If your wallet or pocketbook is anything like the overstuffed suitcases that Janet and I carry around, it’s probably brimming with loyalty cards and rewards cards from the merchants you frequent. We have cards from grocery stores, pharmacies, hotel chains, airlines and even Amtrak. These cards help us get great discounts over time at the places we shop, so we think of them as important tools for smart spending.
Unfortunately, the number of cards we carry has only grown, and we’ve responded in different ways. Janet has opted to buy increasingly larger pocketbooks as her loyalty cards have split seams and popped pockets. I, on the other hand, have chosen to regularly cull infrequently-used cards from my wallet, but as a consequence, I don’t always have the right card available when I want to use it.
Thankfully, we’ve stumbled on a new app that solves our problems and brings a lot of extra value: CardStar.
An Easy-to-Use App to Consolidate Your Cards
CardStar is available for iPhone, Android, Nokia, Blackberry and Windows phone systems and can be downloaded, set up and ready to use in minutes. The interface is simple and its use is generally obvious. Having never used the app before, I downloaded it, explored the app in its entirety and even entered seven cards from our favorite retailers in less than five minutes.
There are two ways to enter cards: snapping a photo of the barcode on the card and manually typing in the serial number of the card. CardStar makes this process even easier by providing a list of participating merchants that you can quickly select and add. If the merchant you want in not on the list though, don’t worry – you’ll find it’s a snap to add.
Just click on the “+” in the top-right corner of the screen and then then scroll through an alphabetized list of participating merchants. Once you find the merchant whose card you want to add, just tap on its name to select it and then tap “Next.” The next screen to appear allows you to enter the card number or capture it by snapping a photo of the card’s barcode using the smartphone camera. Tap “Save” and then you’re all set!
If you don’t see the name listed for the merchant you want, you just need to create your own listing. At the top of their list of merchants is “(Other).” Tap there, click Next and then manually enter or photograph the barcode and then hit “Save.” On the next screen, simply tap on the name “Other” in order to type in the name of the merchant that you just added. Easy.
How to Use It
Now, when you go to one of your favorite merchants and you want to use one of your cards, you don’t need to reach for your wallet. Just pull out your smartphone, open the CardStar app, and then select the merchant from your list of pre-saved cards. Your barcode and card number will appear on the screen. (The app will automatically create a barcode for you–even if your original card did not have one.) If the merchant has a machine that can scan barcodes, they will be able to scan the barcode on your smartphone screen just like the barcode that is printed on the product being sold. (The machines in your grocery market check-out lane are the perfect scenario for these cards.)
If they cannot scan barcodes, the check-out person or the merchant should be able to just manually type the card number that’s displayed on your phone into their register in order to give your card account credit for the sale.
CardStar has two other major benefits: coupons and online backup. Some merchants share information about coupons or other discounts with CardStar, so the app allows puts a deals icon next to the name of any of your merchants that is offering extra savings. Just tap on the deals icon next to the name and the screen will switch to a list of those coupons and discounts. When you’re ready to use one, simply show the coupon’s code to the merchant.
Finally, CardStar also knows that sometimes smartphones get lost, damaged or replaced and that CardStar users need to be able to transfer their card accounts from phone to phone. CardStar’s one-touch account back-up provides this feature and is available easily from the app’s main screen.
Now, with CardStar, you can consolidate all your cards into one app, access big savings with an easy-to-use app and have the confidence that you can throw away that stack of cards forever.
Five Ten Twenty Club Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Note: This is the first in a series of financial product reviews designed to help you select the best free or low-cost products for your needs. We only recommend those products we feel benefit a majority of our readers.