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Store shopping loyalty programs

Stores are worried about the growing trend of "showrooming": when you browse in store and then buy online. To keep shoppers loyal, many are sweetening rewards programs and adding apps that award in-store shoppers with extra deals. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, gives five ways shoppers might benefit.


More companies are starting to offer programs with multiple levels, awarding bigger spenders with more perks. Clothing chain Express just added one this spring, and it's something Gap, Best Buy and Starbucks do already. Most status bumps last just a year, so experts suggest reviewing terms and offers before chasing them.

The points you earn in one program may be useful at other stores. For example, Best Buy and Citibank launched an app last summer that lets Citi cardholders use their reward points to pay at Best Buy stores. Then there's Shopkick, a free app that awards points and discounts for visiting and making purchases at retailers including Target, Crate & Barrel, Macy's and Exxon.

How much you spend on a particular card is more likely these days to trigger some kind of merchant offer. Banks have begun dabbling in retailer offers and coupons that show up in your online account statement, based on spending with a particular merchant.

Even if you're not a points fanatic, it can be worth signing up. Programs are trying to engage customers with fun perks. When Nordstrom revamped its reward program in January, all members got an annual credit of $100 or more for in-store tailoring, and members of Sports Authority's new program can land access to sports tickets and signed memorabilia.

Rewards club members who don't "like" a brand on Facebook or follow it on Twitter may be missing out. More programs are rewarding social media engagement with extra deals. Hertz recently offered a social-media-exclusive coupon for up to $40 off a rental. Just keep in mind that seeing so many deals could prompt unnecessary spending.

For more information on loyalty programs and other consumer tips click here.