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Do Punch Card Programs Still Build Loyalty?

A tried-and-true method for acquiring members for your loyalty program is the punch card.

When consumers hear punch cards, they immediately think “Buy 9 things from a brand and receive the 10th one free.”

While most physical punch card loyalty programs have gone the way of the VCR, digital punch card solutions are alive and well, helping brands foster repeat engagement and increased sales.

What Is a Punch Card Loyalty Program?

A punch card loyalty program is the most basic and most often used among brands.

Originally, companies would give members actual paper cards that were “punched” with a hole when they bought items or services. After the customer filled out the card, it could be redeemed for a reward. 

While some smaller companies still use actual paper cards, many brands have upgraded to electronic versions of them. Technology makes digital punch cards much more convenient for consumers than carrying paper cards around.

For every purchase made by a consumer, he or she receives a physical or digital hole in this type of loyalty program. Think of it as a box being checked after each purchase.

After a specific number of purchases, a consumer receives a gift, discount or exclusive deal.

The logic behind a punch card loyalty program focuses on encouraging members to make repeat purchases and increasing brand engagement.

Digital punch cards as part of a brand app offer member insights about how customers interact with your brand, buying preferences and redeemed incentives.

With digital loyalty punch cards, program members scan a personal QR code or barcode on their phone at the register, which tracks purchases until they reach the reward threshold.

For instance, members of Starbucks Rewards earn one star for every $1 spent after they scan their member barcode in the app.

Whether you use a physical or digital punch card loyalty program, remember to make the rewards attractive by listening to what your customers want.

Smiling man interacting with a punch card rewards program on his mobile phone

Why Are Punch Card Loyalty Programs Effective for Brands?

A punch card loyalty program is a simple and effective way to acquire members, encourage repeat purchases and inspire brand advocacy.

Loyalty punch cards allow brands to provide free items or discounts after a specific number of purchases, which incentivizes members to engage again and again.

Having a punch card loyalty program helps your brand increase sales and builds long-term, two-way relationships. These relationships help you glean important customer insights that will help all involved move forward.

Successfully incentivizing your loyalty program members to want to spend more time and money engaging with your brand is the goal of building and promoting advocacy.

When your brand positively impacts customers through a punch card loyalty program, they will engage and shop with you in the long run.

In the world of loyalty, offering consumers something simple to use and easy to understand is critical. This lies at the heart of any punch card loyalty program.

Offering consumers easy-to-understand value that includes a guaranteed reward when they meet a monetary or purchase threshold is crucial to acquiring and retaining members.

Customer Loyalty Punch Card Examples

Although they may not always call them punch cards by name, many businesses use this model as part of their loyalty programs. Check a few out below.

Screenshot of Starbucks digital punch card loyalty program


Starbucks has a loyalty punch card program in its mobile application. When you visit the store and pay within the app or with your Starbucks card, you receive one Star per $1 spent. Customers start redeeming rewards like free drinks and food after earning as few as 25 Stars.

Screenshot of Lipton digital punchcard program

Lipton Iced Tea

This was intended to drive incremental Lipton Iced Tea 12-pack sales and collect email opt-ins for future re-marketing.

Lipton partnered with the NFL to reward fans for making qualifying 12-pack purchases. Consumers uploaded their purchase receipts and, after buying three 12-packs, they earned a coupon for a fourth one free. With each upload, consumers also earned a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl LIV.

Screenshot of Domino's digital punch card program

Domino’s Piece of the Pie Rewards

When a member uses his or her pizza profile to place an order of $10 or more, he or she receives 10 points toward a free pizza.

When a member reaches 60 points, he or she clicks the ‘Redeem’ button in their app or online dashboard to add a free medium 2-topping pizza to their cart. This reward can be redeemed online for use at all participating Domino’s locations. 

This program helps elevate repeat customer engagement, value is easy for the customer to understand and involves a low cost to the business.

A Simple Punch Card Loyalty Program Is Still Effective

Punch card loyalty programs may have been around forever, but today’s digital versions tied to brand apps make perfect sense to not only acquire but also keep customers coming back.

They have a low barrier to entry for joins, elevate member engagement and retain customers for the long run.

Punch card loyalty programs drive repeat purchases with a digital punch card that makes consumers want more from your brand.

Digital punch card programs offer consumers easy-to-understand value and constant iteration helps create incentives tailored to your customer’s preferences.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our Punch Card solutions here.


ebbo helps brands achieve their customer loyalty goals with full-service, end-to-end solutions and also creates original educational content straight from the experts to help loyalty marketers stay on the cutting edge of customer engagement.

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ebbo™ is an all-in-one loyalty company. With our data driven strategy, full-service approach, and the unwavering support of the people behind the platform, our dedicated team will work with you to understand your loyalty goals, innovate solutions and help you build customer engagement on repeat.

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