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The customer loyalty programs that deliver the most value are the ones that let you build points by just going about your daily life. That’s why PC Optimum is so popular. Buy groceries and drugstore items, earn points.

I have a PC Optimum card, and it consistently delivers pleasant surprises. It seems like every time I bother to check my points total, it’s substantial enough to generate a discount on my next purchase at a Shoppers Drug Mart or a Loblaw grocery store.

But after reading this blog post on maximizing PC Optimum, I realize I’m an amateur at earning points. One good suggestion I hadn’t heard before is to link different accounts into a single family account.

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Now for a perspective on PC Optimum that you may not have considered. When I attended Camp Mustache last summer (a gather of frugal-minded people aiming for financial independence), I met someone who told me he regards his hoard of PC Optimum points as a sort of family emergency fund. In a pinch, they have most of their household spending covered for a while.

This makes a lot of sense, but I’d be cautious about hanging onto loyalty points of any kind for extended periods. If you do this, you’re vulnerable to rule changes that devalue your points or force you to use them up quickly to avoid expiry.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Track all your investment accounts in one place

A Q&A with the CEO and founder of Wealthica, a website that allows you to see all your investment accounts in one place. Security is discussed, as it has to be for any online service of this type.

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The latest must-have kitchen feature

All about how the island has become a must-have feature in kitchens. People who already have islands are upgrading them. “Used for more than just meal prep, the kitchen island serves as a gathering spot in the home, used for dining, entertaining and socializing.” It’s easy to scoff at stuff like this, but if you’re selling a home, you can be sure buyers will want an island.

How to withdraw money from your pension

Veteran financial blogger Jim Yih on how to unlock money you had transferred from the pension plan of a previous employer to a locked-in retirement account, or LIRA. It’s difficult to get money out of a LIRA, as it should be. But there are some options.

The average new vehicle price is HOW much?

According to the autoTRADER.ca Price Index, the average new-vehicle price came in at $40,386 in December. Ouch.

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Ask Rob

Q: I am a novice DIY investor. I have had shares in a global dividend mutual for some time now. When checking Morningstar, it shows performance of 20 per cent last year. Based on my simple math, I am receiving only 4 per cent in new dividends. Am I missing something here?

A: You’re seeing total returns for your fund, which is the combination of changes in the share price plus dividends. Mutual fund and exchange-traded funds are generally published on a total-return basis.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

For RRIF holders, here’s a calculator that will let you set a withdrawal amount and then show how long your money will last.

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