Shopping Rewards Programs

 I became a woman at 30. At least, that’s what my sister tells me. “Ate, bakit ngayon ka lang nagdadalaga?” she had asked with a wry chuckle. I remember my kikay cousins giving up on convincing me to take care of my skin, to not look so raw, to pay attention to what I wear etc. etc. I was happy and comfortable with looking like a geek and not doing anything to change it. Being shaped like a woman, despite all the coverage, didn’t stop men from forgetting that your face is at the top of your shoulders and not plastered on your chest (however little it is), anyway.

Then suddenly, BAM! My definition of hellish torture had changed. From not being able to break a particularly tricky code (which, fortunately, has never happened) to something else: Hellish torture is when you walk along the hallways of Rockwell, seeing the drool-worthy Melissas on sale, and being on a tight budget. So yeah, thanks to the company of fashionista professors, 2007 was the year that I became a shop-a-holic.

Of course, it’s not like I have moolah 24/7. On days when I don’t feel like taking on a project — which means I’d be somewhat broke — I turn to a shopper’s friend. That is, the frequent shopper’s card. It comes in many names and not all of them are really as value-for-money as they claim to be. So let’s see…

    SM Advantage Card (1/10) I had been using one for the last year and apparently, Banco de Oro (BDO) noticed my purchasing power enough to give me a pre-approved BDO credit card that comes with yet another SM Advantage Card (SAC). Actually, I wasn’t a frequent shopper at the time that I raked in points. It was my tuition fee, which the SAC had been used on, that pulled the points up. When I found out that using the new BDO credit card with the new SAC pulls your points up even more, I started using them and transferred all the points my old SAC had to the new one. Now here’s the little thing that irked me. Upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that you only get 1 point rebate for every PhP200 purchase, even less if you’re only shopping in affiliate stores. So it means that if you had spent around PhP50,000 in a day of splurging, you only get a measly PhP250 rebate. It’s probably enough to buy you two umbrellas. Blecch. What cheapskates! And the coupons you get upon membership? Almost all of them are worthless because you may have to travel far to redeem most of them. Some of them would also have the “valid only at selected outlets” label. Gee, I wonder what selected outlets those are. What if they’re valid only in Cagayan de Oro? Dare I go island hopping just to see which stores support them?  
    Rustan’s Frequent Shopper’s Plus Card (10/10) Now here is the big shocker: Rustan’s probably has the most valuable card released in the market. At first, when I was told that I’d get a PhP600 rebate for every PhP20,000 accumulated purchases, I wasn’t too impressed. I didn’t mind, though, since Rustan’s doesn’t really sell products that the mass market would go for. To my pleasant surprise, it wasn’t really that difficult to get your 600 rebate. I’ve only owned an FSP card for half a year and I have already amassed over a thousand points. Imagine if my graduate school was able to use a Rustan’s FSP card! I’d be raking it in! Here’s the computation: PhP33.33 = 1 point. That’s a far cry from SM’s PhP200 = 1. And you thought Rustan’s is unbelievably expensive, huh? Now if you can only use the FSP for Beauty Bar, too.  
    UPDATE May 30, 2010 (1/10) As of January 2010, they became like SM too (much like how Bench downgraded). I had my card “upgraded” to the FSP2 because I had no choice. I was about PhP4K away from the next round of P600 rebate, but that’s all gone pfffffft now. The P600 became just a few pesos but if I didn’t “upgrade”, my points would be down to…ZERO. If it weren’t for the pre-approved Rustan’s gold credit card, I wouldn’t be getting any additional rebates. If you ask me, it’s a downgrade, no matter how many times they tell us it’s for the improvement of their services. It’s not like the brands they sell in Rustan’s are cheap. See…now you know why I never returned. I’m now spending more time at Marionnaud because my mom became a Marionnaud addict.
    National Bookstore – Laking National Card (8/10) This is also one of the most sulit cards I’ve ever used. You basically get 10 points for every PhP1,000 accumulated purchases. That’s about 1 point for every hundred pesos, still beating SM’s lousy rewards system by 100%. And I’m saying it’s worth it because everyone needs a bookstore. Even the non-nerds. Now, I know that Power Books and Fully Booked may have the widest range of actual books as opposed to school and office supplies but there are accessible branches and subsidiaries of National Bookstore, like Best Sellers, that actually sell readables. 
     Bench Loyalty Card via TheFaceShop (5/10) I was supposed to get one when I saw it atop a cash register in TheFaceShop at Glorietta. That was because I already spent so much on bath products, which I’m guessing had already gone above PhP10,000. TheFaceShop had already given me free soaps, towels, a beauty bag and whatnot because of my loyalty. Then the card appeared. Thing is, in order for you to get that card from TheFaceShop, you need to show them that you have PhP10,000 worth of accumulated receipts. What the hey??? (This is what the cashier at TheFaceShop Rockwell told me.) If I had known they were going to do that, then I should’ve compiled my receipts. I think that was a little bit too steep and it turned me off, considering I had already spent that much anyway and I’m not really inclined to spend another 10 grand just for a measly card. I felt like I was being punished, especially when they could’ve just given me the card for a mere PhP150 membership fee (like what other decent stores do). TheFaceShop had lost my loyalty because of that (I’d still be reviewing their lovely soaps, though) and I have since turned to Ilog Maria and Rustan’s Essenses’ organic stores for my bathing needs.  
    Bench Loyalty Card (??/10) I’ll probably still get a card…through Bench. That way, it only would only cost PhP150. I read that the points are equivalent to how much you spent. As in literally PhP1 = 1 point. Now for the points translation, I’ve yet to find out. I will have to ask when I do drop by Bench one of these days. The card can also be used for Human, Bench Fix Salon, Kashieca, Charles and Keith, TheFaceShop and other stores under or connected to Ben Chan. Will update rating when I finally get the card.
    UPDATE Feb 22, 2009 (5/10) For a while Bench’s point system was pretty good. That was 1 point for every peso. Then one day, the system became similar to SM Advantage. Their system would often go down, too. I still buy from them whenever I’m in the Rockwell area but only if the stuff can’t be bought at the Rustan’s Supermarket (where I use my Rustan’s Citibank).

Your own credit card’s rewards program
I haven’t actually asked yet about mine. I only know that I’m rooting for miles. Still, I’ve been told that you can actually convert credit card points to either pay for your membership or to convert them to gift certificates for Rustan’s or SM. I get freebies from mine, which is Metrobank, like that Belo cryo-something treatment that I haven’t redeemed yet. (Belo also has a reward card that I use on the rare occasions that I go to them.)

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