MONEY Shopping

8 Retail Loyalty Programs With Big Rewards

Retail And Tourism In Southern France As Economy Accelerates
Bloomberg via Getty Images s

Just be careful not to overspend for the sake of getting rewards.

Are there certain retailers you frequent more often than you’d like to admit? Many retailers have loyalty programs that can be pretty rewarding, especially for those who shop on a regular basis.

First, a quick explainer on loyalty programs vs. store credit cards. There are retailer-specific rewards credit cards that can help shoppers earn bonuses for brand loyalty as well, but they may carry higher interest rates than the average credit card and they’ll likely require a credit check. Loyalty programs are mostly free (though some on our list do charge a fee) and they’re not a line of credit, even though they will reward you for shopping at the store.

A word of caution, though: While it’s good to get discounts and perks for what you do spend, be careful not to overspend for the sake of getting rewards. If you get into debt, what you end up paying in finance charges may outweigh the goodies you get for being such a good customer.

That said, membership does have its rewards. Here are eight awesome loyalty programs that can really pay.

1. Starbucks

My Starbucks Rewards

How it works: Coffee addicts earn Stars by paying with their registered Starbucks, Teavana, or La Boulange Card or by using the mobile app. Select Starbucks products sold at grocery stores can also earn Stars.

What you get: Free drinks, free food, custom offers on items and early peeks at new products.

Bonus: App users receive a free featured iTunes song weekly.

2. Regal Entertainment Group

Regal Crown Club

How it works: Film buffs earn credits for tickets and concession purchases.

What you get: Free popcorn, free drinks and, of course, movie tickets.

Bonus: Members-only sneak previews of upcoming films.

3. Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale’s Loyallist

How it works: Members earn points for every dollar they spend, be it online, in-store or at outlets. Cosmetics and fragrances earn double points.

What you get: Free shipping every day—no minimum purchase required.

Bonus: A $25 gift card every time you reach 5,000 points.

4. Sephora

Sephora Beauty Insider

How it works: Every dollar spent is a point toward rewards.

What you get: Beauty swag worth 100 and 500 points, seasonal promotions and free beauty classes. Spend $350 to unlock VIB status, and $1,000 for VIB Rouge.

Bonus: Free birthday gifts that you’ll actually love, such as Satin Lip Pencils from Nars.

5. REI

REI Member Benefits

How it works: Pay a one-time fee of $20 to enroll.

What you get: A bevy of deals, in-store discounts, and 10% back on full-price items, thanks to REI’s member dividend.

Bonus: Discounts on ski lift tickets at select resorts, plus bike and ski shop services.

6. Walgreens

Walgreens Balance Rewards

How it works: Members rack up 10 points for every dollar they spend on most items.

What you get: $5 for 5,000 points, $10 for 10,000 points, and so on – to redeem on your next purchase.

Bonus: AARP members can link their cards for more rewards, namely, 100 points for prescription refills and 50 points per dollar spent on Walgreens brand health and wellness products.

7. Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble Membership

How it works: Pay an annual fee of $25.

What you get: Free one- to three-day shipping; 10% off most items, 40% off Barnes & Noble Store Bestsellers.

Bonus: 10% off Starbucks café purchases.

8. Safeway

Safeway Club

How it works: Scan the free card with every purchase.

What you get: Automatic savings online or in-store. Forgot your card? Just enter your phone number.

Bonus: Save on Safeway gasoline at participating stores.

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MONEY Shopping

Don’t Pay the Pink Tax! 6 Men’s Products Women Should Buy Instead

Don Nichols—Getty Images

Products targeted at women tend to cost more than similar ones for men.

If you’re not already frustrated about the “pink tax,” you’re about to be: As the New York Times recently revealed, women pay a premium every time they shop—often without realizing it. From personal care to clothes to dry cleaning services, products targeted at women tend to cost more than similar ones for men, even when the items in question are made from identical materials.

