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There’s an App for That. Loyalty Programs that are Worthwhile

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In general, consumers have become savvier about adding cards to their wallets or downloading apps on their devices. If your favorite business offers a loyalty program and an app that claims to offer rewards, save money, or make ordering or shopping easier, what’s the best way to decide whether or not to participate?

The decision to join a loyalty program depends on your interests and shopping habits. If it’s an establishment where you spend money anyway, it makes sense to create an account if the program is easy to use, saves money or gives cash back, or offers a free product.

Here are a few of the more popular national loyalty programs, along with tips to maximize their benefits.

Dunkin’® | DD Perks

How it works: You’ll get not just one, but three free beverages when you enroll in DD Perks rewards program: at signup, on your birthday and when you earn 200 points. One dollar equals five points, which comes to a freebie for every $40 spent. You can also earn bonus points by taking advantage of special offers.

Enroll: Online or with the Dunkin’ app.

Tip: Check the receipt before you toss it. Sometimes Dunkin’ offers a free donut with beverage purchase for completing a customer service survey. The code to access the survey is at the bottom of the receipt.

Starbucks® Rewards

How it works: Earn stars based on eligible purchases and redeem stars for free food, drinks or merchandise. Members who pay with a registered, preloaded Starbucks card earn two stars per $1 versus paying with a credit or debit card—which earns one star per $1. Earn bonus stars on Double Star Days and by participating in bonus star challenges.

Enroll: Online or with the Starbucks app.

Tips: Starbucks prices differ by location so it’s a good idea to redeem rewards at more expensive places, such as an airport or big city. Also, when redeeming stars for free food or drinks, choose the largest size with add-ons. Using rewards is perfect for splurging on the most expensive menu items.


How it works: Earn one percent Walgreens Cash on purchases storewide and five percent on Walgreens-branded products. Easily redeem Walgreens Cash rewards at checkout. Benefit from saving more with only-for-you deals and in-app paperless coupons. Another excellent perk: Earn bonus rewards for achieving health goals.

Enroll: Online, in person or with the Walgreens app.

Tips: At checkout, collect extra coupons that print out with your receipt. These may include Register Rewards: rebates of various dollar amounts that you can apply to your next purchase, or bonus offers to earn extra points if you spend a minimum amount or buy specific products.

CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare®

How it works: Receive two percent back on nearly every purchase made in store or online in the form of ExtraBucks which are printed on the bottom of your paper receipt and accessible via the app. Earn more rewards through weekly promotions. Attention: ExtraBucks can be used to buy almost anything in the store.

Enroll: Online, in person or with the CVS app.

Tips: Always visit the in-store Coupon Center kiosk and scan your card or enter your phone number to receive extra coupons and rewards. Also, pay attention to the bottom of receipts for additional coupons.

Target Circle

How it works: For each eligible purchase, earn one percent to redeem later at Target stores. Members also receive access to special offers. The in-app barcode reader scans items for prices and in-store availability. You can also use the app to place orders for curbside or in-store pickup.

Enroll: Online, in person or with the Target app.

Tips: Use the app to scan in-store items. It will note whether the item is on sale online. If so, the cashier will price-match at the register. Also, scroll down to “Offers For You” each time you open the app. The bonus deals are based on your shopping history and, therefore, are perfectly matched to you.

Nordstrom’s Nordy Club

How it works: Earn one point for every $1 spent. Points become Nordstrom Notes to use toward any purchase at Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack. Members receive free basic alterations and first access to exclusive brand launches. Members who spend more annually and achieve higher status—Insider, Influencer, Ambassador—receive personal bonus-point days and enjoy first access to shop clear-the-rack sales.

Enroll: Online, in person or with the Nordstrom app.

Tip: Nordstrom Notes usually expire within a year. To preserve them, transfer the Notes to Nordstrom gift cards, which never expire.

Sephora’s Beauty Insider

How it works: Earn one point per $1 spent. Every 500 points equals $10 off a qualifying purchase. On designated days, earn two or four times the points on purchases. Other benefits include seasonal savings events, free samples and birthday gifts, and extra points for services.

Enroll: Online or with the Sephora app.

Tip: When you enter the store, check with Sephora staff who will alert you to any Insider sales or bonuses.

Ulta’s Ultamate Rewards®

How it works: Earn one point for every $1 spent. Redeem points on anything in stores, including services. Extra benefits are available on member appreciation days. Members receive double points during their birthday month, as well as a gift and $10 off a service coupon. Members receive Platinum status after spending $500 and Diamond status after $1,200. These shoppers receive more points per dollar spent, as well as exclusive deals, gifts, rewards and coupons.

Enroll: Online or with the Ulta app.

Tip: Ulta stores often include small gifts with your purchase. On Wednesdays, they offer a higher-value “Beauty Break” gift (typically multiple products) with a minimum purchase.

Offering customer loyalty programs is a great way for retailers to attract and keep loyal customers. The key to making it work is understanding customers and providing value to them.

Everyone loves to feel like they’re saving money, and who doesn’t enjoy cash back or a free product? With all that money you’ll be saving, see how much more you can save with Tower services or open a Club savings account to save for something special. You can use the info and tips in this article to evaluate programs from other retailers. Whose loyalty program will you consider next?

Resources: The Washington Post,, AARP, Newsweek, Target, Dunkin, Starbucks, Nordstrom, CVS, Walgreens, Ulta, Sephora

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