With Discover, March Brings Some Generous Cash Back

Starting tomorrow and until March 31, 2010, Discover More cardholders can earn 5% cash back on purchases made at grocery and drug stores.  This bonus applies to up to $200 in purchases – effectively $10 in cash back, – and, to be eligible, users must sign up when logged into their Discover account.

This promotion is also in addition to this quarter’s 5% bonus on travel purchases.  That is, if you haven’t maxed out the $800 on airlines, hotels, car rental, and cruise charges that are eligible for a 5% cash back ($40) from January-March, you still have another month to go.  And with the new March deal that kicks in tomorrow, your more mundane purchases at grocery and drug stores will get that same great cash back rate.

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Soon, No More Free Trips for Eating Your Veggies

Travel is not the only source of frequent flier miles.  With proper planning, you can often score miles through online shopping, credit cards, and evening dining out.  But another source of miles – grocery shopping – is soon to dry up.  Safeway recently announced that, as of February 28, 2010, it will no longer award airline miles to its customers.  Until then, customers can earn 125 miles for every $250 in purchases at Safeway and other stores within its group.

Although a rate of 1 mile per $2 spent is not great, Safeway’s partnership offered a good deal for regular patrons – and could be combined with airline credit card offers for even more miles.  But this turn-around does not mean customers are necessarily losing out.  There are still other ways to score deals at Safeway.  First, Safeway has had to cut out this program presumably because it is now offering more frequent sales and deeper discounts in face of the economy.  Second, you can still take advantage of online coupons that can be uploaded into your Safeway card for more discounts.  Third, you can enroll your Safeway card with UPromise to earn cash back in your UPromise account for purchasing specific items from various brands including Nestle, Hefty, and Florida’s Natural.  Customers are only allowed to enroll their Safeway card in either the miles program or in the UPromise program, but, with the miles program about to be canceled, that decision has already been made for you.  The cash back rate for groceries on UPromise is generally low, but it is better than no miles or cash back at all, and can be much higher when combined with the eCoupons you can upload from the UPromise site.

If you are close to reaching the $250 threshold for 125 miles, make sure you do that before the end of this month.  But if you are not, you may as well switch your Safeway card to UPromise and start earning that cash back as soon as possible.  To learn more about UPromise, check out our previous post on the program here.

Start Lining Up Your Date Nights

For the last quarter of the year (October 1 to December 31, 2009), Discover is offering a 5% cashback bonus on up to $400 in purchases made at grocery stores, restaurants, movie theatres and video rental services.  If you make the maximum amount of $400 in eligibile purchases, you will get $20 in cashback, which can be turned into a $25 gift card from certain retailers such as Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers.  So remember to sign up.  Then get out there and start making plans for some great date nights!

Get the Coupons, Get the Groceries, Skip the Clipping

If you, like most people, don’t like grocery coupons because of the hassle of clipping, filing, and sorting through them, there is an online solution for you.  We all know about getting coupon codes or printing coupons online through manufacturer, supermarket, and independent sites, but a Procter & Gamble and an AOL website offer something even better – online coupons that can be uploaded directly to your store card.  Once you register your store card at P&G eSAVER and Shortcuts.com, their respective programs, you can scroll through the available coupons and upload as many as you want.  The two programs are affiliated with almost all of the same stores, including Kroger and Safeway, and allow you to use each coupon once.

P&G eSAVER’s coupons cover a wide range of products manufactured by Procter & Gamble, from Pringles to Bounty paper towels and from Nyquil to the Swiffer line.  The number of coupons offered at Shortcuts.com is smaller but covers some popular items such as Cheerios, Nature Valley granola bars, and Betty Crocker products.

New coupons are issued periodically, and there is no penalty for unused coupons.  And just like a paper coupon, they can also be combined with store discounts.  That means that once they are uploaded to your store card, you can forget about them and still get a nice surprise at the check out counter.  All without clipping, filing, or holding up the line as you shuffle through your wallet for coupons.

Picking Up Discounts in the Produce Section: the Benefits of Grocery and Pharmacy Cards

Sign up for the free loyalty cards from your local grocery stores and pharmacies if they offer them.  They cost you nothing (I don’t even get junk mail from them!) and give you exclusive discounts and/or cash back.  Those offers marked by signs hanging under products throughout the store (clearance items, discounts, two-for-one deals, BOGOs, etc.) are usually only available when you use the store card.

I, for example, have a Safeway and a CVS card for these purposes.  One cool feature of the Safeway Club Card is that when you use it, the receipt tells you how much you saved in your purchase through their deals and other coupons.  I saved 25% on my last purchase!  Of course, Safeway cashiers are usually nice enough to ring up a default Safeway card for you if you don’t have/forgot your own.  But (1) you can’t count on them to do that every time and (2) that will keep you from stocking up on points from affiliated programs such as United Mileage Plus or UPromise cash for college (more on that in a future post).

CVS’s ExtraCare card, on the other hand, gives “Extra Bucks” that may be used for any purchase at CVS.  Every 3 months you get Extra Bucks equivalent to 2% of your purchases in the previous quarter, and the weekly specials usually feature several products that also come with Extra Bucks (if you buy the product, you get Extra Bucks that can be used on your next CVS purchase).  A few weeks back, for instance, I bought three boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for $10 and got $5 Extra Bucks.   I used that on my next purchase.  I don’t buy my prescriptions at CVS, but its website also says that you can get 1 Extra Buck for every 2 prescriptions purchased in-store.

The main caveat of CVS’s Extra Bucks is that you really have to remember to use them if you want to transform your everyday purchases into good deals, as they tend to expire after 2 or 3 weeks.  Also, you need to present your ExtraCare card in order to use the Extra Bucks, but that should not be a problem since you should have it on you anyway (i.e., on your keychain) for accumulating all those Extra Bucks.

You probably shop at groceries and pharmacies more frequently than at most other types of stores, and most likely have your local favorite.  If it’s offered, make sure you get and use their loyalty card – claim the chance to be rewarded for helping them stay in business!