How do I get the most bank rewards points?

Many banks, as well as stores, now offer customer loyalty rewards programmes. With certain banks you earn more points when you shop at specific stores or put fuel in at a garage they have partnered with. But do you know what these places are asking for in return for your bank rewards?

Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood investigates how you can get the most out of your bank rewards.

Nedbank Greenbacks (Updated)

Dharmesh Bhana, head of loyalty and rewards at Nedbank, explains: “The Nedbank Greenbacks Rewards Programme rewards clients for spending on their Nedbank Credit or Cheque cards. It is simple to understand, with no qualifying criteria. Members also enjoy the benefits that their points never expire (as long as they keep using the card).”

There is no earning cap for AMEX cards, however, earning is capped for VISA and/or Mastercard cards. Earning is capped at R5000 for the cheque card and R10 000 for the credit card.

You earn Greenbacks for every R5 of eligible spend on your Nedbank credit or cheque cards, and two Greenbacks for every R5 spent on your Nedbank Greenbacks American Express cheque or credit card.

Upon signing up for the rewards programme the once off annual fee of R216 is waived. There is then a monthly linkage fee of R18 charged, however, this is not charged for all Savvy Bundle clients.

You can link up to 10 credit or cheque cards to your rewards account. According to Bhana, about 70% of Nedbank’s cardholders are linked to the Greenbacks rewards programme.

“Once accumulated, members can spend their Greenbacks points for rewards in three categories i.e. shopping, investing and donating. Members can shop with their points for travel, buy foreign exchange, electronics, gifts and wine, or spend at any retail outlet by cashing their Greenbacks out onto your Nedbank SHOP Card,” notes Bhana.

In addition to earning Greenbacks on purchases, Nedbank customers can also buy additional Greenbacks at four cents per Greenback. However, a minimum of 1,000 Greenbacks for R40 must be purchased at a time.

According to Bhana, clients using their cards for purchases of up to R8,750 per month can earn up to 3,500 Greenbacks. These can then be used towards paying your bank fees, or accumulated over three months towards flowers or a health spa voucher. Over six months, the Greenbacks can be used to purchase wine or electronics.

“Nedbank Greenbacks accounts are updated daily and members receive quarterly e-statements to indicate their points earned, redeemed and their balance. They also receive their points balance via a monthly SMS, and they can login to www.nedbankgreenbacks.co.za to claim their Greenbacks for the reward of their choice. Alternatively they can call the contact centre on 0860 555 111,” revealed Bhana.

Absa Rewards

The rewards programme from Absa is called Absa Rewards. Sonja Fourie, head of Absa Rewards, notes that the programme is simple and easy to use, and that no rewards card needs to be presented when making purchases. In order to qualify for Absa Rewards, you need to be an Absa customer and be registered for Absa Rewards. The programme currently has more than two million members as of December 2015.

There is a R22.50 (which works out to R270 per year) monthly membership fee, however, there is no joining fee. Absa customers can register online, through the bank’s call centre or at an Absa branch.

Absa Rewards members earn cash rewards on all qualifying transactions. There are three ways to earn:

  1. Cash rewards from Absa: Members can earn up to one percent cash rewards for qualifying transactions based on their Absa Rewards tier.
  2. Cash rewards from rewards partners: Members can earn up to 30% from more than 40 Absa Rewards retail partners, as well as the cash rewards from Absa.
  3. Cash rewards at Sasol: Members earn five percent cash rewards when shopping or filling up at Sasol.

In addition to the above qualifying transactions, Fourie highlights that Absa Rewards members earn up to one percent back when they swipe a qualifying bank card to pay for a meal at any of the 318 Spur Steak Ranches around the country. Cash rewards can be converted to Spur eGift vouchers, with an additional 15% value added benefits, in other words, you will receive R115 of value on the voucher.

“Members can use their rewards for literally anything by redeeming for cash. Additional redemption options include discounted pre-paid airtime, vouchers (e.g. shopping mall vouchers, discounted NuMetro vouchers), charity donations, deposits into savings accounts and conversion to partners for additional value (e.g. 15% extra value when converting cash rewards to Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points, 15% extra value when converting cash rewards to Dis-Chem benefit points).

“Absa Rewards can also be converted into Avios miles and Thank-U points or donated to any one of the four supported charities,” explains Fourie.

She adds: “Absa’s entire philosophy and business model centres around our ambition to become the ‘Go-To’ bank in our customers’ lives. The Absa Rewards programme is a continuation of our journey to ensure we provide our customers with real value for money.”

Standard Bank Ucount Rewards

Fay Elizabeth Foster, head of loyalty and rewards at Standard Bank, explains that the Ucount Rewards programme is open to all Standard Bank customers who have a personal debit, cheque and/or credit card. There is a R20 per month or R240 per year membership fee, which is payable by debit order only. There are currently 650,000 active members.

“There are five reward tiers and the amount of rewards points you collect depends on your reward tier collect rate. This is calculated based on your banking activity and the number of Standard Bank products and services you make use of every month. The more products and services you use, the higher your reward tier will be and the more rewards points you will collect on your qualifying point of sale purchases,” revealed Foster.

Rewards points are earned on the following transactions:

  • All card purchases: Members earn up to 1.25% in rewards points when using their qualifying bank card to pay for everyday purchases, no matter where you shop or what you buy.
  • Grocery purchases: Members can earn up to 20% back in rewards points on grocery purchases made at participating grocery retailers. These include: Checkers, Checkers Hyper, Food Lovers Market, Fruit & Veg City, Makro, Pick n Pay, Shoprite, SPAR and Woolworths.
  • Fuel purchases: Earn up to R2 back in rewards points per litre when filling up at Caltex.
  • Participating rewards retailers: When using your card for purchases at participating rewards retailers, members can earn up to five percent back in rewards points. Retailers include: Clicks, Fresh Stop, Incredible Connection, KFC, Makro and Tiger Wheel & Tyre.

