The PC Plus Program and Shoppers Optimum points plan are officially merging.
All existing Shoppers Optimum members will automatically be transitioned to the PC Optimum program on February 1, with points converted to the same value as the former PC Plus program, (except in Quebec, where this must be done manually before May 2, 2018.)
Your Optimum and/or Plus points move to the new program at equal value. So, if a collector has $10 worth of Shoppers Optimum points (8,000), they’ll have $10 worth of PC Optimum points (10,000) after the switch. PC Points are worth the same.
To continue earning the points after February 1, you will have to make sure they are linked to a new PC Optimum account. You can either go into a Loblaws-owned store (like No Frills or Shoppers Drug Mart) to get a new PC Optimum card at check-out or download the PC Optimum app and create a new account and link your existing points. You’ll be prompted to update/download the app and create a new account on February 1. [Update: Here’s a breakdown of how to actually merge your PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum accounts]
In the new regime, it’s easy to redeem—with 10,000 points valued at $10, 20,000 points at $20 and so on. The maximum you can redeem at any time is $500.
Under the Shoppers Optimum program, every $1 spent earns you 10 points. You need 8,000 points to buy $10 worth of goods. Under the new PC Optimum program, you’ll need 10,000 points for $10. Luckily, consumers will earn almost 50 per cent more points—so 15 points— for every dollar spent at Shoppers Drug Mart locations to help account for the higher number of points needed for each redemption level.
These points can now be redeemed and used in any of Loblaw Companies’ 2,500 affiliated stores along with Shoppers Drug Mart locations.
So, with all these changes afoot, how can consumers make the most of their PC Optimum points? Here are a few hacks to help you maximize your rewards:
1. Pay attention to the weekly email deals
When you sign up for the PC Optimum points program, you’ll get a weekly email with specialized offers based on your shopping habits. The weekly email (which usually goes out Friday mornings) offers you extra points for buying special products at Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills and starting Feb. 1, Shoppers Drug Mart. “A lot of the offers are for things you’re already buying,” says personal finance blogger Barry Choi. “It’s very targeted. They just want to get you in the store.”
For instance, this week there was an offer for 200 points for every $1 spent on No Name canned beans. Since 20,000 points is equal to $20, the offer translates to 20% off canned beans. Be aware of these special offers before shopping to save a ton weekly.
Remember: you’ll need to make a new PC Optimum account and link your points to keep getting offers.
2. Game the algorithm
This is more like three hacks in one but bear with us—they’re worth it. First: only download email offers that you actually plan to use. Companies usually keep track of how you interact with their emails. If you delete or don’t load the offers you’re not interested in, they’ll pick up on that and send you less of those and more of the deals you actually want, which means more value for you, says Patrick Sojka of RewardsCanada.ca.
Stephen Weyman of HowtoSaveMoney.ca has another trick to make rewards offer algorithms work for you. “At Shoppers, if I know there’s certain things I don’t want to receive an offer for, I won’t show my points card,” says Weyman. “They like to see you buying the big brands, and even though they offer points on the generic products too, it’s less profitable for them. You want to focus on getting points for low-margin necessities and avoid the high margin stuff from Shoppers that you can buy elsewhere for cheaper—like at Walmart.” This cuts down—but won’t entirely eliminate—you being offered the higher margin offers, he says.
Another trick? Two accounts for the same family. The frequency of your shopping visits is a big factor in the number and types of rewards you’re offered. If you and a spouse, for instance, get separate PC Optimum accounts, you’ll likely use each individual card less frequently. “You’ll get better offers because they want you coming in the store more often,” says Weyman. You’ll also get double the big points offers on special promo days.
For instance, you may get a special offer that will give you 10,000 extra PC points if you buy $125 or more that week. Your partner may get a special offer that gives them an extra 10,000 points if you buy $100 or more. “You can then choose to use your spouse or partner’s better offer that week, or shop separately, stock up on what you need, and take advantage of both offers when you go to pay separately at the check-out,” he says.
3. Get the right credit card to boost points power
If you use one of the three credit cards PC offers, you’ll be able to earn extra points—with no annual credit card fee. The points values offered by the cards are based on income. For instance, the standard President’s Choice MasterCard offers 1% back wherever you shop and is geared to those earning about $40,000. The PC Financial World MasterCard offers a 2% points return on gas purchases at Esso stations, travel services at PC Travel and purchases from Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix and 1% in points everywhere else. To qualify you need a minimum annual personal income of $60,000. The PC Financial World Elite MasterCard offers a reward return of 3% for those with a minimum annual personal income of $80,000 or household income of $150,000. You’ll earn 3% on purchases done at the same stores as the PC Financial World MasterCard.
4. Look for juicy sign-up bonuses
Certain websites, including ratesupermarket.ca and creditcardgenius.ca, offer limited time offers for signing up for specific PC credit cards. For instance, in the month of January, if you activated your PC Financial MasterCard you’d get a $100 e-gift card. Look for these offers, especially throughout 2018 as Loblaw looks to beef up its number of cardholders. “Check at the beginning of each month,” says Stephen Weyman, the found of both HowToSaveMoney.ca and CreditCardGenius.ca. February could be an especially good month for offers since it’s the first month of the PC Optimum program, he says.
5. Shop smart
Come Feb. 1 you get to retain the full value of the points in your Shoppers account and after that time, all Shoppers purchases with the PC Optimum program will get a straight 1.5% in points on every purchase. “The biggest advantage of the new card is the ability to earn big points at Shoppers and Beauty Boutique and spend them at Loblaw and affiliated stores,” says Sojka. Because Shoppers has special points days and other offers throughout the year, you can now earn big points at the drugstore and then spend those points at any Loblaw-affiliated stores. For instance, buying pricier toiletries at Shoppers could help you eventually subsidize your grocery bill. Alternatively, buying groceries at Loblaw-owned stores could help you collect enough points to subsidize the purchase of electronics like cameras and gaming consoles from Shoppers.
6. Focus spending to maximize points
Pay for everything on your PC MasterCard by automating your cell phone bills, the kids’ daycare and home and car insurance right on the card so you get the points automatically. Now that Costco accepts MasterCard, you can pay for your items there with the PC credit card as well. If you buy PC Home/Car insurance, you’ll get extra points as you will if you shop for your travel on their pctravel.ca site. If you live near an Esso, or a Superstore with a gas station attached, you can fill up your car there. What does that mean for your bottom line? If you do your grocery shopping at Loblaw-owned companies, use their PC MasterCard points, download their weekly email offers, and also take advantage of bonus points days (see next point), you can save up to 5% combined.
7. Stack your offers
Look for Shoppers Drug Mart special bonus optimum points days and redemption days which allow you extra bonus points if you shop that day. (Quick! If you qualify, shop on Seniors Day—Feb. 1— at Shoppers Drug Mart to get the extra 10% discount.) Then use those points to buy stuff at Loblaws and affiliated stores, specifically on their sale items for the week. “These are days throughout the year where you will even get extra points for redeeming the points you have already accumulated,” says Sojka. “Shoppers Drug Mart has several of them throughout the year and certain companies do this to clear up the points from their accounting books.”
This post is part of Spend It Better, a collaboration between Chatelaine and MoneySense about how to get the most for your money. You can find out more right here.