Loyalty programs are a common method to help lure in customers and then turn them into regular shoppers. The benefits and cost vary from place to place. Kohl’s and Target, for instance, have free rewards programs to earn money toward a future purchase. GameStop has a free program, or you can pay to upgrade for better bonuses and monthly coupons. Places like Books-a-Million or Barnes & Noble only have paid options (outside of a kid’s club), but you can get general discounts and free shipping.
But if you’ve been enjoying Best Buy’s loyalty program, watch out because changes are coming.
Best Buy’s Programs
If you’ve ever shopped at Best Buy, you were almost certainly invited to join My Best Buy (or its previous incarnation). My Best Buy is a free program where each purchase earns points, and while the chain offers special events or the use of their credit card to earn coupons more quickly, the the regular rate is a $5 certificate for spending $500. Spending at least $1,500 in a calendar year unlocked tiers for free shipping with no minimum, more points per dollar, extended returns, and more benefits.
Over the past few years, Best Buy has been tinkering with other programs, some limited to select stores as a test. There was Total Tech Support, which aimed to help people with their electronics. That was replaced with Best Buy Beta, which added free shipping, extended warranty on products, and more benefits.
Beta then went through some small changes like removing the 10% off other bundled subscription benefit and was renamed Totaltech, which is now available nationwide.
As I’ve discussed previously, the cost of Totaltech (and its previous versions) at $199.99 a year and its tech/appliance support and installation benefits likely meant Best Buy was targeting a specific audience, not the average electronics or media consumer. But I did say this back in April 2021 when Beta was starting out: “…I don’t know if perhaps Best Buy will have even better benefits for Beta members or if the goal is to phase out My Best Buy in hopes people will pay for Best Buy Beta.”
Well, My Best Buy isn’t ending. However, it’s undergoing some rather significant changes:
So the biggest change is the removal of Elite and Elite Plus. For someone who needed to replace a large appliance or wanted a fancier entertainment setup, reaching the $1,500 or even the $3,500 could be easily done. That meant free shipping for the rest of the year, the next year, and to the following February.
But it seems that on May 3rd, current Elite and Elite Plus members will no longer have free shipping. Plus, they now will only have the standard 15-day return policy and won’t have even earlier access to Black Friday or other special events.
In addition, those higher spenders will now earn points at the same rate as infrequent or low-volume shoppers, plus points can no longer be stored away for a rainy day unless keeping a Best Buy credit card active. Elite Plus will also lose that extra 1% in rewards for using the Best Buy card. Also, it seems points are no longer going to be points but instead displayed as monetary rewards (1% at default, so a penny for each dollar spent).
Elite vs Totaltech
The email notification claims these changes are “an effort to simplify the program”. We all know free shipping isn’t truly free, inflation is rising, and returning purchases also costs stores money. Like any retailer, Best Buy would love to curb these expenses. But their the true motive is clear: get people to sign up for Totaltech.
I guess from Best Buy’s perspective, they’re arguing that spend $200 is easier than tracking purchases, plus you get a bunch of additional benefits. However, judging from responses on social media, not many people are seeing it that way. Granted, angry customers are more likely to post their thoughts than neutral or happy customers, but for those who may have made some extra purchases at the end of 2021 or have spend a lot of money at Best Buy already in 2022 to have free shipping and other perks, it feels like a slap in the face to downgrade them partway through the year with no compensation.
It’s also curious as to why these changes aren’t more visible. Considering their own terms say getting upgraded from the standard My Best Buy tier can take up to 15 days and the email went out March 28th, that means there are people who may only have gotten free shipping, extended returns, and all that for less than a month. Ouch. As of this writing, I can still log in and see Best Buy telling me what I need to reach Elite and Elite Plus status. And since there’s nothing right now on My Best Buy main page informing people of these changes or even if you click “See Membership Benefits” button, I’m sure there are going to be people who miss the email or news and find out the perks they’ve worked toward are now gone.
From reactions on Best Buy forums and elsewhere, I was a little surprised being able to bank points is the perk a lot of Elite and Elite Plus members are going to miss most rather than free shipping or extended returns. Thinking about it, it does make sense. Saving $5 or $10 on a regular basis is nice, but not worrying about expiration dates on certificates and instead getting a, say, $50 item for free is even better. Still, I would have though most Elite/Elite Plus members would have a My Best Buy card already, since there are very few changes coming for those who keep an account active.
There are also basically no differences if you are only a casual shopper at Best Buy. It’s people who spend thousands who are now losing perks. I don’t fall into that group, so these changes won’t affect me personally. I did reach Elite status one year, and I was a regular shopper thanks to Gamer’s Club Unlocked. But even disregarding that amazingly good paid subscription plan, I’ve found fewer and fewer reasons to shop there versus competitors. Costco has an extended warranty on most electronics and appliances, video game deals have been as good or better at Target/Amazon, Best Buy’s anime sales are usually matched by Amazon, I get free shipping at Amazon/Walmart, etc. Last year I only made 2 purchases from Best Buy, both online. I haven’t even been bothered to step foot in a store.
Anyway, I would been very upset if this happened while I had Elite status. In my opinion, if Best Buy wanted to eliminate Elite/Elite Plus, they should have sunset it instead of ending those tiers in a little over a month. Let current members keep their benefits until the end of the year or until next February as normal. Another option would have been to offer Totaltech at a discounted rate or even free depending on the timeline and tier status.
It’s true Totaltech has some nice perks. There are people who will get more than their money’s worth on the program thanks to free installation and tech support alone, plus they can take advantage of free shipping, special discounts, early access to products, and more. But I am curious as to how many people plan on renewing. Many reviews mention they only signed up to get PS5s and GPUs, and I can see how it is worth it for people remodeling their kitchen and such. But most people don’t need to upgrade their appliances and electronics every year, and each generation is going to be more tech-savvy the next.
At $200 a year for Totaltech, depending on the benefits you want, there are likely other program combinations for around that price or even less — Amazon for free shipping, Walmart/Target for extended returns on most purchases, Costco for warranty protection. Some of these require money to get the most out of them, but since Best Buy is pushing its big customers toward Totaltech anyway, they might as well try out some other paid memberships and even open other store’s cards for further benefits. Especially since Best Buy isn’t giving its loyal customers a lot of head’s up or clarity on the changes.
Sure, standard membership terms like Best Buy’s include a clause about how the program can change at any time. But as we all know, what’s legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s morally right — let alone good publicity. Not trying to compensate current Elite/Elite Plus members and still tracking purchases toward Elite and Elite Plus tiers when they’re on their way out are both very back looks for the company.