In a viral YouTube video, Mic’s Liz Plank estimates that this gendered pricing costs the average woman a whopping $100,000 in her lifetime (um, yikes). Willing to forego pink packaging and floral fragrances? Start purchasing these six items from the men’s aisle now to save big:

1. Razors. Multiple ALL YOU editors swear by this one. Instead of buying a Schick women’s “Hydro” razor for $12.79, buy the same Schick product targeted at men for $11.99. Or better yet, start subscribing to Dollar Shave Club: the most basic subscription will give you five blades a month for just $.60 each.

2. Deodorant. Degree Women’s Ultra Clear Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $5.35 ($2.06 per oz.) on, while Degree Men’s Invisible Solid Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $4.85 ($1.80 per oz.) on the same site. The same applies for clinical strength products: Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $4.73 an oz., whereas Gillette’s clinical strength deodorant costs $4.58 an oz. (Both Secret and Gillette are owned by the same parent company, P&G, and contain nearly identical active ingredients.)

3. White denim. As our brilliant style director Carole recently pointed out, if you’re looking for a pair of straight leg white jeans, you can save big by shopping in the men’s department. Carole recommends this pair of Levi’s 501 Fit Jeans ($47)—a steal compared to similar styles for women at LOFT ($59), Gap ($70) and J.Crew ($135).

4. Shaving cream. Just as with razors, you should stock up on cans of shaving cream from the men’s aisle: Gillette shaving cream targeted at men with dry skin costs $.49 an oz., compared to a similar Gillette product for women for $.51 an oz.

5. T-shirts. Box-cut tees are on trend right now (thanks, normcore!) but instead of shelling out extra for a women’s “boyfriend” style, head to the men’s department for inexpensive tees in solid colors like black, white and grey. I like the basic pocket tees from Old Navy’s men’s department, which cost just $12.94 compared to $16.94 for similar women’s styles. (If it’s slightly too baggy, throw it in the dryer the first time you wash it.)

6. Face cleansers. Skincare lines targeted at men are often cheaper than their same-brand counterparts for women. Neutrogena Invigorating Face Wash for men costs $1.06 an oz., compared to a similar Neutrogena Invigorating product for women that costs $1.66 an oz.

This article originally appeared on ALL YOU.

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MONEY Shopping

How Walmart Beat Amazon on Prime Day

Somehow, Amazon came out looking worse than Walmart.

Over the years, many of the same criticisms of Walmart have been leveled at Amazon: It’s ruthless with suppliers, working conditions are horrible for employees, its size and relentless focus on low prices are bad for Main Street mom-and-pop businesses, and so on.

Yet in one very important way, the world’s largest e-retailer has remained head and shoulders above the world’s largest retailer. Essentially, consumers have said the Amazon shopping experience is just plain better than Walmart’s. In fact, Amazon arguably offers the best shopping experience, period. Consumer research from the likes of The Reputation Institute and Foresee put Amazon at the top of the pack in terms of customer satisfaction.

Then along came Prime Day. Held on July 15 to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary, Amazon hyped it as a summertime Black Friday, with countless deals rolling out through the day. By some accounts, it was a huge success: Amazon sales were up 80% in the U.S., and Amazon said that the rate of sales orders during parts of Prime Day eclipsed Black Friday.

“Customers worldwide ordered an astonishing 398 items per second and saved millions on Prime Day deals. Worldwide order growth increased 266% over the same day last year and 18% more than Black Friday 2014 – all in an event exclusively available to Prime members,” Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime, said in a press release. “Going into this, we weren’t sure whether Prime Day would be a one-time thing or if it would become an annual event. After yesterday’s results, we’ll definitely be doing this again.”

Yet while many shoppers bit, many others came away feeling bitter, perhaps even betrayed. Instead of finding amazing prices on items they truly wanted, shoppers bashed Prime Day on social media because Amazon failed to deliver on the hype. If Prime Day wasn’t being described as a “crappy yard sale” overloaded with bizarre, random items, then observers were saying that the majority of the deals were underwhelming in terms of price. Still others complained out of frustration that the deals they actually did want disappeared before they had the chance to buy because quantities were so limited. And even before Prime Day arrived, there were grumbles because the sales were available only for subscribers to Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime service, not all shoppers.

Remember, Amazon generally stands out among retailers for its superior customer experience. That experience includes low prices, but also more transparency and fewer tricks, always with a focus on doing right by the customer.

