Ulta has a new rewards program, and it's a little complicated.
Generally, you get 1 point per dollar spent. Sometimes you can get double or triple points, like during your birthday month. Also, if you are 'platinum' you get 1.25 points per dollar spent. Platinum member status kicks in when you spend $400 at Ulta during one calendar year.
Your points expire one year after when they were earned unless you are a platinum member, in which case your points never expire.
You can redeem your points as dollars off of your purchase either in-store or online. According to Ulta, "Most products are eligible for point redemption." The discount per point is also not super straightforward. This is from Ulta's website:
- 100 points = $3.00 off
- 250 points = $8.00 off
- 500 points = $17.50 off
- 750 points = $30.00 off
- 1000 points = $50.00 off
- 2000 points = $125.00 off
Points can only be redeemed in combinations of these point increments. If you want to redeem 600 points, then you can redeem 500 points and 100 points and receive $17.50 + $3.00 off for a total of $20.50 off the transaction.
It's important to note that the dollars off per point is not linear. If the dollars off per point were linear, then 2000 points would be worth (2000*$3/100) = $60 off, instead of $125 off. So, it looks like, in general, it's better to save up points and spend them all at once. Let's look at this this information visually, in a plot:
In this plot, the points redeemed are on the horizontal axis. The dollars off of merchandise is on the vertical axis. The blue points represent the Ulta Rewards program. I fitted these points with a polynomial. The slope on this line is positive and increasing. This means that, no matter how many points you currently have, you should keep saving your points.
The red points on this plot represent what the points system would look like if the rewards program were linear. This is also the rewards that you would get if you spent your points as you collected them, 100 points at a time. You can see that below 500 points there isn't much of a difference between the two lines. (E.g. You would get $17.50 off from 500 points in you saved, and $15 off if you spent your points every time you hit 100 points.) Put simply, if you are going to earn less than 500 points before your points expire, you might as well spend them as you earn them.
After 500 points, the differences become more noteworthy. 750 points gives you $30 off, rather than the $22.50 a linear model would suggest. 1000 points is $50 off, not the $30 of a linear system. And, finally, 2000 points gives you a whopping $125 off, rather than a mere $60.
In conclusion, if you spend less than $400 (and thus are not a Platinum member) or collect less than 500 points at Ulta in a year, then it doesn't matter very much how you spend your points. Just be sure to spend them before they expire! However, if you spend more than $400 a year at Ulta or collect more than 500 points in a calendar year, then you probably want to wait until you collect as many points as possible to spend them.