It looks like 2017 has been a year of change for many Canadians using debit and credit cards. First there was the Air Canada-Aeroplan breakup, then PC Financial suddenly became Simplii when President’s Choice Financial and CIBC terminated their relationship, now PC Mastercard users’ PC points are changing to PC Optimum points on February 1, 2018. What’s the point of it all?
PC Financial recently announced that as of February 2018, its popular PC Plus program and Shoppers Optimum points are merging to become one overarching rewards program: the PC Optimum program. Existing points that consumers have accumulated from both programs will be automatically converted to the new rewards scheme at full value. In the words of the PC Financial website: “You’ll continue to earn points with your President’s Choice Financial® Mastercard® as you do right now, except your points will be called PC Optimum points instead of PC points.”
Financial experts have been predicting a possible merger of the two programs ever since the massive food retailer Loblaws bought Shopper Drug Mart in 2014. Clearly the changes will affect a lot of Canadians. According to a Financial Post article, Jim Noteboom, senior vice-president of loyalty and consumer insights at Loblaws states that “more than 19 million active members make up the base of the two current programs, with at least 50 per cent of members enrolled in both.” So, what does this union really mean for Shoppers Optimum collectors and PC Mastercard holders?
More Options, More Flexibility
According to PC Financial, of course, the change is entirely positive. “We’re bringing the very best of Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus together,” said Uwe Stueckmann, senior vice president of marketing in a press release. He noted that PC Optimum is “the future of loyalty programs for Loblaw companies…harnessing both the power of PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum across the unified network of our stores coast to coast.”
Whereas once PC Mastercard holders could only redeem PC points at Loblaws-affiliated grocery stores like Zehrs and No Frills, and Optimum points could only be redeemed at Shoppers Drug Mart stores, members of both programs will be able to earn and redeem points interchangeably with the new PC Optimum program. According to the company’s website, PC Optimum collectors will be able to earn and spend their points at nearly 2,500 locations across Canada.
There will also be changes in the redemption threshold level. Presently, the minimum threshold for PC Point redemption is 20,000, which can be redeemed for $20 toward your grocery bill. As of February, when PC Points become PC Optimum Points, program participants will only need a minimum 10,000 to redeem for $10 toward their grocery purchase.
Point accumulation at Loblaws-affiliated stores varies based on any special promotions or special personalized offers. Generally, however, point accumulation for goods not on promotion depends on what PC credit card you have. PC Financial World Elite Mastercard holders get 30 points per $1 spent at Loblaws stores, PC Financial World Mastercard holders get 20 points per $1, and those using the basic PF Financial Mastercard get 10 points per $1.
A Few Snafus
Of course, when you look past PC Financial’s PR, it won’t be a 100% seamless transition. To start with, there’s a discrepancy in the redemption threshold between PC Points and Shoppers Optimum points. Shoppers Optimum points program participants currently only need to redeem 8,000 points for $10 worth of Shoppers items. To make up for the higher point value needed to redeem points, PC Financial reports that Shoppers Drug Mart customers will now get 50 per cent more points for nearly every $1 they spend at Shoppers stores.
Things are a little more complicated for Quebecers. In that province Shoppers is known as Pharmaprix and according to PC Financial, the Pharmaprix Optimum program will be terminated on January 31, 2018. Program members will have only 90 days to use their Pharmaprix Optimum points or they must convert them (at their current value) to PC Optimum points. As of May 2, 2018, Pharmaprix Optimum points will no longer be honored.
The Final Verdict
While not many of us relish change, we also don’t like having dozens of loyalty and rewards cards piling up in our wallets. For this reason, as long as redemptions at both Loblaws stores and Shoppers continue without any hiccups, it may be a welcome development overall to have two point programs merge into one program and one card.