Stock image of woman standing with open arms amidst falling money

This article was first published in the second-quarter 2013 edition of Personal Finance magazine.

When the economy takes a dip, the smart money looks for the most bang for its buck – this applies to consumers and retailers alike. Rewards programmes, or loyalty schemes (call them what you will), give a fillip to both parties. There are plenty of them out there, and separating the wheat from the chaff comes down to a comparison of the benefits package, cost (if any), the scope of the offering, simplicity of operation and the service provided by the operator.

The market for these programmes has enjoyed astonishing growth in South Africa over the past decade; from a few loyalty cards offering air miles, we now have more than 80 increasingly ambitious programmes to choose from. At last count, five years ago, about 15 million people belonged to a loyalty scheme.

The first is believed to have been Prokard, offered by Protea Hotels in the 1980s. Now, the big players are the multi-partner offerings of eBucks, from First National Bank (FNB), and Discovery’s Vitality.

The easy-to-use, quick-to-reward voucher programmes still top the popularity stakes, if membership numbers are anything to go by, among them Clicks ClubCard and Exclusive Books Fanatics card. Your spend is totted up and a percentage is returned to you, either as a discount on your next purchase, offered at the till (Fanatics), or in the form of vouchers posted to you every three months and valid in all branches of the store for anything you want. A discount at the till is always welcome, and add the unusual thrill in the modern world of getting something in the post, and you’re on to a winner.

Even simpler are the basic cards and stamps on offer at smaller outlets, from your local beauty salon to food chains such as Kauai. You know the drill: every time you buy a treatment or a cup of coffee, you get a stamp. When you have 10 stamps, you get a freebie. They’re uncomplicated, easy to understand and very popular.

But in the main, rewards programmes have become far more sophisticated, and the plastic cards, one-dimensional offerings and old methods of capturing data are giving way to mobile communications technology, apps that allow phones to read quick-response (QR) codes on advertisements and call up websites instantly, and more complex multi-partner operations. The technology is available on all phones with internet capability, and with the high penetration of cellphones in South Africa, it is only a matter of time before plastic cards make way for apps and rewards schemes are integrated into social media. Checkers is one of the leaders in this technology with its Eezicoupons.

In return for offering rewards, a company gets to collect data about its customers – and in the competitive world of business in the early 21st century, customer data is king. It delivers immense insights into what, when, how and how often customers buy, bank, travel, and so on.

Amanda Cromhout, the founder and chief executive of relationship marketing company Truth, has worked on customer-led sales and marketing strategies across the United Kingdom, Africa, the Middle East and India, and helped to set up the customer relationship management division at Woolworths. Cromhout says there has been an explosion of loyalty schemes because brands are trying to get closer to consumers.

“The era of relying on expensive TV ads is over. Now, retailers must use multiple channels to reach their audience. Clever organisations are combining social media with loyalty programmes,” she says.

Ultimately, companies that mine the data effectively and target their marketing at individual customers are the most successful, Cromhout says.

“Pick n Pay probably had little customer insight until it started Smart Shopper; now it has a relationship with its customers. It can offer specials and monitor trends.

“Customers won’t consciously understand how they are using the data gathered from their loyalty swipe but should benefit from the right product being available at the right time, in the right place, at the right price, and innovations that actually anticipate their needs,” Cromhout says.

There are three things to look for in a loyalty scheme: it must be transparent, it must be simple and it must have tangible benefits, although there is some room for manoeuvre, as Discovery’s Vitality programme demonstrates: it is not simple or particularly transparent, but the benefits can be substantial.

Whereas Vitality is a first in the world, at the other end of the spectrum is Clicks ClubCard, one of the oldest, simplest and most successful programmes in South Africa. ClubCard members get cash back based on their spend at Clicks and its partners, while the company gets insight into customer behaviour and is able to identify areas of opportunity for the business. It also negotiates “specials” for members from time to time, using the power of its enormous customer base.

Before signing up for a loyalty programme or rewards scheme, make sure you understand how it works and know your rights, even if it has a warm and fuzzy name such as Thank U (Edgars) or WRewards (Woolworths). The programmes are governed by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which requires that all the terms and conditions are set out in a document to which the consumer has access. In turn, the consumer is advised to read it carefully. And every programme must have an opt-out clause.

