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Walmart announced yesterday their first-ever customer rewards program … a bold move for the historically anti-sales-and-promotions, anti-loyalty-program retailer.
Walmart Rewards will bring line-item savings on hundreds of grocery and household items. The new offering is made possible by Ibotta Performance Network, a new venture by the Ibotta app folks. And while Walmart Rewards promises to eventually hold more exciting offers, their initial offering is a copycat of existing Ibotta rebates white-labeled for the Walmart app. I tried Walmart Rewards yesterday, and the redemption process was smooth and simple. I got a notification that my rewards were being credited to my account while I sat in the Walmart pickup slot. Nice.
News outlets are all writing their own versions of “Walmart Releases New Rewards Program for Walmart Plus Members” with the kind of phoned-in excitement you’d expect from someone who hasn’t stepped into a grocery store in … well, a while. And all the stories are missing a really BIG point.
Charging for access to this kind of reward program is unheard of.
Walmart just announced that you have to pay money to Save Money. Live Better. — a $98 Walmart Plus membership to be exact. Their new rewards program, which so far offers nothing other than duplicate offers from a free app, is not available for all Walmart shoppers. This is a big deal. And a bad deal.
Let me lay out the landscape of free reward programs:
Bath & Body Works Rewards gives every shopper a free item worth $16.50 for every $100 spent.
My Best Buy Rewards gets you 1% back on your purchases.
Target Circle gets you 1% back on your purchases and two types of item-level savings — Target exclusive percent-off offers and digital manufacturer coupons sourced from coupons.com.
MyWalgreens gets you 1% back on all your purchases, 5% back on Walgreens brand items, and line-item savings sourced from coupons.com.
Walmart Plus just isn’t yet worth it for strictly in-store shoppers.
If you’re shopping Walmart.com or using Walmart grocery delivery regularly (like me!), Walmart Plus, at $98 a year, is probably earning its keep for your household.
But for folks going into Walmart brick and mortar or regularly using Walmart store pickup, there hasn’t yet been a compelling reason to fork over the membership fee. It looks like maybe Walmart Rewards is supposed to push nonmembers over the edge with a promise of rewards they may be able to get for free elsewhere.
Walmart Rewards will seem an exciting option to those who hadn’t previously been coupon users or Ibotta shoppers. But to those of us who are, we are unimpressed. Walmart Rewards is a GREAT perk for those who are already members. I just don’t see it as a compelling enough reason to join a program you don’t already belong to.
Ibotta is shutting down some free features in their move to Walmart Rewards.
On Friday, August 25th, Ibotta notified Walmart shoppers of a reduction in capabilities within its existing browser extension on Walmart.com. As of this time, all functionality remains untouched in the Ibotta app .
In a notification sent to Ibotta users, the rebate app shared “Sometimes in order to release new improvements, we have to turn off other features. We’re currently working directly with Walmart to bring you even better features. . . “.
What they failed to include is that those ‘better features’ will probably not be for everyone.
Walmart Rewards is free, but only after you pay $98 a year.
Walmart is calling their new Rewards program free, which is kind of like Costco saying their samples are free after the $ 60-a-year cover charge.
Don’t get me wrong. I respect the Costco membership model. (And I’ve learned not to speak ill of Costco for fear that an army of loyalists will chase me off the internet.) The prices at Walmart’s Sam’s Club consistently beat out every competitor in KCL price comparisons, justifying the cost. I participate in a paid CVS CarePass membership at $5 a month. I’m all about the early access for paid Prime members or Best Buy Totaltech paid subscribers. And I love the statuses shoppers can earn based on total annual spend at Nordstrom, Sephora, and Ulta. This isn’t like any of those.
What Walmart is doing is launching a “rewards program” to house manufacturer-funded dollar-off cash-back offers and locking them behind a $100 paywall. It’s a slap in the face for shoppers who shop Walmart weekly and don’t have the extra $100.
For now at least, Walmart shoppers that don’t have Walmart Plus, and thus don’t qualify for Walmart Rewards, can still find rebates in the Ibotta app and shop the amazing Walmart deals our team finds daily, featuring digital, printable, and even a few paper manufacturer coupons every day.
Ibotta shoppers can still get cashback rebates at Walmart (for free) via Ibotta app.
Linking your Walmart.com account in Ibotta still works and shoppers who want easy, automatic rebates can still find them in the Ibotta app. The Walmart Rewards rollout will be complete by end of August and it’s then that we’ll be closely watching to ensure Walmart shoppers don’t lose access to free line-item rebates from Ibotta.
The terms of Walmart’s new Rewards program are shocking enough that I can’t predict where this is all heading and KCL is not getting answers from Ibotta or Walmart.
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