The power of loyalty cards
Riddle-me-this dear reader: What have your wallet and mine got in common?
No, not a FlyBuys card – I am one of the few dirty hold-outs refusing pig-headedly to carry one.
No, not great wads of cash. I am practically a cashless unit these days and would make a fairly poor target for a mugger.
It is the Onecard issued to me by supermarket operator Countdown.
I didn’t want it. Two of my greatest irritants are companies forcing me to carry discount cards, and the assault on the senses from garish special offer signs on shop shelves.
Both my eyes and wallet are straining from the effort imposed on me.
Every time I pull out my Onecard, I think fondly of the other big supermarket competitor, Pak ’ n Save, who seems to just charge me less without messing around with discounts via loyalty cards, and my favourite bookshop Time Out in Mt Eden, whose computerised loyalty programme gives me discounts without me having to carry a card.
I carry the Onecard because I am the weekly grocery shopper more often than not, and perhaps one week in three I do so at a Countdown.
I buy pretty much the same thing each shop and having a Onecard automatically gains me any discounts on what I buy.
On occasion, there might be a price so good on something I regularly buy, that I stock up a bit.
Another reason I carry the card is that for every $2000 I spend, Countdown sends out a $15 voucher.
Obviously I take the money on offer though each time I think it would just be easier for everyone if Countdown charged $15 less in the first place.
But now I am faced with a new dilemma.
Countdown wants me to swap my Onecard for a Onecard Visa credit card. It wouldn’t mean a fatter wallet, because the credit card would simply replace my existing Onecard.
And it would mean that I get double the rewards points, so, assuming I continue to spend around $200 a week (I know, I should cut down on the beer) and I spend it all at Countdown, I’d earn annually roughly $150 worth of vouchers versus $75 I would get now.
But take off the $65 Onecard Visa fee each year and the extra gain drops to just $10, and then there’s the one-off $48 application fee.
Also, I am not sure I want a new line of credit. My existing bank credit card does me fine and I don’t need an extra one.
And now I think about it, after a decade as a customer, I would suspect Countdown knows more about my shopping habits than my wife.
They know, for instance, that when I nip in to the one near work to pick up milk, I often buy a salami pack to eat on the way home.
And yet, despite knowing what a dependable creature I am, the Onecard Visa offers me no special favours.
I know a discounted interest rate would be academic as my household pays off its credit card balance each month, but it would show me how much they loved me.
One final word. People aren’t totally rational when it comes to spending.
One of my guiding beliefs is that retailers want us to carry their rewards cards because it gives them the power to modify our behaviour. I reckon whatever value we get from them is less than they get from issuing them.