How I Ditched My Loyalty Rewards Cards and Created Wallet Space

Tips for reducing loyalty rewards cards | Happy Simple Living blog

You can’t blame retailers for loving loyalty rewards cards.

If we shoppers don’t agree to use the card, the store charges us higher prices–Ka-CHING! If we do sign up to use the card, we have to share our contact information, phone number and e-mail address–Ka-CHING! When we use the card, the retailer can track all of our purchases and buying habits–Ka-CHING! Meanwhile, we carry around a little plastic ad for the company in our wallets. What’s not to love?

We’re promised **BIG** rewards and special discounts for carrying and using these cards. I’m excited to receive my meaningful rewards, which should arrive any day now. Have you gotten yours? I like to imagine that you’re cashing in lots of valuable freebies, rebates, and luxury vacations.

Fat Wallets ‘R’ Us

Card-lovin’ retailers don’t seem all that bothered that it’s physically impossible for your average consumer to carry a thick stack of cards around. Neither do they care that we can never quickly access the correct card at checkout time.

Have you ever muttered while you’re digging through your bulging wallet something to the effect of, “I have so many of these cards, and I can never find the right one!”

Cashiers must hear this muttering all the time. This is my fantasy reply:

“I so feel your pain. You know what? You’re a valued customer, and I don’t need a plastic card to tell me so. We’ll give you the discounted price AND a $50 gift card for your trouble. Furthermore, I will pass your helpful feedback along to management and suggest that they come up with a better, less cumbersome program–like maybe just charging everyone fair prices and eliminating the cards. Did I mention that we’re giving shoppers a free SKOR candy bar today? It’s Loyalty Card Customer Appreciation Day.”

A Possible Solution?

Key Ring AppLast month I wrote about purse and wallet decluttering tips, so I decided to give the Key Ring app a try. Once you download the app, you hold your loyalty cards’ bar codes in front of the phone and it instantly copies the codes and logs your membership numbers. You can also photograph your cards as a back-up if you’re paranoid, which of course I am. It took me about twenty minutes to scan and photograph all of my cards, but I didn’t feel comfortable discarding them (paranoid) until I was sure the app would actually work.

At Walgreen’s last week, I proudly handed the cashier my phone with my Balance Rewards bar code showing. (I felt so high tech!) When he scanned my phone, it didn’t pick up the code so he entered the number manually which took another ten seconds or so. “This scanner has been acting up,” he said, handing my phone back. Because the app now holds all of the membership numbers, even if it doesn’t always scan I think it’s good enough and I’ve removed the bulky cards from my wallet.

UPDATE: I used the app successfully at another store last week; the cashier easily picked up the bar code from my phone.

How about you?

Do you participate in store loyalty rewards programs? Have you scored some fabulous rewards? Please, do tell.

Have you ever been forced to buy a second, auxiliary wallet to hold all of your loyalty rewards cards? Have you tried an app like Key Ring? I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas.

Meanwhile, here’s to free SKOR candy bars and slimmed-down wallets for all of us!


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

How I Ditched My Loyalty Rewards Cards and Created Wallet Space

  • Lois

    I had only one reward card and yes I was able to save money using it. We also received a discount on gas which I would pass on to my son. When I moved I ditched the reward card. I don’t shop enough to bother getting one for any place near me and I like knowing that my purchases aren’t being tracked any longer.

    • Flying under the radar must be wonderful! I do save 10 to 20 cents a gallon on gas using my King Soopers card, but sometimes it’s cheaper at other stations so I wonder if it’s all a wash. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Lois, which I always appreciate. 🙂

  • Trespaws3

    I have never really been a loyalty card type of consumer. I actually find that it offends me that I may have to pay a higher price at a business just because I don’t wish to be tracked, direct-marketed to or even have to remember to carry a card to get perks. I thought that simply choosing to spend my money in an establishment meant I was a good customer. I did however have two cards for places that did not market me, but gave me $5 vouchers on every $50 spent, and I spent quite a bit at those two places, so I signed up – not with my real name, but it didn’t matter. After a couple of years they switched to name or phone number so I didn’t have to use a card at all, I gave my dog’s name – and I have had many $5 vouchers. That was customer service to me.

    My friend has an old fashioned checkbook with all of the slots doubled up with cards as well as tags on her key chain. She loves her cards and her “feeling” of a deal that they give her. We talked about seeing if she was really using those cards as much as she thought she was (if at all) over a 6 month period. We did something similar to what people do to see if they wear clothes in their closet – turn the cards in a certain “wrong” direction and every month see which cards get turned around the right way. Of the more than 20 cards (including store credit cards)in the wallet alone, only 6 were really used over the full 6 months. She has since culled her wallet, and while the key tags are a bit more difficult for her to let go of, she is on her way.

  • I don’t tend to shop at places that have loyalty cards, so I don’t carry them. That said, if I did, the app sounds handy.

  • Amy

    We have 2 loyalty cards. One for Walgreens and one for Kroger, I just enter the phone number that I registered the account with at the appropriate time. I don’t have a smart phone, I don’t even have a cell phone anymore.

  • Ha! Well, since I too am smartphone free, I have a decidedly more low tech approach. The only cards I carry are the ones I use regularly – King Soopers & Petco. The rest stay in a drawer at home and I only bring them when I’m going to a specific store. That works for me because I’m not generally out & about where I’d just casually stop in at a store – it’s a specific planned trip.

    Of course, part of my strategy is to just not go to many brick & mortar stores. This is probably an eco-sin, but I’m a HUGE fan of Amazon. I have an Amazon Visa card which gets me really good rewards on everything I buy there, so I do most of my shopping there. I know there’s all the packaging, but I just hate driving all over town looking for xyz item, and I figure the emissions saved by not driving makes up, at least in part, for the packaging that comes with buying online.

    Also, I think most stores can look you up via your phone number and you don’t actually need to have the card with you in order to get the discount. Works that way at Petsmart anyhow!

    • Why am I not surprised that Petco is one of your two loyalty cards? Ha! I shop on Amazon, too, especially during the holidays when the stores are just too crazy. We do the best we can, and sometimes it’s really hard to figure out exactly which option is the most eco-friendly. But honestly, you walk the walk and I admire the thoughtful lifestyle you live.

  • Emily

    Where we live now (the middle of nowhere) we have no stores with those kinds of cards. But when we did, it irritated me. Why couldn’t they just give EVERYBODY the discounted price?

  • Cyndy

    I try to use the key ring size cards, but I have a second key ring to carry them and really hate fumbling around looking for the right one – NOT simple!

    I will definitely check into the Key Ring app – sounds like it would be perfect. Thanks Eliza for sharing this!

    Also, thanks for the #FF shout-out on Twitter last week 🙂

  • Sue Coletta

    What a great idea! I have the cards AND the mini-cards on my key ring, which I still have to flip through nine hundred friggin’ cards to find the one I’m looking for. The Key Ring sounds like a great alternative. I’ll be looking into this app for sure. Thanks for sharing your find, Eliza!

  • Simple Is The New Green

    I personally don’t shop enough to have a ton of rewards cards. I have a Walgreens card and a Kroger card and that’s it because we usually just shop for food and personal care items. I use the small key ring cards, so it is not much of a hassle for me. I don’t have a smart phone as part of my simplifying, so this would not for me.

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