Make your rewards cards more rewarding!

By Malaika Charrington and Grace GerbiEdited by Dominique Shields 

Are reward programs (loyalty programs) valuable to you? Before writing this article, we would just sign up for any rewards without thinking of the possible benefits. Now, we know that rewards programs offered by businesses such as Starbucks, Sam’s Club, Panera Bread, United Airways and the Hyatt Hotel chain have a variety of money-saving advantages.

Here are some of the most popular rewards programs that you might not be taking advantage of:

  Emil Beckford's Starbucks Reward account through the phone app.

Emil Beckford's Starbucks Reward account through the phone app.

My Starbucks Rewards: Starbucks has a very popular loyalty program in which a member starts at green level, and upon earning 30 gold stars (which can easily be earned by making Starbucks transactions) will be promoted to a GOLD member. According to Emil Beckford, a student at Yale University, there are tons of benefits to having a Starbucks rewards card like free drinks and exclusive access to new products.

Panera Bread’s reward program is all about customer appreciation. Customers that choose to be a member of the rewards program at Panera can look forward to many surprises when they swipe their card. Rewards include a Panera cookbook, complimentary bakery treats, and exclusive previews of new Panera menu items. A member can even access their account online to see exclusive deals, and free desserts they received for the month.

Sam’s Club: A membership at Sam’s Club has countless perks. There are cards available to fit everyone’s needs. There are even cards only available to college students, and active or retired military personnel. Along with the memberships, you get access to the Sam’s Club gas station which always offers low gas prices. Also, you are rewarded access to any and all affordable items that Sam’s club has to offer.

  Sam Charrington, United MileagePlus member earning rewards as he travels abroad.

Sam Charrington, United MileagePlus member earning rewards as he travels abroad.

United MileagePlus: The more you fly, the sooner you’ll achieve premier access with United Airlines. Many frequent flyers have saved thousands of dollars by being a part of the United Star Alliance. The perks of the United Star Alliance include cheaper upgrades, access to the Star lounge which has food and drinks, and priority airport check-in. Sam Charrington, a frequent United flyer said, “I’ve been a member of MileagePlus for more than 10 years, and became a Premier gold member last year [2014] when I flew more than 50,000 miles. The perk I enjoy the most is seat switches, which really comes in handy sometimes.”

Hyatt Gold Passport: No matter where you travel, your experience will be more enjoyable, memorable, and luxurious when you have a Hyatt Gold Passport. “I’ve had a Hyatt Gold Passport for more than 10 years now,” said Sam Charrington, a long term Hyatt cardholder. “[I] have only taken advantage of it for the last 2 years. [...] Since then, my family and I have stayed in luxurious suites.”

When there are so many perks associated with each and every one of these business’ memberships, it makes a person start to wonder, ‘Why not just join?’ If the great savings offers aren’t enough to encourage you to sign up, or the fact that registration is quick, easy and free won’t make you budge, then I don’t know what will.