The Best Shopping Rewards Programs to Join for Free
I love it when something just makes common sense and I don’t have to overthink it. As a mom, common sense answers are king so I can keep my mental energy saved up for keeping up with my munchkins. I love using common sense so much that I want to wear t-shirts with a common sense logo. Yeah, that much.
One place that common sense helps me out is in finding ways to take my shopping game to the next level. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about rewards programs that let you earn money for doing the things you have to do anyway, like going grocery shopping, buying household goods, etc. Common sense tells me that this is a concept I should definitely participate in. So guess what? I do! And now I want to share what I’ve been learning about the best shopping rewards programs with you.
What’s the catch? Well, there really isn’t one. I know it’s an old cliche, but the best things in life really are free—and this includes my favorite shopping rewards programs! Here are a few of my favorites programs and apps, plus common sense reasons why they really are worth your while.
The Best Brand-Specific Free Shopping Rewards Programs
Whenever I hear the phrase “brand loyal,” I tend to think of my 92-year-old grandmother who has proudly filled her glass with Coca-Cola since she was a kid. She’s also washed her hair with the same shampoo, worn the same style of shoes, and shopped at the same grocery store chain for more years than I’ve been alive.
I don’t think that people from my generation tend to be as brand loyal as my grannie, but there are some exceptions. For those brands that you go out of your way to buy, it just makes sense to see if they offer their own branded shopping rewards programs, right?
Here are three of the best loyalty programs for brands and companies that hold a special place in my own heart and home:
When I was growing up, I was absolutely in love with all things Disney. I can still picture the big shelf filled with VHS Disney movies in our old entertainment center. You remember those puffy, plastic cases, don’t you? Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin—we had all the 90s classics.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized my parents must have spent a ton of money on things from Disney, from my collection of Disney t-shirts and toys to my phase of insisting I have Ariel-themed bubble bath every night. If only their shopping rewards program had been around back then!
With Disney Movie Rewards, all of us Disney lovers can get points for buying Disney movies, tickets to Disney shows, and other Disney-related items. We can then trade these points in for more Disney merchandise. It’s like we wished upon a star and our dream came true!
Where can I use it? Anywhere that you can buy eligible Disney movies and theater tickets
What can I earn? Blu-rays and DVDs, movie admissions, collectibles, Disney experiences, and Disney apparel
You know that old phrase, “a home away from home?” I never really understood how it was possible to have a store or restaurant that felt as cozy as home until Starbucks came around. There are Starbucks everywhere in my neck of the woods. There’s one by my office, one by my house, one in my favorite outdoor mall. There was even one nearby our hotel recently when we took a vacation to Puerto Vallarta—and in the airport!
I spend plenty of time in all my local Starbucks, mostly because I like the coffee, but these days I also find the similar decor and food comforting—as well as the Starbucks Rewards program. The way the Starbucks Rewards program works is simple: You buy a Starbucks gift card (or, better yet, you earn one from one of the other shopping rewards programs on our list...), you register it online, and then you use it for the purchases you make at Starbucks, earning a star for every $1 you spend. These stars eventually add up to free food and drinks!
Where can I use it? Starbucks and the Starbucks website
What can I earn? Starbucks beverages and treats
If you ever wanted a dog when you were growing up (and, seriously, who didn’t), then you probably heard an adult tell you that taking care of a pet is a big responsibility that requires both money and time. Now that we’re adults, I think we all know just how true this is. Having a dog can be ruff (sorry!).
We have a five-year-old golden retriever named Lil’ Lucy. At this point, the name is just ironic because Lucy is no longer Lil’. Like, at all. In fact, it sometimes feels to me like Lucy goes through her dog food faster than I can buy it. I have to buy a new giant bag at least once a month. Thankfully, though, Purina is yet another brand that offers one of the best shopping rewards programs available for free.
With the Purina Points rewards program, I just cut what they call a “weight circle” off of each bag of food, download a special form from their website, and send in my circles for rewards. I receive checks good toward the purchase of more food, Purina merchandise, and gift certificates to stores and restaurants that are perfect for a lazy dog day afternoon (sorry again!).
Where can I use it? Anywhere and anytime you buy Purina brand products
What can I earn? Credits for more dog food, apparel and merchandise like Purina sweaters, and gift certificates to stores and restaurants.
The Best Free Shopping Rewards Programs for Stores and Restaurants
I’ve always liked to chat with the cashiers at the stores I go to, like, a lot. I ask for their names and I love it when they call me by mine. I mean, at some of my favorite stores we see each other so much, why not make the interaction friendly, right?
Another thing I like? Feeling appreciated by my favorite stores that I loyally shop at. That’s where store-specific rewards programs come in.
If you’re not familiar with them, a precursor to these are those old systems based on having multiple rewards program cards. Those days may be through, but the concept of certain stores giving you rewards for repeat business is alive and well. Now it’s just usually driven by your phone number or, even better, by using an app, instead of carrying around a plastic card.
Here are three of my favorite store and restaurant rewards programs:
With a program called MyPanera, you can get rewarded for the sandwiches, soups, salads, coffees, and baked goods you buy at Panera Bread. I know, I know...Panera can be a bit of an indulgence, but getting points for purchases that eventually add up to free food makes it less so.
