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I'm not really big on all those loyalty schemes y'know, I get bored of all those dutiful things you have to do: clicking on links; waiting for pages to load; thinking of new things to "search the web" for; signing up for interminable spammy newsletters; remembering which smelly email address I used for which scheme. But Michael, my husband, is big on them and he's got the kind of organised brain that remembers to do all the clicky things that have to be done, remember what comes from where and all that jazz. And he does get quite a lot of vouchers and free things from the half hour long frenzy of clicks he does each morning. Still, it's not really for me. The only one I do "properly" is Ipoints. I'm sure you know them, but I shall bore the pants off you anyhow, because I think Ipoints is actually worth it.
...is a breeze. Ish. You just need to enter your details - name, address, email, that's it - and choose a password. I'd recommend you to use a separate email address to your main one though, as earning ipoints is likely to result in a rather full, rather spammy inbox. Do remember to tick that box saying you don't want to receive third party mailings too, you don't want to say yes to yet more of it. Check out the terms and conditions if you like; they're fairly standard and basically tell you that you can't have multiple accounts and that your ipoints are worth what ipoints say they are which maybe 10p on Monday, 5p on Tuesday and 1p by Wednesday as many of you will probably already know. Ipoints varies its redemption rates fairly often although things have been reasonably quiet lately.
Pay attention to the second registration page. You've earned 5 ipoints already, just for joining. If you fill out the extra details on the form on this page you'll earn another 5 points. It's just some demographic stuff: where you are; your gender; how old you are; your marital status. Done that? Right then. You're now on page three and you can earn another ten ipoints for filling out the much more detailed questionnaire on this page. This one asks you for information on your shopping habits, your online behaviour, more details on your household (including income) and what sorts of things you're interested in. On both pages two and three there is a link to clink if you'd rather not tell ipoints everything about yourself. You won't get the 15 points though. It's up to you. What next? Oh good lord, there's a page four! This one wants to enter you into a prize draw for a Microsoft X Box (they delightfully spell it "consule" heehee) with one entry for each person you refer to the scheme. I don't think you'll find many people who aren't already members though! This is a bit naughty of ipoints, because I'm pretty sure the X Box draw is an old one and when I check on the terms and conditions of the draw I find that the prize is actually a boxed set of the TV programme 24 and will be chosen from all referrals made in September 2002. I guess they change it each month. So do check.
And that's it. As long as you're a UK resident you're in! You're a member of ipoints!
...really does depend on you and whether you mind avalanches of spammy email. The first place to check is the "Free Ipoints" area which is linked to at the menu bar at the top of the home page and also on the bottom right of the same page. There's not an awful lot there but you could earn a few ipoints by registering at a couple of sites and for playing some online lottery games and also for taking up free trial offers. I get irritated if I get too many waste-of-time advertising emails and I never remember to cancel free trials, so I don't do any of these things but if you're more tolerant than I and more organised too, then currently you could earn almost 100 ipoints in this section. You can also sign up with NOP for the chance to win ipoints when answering surveys or apply for the ipoints credit card (hmm @ that).
Now really, you need to investigate the "Earn" categories, all clearly labelled on the homepage. There are many, many opportunities to earn ipoints here but you really should be careful. Never, ever buy things just to earn ipoints, that's costing you money and not getting you something for free at all. Most of these earning offers require you to spend money. There are loads of casinos and betting sites - and I don't really approve of their inclusion to be honest. I like betting, and run an account at William Hill, but I don't think Ipoints and their various partners should be encouraging us all to gamble so lavishly. But yes, if you bet, there's plenty of earning opportunities for you. There are also a lot of book club offers. I don't like nasty "we'll send you the editor's choice if you're thirty seconds late in telling us not to" book clubs either, so I don't join those either.
If, like me, you shop online regularly however, there are a reasonable amount of Ipoints partners from which to choose. Again, don't buy from these unless you would have chosen that particular retailer anyway, either because you like them or because they're cheapest, but they are certainly worth bearing in mind. The points take over a month to get added to your account, but in my experience they always arrive eventually. All you need to remember is to click through via the Ipoints link and to use the same email address you signed up with. I'll give you an idea of what you can earn in the way of points via well-known and generally trusted retailers:
Books from bol.com: 2 ipoints per £1 spent Books from WH Smith: 8 ipoints per £10 spent CDs from cdwow.com: 2 ipoints per CD purchased Flying Flowers: 2 ipoints per £1 spent Comet: 3 ipoints per £10 spent Wine from Oddbins: 5 ipoints per £10 spent
Every so often you should also check the "New Partners" link on the top menu bar of the home page. All the new retailers and other new earning offers are displayed there. Currently they're showing quite a few new partners, including an annoying little quiz thing and big names such as MFI and Comet.
