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There are many good reason why shoppers should take advantage of rewards and loyalty programmes by the retailers they frequent the most, so the November 2013 issue of ShopSmart took a closer look at the loyalty programmes of nine US retailers and highlighted their best perks and benefits. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The study examined retailers including Best Buy Reward Zone, Amazon Rewards, Target REDcard, and Macy's Star Rewards, and concluded that loyalty cards can be a win-win for shoppers and retailers, especially in the lucrative holiday shopping season.

There are many types of reward and loyalty programmes, including those that are free to join and others that require shoppers to sign up for a credit or debit card first. According to ShopSmart's editor-in-chief, Lisa Lee Freeman, consumers are advised not to leave an outstanding balance on credit cards linked to loyalty programmes if possible, as high interest rates are also an incentive for retailers to recruit members.

Among the programmes, benefits and perks, and fine print highlighted were:

  • Amazon Rewards Visa card
    This card can deliver big rewards in the form of cash back, gift cards and travel for frequent Amazon shoppers.

    Best Perk: A US$50 gift card just for signing up.

    How It Works: Three points for every US$1 charged at Amazon.com, including downloads, gift cards and subscriptions. One hundred points converts into US$1 to spend with Amazon.

  • Best Buy Reward Zone
    The perks of this programme are a big incentive to join, especially for those who make big purchases here. Best Buy's new price-match guarantee includes online retailers such as Amazon.com and members receive exclusive offers, promotions, and access to special events.

    Best Perk: Free product setup helpline for Premier Silver members of the programme.

    How It Works: US$1 spent in stores or online equals 1 point. Or join the free Reward Zone Gamers Club to earn 2 points per US$1 on gaming purchases and trade-ins.

  • Macy's Star Rewards
    Shoppers get 15% off purchases made in their first two days after enrolling, plus choose-your-own sale days and returns for up to two years without a receipt.

    Best Perk: Exclusive store coupons.

    How It Works: All Macy's cardholders automatically receive coupons in the mail.

  • Target REDcard
    This debit card gives shoppers all the perks and none of the interest payments that come with credit options. In addition to 5% discounts on almost all purchases, shoppers get free shipping on online purchases and 30 extra days for returns.

    Best Perk: 5% off both in-store and with online purchases.

    How It Works: Simply shop and pay with the card.

Looking beyond credit and debit card reward programmes, there were three free rewards apps for smartphones that were noteworthy:

  • Belly
    Forget punch cards and stamps. With Belly, shoppers simply scan their phones at the register to keep track of their loyalty activity and earn rewards. It works on Android and Apple phones.
  • Front Flip
    Unlock rewards and win instant prizes by scanning QR codes at participating retailers, restaurants and online. It also works on Android and Apple devices.
  • Key Ring Rewards Cards
    This app allows users to scan their loyalty cards, join new programmes, and receive exclusive discounts from within the app itself. This also works on Android and Apple handsets.