Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Housekeeping: Budget Helpers--Plastic Fantastic!

Budget Helpers: Plastic Fantastic!


     When we say 'plastic', we always think of credit cards. Well, there are other plastics nowadays which we, housewives, have found truly useful to help stretch our budget. Instead of getting credit which you need to pay later with interest when you shop, how about shopping with the points you've earned by the same, shopping. These are plastics which we call 'Reward' cards or 'Suki' cards or 'Discount' cards or 'Membership' cards.

     Do you know that since 2002, I have been getting almost 5,000 pesos worth of groceries each December, covering my Christmas groceries, from my Shopwise Elite card. When I buy medicine from Mercury Drug, I can immediately deduct the amount from my 'Suki' card from my bill and still earn points from that purchase. Recently, before December 2009, my husband received a BDO (Banco de Oro) Prestige Reward card for our BDO accounts which blessed us with 7,000 pesos worth of shopping free at SM Department Stores. I also have an SM Advantage card, though slow to earn points, which we use when I do grocery shopping at Save More or SM groceries. 

     The so-called 'marketing gimmicks' of different business establishments reward you for shopping in their stores, the idea or concept of which came from banks which reward creditors for using their credit cards. I also believe these reward cards are better than credit cards because they do not encourage you to be in debt. Though, there are some who say that these business establishments pad their retail prices to make up for these rewards. Perhaps so, but it is to the consumer's or shopper's discretion whether to buy or not the products at certain retail prices. Housewives, like me, compare prices of different grocery stores and yet some of us just buy at a certain grocery for convenience or because the products that we're looking for are just available there. 

     So now, how can we get these reward cards? Usually, grocery stores like Shopwise and South Supermarket require shoppers to accumulate 5,000 pesos worth of receipts from their stores. Then they'll give you the reward card or membership card. Depending on your recorded monthly points which they monitor simply by swiping your card every time you shop, your card can be promoted to an 'Elite' card for Shopwise or a 'Prestige' card for SM which gets more points and more privileges having a special check-out lane. Sometimes, they even give small gifts on Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, etc. for these cardholders. In some groceries and shops, you have to pay for the membership card or 'discount' card--some very minimal like 150 pesos for a 5-year membership to the utterly absurd like 500 pesos for a one year membership. There are lots of other stores which promote their plastics--National Bookstore for buying their books, school and office supplies, etc.; imported leather goods stores giving 20% discounts on their products; and even pizza delivery card-- buy one family size pizza and you get one family size Hawaiian pizza free, but the card cost 300 pesos. 

     There are different types of point-system with each card. Some, for every 100 pesos worth of groceries and items, you get 1 point or equivalent to 1 peso; some you get a point for every 200 pesos worth of shopping. Some companies have a lot of affiliate stores like gasoline stations, restaurant, hardwares, appliance stores, drug store, hotels and lodges and apparel shops, so you can earn more points with their cards. BDO which is a sister-company of SM Department Stores, adds points when you make a deposit in their bank aside from shopping in SM stores and all its affiliates.

     A word of advice: read the fine prints of an application form and analyze its benefits and disadvantages before you even sign up for a card, especially for those you have to pay for membership. But for those cards which are freely given, then freely accept.

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