You get what you spend

Loyalty cards have flooded the South African market but customers may need to exercise caution when agreeing to their terms and conditions.

“The problem is that many people get these loyalty cards [but] don’t understand them. As a result, they don’t enjoy any benefits from them,” said Thami Bolani, chairperson of the National Consumer Forum.

Bolani said he has not found them to be useful and they are not empowering consumers.

Clif Johnston, vice-chairman of the South African National Consumer Union, said that loyalty cards are a marketing technique to keep customers attached to companies but, in principle, they work against consumers’ choice to compare prices with those of other stores.

“Generally speaking, the rewards that you get turn out to be less than what you would have saved if you would have shopped around for the product,” said Johnston. He recommended that consumers take as many cards as they can get, but not to allow the cards to prevent them from comparison-shopping.

Loyalty cards offer various benefits ranging from cash-back to discounts, investments and donations to charities.

The flagship Woolworths loyalty product is the Difference card ( Primarily, it gives discounts on purchases of anything from food to clothes, depending on what is on special that month. The discounts are either percentage-based or buy-one-get-one-reduced deals. The more you swipe, the further you move up the three-tier system, with each tier unlocking greater benefits and rewards. The card is also linked to the MySchool and MyWorld programmes so every purchase sees a percentage going to a school or charity that you select when you sign up. Two further Woolworths cards are available: one that gives in-store credit and the other a fully fledged Visa card.

The Clicks ClubCard ( is one of the most developed loyalty products in South Africa. At the basic level every purchase earns points that unlock cash-back vouchers. In-store promotions also give three-for-the-price-of-two benefits and other discounts. The power of the card lies in the number of places that it can be used: Clicks, SpecSavers, NuMetro and Musica are just some of the options available. Purchases at NuMetro and Musica earn double points. The ClubCard is also linked to Discovery’s Vitality programme, which unlocks further discounts. Further benefits such as double points on seniors’ and double-points days add more to the package. A Clicks credit card with the same benefits is also available.

Pick n Pay
The Smart Shopper card is a new loyalty card from Pick n Pay ( Each time you purchase something, you receive a point. For every R1 you spend, you get one point. When you have collected 1 000 points — worth R10 — you can get the points paid out in cash or donate them to a pre-selected charity. Certain products are placed on promotion for customers to earn double, triple and bonus points. No points are accumulated for purchases at the Pick n Pay coffee shops or for paying water and electricity bills, traffic fines, buying tobacco products, PnP gift cards, lottery cards, fuel or prescription drugs.

Discovery Health
Discovery Health’s Vitality programme ( is based on the health of its members. Living healthy lives either by using their credit cards to purchase healthy products at partner stores such as Pick n Pay or to join Virgin Active, members earn “vitality points”.

The vitality points are divided into different categories. Points may be used to get discounts on travel, lifestyle and shopping. You may join Vitality whether you are an individual member of Discovery Health or part of a company scheme.

Nedbank Greenbacks
A Nedbank Greenbacks account ( may score cardholders free flights, weekends away, shopping vouchers, car rental, investments in Nedgroup Investments unit trusts and even donations to charity.

To get a Greenbacks account, members have to pay a yearly fee of R169 and spend using their cheque or credit cards at least once over a period of five months. Members earn a greenback for every R5 they spend — the greenbacks don’t expire.

Like other loyalty cards, greenbacks may be spent at partner airlines such as Kulula and South African Airways, or used to pay for monthly bank charges and annual card fees.

Exclusive Books
Exclusive Books ( provides one of the best retail loyalty cards in the country. It offers the Fanatics card. To get one, you need to spend R400 while holding a temporary card before you are deemed loyal enough to get a plastic card. Every quarter you get a statement with all your purchases and the corresponding points that you’ve racked up. Every R1 spent equals a point. Fanatics also works at NuMetro, where every R1 spent equals two points. The quarterly statement transfers the points to coupons, with every 400 points being rewarded with a R20 coupon.

E-bucks ( is a multipartner programme that works like any loyalty card. It works more efficiently if it is linked to an FNB cheque account — FNB customers with e-bucks receive points just by swiping their cards when shopping. Plus, they earn double points when they swipe their FNB card at any of the e-bucks partner stores, which include Makro, Incredible Connection and Look & Listen. In return, they can use their points to fill up at an Engen garage or purchase flight tickets and get further discounts. You do not have to be an FNB member to earn e-bucks; you can apply for an e-bucks card on their website, but to earn points you have be a regular customer at their partner stores.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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