Enjoy a ‘Free’ Birthday: Making the Most of Rewards Clubs

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

This year, I spoiled myself with the following treats the week of my birthday:

  • a Starbucks caramel machiatto
  • a Jamba Juice smoothie
  • a free entree at a local Italian restaurant

Although I certainly enjoyed the treats, the best part was that they were completely free. I used to avoid signing up for reward or loyalty memberships because I don’t shop enough to ‘earn’ cash back, discounts, or freebies. The difference with birthdays is that you don’t have to earn anything — you just have to be born! After the treats I’ve enjoyed for free the last few years, I’m convinced that free-to-join rewards clubs are completely worth the hassle of scrolling through a few more pieces of junk email.

Loyalty Doesn’t Always Require Loyalty

Many chain-loyal coffee drinkers are aware of Starbucks’ and other coffee shops’ rewards clubs that offer free items after a certain number of purchases, in addition to birthday freebies. It only makes sense to join the reward clubs of restaurants and stores you frequent, because eventually your shopping habits will pay off. In this case, loyalty is certainly rewarded, but you don’t have to be a loyal customer to join a loyalty club and cash in on those free birthday treats. I’ve honestly only been to Jamba Juice about three times in my life, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the free smoothie they offered me.

Loyalty and rewards clubs are designed to keep customers coming back, hoping to earn those freebies. The companies calculated that many customers pay more in sales revenue than the company loses to occasional discounts and freebies. That’s the general population as a whole though. If you can practice self-discipline with your spending habits, you can take still take advantage of free birthday offers without falling for this trap.

What About Fee-Based Clubs?

Although many rewards clubs only require members to join their mailing list, some require a small one-time or yearly membership fee (examples include GNC’s Gold Card and Body Shop’s “Love Your Body” memberships). In this case, it’s wise to determine whether your total yearly savings will more than make up for the membership fee — usually depending on how often you shop there and how deep their discounts are. If you’re just interested in a birthday treat once a year, the cost of membership might not be worth the benefits.

Where to Find Them

If you’re curious about which restaurants and retailers offer birthday freebies with their rewards programs, there are literally hundreds nationwide. Simply Google ‘free birthday stuff’ and you’ll have dozens of sites to check out for the latest listings with accompanying stipulations. Some rewards clubs offer entire free entrees, while others offer free desserts, appetizers, drinks, or specific menu items. Still others offer ‘buy one, get one,’ or a certain percentage off your total purchase.

Your Rewards Strategy

To get ready for your next birthday, I recommend initially signing up with the venues featured in your area (or ones you’d be willing to travel for), adding others as you discover them throughout the year. Also:

  • Check to make sure the companies’ emails aren’t filtered out as spam, and clean your inbox regularly to avoid getting overwhelmed or accidentally deleting your birthday offers.
  • Pay attention to when offers expire so you don’t lose your freebies — some clubs allow you the entire month to redeem it, while others restrict their offer to a few days.

If you plan well, you may be able to enjoy a month-long marathon of free treats! That’s my goal.

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