Stretching a Buck:: Target Circle and Other Loyalty Programs

It may still feel like summer in Houston, but judging from all the Christmas décor being stocked at some stores, the Winter holidays have arrived in the retail world. Unless you’re going to try and fight it, you’re about to spend money. If you’re going to be shopping, you might as well try to find ways to stretch a buck. I’ve gotten into the habit of signing up for store loyalty programs wherever I shop. Here are some of my favorite places that offer free loyalty programs::

loyalty programs

Target:: You may have misgivings about shopping at Target after their infamous remodel, but they’re about to try and woo you back. Target is rolling out a new loyalty program launching nationally on October 6 called Target Circle that allows shoppers to earn 1% back on every purchase.

If you are a Target Red Card credit card holder, you will automatically be enrolled and continue to save 5% on purchases. Shoppers who do not use the Red Card will need to enroll in Target Circle to earn 1% on every Target and Target Disney Store {coming soon!} purchase. These rewards can then be used on future purchases.

Red Card holders are not eligible for the 1% but can still enjoy the other benefits of Target Circle, like the special offers. The Target Cartwheel App currently houses all the in-store special offers and these will basically get folded into Target Circle. Members should also see more personalized rewards. For example, if you frequently shop in a specific department, you may receive an especially big discount offer in that department on your next purchase.

Another new feature of the Target Circle is the charity component. As you shop, you’ll have the ability to earn votes to direct where Target will give back in your local community. And on your birthday, you’ll be treated to a 5% off shopping trip. Is all this enough to get the Target defectors back into the stores? Time will tell.

Since their update a few years ago, they are no longer just the home of fancy crafting supplies and school project boards. Michaels has expanded their home décor, party supplies, and even toys and gifts departments.

As a Michaels Rewards member, I regularly receive high value coupons in my email as part of their loyalty program. My favorite one is the 60% off a regular priced item coupon. There are some restrictions but you can still use the coupons for a wide variety of giftable art and craft kits, toys, and more. I recently used mine to buy a regularly priced $60 jumbo helium tank to use for my kids’ birthday parties. Score!

Barnes & Noble:: Books are the best! I love books and Barnes & Noble has plenty of them and has one of the best loyalty programs out there. We signed up for the free Kids Club Membership which gets us a $5 gift certificate for every $100 we spend on kids’ stuff. I thought it would take us forever to reach the spending threshold but between redeeming gift cards and shopping for birthday gifts for friends, it happened sooner than I expected.

If you haven’t been in a while, they’ve expanded their toy section and stocked up on educational toys. I found some great options there, as well as the typical fads like blind bags and LOL Surprise Dolls. As a member, I also receive email coupons ranging from 10%-20% off a regular priced purchase, so sometimes I let my daughter use the coupon and her own money to buy her little treasures there.

Every year on each of my children’s birthdays, I receive an email with a coupon good for a Kids Club Birthday Benefit treat at the Starbucks in the store. They love going in to get their free Cookie, Rice Krispie treat, or Muffin. And I love when they let me have a bite.

IKEA:: Sign up for a free IKEA Family Membership card and receive special discounts on featured products in store and online. Sometimes you can get lucky and something you’ve been waiting for to go on sale will be featured. Card members also get to enjoy a coffee or tea in the cafe, no purchase required.

Even if you are not looking for furniture, there are so many fun décor and organizational goodies to fawn over that it can be worth the visit once in a while. I’ve purchased lots of smaller items from throw blankets to kids’ tableware and even simple toys at IKEA. If something you purchased with your IKEA Family card goes on sale, you can bring in your receipt within 90 days for a price adjustment.

One of the best reasons for shopping at IKEA is Smaland, the free indoor play space where kids can play supervised while parents are shopping. The last time I went to IKEA, I put my kids in Smaland for 60 minutes. They jumped in a ball pit, played with some toys, painted on an easel, and watched a movie while I shopped. IKEA Family members also get an additional 30 minutes childcare, as long as there is room. {Call for details in case the policy at your location is different or has changed since publication.}

I have found that almost every store, even independent retailers, have loyalty programs these days.

Do you have a favorite one?

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