7 On Your Side: The best shopper loyalty programs

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The average household has nearly 30 grocery, drug-store, gas, and restaurant rewards cards in their wallets and on their key chains.

You can make money and save money, but also lose money if you don't use them correctly.

7-11's free app, 7 Rewards let's customers slurp or sip their way to saving. Every 7th drink's always free.

Dealnews.com reviewed 21 store rewards programs. Top faves? Places which offer freebies.

Check out Ikea in Paramus. Rewards members enjoy free coffee and tea every time you're in the store, special members-only prices, plus the chance to come away with cash every month. And a bonus, members children get an extra half hour in the drop-off supervised play area.

One tip - avoid signing up for paid memberships unless you know the perks will pay for the fee quickly.

GNC's Gold Program cost $15 a year. But members enjoy half-off prices for an entire year, get $10 credit for signing up, and get another $10 in store credit for their birthday.

"AMC's Stubs" costs $12 a year, but it'll pay for itself after a few flicks. Everytime you spend $100, you get $10 back. Plus you get free size upgrades on all concessions.

Also popping with perks are drugstores like CVS and Walgreens. Both ranked high on the list for customer returns.

Ranking low, are luxury department stores like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Ben Glaser of Dealnews.com says you have to spend too much to get rewards, "You have to spend thousands of dollars to get $20 in store credit."

More generous are discount stores, like JC Penney. "For every $400 you spend you get $10 back," Glaser said.

The big takeaway: Join a multi-store program. One example, if you sign up for the "plenti" card - you earn points at Macy's, Exxon, Mobil and Rite Aid, that can be redeemed at any of those outlets.

And some things to watch out for; don't over-spend just to earn a rewards. You're defeating the purchase of the card.

Also, guard your personal info when you sign up. If they ask for your date of birth, social security number, or even your address, you should think twice.

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