If you’re like most people, you probably have a credit card or two. And those cards probably offer some sort of reward program, encouraging you to spend more and more money. After all, that’s how they make their money. And if you’re wise with your credit card use, some of those rewards can really pay off. You can essentially get free cash back for purchases that you were going to make anyways.
I have three credit cards that offer some sort of reward. One of them is my REI card. Basically, it offers 1% cash back on all purchases made, plus a higher percent on purchases made at REI. However, REI has their own twist. They don’t call it “cash back.” Instead, they call it a “member dividend.” And the money is made available usually around this time each year. And here’s the catch: when it is first made available, you have to use your “dividend” on other REI purchases. It’s basically a store credit.
Don’t get me wrong, I love REI and the products it sells. But when I get cash back from a credit card reward program, I like cash. Not store credit. For the approximately 10 years that I’ve had this rewards card, I’ve always taken my “member dividend” and gone to REI and used it to buy new stuff. Sometimes stuff I need, but generally just stuff I want. And I’m sure this is REI’s goal in offering the “member dividend” as an in store credit.
But there’s a way to get that “member dividend” in cold, hard cash without being forced to spend it in store. If you wait until July 1, you can walk into any REI store and ask to cash out your member dividend. In other words, you get the cash back in the form of . . . well . . . cash. That’s what it’s about isn’t it?
If you’re abroad or don’t live near an REI store, don’t fret. After July 1, you can also request, online or over the phone, that your dividend be sent to you in check form. It’s all laid on on REI’s website.
This year, for the first time, I’m resolving to resist the temptation of spending that money. It’s sitting in my account, right now, ready to spend. I can have “free” clothes, books, cooking stoves, or backpacking supplies. Heck with the size of my dividend this year, I could get a new tent or sleeping bag:
But this year I’m waiting. I’m resolving to hold that “dividend” right where it’s at until it turns into solid cash on July 1.
REI, you’re clever, and you’ve tricked me for several years. But this year I’m earning an extra $166 that in years past I would have spent, gladly.