Critics believe that rewards programmes are unnecessary. Customers feel rewarded if they have a good experience, they argue: if the service they receive is good, the price is right and the store has good facilities, such as clean toilets, they’ll keep coming back without other incentives.

But Jolande Duvenage, chief executive of the eBucks programme, has no doubt that loyalty programmes change or encourage certain banking or shopping behaviours. FNB’s partners have teamed up with the programme as part of their customer acquisition and retention strategies. Ultimately, the aim is to achieve a win-win relationship, she says.

“Users derive value from the programme, because eBucks helps to stretch their wallets, giving them extra money to spend on essentials or luxuries that they would otherwise not have been able to afford,” Duvenage says.

Consumers truly benefit from loyalty programmes only if they are rewarded for doing the things they do every day, such as shopping, banking and using their cellphones, she says.

It is also important that you evaluate the number of different opportunities the programme makes available to earn rewards and spend the rewards currency. ClubCard members can earn points through the programme’s partners, including Avis, SpecSavers and Nu Metro cinemas, while eBucks members can earn eBucks through a variety of channels, including the FNB and RMB Private Bank mobile banking platforms, and spend them through partners including Makro, Engen, Incredible Connection, Dis-Chem and kulula.com.

Are you, as a consumer, losing out if you don’t take advantage of loyalty programmes? It’s an easy answer: absolutely. While eBucks members can use their rewards currency to buy both essentials and luxuries at a variety of outlets, Vitality members get a bewildering variety of rewards in exchange for being organised enough to adopt a health-conscious lifestyle, drive better and use their Discovery credit cards. Fanatics members get to buy more books. And all you give up in return is a bit of data that companies use to give you better buying choice.

But Cromhout says that, while points may equal prizes, they don’t equal long-term customer loyalty to a brand.

“If you have a magnificent loyalty programme, but can’t deliver outstanding products or services, then you have nothing. Some of my colleagues call this ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ – in other words, no matter how ‘wow’ the loyalty programme is, the customer must truly want to buy your brand anyway before the loyalty initiative swings his or her decisions firmly into your court,” she says.

The first question is (and should be): who pays for the rewards, usually pegged at about one percent of your spend?

Smart Shopper, for instance, is free to join and use, but is the price of the points built into the price of the items on the shelf? The straight answer is that, inevitably, all costs are built into the suppliers’ or the retailers’ margins, which means that all shoppers subsidise these programmes indirectly. So, unquestionably, if you don’t take advantage of these schemes, you are losing out on the built-in benefits.

You might choose to pay this small price, for the sake of an uncluttered wallet, or you might choose to be selective and join one or two programmes that give you the broadest scope for benefits.

Banks have run successful rewards programmes for years, because customers have only to use their cards in everyday transactions to earn points. FNB has run eBucks for 13 years and, as the largest contributor, made eBucks allocations to the value of R500 million in the past financial year alone. But the cost of the programmes is covered by the banks’ transactional charges and annual fees.

Then there is the taxman. At present, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) does not tax your rewards, but many believe it is only a matter of time before SARS takes its share. As eBucks states in its exhaustive (and exhausting) terms and conditions: “You are fully responsible for any tax implications on any rewards or eBucks accumulated or spent due to you being a member of and participating in the eBucks rewards programme. We recommend that you obtain independent professional advice regarding the tax consequences arising from the receipt or spend of any rewards or eBucks.”

Be warned.

You should watch out for thresholds that require a minimum spend before the benefits kick in. If the minimum is high and/or the earning rate is too slow, the whole process might not be worth your time and trouble.

Also, watch out for hidden costs. Programmes that are linked to credit cards, for example, are often paid for through an annual credit card fee. These fees must be weighed up individually. For example, Cromhout pays an annual fee on her FNB credit card, but it allows her to use the four Slow Lounges set up by British Airways, Comair, FNB and RMB Private Bank in the three major South African airports. Since this privilege would cost her R250 a visit without the credit card and she is a frequent flyer, the credit card fee more than covers the cost of the use of the lounge.

Another pitfall is complexity. Discovery’s Vitality, for example, is multi-layered and difficult to understand, with a bewildering number of options. But then Vitality is much more ambitious than other programmes: it wants to change your health profile, as well as hook you into Discovery’s products. The rewards are indisputable, but the programme does require commitment and action.

One of the most common complaints about loyalty cards is that the rewards are not available as promised, or fail to arrive. Vouchers with a short expiration date – say, 30 days – are also a source of irritation, particularly when they are posted via snail mail.

