After housing and transportation costs, grocery bills are the third-largest expense for the average American family. The average middle-class family will spend over $6,000 annually on food.* Between beverages and fresh fruit, beef, and bakery products, grocery spending adds up over the course of a month.
Not surprisingly, many consumers now visit several stores to complete their regular grocery shopping. Some buy a few things in bulk while capitalizing on meat specials at another grocery store chains. Competing for your dollars, stores have rolled out extensive grocery store loyalty programs to incentivize regular shopping, aka “Loyalty.”
This is why in today’s world, it’s important to explore the best grocery loyalty programs and determine whether or not they’re worth the effort! But first, what are grocery store loyalty programs anyway?
Grocery Loyalty Programs: The Basics
In short, grocery loyalty programs are ways for shoppers to earn points at their local grocery store for their regular shopping. How points are earned is determined by the specific retailer, but in many cases punching in your phone number or scanning a loyalty card earns you points for every dollar you spend.
Loyalty points can be used to save money on future purchases, fuel or redeem in the form of free items in some cases. Designed to incentivize consumers to keep shopping at their store, most retail companies offer a loyalty program of some sort.
By using a cashback shopping app, such as Piggy or ShopKick, consumers can combine savings at a higher level by shopping at grocery stores that offer loyalty cards too.
How Grocery Store Loyalty Programs Work
- Shoppers sign up and are given a loyalty rewards number
- Typically, you are given a loyalty card, a tag for your keychain, or you can use your phone number each time you shop
- During checkout, you have to scan your loyalty card or enter your phone number to receive discounts and also earn points
- Grocery loyalty programs differ per store, but oftentimes users accumulate some points per shopping that can be later rewarded
What Grocery Stores Have Loyalty Cards?
Just about every grocery store offers some type of loyalty program, but some of the most popular grocery loyalty programs include:
How To Get The Most Out Of Grocery Loyalty Programs
Grocery store loyalty programs are typically worth the effort at a basic level, even if just for the store discount. Punch in your phone number at checkout and you’ll be able to take advantage of the discounts without even thinking about it for more than a second. Additionally, personalized offers, gas discounts, and sweepstakes you’ll be notified about will make the money saved worth finding out the grocery stores that offer loyalty cards near you.
For example, at east coast retailer Harris Teeter, being an e-VIC card member means you save at checkout and can automatically take advantage of all BOGO offers and other discounts.
To get the most out of grocery store loyalty programs, do your best to double and triple up on rewards and discounts by trying out the following strategies:
- Use grocery loyalty card provided to receive points, coupons, and discounts
- Combine loyalty program offers with cash back apps like Piggy
- Set up an exclusive cash back, grocery-only credit card to earn cash back. Be sure to search for credit cards that reward at least 3% back on supermarket shopping
When you combine all these offers each time you shop and leverage the incentives, you can compound your savings and cash back making grocery loyalty programs even more worth it!
The Downside Of Grocery Store Loyalty Programs
Ever searched something online that you were considering purchasing only to see it appear on social media a few hours later? Data collection is the driving force behind marketing campaigns on social media, and grocery loyalty programs are not much different. While the consumer is incentivized for their regular shopping at a particular location or website, regular shopping data is also being collected each time you checkout.
In general, loyalty programs allow retailers to communicate more regularly with their consumers and entice them with attractive marketing offers. The downside to this is while someone might think they are saving money when they receive coupons in the mail or promotions emailed to them weekly, the truth is they might be lured into spending more too.
Saving $1 at the expense of spending $10 you never planned on spending in the first place means you spent $9. Grocery store loyalty programs are geared to reward loyal customers, but that comes with a cost – your data.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who doesn’t really get overly concerned with data privacy and typically unsubscribe from marketing emails that might tempt you to spend, then the upside is that custom coupons and incentives attached to grocery loyalty programs will be custom-tailored to you. The algorithms that are intertwined with grocery store loyalty programs will send you coupons for things you regularly buy!
The Verdict: Grocery Loyalty Programs Are Worth It, Usually
At the end of the day, using a grocery loyalty program is worth it, in our opinion. The extra discounts, the reduced pricing on fuel per gallon, and the free items from time to time are worth the hassle of punching in your phone number each time you go to checkout.
While the rewards and how points are earned vary per store, the average consumer will save in the long run by shopping at grocery stores that offer loyalty cards, so long as they avoid impulse shopping. Just how credit card rewards are worth the effort so long as you pay your card off and don’t rack up debt, grocery store loyalty programs are worth it, keeping in mind that you need to stick to your regular shopping.
The best practice is always to read the fine print and familiarize yourself with each grocery loyalty program you become a member of. Some loyalty programs are worth it when you do regular shopping at the store, but some might not be worth the effort. For example, drugstores like Walgreens and CVS are known to have some of the best loyalty programs, but if you’re not a regular shopper at drugstore locations, their grocery loyalty program might feel more like a mass marketing message.
Once you know what grocery stores have loyalty cards, always do your due diligence and be sure to find the right fit for your personal shopping needs!
* Value Penguin: Average Household Food Cost Study