In light of all of the above, it feels like some line was crossed on Prime Day. For many consumers, Prime Day clearly demonstrated that Amazon is just as capable as the J.C. Penneys, dollar stores, and Walmarts of the world of trying to dupe shoppers with gimmicks and hype. Rather than focusing on delivering the best customer experience possible, Amazon built up Prime Day in order to jack up all-important Prime memberships and attempt to quickly unload tons of merchandise, regardless of the bad long-term taste it left behind and the trust sacrificed in the process.

By most accounts, the deals offered by Walmart as a counteroffensive to Prime Day were just as hit-or-miss as Amazon’s, with a few truly great bargains mixed in with a whole lot of meh. Matthew Kirkwood of the deal-tracking site Ben’s Bargains said via email, “Amazon Prime Day was a bad deal for consumers,” because Amazon has offered better prices in the recent past on items like the Amazon Echo and Fire TV Stick than it did on Prime Day. At the same time, though, Kirkwood put “anyone who avoided Walmart’s deals” in the category of winner on Prime Day—because the deals just weren’t that good either.

So why might Amazon still come out of Prime Day looking worse than Walmart? For one thing, Prime Day was Amazon’s baby, so it should bear most of the blame if shoppers feel it was a bust. For another, it’s Amazon. Shoppers expect a lot more out of Amazon than we do out of Walmart—which after all is up there with McDonald’s as one of the most-bashed brands on the planet.

Normally, social media pours on the praise when retailers host big sales. Yet according to Brandwatch, there were nearly as many negative social media mentions of Prime Day as there were positive: 41,000 vs. 47,000. “A split this close is rare,” Brandwatch’s Kellan Terry said via email. “The majority of the time, positive mentions severely outnumber negative mentions.” Meanwhile, Walmart received 34,000 social media mentions, and “many negatively categorized tweets are actually referring to Prime Day with Walmart as a better alternative.”

Finally, Walmart comes out the winner (or non-loser) from the consumer point of view because even if its “Rollback” deals weren’t amazing, at least they didn’t disappear in 10 minutes, or even 24 hours. “Our prices aren’t over after just one day,” a spokesperson told AdAge. “These rollbacks will be available for up to 90 days while supplies last.”

MONEY Shopping

5 Things You Can Try Before You Buy

JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Airbnb lets potential homebuyers rent the house they are considering buying.

Pretty much anyone can go to a store to try on clothes or drive to an auto dealer to test drive a car — trying things out is a routine part of making purchases. It’s just not that enjoyable. Sometimes, trying things out is a hassle or isn’t enough to help you make a confident buying decision, but most people accept it as one of life’s little annoyances.

From filling out your wardrobe to deciding on big-ticket purchases, there are more and more options for consumers to conveniently and confidently spend money. Here are some examples of things that don’t have to be terrible to shop for, thanks to some creative business people.

1. Cars

Many car rental companies sell their vehicles to consumers, and renting the same make and model you’re considering buying is a good strategy for finding out if you really like it — it’ll give you a bit more time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle than a traditional test drive.

Hertz has a program — called Rent2Buy, available in some parts of the country — that allows you to purchase the exact car you rent. You pick up the car for a three-day trial period, and if you decide to not buy it, you just pay for the rental expense.

2. Houses

As we previously reported, Airbnb started a program with in which potential homebuyers can rent homes they’re considering purchasing. You pay for the Airbnb cost, of course, but you actually get to live in the home and test out the feel of the neighborhood before you commit to a massive loan and the next several years (or decades) in one place.

3. Eyewear

Glasses are one of those items you need to try on to be certain they look right, which can make them tricky to order online. Warby Parker is one of the better-known online retailers of eyewear, and they will ship you five pairs to try on, for free. That’s better than buying several pairs and returning the ones you don’t like, plus, their frames tend to be less expensive than those sold at an eye doctor’s office or bricks-and-mortar specialty eyewear store (Warby Parker does have a few stores).

If you need adjustments, however, you will likely have to leave your house to have them fitted at an eyewear store. Otherwise, you can do this whole glasses-shopping thing from the comfort of your couch.