Section 35 of the CPA regulates loyalty programmes. If you have a complaint, you can turn to:

* The provincial National Consumer Affairs offices – visit www.southafrica.info, select “Services for South Africans”, then “Consumer Services”, then “Consumer Organisations”.

* The National Consumer Commission, which was set up to investigate consumers’ complaints relating to the CPA. Email: [email protected] Website: www.nccsa.org.za

* The consumer helpline at the Department of Trade and Industry. Telephone the Customer Contact Centre on 086 184 3384. Email: [email protected] dti.gov.za. Website: www.thedti.gov.za

* The consumer feedback website Hellopeter.com, which has an excellent track record of companies responding to irate customers.

* The Ombudsman for Banking Services. Email: [email protected] Telephone: 011 712 1800 or sharecall 0860 800 900. Website: www.obssa.org.za

Duvenage believes that consumers should take the time to understand the programme they would like to join.

“While discounts are easily translated into a monetary value, rewards currency programmes show varying levels of transparency in how much a reward unit is worth. This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, unless the value of the rewards currency is defined, it is difficult to compare apples with apples, thereby creating confusion among consumers. It is important to know how much the rewards currency can buy. And secondly, because of the lack of transparency, few rewards programmes are able to quantify how much they have given back to consumers,” she says.

Being able to measure and attach a clear value to a reward makes it more relevant and tangible to consumers. For example, eBucks clearly states that eB10 is worth R1.

Consider also whether or not the rewards currency expires. Many programmes have a point-breakage, with rewards expiring if they are not redeemed within a specified period of time. This prevents the consumer from accruing enough of the rewards currency to get something relatively expensive. Similarly, if the rewards on offer are too high-priced, most consumers never earn enough to take advantage of them.

“The monetary value of a reward only represents one aspect of the full-value proposition. The versatility in spending power – in other words, what you can spend your rewards currency on – is also crucial. Without this, a member may be limited to spending in one place,” Duvenage says.

Of course, this is not a problem if you spend in that particular place regularly anyway and will receive cash back on future purchases.

When you evaluate a rewards programme, look into the actual earning rate (how many rands you need to spend to earn each reward unit and how much the reward unit is worth), the number of earning opportunities there are, as well as the extent to which you have to engage in new behaviour to earn the rewards.

A frequent bone of contention involves companies moving the goalposts. Under the CPA, the rules of the game may change only if participants have been given fair notice. The company may offer something similar to the original reward but may not offer nothing. Also, if you have to pay a fee to belong to the scheme, the company may not impose any other monetary charge – except in the case of the taxes on airline tickets bought with air miles.

If there is a restriction on the availability of a reward, the company or retailer must give the customer notice within 20 days of the restriction coming into effect. With points systems, the company must stick to the rules of how the points are earned. A retailer cannot change your points if you have complied with the rules; if the company does not stick to the rules, you can complain.

SCHEMES AND STRATEGIES

Customer loyalty programmes can be classified as follows:

* Proprietary programmes. You redeem your points where you earn them – for example, Pick n Pay and Exclusive Books.

* Partner programmes. You redeem your points at partners in an exclusive club – for example, airline loyalty schemes that are linked to car rental, accommodation and foreign exchange companies.

* Coalition programmes. The brand is almost neutral, and it involves a number of partners across retail sectors. eBucks is the closest South Africa has to a coalition programme: it stands apart from the brand of the main partner in the programme, First National Bank (FNB), and you get points from a range of participating partners as well as when you use FNB products. You can also use your points for a range of goods and services. With this kind of programme, you can earn your points faster – and use them faster.

* Player programmes. A brand participates in another organisation’s programme. Typically, player programmes are for small retailers that can’t afford their own programmes.

* Multi-partner programmes. These, such as eBucks and Vitality, offer members the benefit of accelerated earnings because they can earn from more than one partner with a single purchase. For example, if you use your financial partner credit or debit card to purchase from a retail partner, you earn eBucks from both partners.

Strategies for rewarding you include:

* Discounts and cash-backs. Discounts offer members an immediate monetary reward, but are generally limited to transactions at a single retailer/company or specific partners.

* Rewards currency. A programme, such as eBucks, where the rewards currency is not a reward in itself but a means to a reward. These programmes offer versatility and choice.

