2022-04-06T17:09:01-04:00April 5th, 2022|

Loyalty programs in Canada: What newcomers should know

As a newcomer settling into a new life in Canada, your expenses can quickly add up, sometimes making it harder to save for longer term financial goals. Customer loyalty programs can be a useful tool to help you save money, stick to a budget, and enjoy perks at the places you shop most. 

With some research, you can join loyalty programs that align with your shopping habits and save money on groceries, household products, fuel, travel, and even monthly bills. 

In this article, we explain how loyalty programs work and what to consider before joining one. We also describe some of the most popular customer loyalty programs in Canada and how to reap their many benefits.

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What is a loyalty program?

A customer loyalty program is created by a company such as a store, bank, or brand to reward its customers with points every time they make an eligible purchase. Points are added to your account when you present your personalized loyalty card (or bar code on a phone app) with your transaction. As your points accumulate, you increase your potential to get discounts on purchases or even earn free products.

Companies offer loyalty programs to motivate customers to continue buying their products or using their services. Depending on the loyalty program you register for, you may receive a physical card or use a phone app with a digital barcode. For programs offered by financial institutions, your credit card may also act as a loyalty card. You can usually monitor your points, learn about promotions, and redeem points through an app or online platform.

Benefits of loyalty programs for newcomers

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How much you benefit from a loyalty program depends on how well it aligns with your shopping habits, spending plans, and savings goals. For example, if you shop at one grocery store for most of your essentials, you can effortlessly earn points through its loyalty program, and redeem those points for products you want or need. 

As a newcomer, you likely have a range of new expenses to manage, from everyday needs to one-time purchases, like clothes for your first Canadian winter to saving for a car and paying rent. With so many loyalty programs available in Canada, you can join as many as you want to help save on expenses and earn perks. By joining rewards programs offered by stores you currently shop at—and plan to shop at—you can save on essential purchases and may even earn rewards to help you afford larger expenses, such as a flight back home. 

While each loyalty program has its own features, here are some of the ways you can benefit from various customer loyalty programs:

  • Save money on everyday purchases, such as groceries.
  • Earn free products from your favourite brands or stores.
  • Save on fuel if you drive a car.
  • Learn about promotions customized to your shopping habits.
  • Participate in special member events and promotions to earn more points.
  • Book flights for free or at a reduced rate.
  • Combine the points of different loyalty programs, where allowed. 

One of the easiest ways to collect points is through loyalty programs offered by banks. Points are earned based on how you pay for your purchases, rather than where you shop. With RBC Rewards, for example, you can earn points every time you make a purchase using your credit card. These points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and even bill payments.

Loyalty programs for grocery and pharmacy shopping in Canada

PC Optimum

Where PC Optimum works: When you enrol in PC Optimum, you earn points every time you shop at a Loblaws-owned grocery store as well as Shoppers Drug Mart, either online or in person. The grocery stores in the program include: Loblaws, No Frills, Independent, Real Canadian Superstore, and Fortinos. You also earn points when you buy from Joe Fresh, a clothing brand located at select grocery stores and online. You can download the PC Optimum app to receive alerts on promotions and discounts.

Collecting PC Optimum points: All the points you collect from these stores are pooled in your account and can be redeemed at any participating store. You earn 15 points on almost every dollar you spend at Shoppers Drug Mart (and Pharmaprix in Quebec). When you shop at a grocery store, you earn points based on bonus products and events.

Redeeming PC Optimum points: For every 10,000 points you accumulate in your PC Optimum account, you earn $10 CAD to redeem on products at checkout. During a ‘Spend Your Points’ event, your points have more value.

Rexall Be Well

Where Rexall Be Well works: You earn points with the Rexall Be Well program every time you purchase products at a Rexall pharmacy or with online retailer Well.ca.

Collecting Rexall Be Well points: For every dollar you spend, you earn 15 points. Personalized promotions are offered through the app to help you save on regular purchases, earn more points, or increase the redemption value of your points.

Redeeming Rexall Be Well points: For every 25,000 Rexall Be Well points collected, you can redeem $10 CAD on products at checkout.

