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PC Optimum is a strong contender for the customer loyalty plan with the most customer loyalty.

I asked newsletter readers recently which customer loyalty plan does the best job of helping them offset effect of inflation on their household spending. As an example, I cited an $87 purchase at Shoppers Drug Mart that ended up costing $17 after I used a bunch of PC Optimum points.

Roughly 80 people responded by e-mail and close to half of them mentioned PC Optimum as their favourite customer loyalty program, or one that they used. Air Miles was also mentioned a lot, as was the Canadian Tire’ Triangle Rewards. But PC Optimum, offered at Loblaws grocery stores and Esso gas stations as well as at Shoppers, emerged as the favourite.

One reader said he has collected Canadian Tire money since the 1950s and also uses Air Miles and Aeroplan. “However the PC Optimum program leaves all of the above in the dust,” he wrote by e-mail. “There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t get at least $20 off my grocery bill just by buying things that I need.”

I also heard from some skeptics about PC Optimum and other loyalty programs. Their message was that prices may be higher at stores offering reward points, which means you’re financing your own rewards. “One thing that bugs me is that a lot of the products at Shoppers are cheaper on Amazon,” one reader wrote. “So am I really getting something free/cheaper with the points or did I just spend more all year?”

I find that Shoppers often has stuff I need on sale. And readers report all kinds of tricks for squeezing extra value out of their PC Optimum points. Here are three recent posts from personal finance bloggers on this topic:

-Creditcardgenius: Your genius guide to maximizing PC Points

-Money We Have: PC Optimum points guide

-Savvy New Canadians: Seven Ways to maximize your PC Optimum points

A few other helpful suggestions from readers:

-Check out Flipp and Reebee, apps that help you find the best deals on the groceries you need.

-PetroCanada’s Petro Points program helps cut the cost of gasoline, which seems to be getting more expensive by the day

-Cashback credit cards can also be a help – Here’s a recent list of top cashback cards with and without annual fees.

One final point is that Aeroplan generated some positive comments, even if it’s a travel rewards program. “I ‘d like to praise Aeroplan today,” one reader wrote. “It’s been improved since Air Canada took over.”


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Rob’s personal finance reading list

The very, very small apartment

A look at a Toronto man’s 184-square-foot apartment, with rent at $700. How do people survive in a city with high rents and house prices? Here’s one answer. Now for some thoughts on buying a tiny house versus a condo.

A retirement readiness checklist

A list of financial matters to attend to if you’re one to five years away from retirement.

How to invest in real estate if you can’t afford a house

A look at investing apps that allow people to buy fractional shares of residential and commercial properties. Some helpful comments from a financial planner. Here’s a column I wrote on these new investment vehicles: The millennial and Gen Z dream of home ownership is being exploited in ways that just make houses more expensive.

Canadian dividend kings

Worth a look if you’re in the market for blue chip companies that regularly increase their dividends. There is no better inflation hedge than a stock with a strong record of increasing its dividends every year.


Q&A

Q: Is it better to pay my annual municipal taxes on my own or have my bank pay them and add the tax portion to my mortgage payment?

A: I prefer to handle my own property tax payments. I put one-twelfth of our property tax bill into a high-rate savings account each month and then pay our property taxes as billed. In Ottawa, that’s twice- annually. I decide exactly when to pay, and an – OK, small – amount of interest is made on the money while it accumulates. The bank option does take one thing off the list of personal finance details in your life.

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

Scam alert: The Ontario Securities Commission’s GetSmarterAboutMoney website reports on fraudsters using fake dating profiles to lure victims.


The Money-Free Zone

One of my long-time faves. If I Had a Hammer, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. More like Mary, Peter and Paul for this one.


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