4. Clothes

There are some services in which you can have a stylist shop for you and deliver selections to your door. There’s one called Trunk Club for men and another called Stitch Fix for women. Shipping is free (Stitch Fix has a stylist fee that can be applied to a final order, while Trunk Club’s website says there are no membership fees), and you pay for only what you keep.

5. Household Appliances

Pirch sells indoor and outdoor home appliances, but the showrooms are interactive, allowing customers to base their bathroom remodeling decisions off more than how much they like the way the shower head looks. There a few of the swanky stores in major cities, and the locations have a calendar of events, so you can see what appliances you get to play with when you show up.

These companies may make shopping a little more fun and a heck of a lot easier, but don’t let that distract you from the financial side of things. For bigger purchases, specifically cars and homes, you need to figure out the money situation well before you start trying things out, because it’s easy to try nice things and go way over budget. Shop around for the best financing and take time to compare products, rather than jumping at your first option. Try to be proactive by checking your credit well in advance of loan shopping, so you can make an effort to improve it, if necessary, and research what sort of financing you can expect, based on your credit score.

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TIME facebook

Facebook Wants to Let You Buy Things From Retailers’ Pages

Company reportedly testing mini-storefronts in merchants' Facebook pages

Facebook’s pages for small businesses originally started as a way for them to stay in touch with customers and hopefully generate leads, but now the social network wants to supercharge their revenue power by providing merchants with online storefronts inside their page.

Facebook is reportedly testing this new feature with some online retailers, according to BuzzFeed. The new feature essentially lets merchants showcase products and let Facebook users shop directly from within the storefront in the page instead of having to go to the merchant’s website.

In June, Facebook started to test a “buy” button on some of its ads to streamline the process of purchasing advertised products, though these two initiatives appear to be independent tests. Nevertheless, Facebook is surely hoping these prove to be successful. Although it’s proven quite good at generating revenue through advertising, e-commerce would be a significant new source for the company. E-commerce is predicted to reach around $350 billion in 2015, according to eMarketer.

Earlier on Wednesday, Google also announced a “buy” button for its mobile search ads, and other companies, such as Pinterest and Twitter, have joined the trend.

MONEY Shopping

How Summer’s Black Friday Is Like the Real Black Friday

Some Prime Day deals are terrific. Most are nothing special.

From the beginning, Amazon has been comparing Prime Day to Black Friday. On the surface, Black Friday and Prime Day—a big sales event being held today, July 15, if you somehow haven’t heard—are quite different. Today’s sales are online-only, whereas Black Friday remains dominated by the in-store shopping experience. Only Amazon and a handful of competitors are offering special sales today, whereas virtually every retailer offers deals for Black Friday.

Yet there are many similarities between Black Friday and what’s being billed as the summertime Black Friday. That includes many of the criticisms about Black Friday, which has been losing shopper interest for years due to a wide range of factors.

Shoppers should take the following into consideration before buying things on a day pumped up as “Black Friday”—no matter what time of year this day takes place.

There are some truly amazing deals. According to the deal trackers at, some of Amazon’s Prime Day prices for specific items like printers, video games, Blu-ray movies, and TVs indeed beat the best Black Friday prices offered on the day after Thanksgiving last year.

But the vast majority of deals are meh. The hashtag #PrimeDay is trending on Twitter today. Glance through the comments posted, and you’ll see multiple mentions of words like “disappointing,” “underwhelming,” “boring,” and “meh.” There are also more colorful comments that demonstrate people are hardly amazed by Amazon’s offers, like that Prime Day is “not the risk to my wallet I thought it would be,” and “like a dollar store going out of business sale,” with deals “so random and bad that hipsters couldn’t even buy them to be ironic.”

For the most part, the same can be said of Walmart’s “Rollback” sale timed to coincide with Prime Day. Some deals seem terrific—think $13 for a video game that retails for $30—while most are random and underwhelming. How excited can anyone get, after all, about a plush puppy toy that’s marked down from $12.50 to $10.91?