...well, once you've accumulated a nice lot of ipoints what is there to spend them on? Quite a lot actually, if you have a nosey around the "Spend" section. There are an awful lot of "child goes free with a paying adult" or "multi conditioned ferry vouchers" of the type you can find almost anywhere these days and they're a bit cheaty as a genuine freebie or reward in my humble opinion. Unless one really suits you perfectly I'd advise on ignoring them as you'll generally end up spending more money than you save. But there are plenty of worthwhile things you can buy with your ipoints, also from good, trusted online retailers. A few examples, across the board, would be:
Chart CD from cdwow.com: 150 ipoints Two DVDs from the offer pages on dvd.co.uk: 200 ipoints Current release DVDs from dvd.co.uk: 275 ipoints Book to the value of £10 from whsmith.co.uk: 170 ipoints £20 High Street Voucher: 385 ipoints UCI Cinema Ticket: 75 ipoints
Michael and I have cashed in points three times each this year plus an extra one for Michael and our requested items have been delivered within two weeks six times. The seventh time, a DVD order, took six weeks and three stroppy emails to the rather dilatory ipoints customer service people before it arrived. So things generally run smoothly, but on the occasions they don't you will have to prepare to do battle with them and wait days for replies to your emails. As you can see also, the general "rule of thumb" you hear about Ipoints, that 100 ipoints equals one pound isn't quite accurate though! Still, if you read on MacDuff, I'll tell you how to get to a total worth spending a bit more quicky than you otherwise would.
JILL'S TOP IPOINTS TIP...
...really belongs in the earning ipoints section above but it's quite important you read it so I'm giving it a wee heading all of its own. If you use ipoints fairly sensibly, and if you're not big on huge piles of spammy emails like me, you're going to take quite a long time to accumulate enough ipoints to make your visits worthwhile. That is, unless you follow my top tip. Ipoints don't advertise this fact but there are two other ways of getting your grubby little mitts on credits. They operate a "loyalty bonus" scheme which gives points each month dependent on "site usage". There are also often ipoints available for clicking on certain banners onsite. To get those points, this is what you do: firstly, go to ipoints every day; secondly, click on the top and bottom banners on the home page; thirdly, go to the "Advertisers" page linked to on the right hand side of the home page; fourthly, click on each of the banners there. This is a very easy thing to do, even more easy if you use Opera and right click to open all the banner windows in the background. It takes me about thirty seconds each morning. I go off and answer an email or two, then come back and close them all again in another thirty seconds. Some days I might get no ipoints at all for doing this, but others I might get one or two or even three or four. I guess it all depends how big the pot of points from each advertiser is, and how many people have already clicked the banner. In an average month I get about forty or fifty points from those banner clicks and another twenty or twenty-five points in "loyalty bonus" for "site usage". That's quite a lot for a minute a day, isn't it?
JILL'S IPOINTS REWARDS...
...I feed my book habit with Amazon vouchers gained from opinionating at dooyoo and from answering internet surveys. The Murphy DVD habit, however, is funded largely by ipoints. So far, in 2002 alone, I've claimed four DVDs from the two for 200 points offer and one recent release and I'm almost ready to cash in for one more. That's really been by clicking the banners and getting points for a few purchases I'd certainly have bought from that particular retailer in any case. Michael, who doesn't give a fig for how much spam he gets, or how many "newsletters" he signs up to, is a DVD and a bit ahead of me. I think eight, ten, even a dozen DVDs over the course of a year (all assuming ipoints don't change their redemption rates AGAIN that is) is well worth the tiny amount of effort I'm putting in, don't you?
SO, TO SUM UP, THE IPOINTS DOs AND DON'Ts...DO:
Fill out all the demographic details on your profile
Click those banners each and every day
Make sure you tick the "no spam" box
Save up your points for items you really want
Expect a fortune in rewards
Be tempted into gambling your money away
Buy things just to get points
Use an email address you like to keep free of spam
And that's about it for today's ipoints lesson. I think I about covered it all. Grin!