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?