Deal Hunter: Movie tickets

October 7, 2011

No such thing as a free lunch? Maybe. But how about a free trip to the movies? Now that’s a real deal. Whether you buy tickets at the box office or online, you can take advantage of movie theaters’ loyalty programs to rack up credits and earn free tickets, snacks at the concession stands and more. Read on for a breakdown of the best movie offers available — that’s what we call having your candy and eating it, too.

REGAL CROWN CLUB

Regal Cinemas’ Crown Club free rewards program lets you earn credits for purchases at the ticket booth and concession stand. Credits can be used for movie passes, soda and popcorn.

How it works: Every dollar you spend on movie tickets earns one credit; a purchase from the concession stand earns four credits. You’re eligible for your first reward (one free small popcorn) after 50 credits; 100 credits gets you a free small soda. Once you earn 150 credits, you reach Star Status, which means you get a free movie ticket and you’ll start earning two additional credits on concession purchases and five additional credits if you see a movie on a Thursday.

Thumbs up: You can earn credits for using gift cards — that presumably you got as gifts. Talk about a win-win! A Crown Club membership gets you access to the company’s Discount Days, which means a featured candy for $2 on Mondays and a small popcorn for $2 on Tuesdays. Credits don’t expire.


Do loyalty programs pay off in free tickets? (David Franklin)

Thumbs down: You can only earn 20 credits per membership card per day, so large families will have to buy tickets strategically to get the most credits. Some new movies have a “No Pass Attraction” restriction for the first few weeks, which means you can’t use a free ticket for admission. You don’t earn credits for buying gift cards.

AMC STUBS

For an annual fee of $12, AMC Stubs Reward program members earn $10 in credit for every $100 spent at AMC Theatres. Credit can be redeemed for movie tickets, concessions and gift cards.

How it works: Every dollar spent on tickets and concession purchases counts toward the $100 requirement to earn a $10 AMC Stubs Reward. Ticket purchases from Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com count, too, and online purchase fees are waived for members. Daily free upgrades on popcorn and fountain drinks mean that you’ll pay for a small and get a medium, and so on.

Thumbs up: There’s no limit to how much credit you can earn in one visit, so every purchase is rewarded. If you forget to use your membership card but keep your receipt, you can take the receipt to the theater within 30 days and still get your credit. You’ll earn credit when you redeem an AMC gift card, too.

Thumbs down: The membership fee is an initial hurdle. Rewards expire 90 days after you earn them, so sign up to receive an alert when your reward is nearing the expiration date. Gift card purchases don’t count toward your total.

OTHER DEALS

Fandango.com: The online ticketing site offers an array of deals on its Gifts & Promos page, most of which apply only to certain credit-card holders. The best option: Earn two free tickets if you sign up for Netflix. You can flip through the other 125 offers that will earn you one free ticket. Options range from signing up for AngiesList.com or Audible.com, ordering groceries from Safeway.com as a new user or upgrading to a Flickr Pro account. Just remember to complete the order through the Fandango site to get your free ticket.

MovieTickets.com: While the site’s overall concept is similar to Fandango, the rewards program is significantly different. Membership in the free Red Carpet Rewards Club means you earn 100 points for each ticket purchased through the site (plus 500 for signing up). Points can be used to bid, auction-style, on prize packages. Auctions run for one month, and at the end of the month you’ll be notified if you placed the highest bid and the points will deducted from your account. Sample auction items include: Two tickets per month for one year; two tickets and a $50 Restaurant.com voucher; or a set of four tickets.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Sign up for free rewards programs to earn freebies every time you go to the movies. Familiarize yourself with the fine print for each program to maximize your credit-earning potential. Keep track of accounts online to make sure rewards don’t expire before you use them.

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