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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Do Shareholders Still Get Perks from Companies?

Aug 24, 2015

Q: Are there still stocks that give shareholders perks — for instance, discounts to Disney World for Walt Disney stock owners? — Melissa, San Antonio

A: There are, “but they are fewer and far between these days,” says Mariann Montagne, a chartered financial analyst with Gradient Investments in Arden Hills, Minn. “I remember a time when the annual report for McDonald’s or Starbucks contained a gift card,” she says. “But those days are gone.”

Many companies, she says, concluded that it was too costly and cumbersome to handle these requests, especially now that so many shareholders own their stock through brokerage accounts. “It’s different than it was when people had actual stock certificates,” she says.

Walt Disney no longer gives shareholders discounts to its U.S. theme parks, and earlier this year Euro Disney suspended issuing new memberships to its Shareholders Club. Existing members are still privy to discounts on passes, dining, merchandise and more at Disneyland Paris.

While there are still some holdovers, perks typically don’t kick in unless you own at least 100 shares, and shareholders need to provide proof of ownership to claim their perks.

The major cruise lines, including Carnival Corporation , Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings , and Royal Caribbean all offer on-board certificates to qualified shareholders.

For all three companies, the perk is worth $50 on short cruises and $250 for two-week cruises. At today’s valuations, says Montagne, best to pass on the stock, even with the freebie. “Cruise lines have been riding high because of low fuel prices, but they are looking fairly valued,” she says. “We would not be buyers.”

Berkshire Hathaway shareholders who attend the company’s famous shareholder meeting in Omaha each year can pick up giveaway and discounts on products from Berkshire-owned companies.

But Berkshire shareholders typically aren’t in it for the breaks on Geico insurance or samples of See’s Candies, says Montagne. The biggest perk may be going to the meeting and “breathing the same air as Warren Buffett,” she quips.

Investors who have owned at least 100 shares in Ford Motor Co. for a minimum of six months can participate in the company’s X-Plan, which they can use to buy Ford autos at discounted prices. Caveat: “It excludes some of the more popular cars and trucks,” says Montagne.

But if you’re in the market for a Ford, she says, the deal could yield several hundred dollars in savings. “We also like Ford as an investment,” she says.

Even so, investors shouldn’t let the promise of a deal drive their investment decisions. Ever.

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