In my Week In Review posts, I talk about a lot of freebies I’ve earned and deals I’ve scored with different apps and rewards programs. I participate in quite a few programs that involve points, whether it’s from an app, rewards program, taking surveys etc. (Some of my favorites: Bing Rewards, Shopkick, Cartwheel, Recyclebank, Ebates, My Starbucks Rewards, Purina Perks, credit card rewards.)
The thing is, there are a lot of programs out there. And while I participate in a bunch, I barely skim the surface. So how do you choose which programs to participate in and which to pass on? Here are my top three criteria:
- I earn points, freebies, deals etc in a reasonable amount of time.
- I can easily integrate it into my daily routine. (I don’t have to go out of my way to use it.)
- It’s a good use of my time.
For me, the number one thing is about the value of my time. How much is my time worth? Take Shopkick for example; let’s put it to the test:
- I earn a $5 Starbucks gift card every two weeks or so. That is reasonable to me, considering I don’t have to go out of my way to use this app.
- I very easily build this into my routine. Remember to open the app before I walk into the store, and scan a few items as I walk around and browse. (Probably 99% of my Shopkick usage is at Target and I’m wandering around anyway, so it takes very minimal effort to scan things.) The thing is, I don’t go to stores solely to use Shopkick. The key is that I use this app at stores I would be going to regardless.
- I consider it to be a good use of my time. The scanning maybe adds 5 minutes to my shopping trip. Say it takes about 3 Target visits to earn a $5 gift card. That means my “pay rate” would be $5 for 15 minutes of my time…or $20 per hour. Not bad. I’ll work for that.
To me, Shopkick is worth my time. I try to apply this criteria to each program I participate in. It’s about easily building it into my routine, keeping things simple, and not taking much of my time. If it takes me 5 hours to earn $5, then my hourly rate is only $1/hour. I won’t work for that, so that program is out. It’s not a good use of my time.
Some programs take longer than others to earn points, but it can still be worth it, if I literally don’t have to do anything to earn points. Take Bing Rewards for example. It may take me a two months to earn a $5 Amazon gift card, but I’m literally doing nothing extra to earn it. I signed up for the program, set Bing as my search engine, and go about my usual routine as the points rack up.
Here are my personal “No Go’s” for rewards programs:
- I won’t go out of my way to use it. If I’m going to Target only to use Shopkick, and not to buy groceries, then it’s a waste of my time and gas and isn’t getting me ahead at all. (The only exception to this is if I’m at the mall, I may do a lap walking by stores to get walk-in points.)
- If the app encourages me to spend more it’s a No Go. Every now and then Starbucks has a deal where if you buy a drink 5 or 7 days in a row you can get bonus stars. Nope, not going to do it. I don’t go there daily as it is, so extra visits are not going to help me get ahead.
- I don’t use apps or programs that require me to pay to join or give out more information that I’m comfortable with.
- I won’t participate in programs that give me an hourly rate lower than I’d work for.
- I won’t alter my routine for an app or program. If it doesn’t fit in nicely, then I’m not interested. Sure, I may have to develop new habits (such as opening Shopkick before I walk into a store) but nothing extreme.
- While credit card reward points are great, I won’t use my credit card if I know I can’t pay it off in full. Whatever freebies I earn are absolutely not worth the interest.
- I won’t buy a particular brand just to earn rewards points. (Like Purina and their Perks program for example.) I will truly look for the best deal and value, but I will take earned points into mild consideration.
What works for one person, may not work for someone else since we all have different habits and routines. Just make sure it’s truly worth your time. What apps and rewards programs save or earn you the most money?