Best deals are selling out very quickly. Many customers trying to get in on Amazon’s “Lightning” deals have expressed frustration that the items are sold out and they’re being put on a “waitlist.” The limited quantities and rapid sellouts are not unlike the doorbusters regularly offered on Black Friday, which some customers feel are tantamount to bait-and-switch because few get to actually purchase the items at the advertised prices. You’d think that Amazon would have an endless supply of it own products, but even they are selling out. As of 11:30 ET, Amazon’s Fire HD 7 deal—priced at $79, down from the usual $139—was 98% sold out.

Consumers are under pressure to buy right away. Prime Day lasts only one day, and with the exception of a somewhat vague sneak preview of deals released yesterday, shoppers didn’t know what exactly would be on sale today. Many of the deals will be exceptionally short-lived and can sell out, disappearing soon after they’ve surfaced.

The net result is that shoppers have very little time to assess each deal, compare prices with other retailers, or think things through much at all. It’s similar to what we might call “Black Friday brain,” in which the crowds, limited quantities, and frenzied atmosphere conspire to pressure shoppers into buying whatever’s in front of them, regardless if it’s actually a good deal—and regardless if it’s something the purchaser actually wants. Speaking of which …

You probably don’t need any of this stuff. Amazon created Prime Day out of the blue, in order to manufacture shopper interest at a time it didn’t otherwise exist. In other words, people aren’t shopping today because they need anything in particular; they’re shopping today because it’s Prime Day. Yes, you might find some stuff that’s fun and remotely useful, at a good price. But don’t kid yourself: You’re probably not shopping out of a genuine need. As a Detroit Free Press columnist put it, “Don’t get so overwhelmed by the hype that you buy stuff now that you really don’t need.”

Read next: 12 Ways to Stop Wasting Money and Take Control of Your Stuff

TIME Retail

Google Is Making Shopping on a Smartphone Much Easier

Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

A new "buy button" is coming to search results

Google is finally rolling out a ‘Buy’ button in its search results. The new feature, first reported back in May, is an effort to get users comfortable thinking of Google as a shopping destination, not just a conduit to other sites.

At a press event on Wednesday, the company announced “Purchase with Google,” which will turn the ads that appear at the top of search results into cards that let users buy products from directly within Google’s interface. After clicking an ad marked with “Buy on Google,” a user will be taken to a special, Google-built page that shows information about the product and a checkout button to pay for the item using the credit card stored in a Google account.

Google isn’t actually selling these products itself, but instead partnering with retailers who will handle order fulfillment. Google makes money on these ads using the same cost-per-click ad auctions that power its traditional search ads.

With its new buttons, Google is aiming to make it easier for users to buy products on mobile phones’ screens. “There is too much friction when we try to make transactions on a phone,” says Jonathan Alferness, Google’s vice president of product management for Google Shopping. He notes that conversations rates to purchase items are still twice as high on desktop as they are on mobile.

Google is rolling out the buy button as a small test with about a dozen retailers in the coming weeks, with plans for a larger U.S. expansion by the end of the year.

At its event, Google also outlined some other recent tweaks to the mobile shopping experience. These include improved voice search that will provide users more detailed information when they ask questions about products, info cards that prominently show product reviews and improved “deep linking” capabilities that will let users open a purchase page within a retailer’s app directly from clicking a link in a Google ad.

MONEY online shopping

Here Are All the Other Retailers Offering Big Online Sales for Prime Day

Amazon and Walmart aren't the only players.

Amazon’s Prime Day, which the company is billing as bigger than Black Friday, has gotten shoppers excited and inspired the competition to launch widespread online sales of their own. Walmart is the most prominent retailer to offer its own online sale for Wednesday, July 15, but it’s not the only e-retail operation trying to compete with Amazon for bargain-hunting shoppers today.

Below is a list of retailers hosting special sales today. We’ll add to it as we hear about more.

Amazon: Of course. Deals like $60 off Fire HD 7 tablets went live at midnight last night, and new items will go on sale every ten minutes or so. Amazon has promised “more deals than Black Friday,” and if Prime Day winds up being an annual tradition, Amazon gets a bonus marketing plug: After all, one of its products (Amazon Prime) is in the name of the sales event.

