Are reward cards worth it?

by kmdbookworm

As a young professional living in a very expensive city, I am always looking for ways to save money. I’ve accumulated more rewards cards since moving to D.C. than I ever have. Some of them are worth it, and some not so much.

I am an owner of a Starbucks Gold Card (or will be if it ever comes in the mail), which I love. I admit I am a semi-Starbucks fiend and a vanilla latte or chai tea can make a long day seem less long. And their rewards card is worth it, mostly because it is free! I get a free drink on my birthday and a free drink for every 15 (soon to be 12) I buy. There’s discounts and coupons galore, and again, I need not spend a cent more than I usually do to receive most of those discounts. It’s well worth it.

Then on a whim on my birthday, I decided to get a Barnes & Noble membership. Probably not worth the $25 price tag after learning more about it. I get 40% off bestselling hardcovers! Well, you can get that same discount if you order online. I get free shipping! Well, I prefer to shop in-store. I get discounts on e-books… oh, wait, nope, I don’t. I should have done more investigating before signing up for the card. $25 is not that much, but I’d rather have bought another book for that price than a card that may not save me the $25 I spent on it. The only plus side is the coupons they send me by email. These can be used in-store or online. Sometimes they’re not great, but saving 10% on everything you buy and throwing in a 20%-off coupon is actually not a bad deal. I just have to pay closer attention to coupons in my email because they are usually only good for a few days. There’s always a downside!

(And, disclaimer, I do *try* to support local bookstores, but they offer very few discounts that apply to me. My favorite local, Politics and Prose, is also a 30 minute walk or the hope a bus is coming by when I want to go on a whim, so it’s a bit more of a hassle to get to. They do have a discount membership, but it’s mostly on nonfiction and book club sponsored books. Just not enough incentive for someone living paycheck to paycheck.)

I can be a very loyal customer, and I wish more places appreciated that. Most these days want you to get their credit card, which I am always wary of.

Do you have a discount card to any bookstores, coffee shops or other retailers? Which are good and which just aren’t worth it?

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