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Ten customer loyalty programs you've never heard of

There are more customer loyalty programs out there than may seem at first glance, spanning from the ordinary to the more obscure. 

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Loyalty programs are popular for companies and consumers for two reasons: Brands want loyal customers, and customers want perks. Consumers in the United States hold 3.3 billion memberships in loyalty programs, with an average of 29 per household.

If there are grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations, chain restaurants, or big box stores you frequent, you probably have their loyalty cards in your wallet. And we'll bet that you don't shop without a rewards credit card, fly without collecting miles, or stay in a hotel without racking up points. After all, you wouldn't be here if you weren't smart shoppers.

However, there are tons of loyalty programs out there that you may not know about, either because they aren't heavily advertised or because it wouldn't occur to you to look for them. We've rounded up 10 loyalty programs that might pique your interest.

Nissan

Nissan owners can sign up for the One to One Rewards program, where making vehicle service visits and shopping with the company's retail partners earn you points, which you can use for maintenance and service at your local Nissan dealer. Many other car brands, such as Honda and Chevrolet, offer reward programs at the local dealer level as well.

Cost: Free

IKEA

Known for its affordable, stylish furniture, the Swedish retailer offers even more savings and perks with its IKEA FAMILY program. Members get free coffee and tea at store restaurants, 30 extra minutes at Småland (the children's play- and babysitting-area), 90-day price protection, and discounts on select merchandise.

Cost: Free

Ace Hardware

Ace Rewards operates on a points system, where every dollar spent earns you 10 points. For every 2,500 points, you get a $5 reward. Other perks include Ace Hardware coupons, in-store savings, and 1,000 points just for signing up.

Cost: Free

Amtrak

Travel rewards aren't just for the skies. Amtrak's Guest Rewards program offers different membership tiers based on travel frequency. Members earn points when they travel, which can be used for free trips, hotel stays, car rentals, and gift cards.

Cost: Free

Taco Bell

A relatively new loyalty program, Taco Bell Explore is a rewards-based game that's part of the company's iOS and Android app. Members get sent puzzles based on their social media activity, and completing a puzzle makes them eligible to win prizes like free food, beverages, and their own personalized booth at Taco Bell.

Cost: Free

7-Eleven

7-Eleven's 7Rewards is also app-based (iOS and Android), and rewards members for buying drinks such as coffee or a Slurpee. You simply scan the bar code on your drink purchases, and the seventh one is always free.

Cost: Free

1-800-Flowers

Celebrations Rewards encompasses several brands in the 1-800-Flowers family, including The Popcorn Factory and Harry & David. Members receive points for purchases, and for every 200 points, a $20 credit.

Cost: Free for basic; $29.99/year for premium

Kellogg's

Kellogg's Family Rewards also encompasses a bunch of brands — in this case, Eggo, MorningStar Farms, Nutri-Grain, and many others. You can connect your store loyalty card to earn points when you buy eligible products, or upload your receipts for verification. You then use those points to get items in the Kellogg's rewards catalog.

Cost: Free

GNC

GNC Gold Card membership gives you everyday savings of up to 50% in-store, as well as online savings, price matching, and other members-only and partner offers.

Cost: $15/year

Lids

If you like sports team apparel, you might want to check out Lids Club. A mall hat retailer, Lidsoffers club members tiered memberships based on points, and members receive a 20 to 25% discount on hats, 10 to 15% discount on apparel, and other perks.

Cost: $5/year

This article first appeared at DealNews.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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