How to Maximize Points and Save Money at Movie Theaters
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Going to the movies is a quintessential pastime. Yet as ticket prices continue to skyrocket, it becomes less and less affordable to go on a whim, especially for anyone on a budget or who needs to factor in children's tickets or babysitter fees for a date night out. Average ticket prices are north of $9 per ticket which adds up quickly when you're heading to the movies with friends or family.
Since no self-respecting points and miles enthusiast would consider spending a dollar without first investigating potential ways to stack earnings, before you spend your hard earned money on the next big-budget action flick or independent art house film, make sure you're using these methods to maximize every bit of savings and point maximization that you can.
Pay Using a Credit Card That Earns Bonus Points
Most movie theater purchases code in the entertainment category, even when purchasing concessions or at dine-in movie theaters. For most cards, these purchases will net you the standard 1x/dollar earning. However, cards such as the Citi Premier® Card and Citi Prestige award two ThankYou points per dollar at pretty much any movie theater in the entertainment bonus category.
The Citi Premier® Card currently even comes with a 60,000 point sign-up bonus after you spend $4,000 in the first three months after account opening. Here are some additional cards that award a bonus on entertainment spending.
Earn Points Buying Gift Cards
You can sometimes save money or earn bonus points by purchasing movie theater gift cards at a store that earns bonus points on a card you already have in your wallet. For instance, buying your movie currency at Staples or Office Depot with the Ink Business Cash Credit Card will give you a 5% cash back return (on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary), or 5x points when paired with an Ultimate Rewards-earning card, since "office supply stores" is a bonus category on the Ink Cash.
Or, head to the grocery store to shop for movie gift cards and pay with a American Express® Gold Card that awards 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year; then 1x).
If you want cash back, one of the easiest options is to use this grocery store option with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which offers a whopping 6% on the first $6,000 spent at US supermarkets each calendar year (then 1% thereafter). If you went all out and purchased the full amount in movie theater gift cards for gifts and personal use, you'd earn $360 cash back within the year. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
Earn United Miles
If you're looking to quickly boost your United Airlines mileage stash, you can also earn up to 5 bonus miles per dollar using the United MileagePlus X app at theater chains such as AMC, the Alamo Drafthouse, Bow Tie Cinemas or Regal Entertainment. If you have a United credit card, such as the United Explorer Card, you'll get a bonus on top of that. You don't even have to use the actual card in order to earn a whopping 6.25x/dollar via the app, in addition to your usual earn rate on the card of your choice.
Buy Discounted Movie Tickets
Costco, Sam's Club and similar offer specialized gift cards and 'ticket packs' to leading movie theaters at discounted rates. By using a card that optimizes Costco purchases, such as the Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi, you can earn up to 2% cash back from your movie ticket purchases in addition to the normal savings offered at those retailers.
It's also a good idea to check theater chain websites for promos on gift card purchases.
Utilize a Shopping Portal
Shopping portals offer an additional way to earn on your everyday spending. While most shopping portals exclude gift cards from earning cash back or points, there are a large number of portals that do include Fandango and other movie ticket sellers as an option for bonus points or cash back.
It's hard to keep up with which portal offers the best option at any given point in time, so we highly recommend using a shopping portal aggregator such as EVRewards.com or CashBackMonitor.com (my personal favorite), which visually lays out your options side-by-side to help you make the most informed purchasing decision.
AMC Stubs A-List
In June 2018, AMC launched its own monthly movie subscription program as a direct competitive move against the popular cinema startup, MoviePass. MoviePass isn't active at the moment (she's on a break), but AMC's Stubs A-List program offers members three tickets per week for a monthly fee of $23.95 (plus tax), resetting each week on Friday morning.
A-List members can use those three weekly tickets to see flicks in any format, including IMAX, 3D or Dolby Digital. They can also make advance reservations online and via the AMC app for free, according to the AMC FAQs page for A-List.
A-List members will also receive a complimentary upgrade to Stubs Premiere benefits, which offers participants 10% back on all food and beverage purchases as well as free size upgrades on popcorn and fountain drinks. They also gain access to priority lanes at the box office and concessions.
The program requires a three-month commitment up front and is auto-billed each month after that, although members can cancel at any time after the three months are up.
Lastly, the program states that A-List movie reservations can be made any time after movie tickets go on sale, although members may not have more than 3 reservations at any time, regardless of whether the showtimes fall within the same week. Keep in mind members also will not be able to make a reservation if the start of that movie begins before the previous movie ends. Tickets purchased through A-List are only intended to be used by the account holder, and AMC claims it will check for a valid photo ID at the theatre for all A-List reservations.