Walmart: Thousands of items are being listed at “rollback prices” on Wednesday, which typically translates to 20% to 50% off their normal prices. The threshold for free shipping on purchases has been reduced from $50 to $35 as well for several weeks. Naturally, Walmart isn’t mentioning “Prime Day” as the reason for its sale, but the world’s largest retailer is indirectly referencing Amazon’s sale. Unlike Prime Day, which is only available for subscribers to its $99-per-year Prime service, Walmart overtly points out its sale contains “No upfront fees” with Rollback prices “At or lower than Amazon’s prices.”

Newegg: The e-retailer’s “Fantastech” Sale began at midnight and lasts for 24 hours, with discounts of 20% to 90% off a wide range of electronics. And Newegg also takes a swipe at Prime Day by stating the sale includes “Free Shipping for All,” not just members of an annual subscription service.

Target: A “Black Friday in July” sale has just been extended through Saturday, July 17, perhaps due to the fact that some other high-profile sales are taking place this week. Target’s sale includes deals like buy-one-get-one-half-off clothes, shoes, and accessories, plus an extra 10% off with the promotional code JULY. For one day only, this membership service—which normally costs $12.97 per month in exchange for free shipping and 10% cash back for purchases with 1,000+ online retailers—is giving 20% cash back on purchases with participating retailers. The service allows a free seven-day trial period, and there’s a $10 cash back offer for the first purchase of new subscribers. Just be aware: After the trial period is up, you’ll be charged $12.97 per month until you cancel.

G.H. Bass & Co.: On Wednesday only, Bass is hosting a sitewide sale, with 50% off all purchases. Use the code CYBER50 at checkout for “Better Savings Than Black Friday.”

Macys: The department store is hosting a “Surprise Specials Day” online, with loads of discounts and, for the first time ever, free shipping on all orders, no minimum purchase required.

Best Buy: The electronics big box chain actually hosted its answer to Prime Day one day in advance, with a special “Tuesday TechDay” sale that poked Amazon with language to the effect of: “Online Only. Free 2-Day Shipping. Deals for all. No membership needed.” There are still many items on sale today, but deals offered yesterday—like the iPad mini 2 for $70 off—have expired. A glitch that caused Best Buy to sell $200 gift cards for $15 overnight has been fixed as well, and those who snagged the crazy deal posted by mistake may not have their purchase honored.

Drizly: The on-demand alcohol delivery service is offering a $10 Amazon gift card to customers making their first purchase at Drizly on Wednesday, July 15, in honor of Prime Day.

MONEY online shopping

10 Companies That Pay You for Referring Friends

Gap + Birchbox Summer Beauty Shop Launch
Cindy Ord—2015 Getty Images

From AirBnb to Sock Fancy.

Do you like shopping online? Better yet, would you like to make money (or get other cool stuff) for shopping online? There are a number of retailers, websites, and subscription clubs with awesome referral programs that let you do just that. Check out the perks and start earning some major rewards for all your hard work.

1. Zulily

Zulily offers thousands of trendy items for the whole family. From baby gear to home decor to apparel, toys, and more. If you refer a friend, you can earn $15 to spend on the site. The credit is added to your account when your friend’s item ships. There’s no limit to the number of credits you can earn, and they expire 18 months after issuance.

2. Hulu Plus

By now, we all know that cable television is expensive — it’s one of the first things we cut from our budget in a pinch. Switch to Hulu Plus to save money and still see the shows you love. If you refer your friends, you’ll even get two weeks free. This deal is so great, you can earn up to a full year if you get 26 of your friends to join in on the fun.

3. ThredUp

Not only can you sell your used clothing on ThredUp, but you can also make money for telling friends about it. Their system is set up as a share-and-earn model. You send invitations to shop on the site to your friends, they get $10 to spend, and if they spend it, you — in turn — get $10 added to your account when their items ship.

4. Airbnb

Travel can be expensive, and sites like Airbnb have unique options to help make it more fun and affordable. I love how their referral program works two ways. You get $25 if your friend completes a reservation request. And you get a whopping $75 if your friend lists a place as a host. What a wonderful way to make money to go on vacation.