The rewards points can be used for a variety of things. According to Foster, the most popular redemption option is for fuel at Caltex. However, other items that members can redeem their points for include using them to purchase items at the participating rewards retailers, or for purchasing items on the Ucount Rewards Online Mall.

“For those who want to see their rewards points work even harder, they are able to redeem them into their Standard Bank PureSave account or via Online Share Trading into their Auto Share Invest or Tax Free Savings Account.

“Further to this, UCount Rewards members can also redeem for a range of flights, car rental, hotel accommodation and holiday packages both locally and internationally; through the UCount Rewards Travel Mall. You will be able to quickly and easily search for and compare prices on local flights, international flights and car hire. You can also book accommodation at a range of hotels and BnB’s around the world,” highlights Foster.

In addition, members gain access to the Bidvest Premier Airport lounges in South Africa, and have the option to convert their rewards points to SAA Voyager Miles or to Avios, if they are a member.

FNB eBucks

The rewards programme from First National Bank (FNB) is known as eBucks Rewards.

In order to join the eBucks programme, you simply need to open a qualifying FNB account. “If you already have a qualifying FNB card, you can purchase an eBucks card at Checkers & Shoprite or DisChem Pharmacies (for R9.90), and then follow the instructions at the back to activate the card,” says Johan Moolman, CEO of eBucks Rewards.

There is no fee to join eBucks, however, the bank will charge a linkage fee if members’ products are not aligned. In other words, if a client has a cheque account from one level and a credit card from another, for example a Gold Cheque card and a Premier credit card, or customers who only have a credit card.

As with the other rewards programmes, the amount of rewards a person receives depends on how they bank. Your reward rate, which is the percentage of your qualifying purchases that you earn back in eBucks, is determined by your reward level.

“Your reward level is determined by how many points you have collected in a calendar month. You collect points based on how you use your bank account(s). So the more points you have collected, the higher your reward level and the more eBucks you earn. We will review your reward level every month,” notes eBucks.

Moolman adds: “In addition to members being rewarded in eBucks for positive banking behaviour (e.g. drawing Cash@Till as opposed to using an ATM; and receiving statements electronically instead of via post) they can earn up to 15% back when buying groceries from Checkers and Shoprite, filling up with fuel from any service station, and buying prepaid airtime through the bank’s electronic channels.”

The rewards you earn can be used to make a number of different purchases, such as purchasing fuel at participating Engen service stations, buying groceries at Checkers and Shoprite, or buying pre-paid airtime or electricity. You can also redeem you points through eBucks travel and the eBucks shop.

“We offer a full-service online travel booking engine for flights, accommodation and car hire options. Members can enjoy up to 40% discount on selected local and international flights as well as on car hire. In addition, eBucks Travel also offers tailor made local and international packages to members,” reveals Moolman.

To make the most of the eBucks rewards system, eBucks recommends that people understand the earn-potential form the products that they hold. “Earning should be easy, which is why we made the eBucks Calculator – a tool to enable members to maximise their rewards and see what behaviour they need to adopt, in order to boost their earning power. Members can learn how to unlock their earn potential by visiting the eBucks Rewards Calculator on the eBucks.com website,” explains Moolman.

Mercantile Bank Rewards

Mercantile Bank exclusively caters to entrepreneurs. The bank has partnered with wiGroup to offer a rewards programme to its clients that make use of QR technology.

Tom Stilwell, head of private bank at Mercantile Bank, explains that as a Mercantile Private Banker entrepreneur cardholder, people are automatically signed up to the rewards programme. There is no joining cost, and you earn points on purchases made with your card. ATM and cash back transactions are excluded. Mercantile Bank rewards can be redeemed at a number of stores and eateries.

According to Stilwell, research carried out by the bank revealed that clients wanted two things out of their rewards programme, ease of redemption and variety in terms of what the rewards can be exchanged for.

The more you swipe your card, the more rewards you will earn. “The more they swipe their entrepreneur card, the more rewards they will receive. We encourage clients to use their Mercantile entrepreneur card as their primary payment vehicle,” says Stilwell.

Furthermore, Stilwell notes: “At present 50% of our Private banking client base have downloaded our innovative loyalty APP which uses QR codes to make redemption quick and easy. Our Mercantile Private Bank loyalty APP is unique in the market and offers a wide range of choice whilst being simple and easy to use.”

The cost of joining a rewards programme

The pricing structure of the various banks’ rewards programmes differ. The below table offers a comparison of the costs.

Bank Annual membership fee
Absa R270 (R22.50 monthly fee)
Nedbank R216 (R18 monthly fee)
Standard Bank R240 (R20 per month)
FNB Free (But there may be a linkage fee)
Mercantile Bank Free

 

In terms of consumer rewards programmes, the eBucks offering from FNB appears to be the most cost effective having no annual membership fee. While Mercantile Bank also offers their programme for free, they cater to entrepreneurs and not the everyday consumer. The most expensive rewards programme is from Absa at R270 per year, followed by Standard Bank and then Nedbank.

However, when comparing the rewards programme offerings it is important to note that the different programmes will be structured differently, meaning that the amount of points earned on a single transaction will vary according to bank.