New loyalty rewards programs are both a blessing and curse to shoppers

loyalty programs take new shape
loyalty programs take new shape

Those traditional rewards programs, where you receive a gift or discount once you've spent a certain amount of money? That's so 20th century. Now that companies are armed with almost limitless computer processing power and databases full of individual spending histories, it should come as no surprise that loyalty programs have taken on a profusion of new forms -- and many of them will save you money, if you're shrewd enough to play them properly.

Those computers and discounts can, however exact a long-term cost. The more we allow ourselves to be manipulated by special offers, and the more data we provide to companies about our shopping decision-making, the more able those companies will become to charge each individual the absolute maximum price that he/she will be willing to pay. Say goodbye to the standard shelf price and hello to individual pricing.