5. Sock Fancy

We all need socks. They keep our feet warm, cozy, and looking good. When you refer friends to Sock Fancy, they get 15% off their first order and you get a free pair of socks. Send invitations via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

6. Birchbox

Birchbox lets you pretty yourself with products delivered to your front door. When you tell your friends about the service, you earn 50 points. For every 100 points, you get $10 to spend in the Birchbox Shop.

7. Stitch Fix

Need a little help with your style? Stitch Fix gives you personalized clothing options according to your list of preferences. You try them at home and decide whether to purchase or return (for free). If you get your friends to sign up for the service, you earn a $25 credit to spend on the site. This credit is activated when your friend’s order ships.

8. MyHabit

Shop amazing deals on the popular brands you love at MyHabit. For a limited time, this site is giving members $20 for each friend they refer. The extra incentive: Those friends you refer also earn $20 for signing up. It’s a win-win!

9. Dollar Shave Club

Keep your face smooth and get free stuff with subscription-based Dollar Shave Club. For every friend you successfully refer to the site, you’ll earn $5 toward your next purchase. You can choose from all different blades and products, so there’s something each of your friends can enjoy.

10. Ebates

You’ve probably heard about Ebates. Those of you who haven’t are missing out, quite literally. Shop at your favorite stores through the site and earn back a percentage of the total price in the form of a quarterly check. And refer your friends to sign up for a $5 bonus. They’re even offering an additional bonus for the first three friends you refer now through the end of June.

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MONEY Food & Drink

Insider Tips for Choosing a Great Cheap Wine

A Food & Wine expert shares his secrets with our Snob on a Budget.

If you love wine but don’t have endless cash to spare, choosing a bottle can be tricky. The problem isn’t a lack of low-priced options: The wine industry is growing rapidly and new inexpensive wines show up on wine shop shelves all the time.

The challenge is finding gems among potentially humdrum choices: How do you know which sub-$20 white wine to choose for your summer BBQ? Or decide how cheap is too cheap at a restaurant?

There’s good news for wine-lovers with little cash to spare: Studies show that most people can’t actually taste the difference between cheap and expensive wine.

And whether or not you have an especially sensitive palate, there are great values to be found if you shop smart. Here are some rules of thumb you can follow to end up with the finest wine possible on a frugal budget.

1. Look for Lesser-Known Varietals

Wines that Americans love—like Chardonnays—effectively come with a popularity “tax,” and tend to be the most overpriced. It follows that you’ll get a better deal if you look where others don’t, says Cornell Hospitality School wine lecturer Cheryl Stanley.

“Be adventurous,” Stanley says. “There are great values in some lesser known varietals and or regions.”

Those include wines from places with cheap labor costs and lots of inexpensive land, like Malbecs from Mendoza, Argentina, says Food & Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle.

2. Befriend Your Shopkeeper

If you can, try to find a local wine shop with employees who really care about their product.

“Don’t be afraid to give the retailer the price point you are willing to spend. They should know their inventory and be able to guide you to a great wine,” says Stanley.

The best part: Many neighborhood stores will be willing to give discounts to frequent shoppers.

3. Beware the “Second-Cheapest Wine” Rule

Generally you shouldn’t buy the second-cheapest wine at a restaurant, says Isle, unless you happen to know and love it.

Back in the day, wine-drinkers were advised to always go for the second-least-expensive wines on the menu, since they tended to be the best value (and—of course—nobody wants to seem miserly in front of a date).

But restaurateurs caught on, and now the second-cheapest wines tend to be the most marked up: A good reason to just go ahead and order that least expensive bottle. The good news, says Isle, is that any sommelier worth his or her salt will likely make sure that even the cheapest bottle on the menu is going to be great.

4. Skip “Finicky” Varietals

Some grapes simply don’t lend themselves to cheap wine, says Isle.

You see lots of cheap Pinot Noirs out there, for example, but since the varietal’s grapes are challenging to grow, those bottles are less like to be good value—and more likely to be cheap for a reason.

Higher production costs mean higher prices for the good stuff.

5. Get Technological

Arm yourself with free apps like Delectable, which lets you scan an unfamiliar label with your smartphone camera and view reviews and ratings from other people who have tried that bottle—kind of like a Yelp for wines.

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