19 May, 2009

VIP/Loyalty Card Overload?

I've got perhaps a dozen or so of those loyalty program or membership cards that retail establishments give out. Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Office Depot, Best Buy, Jos. A. Banks, Brooks Brothers, Dick's Sporting Goods....the list goes on. And if I want the discounts or perks that go along with those programs, I need to present the cards whenever I make a purchase. That means, of course, that I've got to either carry them all with me OR remember to put the relevant card in my wallet before leaving. The first option leaves me with either a bulging wallet or an overloaded keyring and the second often leaves me without the discount (as I'll likely forget to take along the card). ARGH! What to do?

Lifehacker to the rescue! KeyRingThing provides a free web-based service whereby you can enter up to six of your membership/barcode numbers and it will allow you to download and print out ONE card with all of them on it. You can use that card just as it is, take it to your local Kinko's and have it laminated or for about $3, KeyRingThing will mail you a higher quality plastic credit-card-sized version. You could conceivably reduce 12 loyalty cards to 2 thus saving a great deal of wallet space (no version for keyrings, but you would ostensibly be removing 12 from your keyring and saving space there).

The website also provides a means of downloading the generated barcode for each program as an image to a cell or smartphone. That means that you should be able to simply use the image on your phone screen as you would the card so you wouldn't have to carry the card at all!

I think that's an even better option. I always carry my cellphone, so I would always have my loyalty/membership info with me. In fact, someone else thought of this as well:

CardStar (via Crave) is an application for the iPhone that allows you to enter the membership/barcode numbers of all of your cards and it will generate bar code images that can then be used in place of the cards. You can select from dozens of pre-loaded merchants and the company logo will appear as part of the display. If your merchant/company doesn't appear it's not a problem; you can simply enter the name and store the data under that. The app also provides a means of "fine-tuning" the displayed barcode image to ensure that the code displayed matches the one on the original card (as there are several different encoding methods actually in use). Normally the app sells for $0.99, but right now it's free at the iTunes store, so hurry out and download it if you're an iPhone user. Unfortunately, there currently isn't a version for Blackberry or any other smartphone, but the company is working on one so keep checking their website if you're interested.

I've downloaded this app and have entered several of my card numbers in it, but haven't yet had a chance to test it out so I've no idea how readable the image is to barcode scanners. It looks pretty clear to me on my screen, but those scanners can often seem pretty particular as to their requirements. I'll try to remember to post a follow-up after I've tried it out.

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