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Paying for saving: an update to my post on AMC Stubs and Costco

Remember my post on Paying for saving: when is it worth it? Case studies of Costco and AMC Stubs, when we talked about whether or not it paid to pay to save money?  We discussed two pay-to-save programs: Costco membership, and the AMC Stubs program.  After a little math (always, always do the math), I concluded that a Costco membership was indeed worthwhile and saves you money in the long run, while the AMC Stubs program was priced way out-of-whack and was a bad option to save money on movie tickets.

Well, it's five months later. And guess what?  Costco membership fees have gone up by 10%.  And AMC Stubs has cut their membership fee by 50%. Hmm.

What that tells me is Costco membership is in great demand and AMC Stubs, well, not so much.

I'm not happy about the Costco increase. It comes at a time when gas prices are driving up the cost of shipping all sorts of consumer goods, and guess who gets to eat that rise in prices of consumer goods?  Yes, you and I.  Things are more expensive and it's costing more to save money on them.  Not good.

I'm inclined to keep our Costco membership because we've had it all these years and because we do save money there (yes, even with buying stuff on sale and with coupons).  And the truth is, a 10% increase doesn't come to too much in actual numbers.  We have the executive membership, so our fee is going from $100 to $110.  The regular Goldstar membership is going from $50 to $55.  This means that the 2% in credit-back that we make at the end of the year needs to exceed $55, so we need to be spending $2,750 (up from $2,500) at Costco over the course of the year to make the Executive membership worthwhile.  That strikes me as a lot of stuff to buy, but I always underestimate our spending.  Fortunately, if our 2% comes in at less than $55 at the end of the year, Costco will refund the difference to us.

Am I going to keep our Costco membership?  For now, yes. I want to see how much we spend by the end of the year and re-evaluate its value.  There's a good chance we might hop over to Sam's Club in 2013.

Now on to AMC Stubs.  Is it any more attractive to me since they dropped the membership fee from $12 to $6?  Not really.

There have been a ton of $5-$7 AMC ticket specials (let's just say $6 for the sake of argument) available lately, and I buy them whenever I can.  I've built up a nice stash. Joshua and I love going out to the movies, and these deals save us 40%-50% over regular Saturday night ticket prices. Since I buy these so regularly, I see this $6 ticket price as AMC Stubs main "competition."  AMC Stubs' primary benefit is a $10 credit for every $100 spent, or $110 for $100.  That's a 9% discount.  And I have to spend $6 to get this discount!  So a 9% discount versus a 40% discount?  Yeah, I can definitely do that math.

But what about when those $6 offers dry up?  What then? I still won't be paying for AMC Stubs.  There are simply too many other options.  Regal Entertainment offers a better frequent buyers program, and it's free.  Costco and AAA (ironically, more memberships for which I pay) routinely offer packets of AMC tickets at a discount, albeit not 40%, but more than 10%.  AAA also sells packs of AMC tickets at a discounts.  The math just doesn't work for a paid rewards program for the movies.

The only way I would consider joining the AMC Stub program was if it would become free.  And if the AMC Theaters marketing guys were smart, they would do just that.  Any rewards program, free or not, builds loyalty and keeps people coming back.

What did I leave out here?  Do you agree or disagree?  Will you be dropping your Costco membership this year?  Will you be signing up for AMC Stubs?  Please comment below.


  1. Anonymous11/13/2011

    costco always refunds the difference between your rebate and the executive membership fee? i downgraded to goldstar this year since we didnt spend enough...

    Debra Koenig

  2. Yes Devorah. You call them up, they check your 2% and if it's less than $50 (now $55) they will give you the difference.


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