The new year dawned, and with it came a deluge of notices urging membership in clubs that offer everything from discounted clothes to cheap airline travel. But are these memberships really the way to stretch your 2016 dollars or are they just cons? Money experts say many memberships, including the six that follow, really do save you cash.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Yes, you’ve heard airline rewards never work out – too many blackout dates and hidden fees – but Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards is different. The program is straightforward: Flying Southwest earns points toward future free flights. That simplicity is one of the best features of the program, reports Budget Travel magazine. It also has no blackout dates. And guess what? In an annual seat-availability survey by Switchfly, Southwest had rewards seats available on 100 percent of the flights queried, tying it with Air Berlin for best, reports the Wall Street Journal. That means that using rewards does not require months of planning or fancy scheduling.
Cash-back credit card memberships
Changes by airlines to their credit card rewards programs have left many infrequent coach travelers with almost nothing to show for their “rewards.” That’s because some airlines, including Delta and United, now reward for ticket price paid rather than miles traveled. It’s likely more cost-effective for those travelers to ditch their airline credit cards and choose a cash-back card, Brian Kelly, who tracks loyalty programs as The Points Guy, told the Wall Street Journal. The Fidelity Investment Reward American Express, Capital One’s Venture card and Citigroup’s Double Cash card are among those that pay you 2 percent of your purchases, reported the WSJ.
Smartphone coupon clubs
You’re likely already a member of the smartphone community, so put it to work with applications such as “Retail Me Not,” recommends Forbes. You’ll find coupon codes, store discounts, free shipping and other money-saving bonuses you might otherwise miss.
You’ve likely read the advice to drink your daily coffee at home and save the money you’d spend at a coffee shop. That’s wise, of course, but how many of us really do that all the time? If you’re a coffee junkie, consider the free memberships offered by Starbucks, Caribou and even Dunkin’ Donuts and earn some free cups of java. Scout out deals at your local coffee shops, too. Here’s another emerging approach to the coffee membership: At Fair Folks & A Goat, a cafe that doubles as a retail space in Greenwich Village, New York, members pay $25 a month for unlimited coffee, tea, lattes, espresso and lemonade, reported Business Insider. If it catches on more broadly, serious coffee drinkers will benefit.
Amazon Prime membership
Yes, we know most either love or hate Amazon Prime for a variety of reasons. Many also note it costs about the same as a membership with Netflix, which many consider the gold standard of streaming services. Still, Amazon Prime comes with free shipping of Amazon products, Amazon photos and music. And PC magazine noted that Amazon recently one-upped Netflix by enabling offline downloads (handy for travel!). Other reasons to join? Amazon Prime also boasts other benefits including allowing Prime members to stream the Starz cable network without a pay TV account (this is the only service that allows that) and offering them a $2-per-month discount to Showtime.
Warehouse store memberships
Come on, you know you save a lot of money when you buy in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJs. Daily Finance reminds readers that Consumer Reports’ mystery shopper comparison between the clubs and other stores including Target, Wal-Mart and local grocery stores found that “warehouse clubs had the best deals by far almost every time (with the exception of drinks).” That said, be sure to read this article so you are alert to “Ways that Warehouse Stores Get You to Spend Too Much.”
What membership programs do you love? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.