Are you being rewarded for your loyalty?

If you're like most savvy shoppers out there, you have reward, coupon or other loyalty cards from retailers you frequent regularly (I've got a whole key fob's worth of those little plastic bar-code tags that goes with me when I go shopping). As the recession rolls along, though, many retailers are adjusting their programs in response to decreased consumer spending. This SmartMoney article makes the excellent suggestion to visit the stores or go online and dig up the fine print of the programs in which you participate. You may be getting more -- or less -- than you realized.

Shoppers today want the stores they visit to give them something extra for spending their hard-earned dollars there, so they're gravitating toward loyalty programs in greater numbers than they did during the go-go years. According to Colloquy, a marketing research company, participation in loyalty programs is up by 19% since 2007. Millennials, that marketing-jargon term for the coveted 18-to-25 year-old demographic,ramped up their participation in loyalty programs by a whopping 32% within that time period.

Retailers have been taking different tacks toward their larger member bases, though. While some are making it easier to accrue points and redeem rewards, others are getting stingy, dropping some benefits or making them harder to attain. SmartMoney details several big retailers' program changes, for better or worse. The bulk of them fall into a handful of categories: