Earn free products faster with your Ultamate Rewards membership by using these shopping hacks…
I post a LOT about Ulta because I do the vast majority of my beauty shopping there. The reason for this is simple: Ultamate Rewards.
Ulta used to have the absolute worst, most pointless rewards program in probably the whole retail world. Every few months, your points would be automatically converted into a coupon good for a salon service (whether or not you wanted to redeem them or needed/wanted a salon service at Ulta). Worse, the coupons had very short shelf lives — a few months, maybe — so for someone like me who lived thousands of miles from the nearest Ulta, there was no way to use them, and consequently no real incentive to seek out Ulta over other retailers.
Clearly the program wasn’t working for Ulta any better than it was working for their customers, because a few years ago they replaced it with a new and improved Ultamate Rewards. The improved program is at the opposite end of the spectrum — in fact, as a shopper, I’d say it’s hands-down the best rewards program I’ve used at any business.
How it works, in a nutshell: For every dollar you spend at Ulta, you get a point. Save up your points and you can convert them into credit at Ulta. You can redeem as few as 100 points ($3) or as many as 2,000 ($125) on any Ulta products.
I have redeemed 2,000 points. It was a banner day, friends. A banner day.
I realize that I probably spend quite a bit more on beauty products than the average person. But you don’t necessarily have to spend a ton of money to get extra mileage out of your Ulta rewards — you just have to be savvy about how you shop.
Here are a few things you can do if you want to get the most out of your Ultamate Rewards membership.
Save Your Points
As soon as you get to 100 points, Ulta’s going to let you know that you’ve earned your first reward. Listen to me carefully, friends: DO NOT CASH IN A 100-POINT REWARD.
100 points gets you a $3 credit. And hey, that’s great! That’s like getting 3 percent cash back (if cash is something you can only spend on beauty products, which for me it basically is). But guess what? At the next level, 500 points, you don’t get five $3 credits, or $15. You get $17.50. Which is like 3.5 percent. And it only gets better from there. Save up 750 points and you’re up to 4 percent. Keep going and you max out at $125 for 2,000 points — a 6.25 percent credit bonus.
And OK, yeah, if you don’t spend much money at Ulta and it makes more sense for you to just spend the $3 because you won’t be back before your points expire a year from now, then sure, go for it. But if you can hold out (especially if you become Platinum; see below), you’ll see a much better rate of return.
Stock Up With Bonus Points
Ordinarily at the basic membership level, you earn one point for every dollar spent. Keep an eye out, though, for bonus offers that can get you anywhere from two to five times the points on certain purchases. Several times a year, Ulta offers double points on all purchases (triple points for Platinum and Diamond members — see below), and there are frequent brand bonuses. This is a great time to rack up extra points by stocking up on things you use frequently. For example, I am devoted to Tarte foundation and setting powder, and I go through multiple containers of each every year. So I wait until there’s a 5x points offer on Tarte purchases and stock up on three or four replacements for my favorite products. It’s a substantial outlay of cash up front, but I won’t have to spend again on those products for a long time — and I end up earning five times the points I would have earned if I bought them one at a time. With a 5x points bonus, a single tube of my $39 foundation gets me almost halfway to 500 points!
You can also stack bonus offers. Let’s say there’s a 5x on Tarte and a 2x bonus on all purchases (which is a 3x bonus for me because I’m Platinum). I get 39 base points for my $39 foundation, plus 156 bonus points for the 5x bonus, plus 78 bonus points for the 3x bonus. (Bonus offers are calculated separately, so you don’t get a 5x bonus TIMES a 3x bonus; you get a 5x bonus PLUS a 3x bonus. And the base points, the original 1x, only get counted once.) So with that one $39 purchase, I’ve earned 273 bonus points. Not too shabby when 500 points gets me a $17.50 credit.
Use The Ulta Mobile App
I generally don’t love having to have a million different individual mobile apps for all the various stores where I shop, but Ulta’s is one I have, like, and frequently use. I get a million marketing emails every day, and I never actually read most of them, so if bonus offers are sent that way, it’s likely I’ll never see them.
When I use the Ulta app, on the other hand, I’ve got a heads up about any bonus offers right at the top of the home screen, and I can activate them right there in the app. There’s no lag time, in my experience, on the activation; I’ve activated bonus offers while standing at the register, and as long as they’re active before the sale is totaled, I’ve gotten the bonus points.
I hate notifications for most apps, but I keep them turned on for the Ulta app so I never miss a deal or offer.
Shop During Your Birthday Month
Speaking of bonus offers… add your birthday to your account and you’ll get a 2x points offer to activate during your birthday month.
Yes, all month.
Yes, in addition to any other bonus points. AND you get a free birthday gift.
Beat that, Sephora, and maybe I’ll start thinking about buying my Tarte foundation from you.
Qualify For Platinum (Or Diamond!)
Spend $450 in a calendar year and you’ll earn Platinum status. (It sounds like a lot of money, although it works out to spending $37.50 a month at Ulta, which isn’t too far out of the realm of the possible if you regularly use a few prestige brands.)
You know how it’s easier for rich people to get richer than it is for poor people to get rich? This is also true of Ultamate Rewards. Once you hit Platinum status, you earn 1.25 points for every dollar you spend, so you’re getting to the next reward level 25 percent faster. And when there’s a double points offer for Ultamate Rewards members, you’ll enjoy triple points. Even bigger: Your points never expire. So you can save up for that big 2,000-point splurge without worrying about letting your older points expire. And during your birthday month, in addition to the bonus points and birthday gift, you get a $10 credit.
This month, Ulta introduced a new level, Diamond, with even more perks. Spend $1,200 in a calendar year (so an average of $100/month) and you’ll earn 1.5 points per dollar, get free shipping on Ulta.com purchases of $25 or more, and an annual $25 gift card for salon services.
Don’t Forget Cash Back
You know I never shop online without going through a cash back site like Ebates or Mr. Rebates (referral links). Right now, Ebates offers 3 percent cash back at Ulta and Mr. Rebates offers 5 percent, but those numbers sometimes change, so I like to check both.
When shopping on mobile, I find it a lot easier to shop in the Ulta app rather than through the Ebates browser. Since I’m signed in to my account, the app will save my cart for me to open again in any browser. That way, when I’m finished shopping, I can go through the Ebates app to the Ulta mobile site so my visit is tracked through Ebates. I sign into my Ulta account and my basket is waiting for me to check out.
In the years since Ulta rolled out the improved Ultamate Rewards program, I have earned hundreds of dollars in free product. Naturally, that’s due in large part to the fact that I shop for beauty products a lot. But it’s also because I’ve shopped smart, stocking up on bonus points and taking advantage of special offers. It’s how Ulta has earned my loyalty as a customer — and I hope it helps you get the most out of your rewards membership, too!