Wal­greens short­ens re­wards win­dow

Austin American-Statesman - - MONEY & MARKETS - By Ally Marotti

If any Wal­greens cus­tomers are hoard­ing points in the store’s loy­alty pro­gram, it might be time to cash in.

The drug­store chain, based out­side Chicago, is chang­ing the ex­pi­ra­tion pol­icy on its Bal­ance Re­wards points. Start­ing Aug. 25, points will ex­pire one year af­ter the date they were earned. Pre­vi­ously, they ex­pired af­ter three years.

Wal­greens spokes­woman Emily Hartwig-Mek­stan said in an email that com­pany of­fi­cials be­lieve the new pol­icy will en­cour­age cus­tomers “to re­deem their points more fre­quently and lead to more en­gage­ment with the pro­gram.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the shorter ex­pi­ra­tion win­dow is con­sis­tent with other re­tailer loy­alty re­ward pro­grams, she said.

Mem­bers of the Star­bucks Re­wards pro­gram, for ex­am­ple, re­ceive ben­e­fits based on the num­ber of “stars” they earn through pur­chases. A mem­ber must earn at least one star each year af­ter en­rolling to re­ceive ben­e­fits of the pro­gram’s most ba­sic level, and stars ex­pire af­ter six months.

Hav­ing points ex­pire af­ter three years is a model bet­ter suited for travel-re­lated loy­alty pro­grams, like air­line points, said Melissa Fru­end, part­ner at Toronto-based con­sult­ing firm Loy­al­tyOne Global So­lu­tions.

Wal­green’s Bal­ance Re­wards pro­gram launched in 2012. Crit­ics at the time ar­gued that it was late to the game, fall­ing be­hind ri­vals Rite Aid, which al­ready had a well-es­tab­lished pro­gram at the time, and CVS, which launched its Ex­traCare card na­tion­ally in 2001.

As of Au­gust 2016, Wal­green’s Bal­ance Re­wards pro­gram had 87 mil­lion ac­tive mem­bers, Hartwig-Mek­stan said.

E. JA­SON WAMBSGANS / CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Cus­tomers will soon have to re­deem their loy­alty points within a year when pur­chas­ing prod­ucts at Wal­greens.

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