18 retailers with the best loyalty programs

Getty/Kevork DjansezianBed Bath & Beyond has a loyalty program worth signing up for.
  • Several retailers offer loyalty programs offering customers perks and rewards for their continued shopping.
  • We compiled 18 of the best loyalty programs in retail, comprising industries from books to clothing and beauty products.
  • The loyalty programs offer customers free items, exclusive deals, and discounts on future purchases.

In today’s retail landscape, the fight for customers is fiercer than ever.

Loyalty programs may be the oldest marketing trick in the book, but they remain one of the most effective for getting consumers to stick with a company. Companies in industries from books to beauty products offer alluring perks and rewards for loyal customers.

“Today’s most successful customer-loyalty programs are engaging and retaining customers by building an emotional connection to the brand and making participation in the program effortless,” Kim Courvoisier, head of content marketing at Thanx, a customer engagement platform, told Business Insider.

“The strategy is paying off for retailers who are doing everything they can to compete in an environment of declining foot traffic and decreased margins.”

With that in mind, here’s a look at 18 loyalty programs worth considering signing up for.


CVS

Cost:Free

“When signing up for the ExtraCare card, CVS tracks your purchases throughout the year and rewards shoppers with ExtraBucks that act as free money to pay for your next shopping trip,” Sara Skirboll, shopping & trends expert at RetailMeNot, a coupon website, told Business Insider.

“Shoppers who sign up for the ExtraCare card also have access to special sale prices that regular customers don’t.”


Target

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Cost:Free

For loyal Target shoppers, the REDcard is a must-have.

“It saves shoppers 5% on every purchase, gives free shipping for online orders, and an additional 30 days for returns with no annual fee,” said Skirboll.


Barnes & Noble

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Cost: $US25 annually

Although sales are falling at Barnes & Noble, you can actually get surprisingly good values if you’re willing to fork over $US25 for a membership.

“For only $US25 a year, you’ll score 40% off pricing on hardcover bestsellers, 10% off on almost all other purchase, and free express shipping on all online purchases,” Beauty Kitchen founder Heather Marianna told Business Insider.


Nordstrom

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Cost:Free

Nordstrom’s rewards program, The Nordy Club, allows you to earn one point for every dollar spent at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and HauteLook. Points can be cashed in for store credit, and holders of Nordstrom credit cards can earn points three times faster.

“My favourite perk to their program is the exclusive insider access you get to things like style workshops, first-to-shop select brand shipments, and curbside pick-up,” Marianna said.


Bed Bath & Beyond

Getty/Kevork Djansezian

Cost: $US29 annual fee

Marianna called Bed Bath & Beyond’s Beyond+ program “the best loyalty program on the market, hands down.”

“For just $US29 a year, you get 20% off your entire purchase and free shipping,” Marianna told Business Insider. “No more searching and scouring the mail for their 20% off coupons,” she said, adding that many of the retailer’s coupons only apply to particular items.


Sears

Scott Olson/Getty ImagesCustomers shop at a Sears store in Woodfield Mall on July 20, 2017 in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Cost:Free

Sears may have recently declared bankruptcy and closed hundreds of stores, but the retailer is still rewarding customers with its Shop Your Way loyalty program, considered one of the best in retail.

Shop Your Way comes with a long list of benefits. Not only do you get exclusive coupons and personalised savings, you get 10 points for every $US1 you spend, as well as surprise point offers.

There’s an option to upgrade to a $US39 membership whereby you earn 20 points for every $US1 you spend and get free 2-day shipping. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted a woman who, using her points, spend just $US18 on a $US150 purchase.


Office Depot

Cost: No direct cost, but you qualify for the VIP program after you’ve spent $US500 in a calendar year

Marianna calls Office Depot’s OfficeMax Rewards program the holy grail for business owners.

“You’ll get 5% back on ink, toner, paper, printing, and shipping services,” Marianna said. “I’m constantly printing and having to restock up back on ink – and always cringing at how expensive the price of ink is – so this definitely helps. You’ll also get free shipping on your purchases, which is gold when you’re pressed for time and can’t get to the store.”


Amazon Rewards Visa Card

Cost:Free

Although shoppers have to sign-up and get approved for a credit card to use the Amazon loyalty program, the experience is worthwhile, Skirboll said.

“Shoppers will get a $US30 gift card upon signing up and the card gives shoppers 3% back on every dollar spent on Amazon, 2% back on drugstore, gas station, and restaurant purchases, and 1% on all other items,” Skirboll said.

“Keep adding up the points and use them towards future Amazon purchases, gift cards, or other perks.”


