Beware The Bounteous Retail Bonus Programs: There Is Such A Thing As Being Too Loyal

No one would be upset at being called loyal. It’s a good thing — it means you value a relationship enough to stick by it. And all the better if that relationship you’re devoted to provides you with discounts at a store where you just so happen to love. So what’s the harm in a little bonus bucks program? Well, there is such a thing as spending money when you wouldn’t otherwise do so just because you got a discount. For being loyal.

Retail analysts are wise to the games of stores like Kohl’s, Old Navy, Saks Fifth Avenue and other businesses that wave around bonus “cash” or other rewards for shopping and spending money. These games could result in you buying things you didn’t plan on just to reach a rewards threshold. And sometimes when you cross that threshold it’s kind of just like, “Eh. I didn’t really need to do that.”

Reuters points out some of the gimmicks employed by retailers to woo you into overspending just to trigger that bonus cash. Those programs also invent loyalty, because hey, if you’ve got a $30 credit to use because you spent $100 somewhere, of course you’re going to go back.

One of the tricks is to tie incentives or rewards to store credit cards, notes Reuters.

For instance, a recent Saks promotion offered a $25 gift card for purchases of $250-$499, increasing the reward to $35 if a Saks card was used. It offered a gift card of up to $450 for spending $3,000 or more, and $700 if you charged $3,000 on their card — a store credit worth 23 percent of their purchase.

Other stores like Kohl’s offer a redemption coupon that might not be tied to a store card, but since it’s not real actual green money cash, you’ve got to come back to the store to spend it. And as one expert points out, if you get a free $10 coupon for a store, let’s face it — you’re going to end up spending at least $13-$15 when you go to use it.

Always read the fine print — some bonus programs will only allow customers to redeem their coupons, discounts or credits within a certain time frame. And think hard about spending the minimum amount to trigger a discount. Is it something you need to buy or are you doing it just because you can save money later on another thing you may or may not want?

Loyalty should be rewarded. It’s a great benefit to get a little something back by being a devoted customer, but getting tangled up in too many rewards and bonuses will also end up with your wallet feeling lighter and a hazy memory of buying three pairs of jeggings just to get a fourth one free. You’ll never wear any of those, by the way.

Do the math on “bucks” deals from retailers [Reuters]