Sign up for Movie Rewards Loyalty Programs
Many of the theater chains offer loyalty programs, which allow you to accumulate points for each dollar spent at the theater, on concessions, etc.
Here are just a few examples of what you can earn by signing up for a membership with the following theater chains:
The Alamo Drafthouse is a regional, beloved theater chain with nearly 30 locations primarily in its home state of Texas, although the chain is rapidly expanding across the nation. This is one of my favorite cinematic venues of all time, and I pretty much won't watch a movie in Austin unless it's screened at an Alamo Drafthouse. The chain has its own movie app and loyalty program called Alamo Victory, which offers e-tickets and allows members to view up to three free movies a year. You can also accumulate "Victory Rewards" toward free movies, food, events and special screenings with the program.
This nationwide movie theater chain, which is the largest in the world, offers two tiers within its rewards program, called AMC Stubs. Registration is available both online as well as at the box office. The free version is called AMC Stubs Insider, and offers one complimentary popcorn refill per visit, as well as special savings on movie tickets every Tuesday (the discount varies by location).
Furthermore, members earn 20 points for every $1 spent at the box office and concession stand, and get $5 off 5,000 accumulated points. AMC Stubs Insiders also get a free large popcorn on their birthday, the option to refill a large popcorn free of charge every time they visit a theater, as well as waived online ticketing fees when purchasing four or more tickets. Insiders also receive access to exclusive offers and invitations to special screenings.
The AMC Stubs Premiere membership costs $15/year, but comes with additional perks. Premiere members will also receive a complimentary popcorn refill for each visit and savings on Tuesday movie tickets. But Premiere members will earn 100 points for every $1 spent at the box office and concession stand, which means paid members only need to spend $50 to get $5 off 5,000 accumulated points. Premiere members celebrating their birthdays will also receive a free large popcorn and large soft drink, waived online ticket fees and other exclusive offers.
The third-largest movie chain in the US offers two different rewards programs. The free one, called Cinemark Connections, earns points on ticket and concession purchases, with each transaction being worth 10 points — no matter how much or little it's for — and a 25 point daily cap on total points. Points can then be redeemed for movie swag, digital downloads and sweepstakes.
Cinemark's paid loyalty program option, called Cinemark Movie Club, is more extensive. For a price of $8.99 per month, you'll get one free ticket to any 2D movie every month, and unused tickets will roll over to the following months. You'll also get 20% off concessions, waived online fees and the ability to buy a second ticket for a companion for the same $8.99 cost when you're redeeming your own free monthly ticket. Finally, in addition to the perks above, you'll earn Connections points on all Cinemark purchases as well, essentially stacking the benefits of the two programs together.
The Regal Crown Club is a great option for moviegoers whose cinema of choice is a Regal theater, especially since Regal is the second-largest movie theater chain in the US. The free program allows members to earn 100 points per dollar spent at the box office, with no limit on earning potential. The Crown Jewel bonus program offers accelerated points-earning potential for frequent moviegoers, tiered at Emerald (6+ visits per year), Ruby (10+ visits per year), or Diamond (20+ visits per year). Credits can be redeemed for free popcorn, drinks, or additional movie tickets.
If Fandango is your choice for movie ticket purchases, make sure you sign up for Fandango VIP, the company's free rewards program. You'll earn 125 VIP+ points for every ticket you buy, and every time you earn 500 points, you'll get a $5 reward to use for discounts on Fandango tickets, FanShop movie gear or streaming movies on FandangoNOW. The one downside is that you only have 21 days to use your $5 reward once you've earned it.
Fandango also has a nifty new partnership with Mastercard. Now, World Elite cardholders will be able to earn double Fandango VIP+ points for the movie tickets they buy. This means cardholders will get 500 Fandango VIP+ points (worth $5) for every two movie tickets they purchase via the Fandango app or Fandango.com.
That being said, a really neat feature is the ability to stack rewards from Fandango VIP with other movie theater rewards programs by linking the programs together. Fandango partners with AMC Stubs, Regal Crown Club, Cinemark Connections and many other chains (though not Alamo Drafthouse), so you can double-dip on rewards and in some cases even redeem rewards from other programs when making purchases on Fandango.
Additional reporting by Jordan Allen, Nick Ewen and Brendan Dorsey.