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Watch out for changes that could cost money as retailers are redoing their rewards programs

Office DepotIt’s irritating and it’s a trend.

When you go to retailers and ask if you have any rewards money to apply to your purchase, you’re told you need to go their website to sign up for their rewards program again there.

It happened at Office Depot and Rite Aid, companies where I’ve been in the rewards program for years.

Since the new pricing at Office Depot showed quite a bit off when I went to buy some thumb drives Thursday, I asked the staff at the store to help me sign up for the new program. Now I’m a member and qualify for rewards again.

If you spend $500 a year at Office Depot, you become a VIP member and get 5 percent back in rewards and free delivery on most items. That isn’t going to work for me. With my small business, I don’t spend that much at the store in a year.

The reason rewards programs are being revamped is likely because when you look at what you get for free, you can compare it to different levels of “memberships” that you pay for.

Recently, Best Buy canceled its rewards program, one I’ve been in for years. You no longer get reward points unless you have a Best Buy credit card.

However, in going to the Best Buy website, I was reminded that I’m a member of My Best Buy Total, a tech service. It will automatically renew in November for $179.99, so I need to be sure to cancel it before then.

I signed up for My Best Buy Total when I bought a new Apple desktop computer. I thought it would be worth it to have a technician come to my house and get my new computer up and running so I wouldn’t have to lug it to Best Buy and back.

However, it didn’t work out well. The technician wasn’t supposed to transfer information from my old computer to my new one. He did launch the transfer, however, but it took several days because I have so many photos.

I won’t sign up for My Best Buy Total again.

As for Rite Aid, I’m having a difficult time figuring out what’s going on with its rewards program. The cashier said I had to go to the company’s website and sign up again, but I already have an account and have 1,912 points. I don’t want to convert to BonusCash because those points expire in 30 days. I’ll have to call and see what’s going on.

Growing numbers of big box retailers are launching paid subscription programs that offer free or discounted home delivery. They want set up big money making membership programs like Amazon Prime and Walmart have.

Brands such as Best Buy and 1800-Flowers are shifting their loyalty focus from points for purchases to brand engagement, according to an article in Forbes. Customers now earn rewards for product reviews, answering fellow shoppers’ queries, and engaging with the brand beyond transactions.

For more information, see the Consumer Reports article on the “Pros and Cons of Retail Membership Programs.”

 

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