The joys of ownership

You can get freebies and discounts if you own certain corporations’ shares.

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Jill Sladen-Pilon is delighted with the shares she has in Carnival Corp. Not only have they shot up in value by 36% over the past year, but whenever she goes on a cruise, she gets special treatment. On a recent Carnival Caribbean cruise, for instance, the Montrealer got a US$100 onboard credit after proving that she owned at least 100 shares. She used the credit to buy wine, go to the spa and buy gifts from the ship’s boutique. “It made me feel great,” she says. “We’re going on another cruise soon, so we’re hanging onto the stock.”

Carnival isn’t the only company that offers special perks to shareholders. Royal Caribbean also offers onboard credit (up to US$250), and British Airways offers 10% off flights. Shareholders of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway who make it to the company’s annual meeting in Omaha can buy jewelry and watches at a discount.

The heyday of shareholder perks was in the 1980s and early ’90s. Most companies have since discontinued them, though, because shares are now typically registered in the brokerage name rather than the individual shareholders. For perk-loving investors, it’s still possible to have your shares registered in your own name. Just phone or write to your broker, and steel yourself for a fee of $50 or more. (To sell the shares, you have to transfer the registration back to the brokerage.)

Before going to the trouble, check with the corporation’s shareholder services department to make sure you’re eligible for the perk you want. And never buy shares just for a freebie—after all, the best perk of all is an increase in share price.

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