Loyalty Cards: Savings & Benefits
This page contains some of my own experiences and opinions; if you're considering joining a loyalty program you should check the details first and make sure it's the right choice for you!
As mentioned on the Finnish Retailers page, just 3 large groups operate a substantial part of the Finnish retail sector. Almost all the shops on that page are operated by, or operating in cooperation with one of these groups; they are the Kesko Corporation, a listed company which develops, owns and manages its stores, and S-Group and Tradeka Group, which are both cooperatives.
Kesko, S-Group and Tradeka provide a staggering array of products and services, including department stores, supermarkets, hardware & home improvements, furniture, interior decoration, electronics & appliances, shoes, sports, hotels, spas, restaurants, service stations, car & motorcycle dealerships, amusement parks, boat sales... puff, puff... magazine subscriptions, car rentals, films, electricity, insurance, mobile telephone services, dentists, pharmacies, funeral services, travel... puff... tractor sales, agricultural equipment! The list goes on. It's not only Finnish brands, either; the American car rental company Hertz, for example, operates in partnership with S-Group.
The point is that these groups operate in so many fields, you'll surely be spending a fair share of your money at their shops and outlets.
Each of the groups offers 'loyalty cards', or 'customer reward systems', for their customers; Kesko has the K-Plussa-kortti, S-Group has the S-etukortti, and Tradeka has been involved in the creation of YkkösBonus-kortti. Lots of Finns have all three. During my research on this page I have seen a few estimates by people who were wondering for themselves if the systems really save money; they calculated they were saving €300-€450 per year. For myself, living alone with no car, I estimate I'm saving about €200-€250 per year. It would be a lot more if I had to buy petrol.
Each system offers various services and benefits, which you can see if you visit the sites listed below. Depending on your spending habits, being a cardholder can be very beneficial in terms of savings. Even at the most basic level, like me, using a Plussa-kortti at the supermarket for a few groceries each week will save you a packet each year because being a cardholder entitles you to buy the products on special at the discount price, whereas non-cardholders must pay the regular price. I often buy my 'regular' products without realising they're on sale, then swipe my card at the checkout and BING! €4 off.
Additionally, I receive vouchers through the mail occasionally which I can use like cash in the supermarket and participating stores. It's not just supermarkets; the Plussa card for example works in some department stores, so if I buy a TV or something substantial there, the value of the vouchers next time is substantial too. You'll save your joining fee in no time! There are other benefits to being a member of these programs, such as other forms of discounts, and special offers at certain restaurants and hotels. I haven't taken the time to find out what all the benefits are and I don't use my cards to full advantage, but to me the value of the systems is evident in the figures:
- There are 3.6 million K-Plussa-kortti cardholders in Finland
- Only 7% of Finnish consumers don´t own any kind of bonus card
- 40% of consumers own at least three cards
- Figures: Mikko Salovaara; Comparison of Reward Systems in Finnish Retail Industry, 2010
If you've been in Finland long enough to know Finns at all, you know they wouldn't have all these cards if there was no point to it!
Each system can be joined online or at a participating store or office.
- K-Plussa: Joining fee €8.40 www.plussa.com
- YkkösBonus: Free for customer and household members www.ykkosbonus.com
- S-etukortti: Joining makes you a 'customer owner' in the cooperative; you must pay a participation share to join, which is refundable if you ever give up your membership. There are four kinds of card you can choose; a Basic card with no payment features, or three different cards with payment features; using these cards for payment attracts further benefits www.s-kanava.fi
- Finnish Consumer Authority > Marketing and advertising > Sales and special offers > Customer loyalty programmes : The Finnish Consumer Agency has information on consumer rights, consumer protection, and privacy En, Fi, Sw, Sa