Rewards Programs

I tend to avoid rewards programs. You know them, the kind that offer you points for spending money.

The reason is that rewards programs are designed to subtly change our behavior in ways that we don’t notice, and I am always trying to be more intentional in how I spend my money.

Rewards may seem worthwhile on the surface, providing cash back or points for things you’re already doing. Get some points for coming in and spending money, and once you have enough of them you can get something for free! It seems like a no-brainer if you’re already shopping there.

Yet these little incentives alter our decisions, making it just a little more likely that we’ll stop and spend some money when we don’t really want or need to. And of course, that’s their purpose: to get us to spend more.

It’s easy to think that we’re immune to this, but I think it’s difficult to not be affected.

This isn’t just rewards programs, though. Advertising emails from stores often make us think about buying things we otherwise wouldn’t, and probably don’t need. Triple points on our credit cards might make us spend a little bit more at the store. And so on.

That’s why I generally opt out of these programs. I think it’s a better thing when we can be more aware of our decision-making processes. And I don’t want to be any more influenced by these subtle forces than I already am.