Tips IconTip:
RBC banking customers can additionally benefit from the Rexall Be Well program by linking their RBC credit card or debit card to earn 50 points with every dollar spent on eligible purchases.

Air Miles

Where Air Miles work: When you join the Air Miles Reward Program, you can collect points (called “Miles”) at a wide range of stores, including several well-known grocery stores, every time you present your card. The grocery stores include: Sobeys, Foodland, IGA and Metro, as well as the pharmacy, Jean Coutu. You can also earn points when you purchase from the Air Miles online shop where hundreds of brands in travel, entertainment, clothing, electronics, and beauty are available. 

Collecting Air Miles: You can earn one Mile for every $20 CAD you spend at the grocery stores or Air Miles online shop, and one Mile for every $15 CAD spent at Jean Coutu. Like the other loyalty programs, there are opportunities to increase your earning potential during promotions. All points are pooled in your account to redeem as you wish.

Redeeming Air Miles: You can redeem your Miles in two ways: Dream Miles or Cash Miles. You choose how to divide your Miles between Cash Miles and Dream Miles, with the flexibility to change the combination at any time. Cash Miles can be redeemed at the grocery store checkout at a rate of 95 miles for $10 CAD in savings. Dream Miles can be redeemed for travel expenses, such as flights or accommodations. There are 25 airlines to choose from when you book online through the loyalty program. You can also redeem Dream Miles for merchandise ordered through your Air Miles online account. The number of Dream Miles required per flight fluctuates, so be sure to check its website regularly when planning a trip. 

More Rewards

Where More Rewards work: More Rewards is a customer loyalty program run by British Columbia-based grocery store, Save-On-Foods. The More Rewards program also allows you to earn points at a number of other companies, including PriceSmart Foods, Urban Fare, Pure Pharmacy, Panago Pizza, Jim Pattison Auto Group, Speedy Glass, Coast Hotels, Accent Inns, and Vancouver Attractions.

Collecting More Rewards points: You earn one point for every dollar you spend at Save-On-Foods, PriceSmart Foods, and Urban Fare. If you download the More Rewards app, you will receive alerts for promotions on products that can earn you more points. 

Redeeming More Rewards points: You can redeem your points at the grocery checkout, or for a variety of products online including gift cards, dining experiences, hotel accommodations, local attractions, sporting events, and automotive services. The redemption value of points depends on what you use them for and whether you redeem them during a More Rewards promotion.

Travel loyalty programs in Canada

RBC Avion

Where RBC Avion works: The RBC Avion loyalty program is available to RBC Avion credit card holders. As a member of the program, you can earn RBC Rewards on every purchase made with your credit card, regardless of where you shop. 

Collecting RBC Rewards: With the RBC Avion Visa Platinum and RBC Avion Visa Infinite, you earn one RBC Rewards point for every dollar you spend. Plus, you’ll receive exclusive offers ranging from double or triple reward points on certain purchases to discounts on merchandise.

Redeeming RBC Rewards: RBC Rewards points can be used to book flights on more than 130 airlines, as well as for hotel or car rental bookings. A round-trip ticket anywhere within Canada or the U.S. begins at 35,000 points.

You can also convert RBC Rewards to other travel-based loyalty programs to increase your redeeming power, including WestJet dollars, British Airways Avios points, American Airlines AAdvantage miles, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. RBC Avion card holders are eligible for additional travel benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Additionally, you can redeem your RBC Rewards to purchase merchandise, gift cards, or even pay your credit card bills.

Aeroplan

Where Aeroplan works: Air Canada’s customer loyalty program is called Aeroplan. Every time you book an eligible flight on Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Air Canada Rouge, or other Star Alliance member airline flights, you earn points. 

Collecting Aeroplan points: The number of points you earn is based on the distance you fly. Once you enrol as an Aeroplan member, you can also earn points on accommodations, car rentals, travel insurance, and pre-ordered duty-free products purchased through AirCanada.com. Additionally, you can earn Aeroplan points on purchases made on the Aeroplan eStore and by using an Aeroplan credit card.

