Loyalty programs can save you a ton at the grocery store

The Toronto Star spoke with financial expert Kelly Ho about how loyalty programs — in combination with co-branded credit cards — can offset any food price increases coming our way.

With the price of groceries and everyday essentials on the rise, Canadians are on the lookout for ways to save money at checkout. One way is through loyalty programs. The most recent edition of Canada’s Food Price Report predicts the cost of groceries will rise by between 2.5 and 4.5 per cent this year, with certain items — baked goods, meat, vegetables — spiking by as much as seven per cent.

Experts say using loyalty programs at grocery retailers can offset some of these cost increases. Indeed, a May 2023 survey by Caddle found that 48 per cent of Canadians are paying more attention to loyalty programs than they used to due to inflation.

Kelly Ho, a certified financial planner at Vancouver-based DLD Financial Group, and personal finance expert Barry Choi say if you’re new to loyalty programs, choose one based on the stores you do your regular grocery shopping.

For example, PC Optimum lets you earn loyalty points for grocery and gas purchases at Loblaws-owned stores like No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Real Canadian Superstore. Another popular loyalty program is Scene+, which earns you points on Empire-owned stores such as FreshCo.

“For most of these grocery loyalty programs, you’re only going to get points on targeted offers or in-store purchases,” says Ho. “But if you’re looking to earn a lot of points on groceries, the best thing to do is get a co-branded credit card, because then you’ll earn points on every single purchase.”

Choi agrees. “If you’re able to combine the best of both worlds by finding a store that has a good loyalty program but also has a great credit card program to collect points, that would be a great option.”

While most loyalty programs in Canada are free, some co-branded credit cards might be subject to annual fees. To rack up even more points, Choi and Ho suggest being on the lookout for member-exclusive deals and bonus redemption events for extra points which often show up in store flyers, both online and in print. Choi adds that important for people to be strategic when it comes to loyalty programs, cautioning that the best strategy when it comes to saving money with loyalty programs is to keep it simple — signing up for more than a few loyalty programs could make it more difficult to keep track of discounts and savings events.

“There is a bit of gamification to the system,” says Ho. “You do need to pay attention to how loyalty programs work, how to earn points and how to redeem them. But even just understanding the basics can save you a lot of money.”

Read the full article: thestar.com 
Published March 10, 2024