For loyal shoppers, department stores have perks

Department stores have gotten a bum rap as the lumbering giants of the retail world. When it comes to certain aspects of customer service, they are ahead of the game. From generous return policies to interest-free credit, department stores offer plenty of perks to loyal shoppers.

Here is a sampling from several popular department stores:

Loyalty has privileges

For years, department stores have rewarded their credit card customers with special discounts, but some also offer loyalty programs to reward shoppers with points that can be traded for gift cards or special services.

Neiman Marcus’ InCircle Points program, for example, lets you earn two points for virtually every dollar charged on your Neiman Marcus (or Bergdorf Goodman) charge. Once you’ve earned 10,000 points, you get a $100 gift card. Your InCircle level is dictated by how much you spend each year, and each level comes with a different set of perks such as member only events, free gift wrapping and more.

Nordstrom has a similar program known as Fashion Rewards which gives two points for every dollar spent on your Nordstrom credit card. You earn a $20 Nordstrom Note when you reach 2,000 points. You have chances to earn Notes faster when you shop special bonus points events and you gain benefits based on the level you achieve in a calendar year.

The return of return policies

True story: An AJC employee who often breaks her sunglasses takes her receipt back to Nordstrom and exchanges the broken shades for a new pair.

When the strap suddenly snapped on a purse I had owned for about a year, I took it back to Macy’s — without a receipt — and got a store credit.

Kohl’s actively promotes their “Hassle Free Returns” telling customers to return anything, at any time for any reason for a full refund or an even exchange. If you don’t have a receipt, that’s not a problem. You still get a refund, exchange or merchandise credit.

Interest and fee free credit

Von Maur is known for its interest-free charge card. Customers who pay with a Von Maur card are never charged interest and there are no monthly or annual fees. You can also choose your payment schedule — pay in full at the end of the month or spread payments over several months.

At various times throughout the year, Neiman Marcus offers select Neiman Marcus card customers promotional financing plans on current or future purchases. Recent plans waived interest charges on purchases for six months to 20 months. Of course, after the promotion ends, a 21 percent APR is applied to any unpaid purchases made during the promotional period.

As for late fees, most department stores will waive them if you call customer service and make the request, particularly if you pay your bills in full each month.

Beyond Brick and Mortar

Most department stores have moved into the 21st Century and offer some form of online shopping, but the policies can vary greatly. Von Maur, for example, offers free shipping and returns with no minimum purchase. Kohl’s will ship free to your home if you order an item at their web-based kiosks in-store. If you want to purchase an out of stock item at Nordstrom, they will have it shipped to your home for free once it is located at another store.

Some stores will also honor online pricing in-store and some will allow you to return items ordered online to the store location nearest you.

So if you have a favorite department store, take the time to review the store’s policies, get to know the sales staff at your location and when it comes to customer service, ask for what you want.

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Discuss online: Our Deal Spotter section in Thursday’s AJC is full of great local deals and exclusive offers.