Redeeming Aeroplan points: You can redeem your points for flights on Air Canada or a number of its partner airlines. The price you pay in points is related to the price of the airline ticket in cash. You can also redeem points for merchandise ordered through Aeroplan’s eStore. 

WestJet Rewards

Where WestJet Rewards work: As a member of WestJet Rewards, you earn WestJet Dollars every time you book flights on WestJet, as well as a number of partner airlines including Delta and Qantas Airlines. You can also earn additional WestJet Dollars on every purchase you make with a WestJet RBC Mastercard.  

Collecting WestJet Rewards: WestJet Rewards has four membership levels, based on how much you spend. Upon enrolment, you are placed in Teal level in which you receive 0.5 per cent of the cost of your flight back in WestJet Dollars. The more you spend, the higher the membership level you obtain, with the top tier, Platinum, earning you eight per cent of the value of your flight in WestJet Dollars, as well as a number of travel perks such as free checked bags.

Redeeming WestJet Rewards: One WestJet dollar is equivalent to one Canadian dollar when redeemed on the base fare portion of an eligible flight or vacation package. 

Loyalty programs for retail shopping in Canada

RBC Rewards

Where RBC Rewards work: RBC Rewards makes earning points easy when you use an RBC credit card. You earn points on all your purchases, regardless of your shopping habits and preferences.

Collecting RBC Rewards: Depending on the RBC credit card you have, you can earn points on every dollar spent using your credit card. Collect even more points when you use your debit card with an eligible RBC bank account enrolled in the RBC Value Program. 

Redeeming RBC Rewards: RBC Rewards offers a range of options for redeeming points. To redeem points for merchandise or gift cards, you can select from its online catalogue. Alternatively, you can use the points you’ve accrued to pay your credit card bills. You can also redeem points when you purchase from Apple or Best Buy, or even convert RBC Rewards to Hudson’s Bay Rewards.

Hudson’s Bay Rewards

Where Hudson’s Bay Rewards work: If you find yourself shopping for clothing, household goods, and furnishings as you settle in your new place, you’ll find much of what you need at the popular department store, Hudson’s Bay. Whether you shop in person or online, you can earn points on every purchase you make at the Bay with Hudson’s Bay Rewards

Collecting Hudson’s Bay Rewards: The rate at which you earn points depends on your membership level. Upon entry, members earn one point for almost every one dollar spent. If you spend $400 CAD or more within one calendar year, you can earn 1.5 points for almost every dollar spent as a Rewards Plus member. If you spend $1,200 CAD in a calendar year, you are eligible to earn two points for every dollar spent. 

Redeeming Hudson’s Bay Rewards: You can redeem your rewards when you make a purchase in person or online at Hudson’s Bay at a value of $5 CAD per 1,000 points.

Triangle Rewards by Canadian Tire

Where Triangle Rewards work: Canadian Tire is one of Canada’s most prominent stores offering products in household goods, tools, outdoor living, sports equipment, and automotive. Its customer loyalty program is called Triangle Rewards, through which you earn points when you shop at Canadian Tire stores, as well as Mark’s, Sport Chek, Party City, Atmosphere, and Hockey Life. As a newcomer, you may frequent these stores to purchase seasonal products, such as winter gear or household goods in your first year. 

Collecting Triangle Rewards: You earn four per cent of your total purchase in points, or CT Money, on qualifying products. 

Redeeming Triangle Rewards: One dollar of CT Money is equivalent to one dollar toward your purchase when you redeem at Canadian Tire, Mark’s, or Sport Chek. 

Loyalty rewards for food and entertainment in Canada

Tims Rewards

Where Tims Rewards work: If you start your day with a cup of coffee at your Tim Horton’s, you may want to join Tims Rewards

Collecting Tim Rewards: Every time you make an eligible purchase at Tim Hortons and show your Tims Rewards card (or order ahead using the Tim Hortons app), you collect 10 points. If you download the app, you’ll receive regular offers and discounts.  

Redeeming Tim Rewards: You can redeem points on menu items using your card or the app at any time. For instance, you can get a free brewed coffee or tea for 70 points.

