Imagine if you will; you are at the grocery store and are waiting in line. Someone in front of you is buying a basket full of things. Rope, permanent markers, vinegar, a few candy bars and a box of trash bags. They don’t have a reward card so they ask if they can use yours. If you are getting points for dollars spent, that is an easy way to “up your level” A few weeks later there is a knock at your door and the police want to know what you did with those trash bags that turned up at the scene of a crime and the permanent markers that were used to write a ransom note. Starting to see why reward cards can be a dangerous dealing?
Consumers have two options; don’t shop at stores that strong-arm you into getting a rewards card for savings or give out the minimum amount of information needed to obtain one. More and more people are refusing to sign up for cards because they feel it is an invasion of privacy; they would rather borrow someone else’s card or lose out on saving a few dollars in order to protect their information. There are only a handful of stores in my area that don’t have reward cards; they are extremely vocal in their advertisements of offering the lowest possible prices, “no card needed”.
If you are going to sign up for a loyalty card, read the fine print. See exactly who is going to have access to your information and how it is going to be used. In most cases it is used by companies to see what brands are hot in certain areas, how much a family spends, if coupons are used and what percentage of products are paid for with state funding [welfare, food stamps or WIC]. This might not sound like it would do a single store much good but when it is compared to others and on a national scale, it allows the corporate offices to fine tune prices, products offered and target demographics.
Privacy is something that you can’t put a price on so think twice before you freely give up your information. If you do have reward or loyalty cards be sure to check the store website for updates or changes in how they are protecting your data. Write down your card numbers and the toll free customer service numbers in case your cards or key fobs are stolen or misplaced, especially if they are linked to your checking account or other store perks (video rentals, check cashing, pharmacy rewards etc).