TODAY

TODAY   |  November 06, 2013

Which loyalty reward programs are worth buying into?

Americans have about 22 reward memberships per household, but which ones are actually worth keeping? ShopSmart magazine’s Lisa Lee shares her picks for the top rewards programs, which include Amazon and Target.

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>>> americans average about 22 memberships per household. and the folks at "shop smart" magazine put the programs to the test. lea lee freeman is the editor in chief. good to see you.

>> good morning, matt.

>> at their best, you love the programs. it doesn't mean you don't have to pay attention to the fine print.

>> absolutely. and if you're going to be signing up for the program and racking up lots of debt, obviously that is not going to help the credit score . you want to be very, you know, selective and only sign up for the cards -- for the stores you shop frequently.

>> we have a list at the loyalty programs. you like these. but let's talk about them. let's start with amazon.com amazon rewards. you get $50 just for signing up?

>> just for signing up. it's a real no-brainer. if you're a big fan and big shopper at amazon.com, you should sign up. they have a generous points program. for every dollar you spend, you get ted three points.

>> is there a catch?

>> the interest rate is up to 22%. and that is high. but again, you don't rack up points. you don't want to rack up debt on the cards. if you really do need to rack up -- or keep debt and can't pay off the card, get a card, can you get them as low as 11%. get another card.

>> let's move on to target. the red card program.

>> if you are huge fan of target, you need to sign up for this. absolutely. get 5% off your purchases, free shipping from target.com and extra 30 days to returns and an extra bonus is if you sign up for the school program, they'll donate up to 1% of your purchases to a local school.

>> all right. let's move on to the gap. you and i were talking about this one beforehand. you like this one a lot.

>> this is one of my favorite programs. 10% off on every tuesday. so if you can shop on tuesdays, you're in luck.

>> where do i use the coupons i get?

>> the coupons actually you get -- you can get $10 reward certificates for every 1,000 points. the beauty is you can rack up points at all of their five affiliated companies, gap, old navy, banana, piperline.com. if you spend up to $800 and you're a banana republic card holder , you can get free alterations. you get free shipping and a personal sale day 15% off whenever you want.

>> i'm going to move on to macy's here and their star rewards program . the thing that jumped out at me, when you're a member of this program, you get to return items up to two years without a receipt?

>> that's right. a lot of people who have the macy's card may not know this. that's a great perk. i mean you say i don't like that bag. after a year you take it back. you don't even need the receipt.

>> okay. what else do you like about that?

>> when you sign up, you get a couple days, 15% off and lots and lots of coupons.

>> all right. j.c. penny , pretty simple perks on this one.

>> the nice thing about j.c. penny , you don't have to sign up for a credit card . all the others you have to sign up for a credit card . you get $10 for every $100 you spend in a calendar month. that is generous. it does reset to zero every month. it is capped to $10.

>> okay. and last but not least, best buy 's rewards zone. you recommend this especially if you're in the market for big ticket electronic items.

>> yes.

>> if you're planning to do a big blowout shop at best buy , you want that flat screen tv and spending $ 1500 , they have a new program. the program was recently revamped. if you spend that amount, you get free shipping and access to free special events. so, for example, you can get early access to the door buster deals. and other special events. so it's really worth it.

>> again, 22 the average family has 22 of these memberships.

>> again, with best buy , remember, they have -- their interest rate is 28%. so, again, don't put stuff on the card and rack up debt. use it, pay it off every month and you're in great shape.

>> lisa lee, thank you very