If you are willing to forgo some of your privacy and let companies send you marketing material and find out about your spending habits, you can earn worthwhile rewards from loyalty programmes, research into these programmes reveals.

Being "fully opted in" is one of the ways in which you as a member of a loyalty programme can progress to a higher tier and qualify for more points per spend - known as the earn-and-burn ratio - as well as better discounts on products and services.

"We know that consumers are becoming increasingly selective with regards to who they want to hear from and the types and frequency of communication they want to receive from brands due to over-communication and spam flooding their inboxes," says Amanda Cromhout, the founder and CEO of loyalty consultancy Truth. Truth collaborated with online research company WhyFive to produce the third annual Loyalty Whitepaper, released this week.

"But this is where most consumers miss out, as they may not be receiving loyalty programme-specific communication that may benefit them," says Cromhout.

The latest findings on South Africa's loyalty landscape are based on online interviews with more than 28 000 people over the age of 16 with access to the internet and living in households with a gross monthly income of more than R10 000.

Almost 80% of them are participating in loyalty programmes - an average of 5.6 of them in the case of women, 4.3 for men.

It seems the lure of loyalty rewards is leading to increasing numbers of us to forsake our privacy concerns. The survey found that while last year 27% of respondents declared they were not willing to do any of a list of activities in exchange for loyalty benefits, this year that figure has dropped to just 12%.

The most popular extra "activities", in order of popularity among members, are:

Taking online research surveys;

Opening and reading an e-mail;

Updating their details on a website;

Social media posts; and

Downloading and using an app.

This shows there has been a huge shift towards loyalty programme providers wanting to gain an understanding of your non-transactional activity, Cromhout says.

Companies have become more sophisticated in the way they gather your personal information "and now have the ability to drive customer-specific insights".

Personalised shopping vouchers, promotions on previously purchased items and "surprise and delight" offers are among the "extras" that you miss out on if you opt out of receiving brand communication, Cromhout says. She denies that the cost of loyalty rewards is built into the price of the goods.

Loyalty programmes drive consumers to spend more, and the cost of rewards comes out of this incremental gain, she says.

Here are ways how you can gain the most from loyalty programmes:

Read up on a programme's earn-and-burn ratio - how much you have to spend to get something worthwhile back (ideally 2% to 5%). And "earning" comes in many forms these days, including downloading a company's app or reaching a fitness goal, as in the case of Discovery's Vitality programme.

"Earn-and-burn percentages are often not disclosed in detail or in a manner easily understood by consumers," Cromhout says.

Understand what additional benefits you are being offered and their value relative to the fees you pay to the loyalty programme. Most retailers' loyalty programmes are free, but you will pay linkage fees for bank programmes and for programmes like Vitality.

"The benefits of being a credit card holder often offset the annual card or linkage fees," Cromhout says. "For consumers who ensure they have ticked all the boxes to reach the highest level within a programme, the benefits and deep discounts on travel are well worth the effort."

Participate more fully in fewer programmes in each of the sectors - grocery, banking, personal care. That way you'll accumulate rewards faster.

Remember to swipe your rewards card with every transaction - the teller won't always prompt you.

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