While loyalty programs have traditionally been available from banks, retail and grocery stores, now such programs can be found for sports teams, internet providers and even not-for-profits.

Member engagement

The number of programs is increasing, but unfortunately many members don’t actually engage with their loyalty programs. Nearly a third of all loyalty program dollars sit unredeemed, so even though exciting new programs are out there, consumers need to make sure they will actually use a new program before signing up.

The number of programs is increasing, but unfortunately many members don’t actually engage with their loyalty programs. Nearly a third of all loyalty program dollars sit unredeemed.

One place where loyalty programs are exploding is in professional sports. Many sports teams are kicking off their own loyalty programs for season ticket holders and their biggest fans. For example,  NFL.com rolled out the NFL Fan Rewards program last year in which fans can earn virtual “coins” by engaging in certain online activities, such as watching videos and commenting. NFL Fan Rewards also features a leaderboard that lets fans compete for more coins.

Loyalty in unlikely places

Loyalty programs are big elsewhere online. AniMall’s Rescue Rewards, for example, lets pet owners earn points that then go to their favorite animal rescue group. Online programs are not limited to merchants, though. Microsoft has a rewards program that lets people earn rewards for searching with Bing, Microsoft’s search engine.

Be smart when signing up

Loyalty programs seem to be everywhere now, even at businesses that may not traditionally have had such benefits. If you have a favorite store, website or even sports team that you buy from frequently, then it may pay off to ask if they have a loyalty program. With one caveat: Don’t sign up for a program just because you can. It’s likely to end up as yet another unused card cluttering up your wallet. Instead, sign up for programs that you will actually use, and evaluate them using these criteria. Follow these tips to ensure that your next program is a useful addition to your wallet.