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Consumer News

Retailers Go High Tech With Rewards Programs

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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Award-winning journalist Paula Ebben co-anchors WBZ-TV News at 6PM...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Rewards programs can offer good deals at your favorite retailers. The downside is keeping all the various cards in your wallet, or on your key chain.

Many programs are now making changes to take advantage of new technology.

Joanna Alva always uses rewards programs when she shops, but she has found a way to leave the cards at home. She uses “Shop Kick”, a new app. She says, “I don’t have to do anything to really get the points and get rewarded for shopping.”

Mark Johnson of the Loyalty Marketers Association said it is common for retailers to get rid of the plastic altogether. “They’re using mobile,” he says. “They’re using your cell phone.”

The number of retailers offering special deals if you check into their store on Facebook or Foursquare is skyrocketing. So is the number of businesses emailing coupons to loyal shoppers.

There are even games that reward you for playing. This is part of a new trend known as “Gamification”. Players stop by sites like www.gamify.com and earn real life points.

Other changes don’t involve technology. Some stores are letting friends merge their points, or allowing the use of points in multiple stores.

Gerri Detweiller of www.creditcard.com isn’t worried about privacy being compromised with these new approaches. He says, “Most retailers don’t like to sell information about your shopping habits to others because they want to use it to get you to spend more money with them.”

A bigger concern is store rewards that might entice shoppers with cash back offers and other discounts.

“Using a credit card rewards program can cost you a lot more than the rewards you earn. Especially if you end up carrying a balance and paying interest on the card,” explained Detweiller.

Another problem is the points that don’t get redeemed. By one estimate, they total $16 billion, a full third of all the points earned.

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