Four questions to ask about drugstore loyalty cards
BY TOM MURPHY Associated Press
Sunday, December 09, 2012
12/09/12 at 4:33 AM
Walgreens wants to reward customers for merely taking a walk, and Rite Aid will help cover trial gym memberships for some of its frequent shoppers.
All the national drugstore chains now offer a free customer loyalty program loaded with incentives to use their cards. Walgreen Co., the nation's largest drugstore chain, became the latest when it unveiled its Balance Rewards program in September.
Experts say frequent shoppers should consider enrolling but also should be aware that they're sacrificing some privacy. Here are four questions to consider before a store clerk asks you to sign up during your next visit.
1. Why would I want another card cluttering my key ring?: For starters, there's a chance to save money or build up points toward a future purchase.
Walgreens Balance Rewards program gives customers several ways to add points through both stores and online purchases. Shoppers receive a $5 award when they accrue 5,000 points. The reward climbs to $50 for 40,000 points.
CVS offers through its ExtraCare program 2 percent back on non-prescription purchases and a dollar reward for every two prescriptions purchased.
These programs resemble airline frequent flyer benefits, said Lisa Gill, prescription drugs editor for Consumer Reports.
"If you're looking to save money, this is absolutely one thing to consider," she said.
2. What else do these programs provide?: These loyalty programs offer layers of benefits. Balance Reward members can earn 10 points for every mile through a "Walk with Walgreens" program.
Some companies also offer around-the-clock access to a pharmacist online or through toll-free numbers.
3. What are the drawbacks?: These cards have some limitations. Customers cannot earn points when paying for prescriptions in some states or if they have coverage through government-funded programs like Medicare or Medicaid.
Customers who sign up for these loyalty cards sacrifice some privacy. The cards give companies a record of your buying habits and shopping patterns.
4. What do the companies get out of all of this?: The cards give companies loads of information to help them drive business to their stores, stock shelves and tailor marketing.
Original Print Headline: Considerations for loyalty cards