Own your reward points, don’t let them own you
Confession: I hate rewards schemes. OK, hate is too strong, but I do resent them.
I don’t buy the popular idea of rewards, which is that they give you something for nothing.
They demand my time, fumbling in wallets, accessing websites, reading statements, pondering at Countdown shelves reading those irritating eye-wateringly glaring little bonus buy tags. They swell my wallet to ludicrous fatness, and they complicate simple purchases. I bought a Wii game for my daughter a month ago, and instead of just paying the price, I was treated to a 10-minute induction into a rewards programme I didn’t want to be involved in.
The same happened when I bought some tramping gear. Why did I submit? I had no choice. Unless I submitted, they’d have charged me more. It was retail blackmail.
I went into the shop to buy a fleece, not form a lifelong relationship. I’ve as many of those as I can manage already. Unless rewards schemes are a kind of collective madness, they exist for the sole reason that they give retailers power to shape our preferences, communicate with us from afar, and ultimately make more money out of us.
In my sunnier moments, I consider them like credit cards – a tool smart people use to get a little extra value, with stupid people subsidising them through their daft, easily shaped behaviour.
But mostly, I just think they create an extra layer of marketing costs which has to be clawed back through generally higher prices, and that the whole thing is a conjurer’s sleight-of-hand drawing attention from prices that are too high. A walk down any bonus-buys/price specials-festooned aisle at Countdown would lead you to believe you were getting bargain after bargain, but chances are you’d still come out paying more for your basket of goods than if you went to Pak ’ n Save, or in Australia, or the US, or Britain.
The usual money columnist wisdom on rewards schemes is disingenuous and myopically simplistic. Accept them into your life, but do not let them change your behaviour.
I can hear the people from Flybuys and the banks laughing from here.
My strategy is to sign up to rewards schemes when you have no choice, and then studiously ignore them. Treat them as a source of pleasant surprise. Have the Onecard, but only remember when you are asked at the till.
Have that Subway or St Pierre’s Sushi card, but only remember you have it at the door.
When my favourite bookstore (Time Out in Mount Eden) surprises me with a discount because of what I spent last time, I smile happily and accept it. Why not, I think?
Sign up for the credit card rewards if you run your mortgage off it, and then once a year, allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the points you have and use it to buy Christmas presents for the kids, or do something really dull, like converting them to KiwiSaver contributions ( BNZ and Westpac do this) or paying the credit card fee so you don’t start getting too excited about it.
And if you ever feel that moment of exhilaration when you see an advert offering extra points, it is time to pledge to convert all the rewards points you get in the next three years to charity.