SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Retail loyalty programs are gaining ground. More than just a bonus, customers are now beginning to expect them. Now even small merchants are getting in on the programs.
Some of the programs are a waste of time and others can really help consumers save. So when we found out about a new program, we had to check it out.
When you hop on a jet, you can get reward miles. If you use a credit card, you can pick up points. Even when buying groceries, there are special deals for those who have signed up.
"I've got one here. And I got another. I've got another one for Bi-Rite," Katie Pluymert of San Francisco said.
Pluymert showed 7 On Your Side several old-school loyalty punch cards she carries. Many smaller businesses have relied on these types of cards while the big guys computerized. Now companies like Five Stars are offering computerized loyalty programs to the little guy.
"Five Stars is the same Fortune 500 level technology that is available at Safeway, Walgreen's and CVS, just bring it to a small business," Mike Polner of Five Stars said.
At Plentea customers earn free drinks and other rewards. Owner Henry Tang says before Five Stars he heard from his customers.
"People always ask me, 'Hey, do you have those punch cards? Do you have something we can redeem points, something like that.' People are asking me all the time. I think people want that right now," Tang said.
"Every small business owner offers a different reward. Some people offer free coffee, some people offer, 10 percent off or 20 percent off. Every business owner customizes their own reward program that way," Polner said.
Now, that is important to know.
Consumer Action's Joe Ridout looked at Five Points at our request. He said, "We were looking through the site and found some that are quite nice, for example, a pizza shop near here. After you spend $25 on pizza, you get another slice of pizza. More pizza is always good, right? But there is another one for MetroPCS where they give you $1 store credit after you pay your entire bill 10 times, hundreds of dollars."
That MetroPCS deal Ridout was referring to is in San Rafael. You get $1 if you go to the store 10 times.
The app offered with Five Stars is very good. You can find participating stores, but you must remember these points and programs do not trade back and forth between retailers. Each store has its own program.