* Soft benefits. The customer receives no money back and no rewards currency; instead, the programme offers additional services or exclusive privileges, such as use of the FNB Slow Lounge.

* Hybrid rewards. The latest trend is to offer a combination of rewards currency, discounts, cash-back and soft benefits. A hybrid programme enables consumers to use their rewards currency to extend their purchasing power. For instance, the partners in the programme allow members to take advantage of significant discounts on earmarked items in its shop, such as gadgets, movie tickets, flights and more.

The different mechanisms are then packaged into a rewards programme, in the form of a “club” with a membership fee, or as part of a free rewards programme.

AIR MILE TURBULENCE

Frequent-flyer programmes to earn air miles get the worst press. The original loyalty programmes, they were first set up to fill the many empty seats on aeroplanes, and it was pretty easy to earn enough air miles to get a free flight.

Those days have gone, and one has to fly a lot to earn a single free domestic flight. To improve the odds, many programmes are linked to other partners. For example, with Diners Club, you can earn air miles through car rental and accommodation. But the complaints remain that, really, it is not worth your while.

For example, you need to earn 19 000 miles to qualify for a domestic flight – that’s 9.5 trips between Johannesburg and Cape Town. At R4 500 a return trip, you need to spend R42 500 to get your freebie. There are much cheaper tickets without an air miles programme attached. Suddenly, it’s not so free.

But individual travellers are not the main target of frequent-flyer programmes; it’s the corporate traveller who really benefits. Usually, the company pays for the ticket, meaning you can book an expensive one, and you earn the air miles. Bear in mind, though, that you may not be able to get your free flight when you want to take it, and it may not be able to piggy-back on a particular holiday package.

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU SIGN UP

* What, if anything, is the loyalty programme going to cost you?

* Do you have to pay an annual fee or a linkage fee to belong to the programme? A linkage fee is paid to ensure that when you spend money, the points earned are counted by the rewards programme.

* Do you have to pay an annual fee to link your bank card to the loyalty programme?

* How much is the reward worth? In other words, what is its rand value?

* Does the status of your credit card influence the size of the rewards you are eligible for or the time it will take you to accumulate the rewards?

* Are the rewards subject to availability or capacity restrictions? For example, can you get on to the flight of your choice?

* Are there any thresholds or amounts you have to spend before you start earning points or air miles?

* Do your points expire after a certain period?

* How are points calculated or rewards earned?

* How easy is it to redeem a reward; how difficult will it be to earn and spend rewards?

* How much choice is available when it comes to spending rewards?

* Will the programme offer additional value? With the exception of monetary rewards and discounts, consumers should also consider any additional services and privileges available, such as lounge access at airports.

SOUTH AFRICA’S TOP REWARDS SCHEMES

It is impossible to give details of all the 80-plus rewards programmes currently operating in South Africa, but this is a representative sample of what is available. It’s a dynamic sector of marketing, so be alert to creative new developments – and always scrutinise them carefully.

eBucks

In its eBucks programme, First National Bank (FNB) mixes it up and uses all rewards strategies. Like Discovery Miles, eBucks is a virtual currency earned by swiping your FNB credit, debit or cheque card and buying items at designated partners and swiping your eBucks card. The eBucks you earn can be used to buy necessities, such as petrol or electricity, as well as luxuries, such as gadgets from outlets such as Makro or books from kalahari.com.

Members have earned more than R2.9 billion and spent over R2.2 billion in eBucks since the programme’s inception in October 2000. Members spent R180 million worth of eBucks during the 2012 festive season – a 30-percent growth in spending over the previous festive season.

The programme focuses on rewarding FNB and RMB Private Bank customers for using their products. Based on their behaviour, they can also qualify for discounts of up to 40 percent on gift vouchers from prominent brands, as well as flights and gadgets, when paying for these with their eBucks.

To join, you can sign up on the eBucks website or register at any FNB branch in South Africa when opening a qualifying FNB account. There is no cost to join, but FNB charges an annual credit card linkage fee of R200 to earn eBucks. You can join via the website without having an FNB or RMB Private Bank credit card, but your opportunities to earn eBucks will be limited.

As with any other bank account, your eBucks account has penalties if you go into the red. In the case of eBucks, interest is charged at 15.5 percent compounded monthly in arrears from the first date of the negative balance.

eBucks do not expire and can be transferred or “pooled” between members at no cost, allowing members to save up their eBucks for big-ticket items.