Starbucks Rewards

Where Starbucks Rewards work: Starbucks has its own loyalty program: Starbucks Rewards. 

Collecting Starbucks Rewards: You can earn free coffee or food items when you collect points, called “Stars,” through Starbucks Rewards. You earn one star per dollar spent, or two stars per dollar spent when you preload money onto your Starbucks app. As a member, you can earn extra stars during regular promotions. 

Redeeming Starbucks Rewards: You can use Stars to get free beverages, and all members get free refills on brewed coffee or tea while you’re in the store.

Scene+

Where Scene+ works: If you like going to the movies, then Scene+ offers a way to save money on your outings. You can also earn Scene+ points on purchases made with a Scotiabank Scene+ credit card or debit card.

Collecting Scene+ points: This loyalty program enables you to earn five points with every dollar spent at Cineplex. You can also earn Scene+ points at a number of retailers including Apple and Best Buy. 

Redeeming Scene+ points: You can redeem points Scene Points instantly at Cineplex Cinemas, The Rec Room, or Playdium. In addition to movie theatres, you also have the option to redeem points for gift cards from over 60 retailers and 700 restaurants.

Fuel loyalty programs in Canada

Petro-Points

Collecting Petro-Points: When you join Petro-Points, you are eligible to earn 10 points for every one litre of gas you purchase, earning one dollar off for every 1000 points you accumulate. 

To increase your earning power with every fill up at the gas station, you can link your Petro-Points card to eligible RBC credit cards. This can save up to three cents per litre on fuel, and earn 20 per cent more Petro-Points when you buy qualifying items. 

Redeeming Petro-Points: You can redeem your points for free gas or trade them in for merchandise or gift cards. 

Shell

Collecting Miles at Shell: When you fill up your car at a Shell gas station, use the Air Miles Rewards loyalty card to collect one mile for every 20 litres of Shell Bronze, Silver, and diesel fuel, as well as one mile for every five dollars spent on a car wash or in-store products. 

Redeeming Miles earned at Shell: Miles earned at Shell gas stations can be redeemed like any Air Miles Reward Miles, including for gas savings. 

Esso

Collecting PC Optimum points at Esso: If you’re a PC Optimum member, you can use this card to earn points when you fill your gas tank at an Esso station. Earn at least 10 points per litre and redeem 4,000 points to get 10 cents off every litre up to 40 litres. 

Redeeming points earned at Esso: The points you earn at Esso are combined with all your PC Optimum points and can be redeemed like all PC Optimum points. 

Tips to keep in mind when joining a loyalty program

With so many loyalty programs to choose from, how do you determine which ones will benefit you most? Here are some useful considerations to help you decide:

  • Will you use the loyalty card regularly?
  • Does the loyalty program reflect your current needs or will it encourage you to spend money you’d rather save?
  • How many points do you earn per dollar? How does it compare to other programs?
  • What can you use your points for? How much are the points worth?
  • Can you combine the points of one program with another to increase your earning power and variety for redeeming rewards?
  • Is there an app to eliminate the need for a card, and is it user-friendly?
  • Is there a cost to join the program? 
  • Is there an expiry date for redeeming points?

Are loyalty programs the same as cash back programs?

Cash back programs are designed to earn you money in the form of cash back, rather than points, when you purchase from eligible merchants. Like customer loyalty programs, your earnings from a cash back program will likely be limited to certain stores or products. 

However, as a newcomer, you don’t necessarily need to choose between cash back and loyalty points. Cash back apps, such as Ampli give you cash back on some purchases made using your credit or debit card, so you can continue to collect loyalty points offered by retailers and banks. If you’d rather receive a cash incentive on your purchases, some credit cards offer cash back as part of their features instead of loyalty points.

Loyalty programs can benefit newcomers

Many merchants and financial institutions in Canada offer lucrative loyalty programs to attract new customers and encourage existing ones to use their services more often. As a newcomer, when you sign up for loyalty programs offered by stores or banks you use regularly, you can accumulate rewards without making unnecessary purchases and enjoy the savings that result. If you’re looking for specific loyalty rewards, such as travel or gas, there are many options worth evaluating to make an informed decision.