REI

Suzi Pratt/Getty

Cost: $US20

Outdoor recreation retailer REI offers a lifetime membership to its co-op program for $US20.

Courvoisier said the program ends up being a great deal for customers.

“REI is known for having one of the best no-questions-asked return policies, and if you lose your receipt, no worries – all your purchases are logged through your membership,” she told Business Insider.

She added: “Other benefits include 10% back on purchases, members-only specials, access to the REI community with classes, events and REI Adventures. There’s also the wildly popular REI Garage sale events where you can buy returned gear at major discounts. The ease of use combined with the valued rewards serves to make REI Co-op a best in class loyalty program.”


Starbucks

Cost:Free

Starbucks is a great program for rewards – just be sure to use the app to maximise the benefits.

“You can download the app for free, and every day there are Bonus Stars you can elect to participate in,” Megan Gorman, managing partner at Chequers Financial Management, told Business Insider. “You get two stars for every dollar and you can use them to pay, whether you order ahead or order in-store, and if you check daily, there are sometimes free refills and other perks.”


Sephora

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Cost:Free

Beauty aficionados who frequent Sephora should sign up for the Beauty Insider program to get access to a range of exclusive items to add to their beauty collection.

“Rewards members earn one point for every dollar spent and can rack up points to earn products and sets,” Skirboll said. “Members also have access to beauty classes, seasonal promotions, and exclusive curated sets. Sephora also recently announced the launch of three credit cards as an extension of its existing loyalty program that allows members to have even more exclusive perks and offerings.”


Bloomingdale’s

Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Cost:Free

The Loyallist program from Bloomingdale’s is a simple way to earn extra cash as members can earn multiple points on purchases.

“Shoppers can get double points for fragrances, shoes, and cosmetics, and triple points for shopping with a Bloomingdale’s credit card,” Skirboll said. “Members can cash in points for gift cards and other rewards, and those who reach a certain spending level achieve ‘top of the list’ status and can get free shipping and extra points.”


Michael Kors

Cost:Free

Michael Kors offers a tiered loyalty program that includes special surprise gifts, private events, special services, and free shipping.

“Unlike other brands who send sample sizes, their gifts are particularly generous,” Tiara Jing, retail expert and brand marketing manager at Dealmoon, a shopping advisory website, told Business Insider. “The higher you are in their loyalty program, the more you can expect, including high-quality accessories and trending handbags, not just the stuff at the bottom of the clearance rack.”


Tarte Cosmetics

Tarte

Cost:Free

There’s no doubt that the beauty-product company Tarte Cosmetics has won the hearts of their so-called “tartlettes,” Courvoisier said.

Tarte Rewards members can earn points by shopping and by engaging with the brand through social media, by opening Tarte emails, and by referring friends.

“These engagement rewards are excellent examples of rewarding members for keeping the brand top of mind, exhibiting behaviours that are beneficial to Tarte, and expanding the company’s organic reach,” Courvoisier said.

Tarte also rewards “Soulmates” – shoppers at the highest tier of its rewards program – with more perks such as expedited shipping, triple points during their birthday month, and exclusive products.


Marriott

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesA Marriott hotel in San Francisco, California.

Cost:Free

Marriott’s free loyalty program has a ton of benefits, including members-only rates, free mobile app check-in, VIP upgrades, and more.

“Besides knowing you are getting the best bang for your buck, which ultimately gives you a reason and a sense of empowerment to travel more, my favourite thing about the program is that members receive free WiFi,” Marianna said.


Lululemon

Cost:$US128

Lululemon is just now getting its loyalty program off the ground, but Courvoisier said she already sees the athletic apparel company is doing a lot of things right.

Courvoisier’s favourite perks of the loyalty program include a free pair of pants or shorts exclusive to members, special access to classes and events, and free expedited shipping for online orders. She also said the store’s “generous” return policy allows returns with “with no questions asked.”


Kohl’s

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Cost:Free

“With the Yes2Rewards program, members receive a free birthday gift and the ability to earn one point for every dollar spent,” Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, told Business Insider.

“On the first day of every month, members earn a $US5 reward for every 100 points earned. There are also special events where you can earn even more rewards. The rewards are generous, but you only have 30 days to redeem your rewards.”


Ulta

Jean-Marc Giboux

Cost:Free

Another popular pick is Ulta’s Ultamate Rewards.

“Members earn a point for each dollar they spend – 2 points with the Ultamate Rewards credit card – and points can used toward future purchases,” Bodge said.

“Members can earn 5x points on select products and receive a gift on their birthday. If you spend over $US450 or $US1,200 in a calendar year, you will reach Platinum or Diamond level, respectively, which unlocks even more perks.”

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