Makeup Rehab // TMO: Ulta’s 5x Points Perks (and other Points “deals”)

A few of my biggest problems when it comes to makeup overspending or general consumerism: points programs. Loyalty rewards, for some reason, gives me this idea that I’m getting money back, making a small sale into a huge sale or a minor deal into a major one. When there are “points perks” (or any other extra points), I tend to think “This is the time to buy these items!” Realistically, though, I don’t need to buy those items at all.

Recently, a Platinum Perk came out for 5x points on Too Faced, one of my favorite cosmetics companies just because I’m in love with their cutesy aesthetic. I do like their products, too, but their aesthetic and availability for me make them a great “collectors” company. So, that 5x points? It felt like my kryptonite.

So, to anybody struggling with Points Perks, here is an in-depth look at why they aren’t worth it.

Let me first preface this: If you have planned a purchase for an item you do, very truly, want that fills a hole in your collection or is something you are comfortable spending the money on, then buying it during a points perk or a sale is not inherently negative. This post is for those who spend on products they otherwise would not have purchased because of a points perk.

This TMO comes to one big point: the savings is not as great as you may think. 

“But Lucy,” you plead, “a $25 purchase is like a $125 purchase! If I spend $50, that’s like $250 in points!” Hold up! You’re not technically wrong- you otherwise would have to spend $250 to get 250 points, but the points do not translate that way. 250 points is an additional savings of $8! Looking at the number 8, you think… well, okay. It’s not great, right, but hey, getting $8 back from a $50 purchase is what, 16%? Here’s where you are wrong again: it’s $8 for a future purchase, meaning, at best, it’s $8 off of a total of $58. That’s now a savings of 13.8%- which is even less impressive than 16%. Now, let’s factor one more itsy bitsy detail: when you redeem your points, it’s rare to redeem the exact amount. So those $8 might be applied to a $15 purchase, and suddenly the savings there diminishes to 12.3%.

Now, I know a 12-14% savings may be enough to trigger that sale in you, but keep in mind that when Ulta has sales, they’re usually quite a bit above this, and you get those savings instantly. Although a 5x points perk is rare, it’s really often not a great deal.

Now, I know it’s going to be questioned: what about at the higher tiers? Since Ulta’s point system is not linear, the points you have, the more each point is worth. So, I came up with this handy chart.

Ulta rewards value chart.PNG

Yes, the values look pretty good when you spend a lot on a 10x points perk… but unless you have $200+ to drop on the rare 10x points perk, is it really worth it? Remember that many things go on BOGO free (essentially 40-50% savings) or BOGO half off (around 25% savings).

My point is this: while points CAN be used effectively to lower your financial burden, buying items you otherwise would not is not a good idea, even if you have the points. Spending $50 on a 5x promo (to get free shipping) is $50 you otherwise would not have spent to get only $8 back on a future purchase. Why not just spend the $8 on the items you wanted to begin with? Even if the savings is greater, why? If, for some reason, you did get a true 10x points perk (which nearly never happens- I’ve only heard of it), why spend $200 to get $125 back? Why not just buy the $125 items outright and save $75 and a bunch of frustration with your collection? To me, it just doesn’t seem worth it. At all.

Also note: a 5x stacked with another 5x does NOT make a 10x (it makes a 9x). Points are not “5x regular.” It’s like, your base + 4 additional, so even when platinum, a 5x promo is only 5.25 points per dollar, since you have your base of 1.25 plus 4 extra. Remember this for stacking. If you have a 3x points stacked with a 5x points you get your base (say, 1.25 points) plus 2 plus 4, so you end up with 7.25 points per dollar- which is lower than an 8x promo.

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