Shoppers Drug Mart changing rewards in July

June 10 2010 by Ellen Roseman

Companies that offer rewards for frequent shopping can change the rules from time to time. But they should give clear disclosure of how the changes may affect you.

Shoppers Drug Mart is changing the rules for Optimum reward redemptions on July 1, but it’s telling customers only about the new schedule.

I think this fails the clear disclosure test. Shoppers Drug Mart should show how many points you need for rewards now, compared to how many points you’ll need in the future.

Giving customers plenty of advance notice would also be welcome. Alas, that’s not the case here. You have only a month to redeem your points before the new rules come in.

Luckily, my readers are helping out. Joy sent the following information:

My Shoppers Drug Mart bill has a notice that the Optimum program is changing. It doesn’t say what the changes are, but it directs you to the website.

From there, you click through two other screens to learn that they are changing the points redemption amounts. To compare the current and new programs, I used a shopper who has earned 150,000 points.

Under the current program, the shopper would get $300 worth of merchandise (75,000 points = $150 worth of merchandise).

After June 30, they’d get $255 in merchandise (150,000 points is 3 x $85 or $255).

So, I think I’ll get better value if I use my points by the end of June!

You can find more about these changes here at the Smart Canucks blog.

Getting dinged on TFSA contributions

June 10 2010 by Ellen Roseman

I’m hearing from many people who are surprised to find they have to pay tax on contributions to a tax-free savings account.

If you withdraw money from a TFSA, you can replace it the next year without any tax consequences. But if you pay back what you withdrew from your TFSA in the same year, you’re making an overcontribution — and you have to pay 1 per cent of the amount to the Canada Revenue Agency.

There’s a pretty good explanation here. But because the TFSA is new, many of those complaining say they didn’t know how the rules worked.

Sometimes, it’s the financial institutions at fault. I heard from someone who transferred his TFSA from a TD Waterhouse brokerage account to a TD branch last year. The bank counted the transfer as a new contribution.

Check out the comments at this tax blog and the complaints I posted below. Have you been caught in the same trap?

How to cancel your fitness club membership

June 2 2010 by Ellen Roseman

Fitness clubs are skilled in getting you to sign a contract and preventing you from cancelling. Their expertise is sales, not sports.

I recently heard from a young lady, Seema, who was approached by Extreme Fitness when leaving a movie theatre. She came to the club for a one-month free trial and was dinged for a year’s worth of payments.

Ontario has a 10-day cooling off period to cancel a fitness club contract without penalty, but Seema was told she could cancel in two weeks. When she did, she was too late.

I helped her fight the unfair deal and win a release from the Extreme sales tactics. See her story below.

Please pitch in with your own examples of sleazy pitches and the successful tactics you’ve found to win your release.