However, members have to remain active on their eBucks account, either by earning or spending. If you don’t use the account for six months, it is considered dormant and you’ll be charged a dormancy administration penalty of eB75 every month until you have either earned or spent eBucks, or until the account reaches a zero balance. Once you’re at zero, the account can be closed.

Absa Rewards

Through Absa’s loyalty scheme, account holders can earn cash rewards (accumulated in their Absa Rewards accounts) by using their Absa credit, cheque or debit cards. There are two levels of earnings: Absa returns one percent of spend for using cards in any purchase, while Absa Cash Rewards Partners return up to 10 percent of any amount spent with them – thus encouraging Absa Rewards members to channel their spending to partners.

You can redeem your Absa Rewards for cash, airtime, shopping vouchers, travel vouchers, an investment in an Absa MoneyBuilder account or even a donation to a charity of your choice.

Another dimension of the Absa Rewards scheme is the value-added partners, who offer coupons, vouchers, discounts and special offers, instead of cash rewards.

The monthly fee for Absa Rewards is R21, or R252 a year. Absa announced in November 2012 that it had clocked up one million rewards customers and paid out over R300 million in cash rewards since the scheme was introduced in 2009. The year-on-year growth rate had been 64percent, the bank said.

Nedbank Greenbacks

If you’re a Nedbank customer, you can earn one Greenback for every R5 you spend using your Nedbank credit or cheque card once it is linked to the Greenbacks loyalty programme. If you use your Nedbank Greenbacks American Express credit card or cheque card, you earn rewards at twice the rate for the same spend, or two Greenbacks for every R5 you spend. An annual fee of R179 gets you on to the programme.

Spending Greenbacks is a simple matter of choosing from the products and services displayed on the website: flights from one of Nedbank’s airline partners, weekends away, electronic gadgets, shopping vouchers, car rental, or donations to charity (see “Giving back”, below). You can even have the cash loaded onto a prepaid card or use it to invest in Nedgroup Investments unit trusts.

As long as you use your card, your Greenbacks will never expire. But if you don’t earn any Greenbacks for five months, your Greenbacks account will be considered dormant. When this happens, it will be closed and you’ll lose all your e-currency.

Discovery Vitality

If eBucks is the mother of rewards programmes, the daddy is Discovery Vitality. It has about 1.3 million members. Its rewards are many, and are based on getting you to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

As a member you really need to keep on top of the frequent additions and changes. Since Vitality requires special attention, readers are referred to the past issue of Personal Finance magazine (volume 54, first quarter 2013) for a comprehensive overview.

Pick n Pay Smart Shopper

Sign up free of charge and swipe your card at the till every time you shop and you receive one Smart point for every R1 you spend. But Pick n Pay’s programme is not quite that simple – as the website puts it, “you only have to make one small change to your normal routine, and that’s to visit the Smart Shopper kiosk before your shop and swipe your card”. You do that to check your points total, convert the points into the cash equivalent and print vouchers to hand in at the till.

The programme was launched just over two years ago and has been hugely successful, according to Steve Hoban, general manager of the programme. It now has more than six million members.

As well as earning points as a matter of course every time you shop at Pick n Pay, you can boost your points via in-store promotions offering double or treble points on certain items.

Points can be earned at the Pick n Pay online shop, but they can’t be earned on third-party payments, such as utility bills, traffic fines, money transfers or Lotto tickets; nor can they be earned on financial services, tobacco products, gift cards, fuel or prescription drugs.

Checkers Eezicoupons

The offering from Checkers is not so much a traditional loyalty scheme as an electronic version of those printed supplements that showcase in-store discounts. But you do sign up, giving your cellphone number and email address, plus birth date, region and nearest store.

Then, depending on the kind of phone you have, you download an app, visit the mobi site or use a shortcode number to access the list of products and discounts available on any particular day. These are typically R1 to R5 off everyday supermarket products, with as much as R10 off some more expensive items, such as bottles of wine. If you do want to take advantage of some or all of the discounts, you are sent a unique code, do your shopping and then enter the code at the paypoint. The discounts on the special-offer items are deducted from your bill automatically.

For customers who do not find mobile phone technology particularly “eezi”, a tutorial is offered alongside the instructions on the website.

The cost of the scheme is low because the discounts are given only to consumers who participate. With this model, you can be certain that the suppliers, not Checkers, are funding the discounts.

