Maybe it’s not that big a deal. It is money we would be spending anyway but now we have incentives to spend more and maybe get some back.

Let’s play a little game. Take out your wallet or purse and open it. Count how many reward and loyalty cards you have in there. Collectively at the Afropolitan we have over 100 between the staff but we couldn’t tell you how they all work. All we know is that each time we swipe, after having laid down cold hard cash for goods, we are rewarded with points.

Points. The mysterious currency that replaces money and promises to lead to free stuff – or discounted stuff if your retailer is especially stingy. Points can be converted into money and in turn used to make more purchases. However, the money it takes to get those points is not even close to the money you get once you have converted your points. How many points have you accumulated this past year? How many points could you have made elsewhere?


How many points must you accumulate to actually get a worthwhile loyalty “reward”?

All the big banks in South Africa currently have reward programmes in one form or another. They range from points to discounts, money back or a mix all three. The rewards seem great: users can pay for flights, weekend getaways, buy gadgets or donate to causes close to their hearts. Banking rewards require a transactions account (debit, credit or cheque accounts) and, some, an opt-in and annual fee.

Cash Rewards (Absa)

What it is

Absa has differentiated its reward programme in a big way: customers earn not points but cash.They reward fuel spend, giving all Cash Rewards members 5% back, regardless of their tier, of all money spent filling up and making purchases at Sasol. The annual fee for cash rewards is R252.

The nitty-gritty: Tier one receives 0.25%, tier two receives 0.5% and tier three receives 1%. The rankings are determined by the number of Absa products each customer uses. Customers are only rewarded on the first R200 000 spent in retail and R3 000 spent at Sasol for each month’s accrual period.

Ineligible spend: EFTs, fees and charges, travellers’ cheques, foreign exchange, cash withdrawals and gambling.

eBucks (FNB RMB Private Bank)

What it is

The most famous banking reward scheme has to be eBucks. They are so ubiquitous, it’s hard to find a local online store that doesn’t accept them as form of payment. The rewards are earned through using your cheque, wealth, premier, smart cheque account or related credit cards.

The nitty-gritty: Customers can earn between 0.3% and 15% on everything ranging from transport (fueland Uber) to retail purchases. eBucks have a wide range of partners where customers can spend their points. 10 ebucks convert to R1 It’s free to join but a R200 fee is payable to connect your credit card.

Ineligible spend: Electronic funds transfers, gambling, foreign exchange purchases, travellers’ cheques and more.

Greenbacks (Nedbank)

What it is

The Greenback rewards programme allows members to connect up to 10 credit and cheque accounts. All the accounts are linked to a Nedbank Greenbacks shop card and converted to cash. You can then use your Shop Card to spend online or instore at any merchant that accepts American Express.

The nitty-gritty: For every R5 spent on eligible purchases and payments, customers earn 1 Greenback. When exchanging the points, 25 greenbacks earn R1. If your account is unused for over a period of six months it is cancelled and all Greenbacks lost. It costs R179 yearly.

Ineligible spend: Withdrawals, insurance premiums, buying fuel, travellers’ cheques.

UCount (Standard Bank)

What it is

Once again, customers collect reward points. When they spend using their Standard Bank personal debit card, cheque account and (or) credit card. You can collect up to 20% back in reward points on all your qualifying grocery purchases, up to R2 back in rewards points per litre of fuel purchased from participating Caltex forecourts and up to 1.25% back in rewards points on all your other purchases.

The nitty-gritty: It costs a R240 annual fee to join the programme. Ten points earned can be redeemed for R1. Customers earn between 1.5% and 10% at partner retailers and R1 per litre of fuel bought at Caltex.

Ineligible spend: Gambling, electronic funds transfers, inter-account transfers and payments, cash withdrawals, foreign exchange purchases, fuel purchases not made at Caltex and toll gates.


During the early part of the year, Pick n Pay started a promotion where customers who spent a certain amount would receive a collectable toy. Quickly, Stikeez became popular with children and adults alike clamouring for them and trying to see which they had not yet gotten In total, there are 24 characters made in the image of monsters, farm, jungle and sea animals. It would take R3 600 of spend to collect them all. The collectable toy is minuscule, it’s also badly designed (the suction is too small for it to stand successfully)  and is arguably hardly reward enough for the money customers were spending to receive one. Which begs the question: is the reward in the value of the returns or is it in the discount or freebie?

Clicks Club card

The Clicks club card is a rewards system that works on a cycle. Every two months customers have a chance to accumulate points, which get redeemed to cash back should they customer have accumulated 100 points or more within the two-month period. The cashback money is put on the card and customers can use it to shop/pay for part of a purchase.

The nitty-gritty: All points are carried over to the next qualifying period until customers reach the 100 points stage. When customers do not (or swipe their club card) in 24 months, their points expire.

Smart Shopper

With Smart Shopper, Pick n Pay customers accumulate points with every swipe of their Smart Shopper card at the checkout point. There are also items that yield double points. When the card has collated over 500 points, the points can be transferred into cash. Smart Shopper card holders receive up to 10% off on selected items.

The nitty-gritty: For every rand spent, customers get one point. One thousand points can be redeemed for R10 to spend or donate.

When you have signed up, and paid opt-in fees where required, the onus is still on you as the customer to remember to carry your loyalty card and produce it wherever applicable.

Maybe it’s not that big a deal. It is money we would be spending anyway but now we have incentives to spend more and maybe get some back. All we know is having three cards in our wallet is better than waiting for and clipping coupons.

Did you know?

  • In most instances, customers save more when they have loyalty cards that interlink
  • There were said to be just over 8-million Smart Shopper card holders in 2014
  • There are over a hundred big loyalty and reward schemes in South Africa
  • All the major banks with loyalty programmes run online shopping destinations for customers to use their points