The inside scoop on membership

10 Tools to Get the Best Deal on Membership Programs

by Laura Foor

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Membership programs were created to keep you coming back to a particular place over and over again. The reason so many places offer a variety of membership programs these days is because they want your loyalty. Fortunately, we have the option of choosing who we want to give our business to, and companies know it. They know that when you have a membership card, you're much more apt to give your business to that particular company.

Who Offers Membership Programs?

Almost every company is offering some kind of membership program for their customers nowadays. Some of the more popular membership programs include your local gym, food stores (i.e. co-ops, Costco), AAA, book clubs, CVS/Walgreens, Starbucks, car rental services, National Park Service, PTA, YMCA, and Airlines.

How Much Does a Membership Cost?

That depends on the membership program itself. For the most part, membership programs range from absolutely free to hundreds of dollars (annually). Some charge by the month, while others charge by the year. Although you probably won't get a lot of perks with free membership cards, they're a good reminder of your commitment to any particular company.

For the most part, you're paying a membership fee to help cover the time it takes to fill out the paperwork necessary for creating a new customer file. There's some psychology involved too, as having a membership card tends to make you feel special, like you're part of the club. And who doesn't want to be part of an exclusive club?

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10 Top Tips

It's important for you as a consumer to understand that you have the power. You can accept or reject any offer given to you, and they know it. This is why more and more businesses are willing to negotiate nowadays. So what's the first thing you need to need to do when looking for a great membership deal? Check online for special deals. For example, Costco occasionally offers potential new shoppers (more than $55 worth of) coupons to sign up for their $55 membership program.

The following top tips are going to help you save money when it comes to signing up for any membership program.

  1. Immediately put the employee on notice that you're looking for the absolute best deal possible. This way, they're going to know right away that you're on a budget and can accordingly offer you the best membership deals possible.
  2. If the employee doesn't offer a deal you like, nicely ask for the manager. Say you have special financial needs and want to make sure you're getting the absolute best deal you can get.
  3. Ask for a free trial. It may only be for two weeks or so, but this way you're able to determine whether or not the membership is going to work for you.
  4. Too many perks? See if some can be removed.
  5. If you have the cash, offer to pay upfront for a discount (of at least 20%).
  6. Do they offer any special discounts? Age? Military?
  7. Maybe your friends and family would like a membership, too? Ask if they have a multiple person discount.
  8. Are there certain times of the year when their best deals are offered? Most places offer promotions throughout the year, so simply ask for their best deal.
  9. Refuse, or offer to pay half of, any fees associated with setting up a new membership account.
  10. If you're up to it, begging works. Simply let them know how interested you are in getting the membership, but just can't afford it right now.

Good to Know

Because you want to make sure you're getting their absolute bottom line price, never take the first offer given. And be sure to make detailed notes, as this will be useful when it comes time for renewal. Lastly, keep close tabs on any new membership programs you decide to join, as you want to be sure you're using it to your full benefit. Otherwise, it is money wasted.

Reviewed July 2017

Laura Foor is a freelance writer who specializes in writing quality articles for online publication for 6+ years. Graduating from UCB with a degree in Environmental Sciences in 2009, she also works part time as a Farmers Market manager where she focuses on healthy food education.

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