Woolworths WRewards

Woolworths cardholders earn WRewards by swiping their cards before scanning their purchases at the till. Savings on selected items are reflected immediately as discounts on the prices of these items, so the reward is immediate, while other rewards take the form of vouchers. The discounts are up to 10 percent off 200 items in the food shop, and up to 20 percent off specific items in the clothing, beauty and homeware departments.

WRewards benefits can be accessed via Woolworths cards with or without a credit facility and the rewards are tiered, so the more you spend, the more rewards you earn.

If you have a Woolworths or MySchool (see “Giving back”, below) card, you are automatically a member of WRewards; there is no joining fee.

Clicks ClubCard

You earn points on a Clicks ClubCard every time you spend R10 or more at Clicks or Clicks Pharmacy: one point for every R5 spent. You also earn Plus Points off the dispensing fee at the pharmacies. The points are added up, and if you have earned enough points over the qualifying period (there are five such periods a year), a voucher to the value of that amount is sent to you.

If you have a baby, you can also sign up to Clicks BabyClub, which has its own exclusive benefits. And there is an optional seniors programme which gives shoppers over the age of 60 double points on their spending on the second Wednesday of every month.

During special promotions, ClubCard members can buy three-for-two of certain advertised products, and bonus points are available on certain products to give your cash-back prospects a boost.

You start off as a Blue Card member and reach Gold status once you have earned 150 or more ClubCard points in a qualifying period. The benefits of a Gold Card include extra points and a free copy of the ClubCard magazine mailed to you with your cash-back voucher, which you receive five times a year.

Partners in the programme include hotels, Thompsons Holidays, Discovery Vitality, Musica and SpecSavers. Each ClubCard partner has a specific points allocation and there are special offers that deliver double and triple points.

For maximum point collection, Clicks offers its Gold Credit Card (annual fee R250), which clocks up points at the same rate as the ClubCard, wherever it is used.

There are now more than 3.9 million active ClubCard members and about 45 000 new members sign up every month. In the past 12 months, members have received more than R240 million in cash-back rewards (rands and Botswana pula).

It is free and there are no sign-up or monthly administration fees. You can complete an application form in-store, on the website, on the mobi site or through the Clicks call centre.

Over 62 percent of Clicks customers use ClubCards and, according to a spokesperson, they tend to spend almost twice as much as non-ClubCard customers.

MTN 1-4-1

MTN’s loyalty programme is available to all MTN subscribers, no matter what package you are on, prepaid or contract. Registration is free, and you begin earning points immediately.

You can transfer your points to another MTN customer, win weekly prizes, or use them to buy airtime, internet bundles, SMS bundles or MTN muziq.

For every R1 you spend on your MTN cellphone, you earn one point. And for each day your line is active on the MTN network, you earn another point. Most activity on the network qualifies for points, including voice, SMS, data and subscription fees.

Rewards are loaded on to your phone immediately. To spend your points, dial *141*9#, select “Option 2” and select the type of reward for which you want to exchange your points.

Points are valid for 24 months. If, after you have registered for MTN 1-4-1, you do not use any of your points within the first 24 months, you will lose the points you earned 24 months ago; as soon as the points you earned in month 25 are loaded on to your loyalty account, the points you earned in month one will fall away.

GIVING BACK

Nedbank and Woolworths have had charity-linked programmes for some time and other loyalty schemes now give members the chance to donate their rewards to charities or environmental causes.

Woolworths’s Shirley Dare says about R3 million a month is donated to charities throughout South Africa on behalf of customers through the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet programme.

Swipe your card at the till and Woolworths automatically donates, on your behalf, up to one percent of the value of your purchases to the school or charity of your choice every time you shop. In return, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet supporters give Woolworths permission to communicate with them. Thus, they gather data and market to you.

Nedbank gives Nedbank Greenbacks members the various options for donating the e-currency to worthy causes. The Dis-Chem Benefits programme provides points and cashback (at the rate of 15 points for every R10 spent, with 100 points equivalent to R1), but also undertakes to donate a percentage of your spend to the Dis-Chem Foundation to assist worthy causes in need of assistance.

You can also donate Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points to a charity or environmental cause via the Smart Shopper in-store kiosk. So far, Pick n Pay customers have donated over R1 million of their points to charities, according to the loyalty programme’s general manager, Steve Hoban.

* Lorraine Kearney is a freelance journalist.