscure: such as Lollipop’s Playland, which takes AA Rewards.
  • Get extra cards for everyone who lives with you.
  • Ensure you’re signed up to collect points on your utility bills and insurance. Fly Buys, for example, gives points on your Telecom, Contact Energy and State Insurance spending.
  • If you’re going to buy something anyway and the price is the same, then tax advantage of double or triple points. But never choose a stor3e on this alone.
  • Read the fine print and make sure that your rewards or air miles don’t expire.
  • Identify your ‘Points Personalities’ – organisations take advantage of certain types of shoppers to get involed in their rewards schemes.

Finally, Kiwi rewards cards providers have a long way to go. In the UK where I used to live Tesco would send me computer generated money-off vouchers for the types of goods that I bought anyway. By doing this, the company provided me with a real value add. Tesco also gives points if you re-use your shopping bags. Boots the chemist had a machine in store that allowed you to enter your card and choose discount vouchers that were printed on the spot.

Do you collect other reward points?

5 Comments to

“Rewards points – contact sport”

  1. On August 6th, 2010 at 5:58 pm cedar51 Says:

    I get something called Brownie points from my electricity supplier – I don’t know if I have ever managed to claim anything. – I just checked still not enough to even score a $15 voucher!

    Buzz the survey people I have managed to get a voucher from and also Smile City (neither I rush to though)

    I usually get a Whitcoulls voucher and I used one at the beginning of the year to get 2 reams of photocopy paper (which will probably last me 2yrs).

    I’ve had a Flybuys card – twice but at no time have I ever got anything on it because there is always the catch of ‘minimum purchase’ – or if I could get it my card is not with me!

    I am probably not your typical ‘shopper’ which makes it difficult for me to earn etc

    I stopped the Consumer panel thing – I now can’t get to the Takapuna office all that well and last time it would have been the $$ you mentioned above.

  2. On August 8th, 2010 at 6:15 pm kmc Says:

    From your post: “Ensure you’re signed up to collect points on your utility bills and insurance. Fly Buys, for example, gives points on your Telecom, Contact Energy and State Insurance spending.”

    Nice advertising for Telecom, but I am pretty sure they are not a FlyBuys partner. I just double check on the list of participating companies (link below) and they are not listed at all.

    Otherwise a good article that highlights the false economy of rewards points really well 🙂

  3. On August 9th, 2010 at 11:32 pm chris Says:

    We all redeem those supermarket-issued 4 cent a litre petrol coupons.

    If you use them at BP and are also an AA member then do make sure you present your AA card for their loyalty programme too.

    Some BP stations will try and tell you that you can’t have the AA points as well as the supermarket discount, but this is untrue. All BP stations are required as a matter of company policy to accept both the voucher AND the AA card for the one purchase of petrol.

  4. On August 10th, 2010 at 11:54 am Brenda Gael Smith Says:

    Man vs Debt has some interesting commentary on rewards points and credit cards generally:

  5. On August 13th, 2010 at 10:55 am Bargain Betty Says:

    Re points on your Telecom bill. You get the points not from Fly Buys, but from your credit card if you have a points credit card. So by direct debiting your Telecom bill through your visa card you get points such as True Rewards or hotpoints. If you have a BNZ Fly Buys card you get the BNZ points, which are then converted into Fly Buys. However I’ve heard around the grapevine that Telecom charges a credit card surcharge. So may not be worth it for you. You need to do the maths. Most other utilities companies don’t have surcharges so it’s well worth it.

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