Provisioning & Loyalty Cards

Some people like to shop at stores with loyalty, or discount, cards.  Others don’t.  But regardless of your preference, sometimes you don’t really have a choice.

Many times when cruising, there’s only one grocery store close to the marina or anchorage — or only one that’s on a public transportation route.  And if it is one that uses discount cards, it can really hurt to see the savings you’re missing.  In other places, there may be a cash-back offer or in-store credits after a specified amount of purchases.

Short of taking the time to apply for a card at every stop — which may not even work if you have to rack up a certain minimum amount of purchases — what can you do?

  • The checkout clerk may have a “house” card or swipe her personal card for you.  This has happened maybe 25% of the time that I’ve encountered a store with a discount card.
  • Many times, the marina office may have a card that you can use — where the nearest store did use a discount card, I’ve been able to get one at the marina office probably over 90% of the time (at least in the places we’ve been).  I’ve also found this true at some condos we rented on inland travel.

In the case of a card with a store credit, some places have come up with an innovative way for cruisers to help a local charity.  While I’ve heard of similar programs elsewhere, the one I’m familiar with is in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico (and it may have changed since we were there  . . . ).

There, Marina de La Paz kept a supply of VIP cards for the closest supermarket, C.C.C. (it’s now a different chain) — but they were registered to a local charity that provides breakfasts and other benefits for local children.  The charity is strongly supported by the cruiser community as well as locals, and the store credits are used to buy the breakfast food.  And, of course, anyone in La Paz — whether at Marina de La Paz, another marina, anchored out, or staying ashore — was welcome to pick up one of the cards and keep it as long as they are in La Paz.

Great solution as many boats heavily provision in La Paz, yet don’t stay long enough to be able to use the credits themselves.

Bottom line:  when you’re stopping somewhere for provisions, be sure to ask other boaters and at the marina office if there are any discount or loyalty cards to use.  If not, and the store uses them, see if you can get the discounts anyways through a “house” or “guest” card.

An interesting twist on this occurred when we were in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.  There, the cruisers each chipped in a few dollars and bought a membership at the big Costco-type members-only store in San Salvador for the taxi driver that primarily served the cruising community.  Then, when we made big provisioning runs, we made sure to use Jose’s taxi and he’d get us in and “buy” our groceries with our money.

Know of any other programs?  Leave a note!

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  • Charles
    Posted at 08 September 2012 Reply

    If the store is in the US or Canada, you can often get away with entering a telephone number at the credit card reader. Try Jenny’s number – 867-5309 – (y’know, from the song) and see if that works. You might be surprised how often it does.

    • Brian
      Posted at 14 May 2013 Reply

      LOL! I’ve used Jenny’s number before, as well.

  • Jan
    Posted at 21 July 2013 Reply

    If you are at a store that also gives “gas points” like Kroger, ask the person in line behind you if you can use their loyalty card. You get the discount on the purchase and they get the credit on the gas points. Win-win.
    Kohl’s Department stores also have percent off coupons that can be used for a period of time (days) over and over. I’ve gotten them handed to me by customers in the store after they used them. I in turn handed them to someone as I was leaving.

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