There’s even a cool MyPanera app that lets you track your progress toward rewards. For the tech-savvy user, it also has other cool functions. I like to use it to order food from Panera while I’m on the go so I can just buzz in really quickly and it will be ready and waiting. That’s what I call faster-than-fast fast food!
Where can I use it? Any Panera Bread location
What can I earn? All kinds of savings on Panera Bread food
CVS is the type of store that I find myself in quite often. I’m actually lucky enough to have one right across the street from my house. Out of paper towels? Walk across the street. Need allergy meds? I know where I’m walking. Want some peanut M&Ms for Netflix night? You bet, and I can get them in less than 10 minutes and still wearing my sweatpants (although I have to swap out my slippers for flip flops).
When I get up to the register, the cashier always asks if I have an ExtraCare card. Um, of course I do. But, if I happen to forget it, I can always just type in my phone number and enjoy this rewards program that way as well. With CVS’ ExtraCare program, I earn 2% back on my purchases, $1 in Extra Bucks that I can use on my next purchase of prescriptions, coupons to the store, and more.
Where can I use it? CVS pharmacies
What can I earn? Money back, Extra Bucks, and coupons based on my past purchases
CVS isn’t the only store that I find myself in often, sometimes even multiple times a week. During the school year, my kids have all kinds of projects they have to do. This means that we find ourselves making regular trips to Office Depot for things like glue sticks, poster board, and I don’t even know what all else.
Luckily, Office Depot has one of the best shopping rewards programs that you can sign up for totally free! With the Office Depot Rewards program, I get money back on the stuff that my kids burn through all the time doing their homework: paper, ink, toner, and copy services. It’s a real wallet-saver.
Where can I use it? Office Depot retail locations
What can I earn? 10% back on paper, ink, toner, and copy services; 2% back on nearly all other purchases; and money back for recycling old cartridges.
The Best Shopping Rewards Programs are on Mobile Apps
My favorite thing about shopping has always been having the freedom to browse. When I’m out and about on a perfect shopping day, I can take my time, peruse as long as I want, and wander around from shop to shop until I find the absolute perfect top, skirt, or shoes. That’s probably why the last category of best shopping rewards programs is my favorite.
While the previous two categories have been limited to certain brands and stores, you can use the best shopping rewards programs found on mobile apps at tons of different stores. They’re really versatile, and a lot of fun, turning the shopping I have to do anyway into a scavenger hunt for points and savings. I can even use these apps to get paid to grocery shop. Very cool.
Ebates is a great shopping rewards program mobile app to use if you’re an online shopper, and aren’t we all these days? I know I certainly am. With Ebates, users can get as much as 25% back at 1,200 different online stores, although the deals do vary from store to store.
Your savings will add up. Then, when you have at least $5 to your account, you can cash it in and redeem it for cash back via your PayPal account. It’s super simple, and, quite honestly, I can’t imagine shopping online without it. It also pairs well with one of my other favorite mobile apps, Shopkick. But more on that in a minute!
Where can I use it? At roughly 1,200 online retailers
What can I earn? Up to 25% back on your purchases
This is a great shopping rewards program app that works mostly through your camera. With Checkout 51, just take a picture of your receipt when you go shopping and the app pays you back a certain amount for featured products. It’s super easy and takes just a few seconds to snap a quick picture.
What I especially like about this app-based shopping rewards program is that it puts out a list of new deals every Thursday. And, remember how I mentioned apps that pay you to buy groceries? Well, this one is a great example. You can even use it to get savings when you buy groceries online because it’s eligible with Amazon grocery.
Where can I use it? Many stores, both online and in person
What can I earn? Money back on your purchases
Now we get to my all-time favorite out of all the best shopping rewards programs. My favorite app is Shopkick. What can I say? I’m a loyal Shopkicker, through and through, as we like to call ourselves.
How Shopkick works is really pretty simple. Shopkick turns every trip to the store into a scavenger hunt for points, which it calls kicks. You get points for walking into some popular stores and for buying featured items. You even get points and rewards for scanning barcodes, which also gives you more info about the item before you purchase it (which, you guessed it, also earns you points!).
I think my favorite thing about Shopkick, though, is how I can combine it so easily with other rewards programs and apps since using multiple apps can really maximize your rewards. For example, I can take a picture of my receipt with Checkout 51, and score double points after scanning any that are featured items into Shopkick, items I’d buy anyway! I never even have to deviate from my normal routine. It doesn’t get much better than that, trust me.
Where can I use it? Many popular stores, both online and in person
What can I earn? Points to trade in for gift cards
Using Shopkick in tandem with the rest of these apps is just common sense. I mean, it’s an iPhone or Android app that will pay you while you shop! They should have a picture of it in the dictionary next to definition of common sense.
I love how I can use every one of these apps without having to pay for them, too. In fact, in most cases, I just do things that I do anyway, things like going to Disney movies, running out to Office Depot for my kids, and scanning the barcodes on items to learn more about them. What would make even more sense would be if I could go back in time to start using it years ago, but time travel is, sadly, not as easy to use as a shopping rewards program app you can download for free.
Get started on one of the best shopping rewards programs available to join for free. Download Shopkick’s free app today and join a community of loyal Shopkickers who’ve already discovered how fun it is to shop with us!