Beauty chains companies are realizing that they have a a fiercely loyal group of customers that it is wise to maintain. Ulta features Ultamate Rewards and Sephora features Beauty Insider, respectively. They work differently and have different perks but they do have one thing in common – a tier system to reward their, “frequent fliers,” and top spenders with premium perks. So when it comes down to Ulta Platinum vs Sephora VIB which wins?
In late 2014, I hit Platinum status at Ulta and got to keep that status this year. I have no idea how this happened (reality, not being cute); I was shopping at Ulta less frequently than Sephora and I tended to spend less there; so I’m chalking it up to occasionally shopping with a friend who was content to have her purchases apply for my rewards.
So between Ulta Platinum vs Sephora VIB – which is better?
This was originally published in December of 2015, but felt it could use some refreshing. Not joining rewards programs is like leaving money and/or product on the table, so I want to help educate my readers!
Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is free to join. You earn one point per dollar spent, though there are sometimes point bonuses (e.g., 2xpoints on fragrance). There is a small gift (no purchase necessary) given during the customer’s birthday month that you should be able to get in store or online. Only dollars spent count towards your tier bumps – so it is possible to get to 350 points before having spent $350. Members get to choose three free samples at checkout.
You must spend $350 to hit VIB (Very Important Beauty Insider); likewise there is an über-tier, VIBR (VIB Rouge) with a required $1000 spend. I like makeup, but that’s unreasonable for me. Points do not expire and can be redeemed for Point Perks which are usually deluxe miniature products for 100, 250, and 500 points.
When you hit VIB at Sephora, you get a 15% coupon, a voucher for a free makeover (you usually need to buy $50 of product to get one of these), and a free shipping voucher. When I hit VIB in April, I used my 15% off on the Silk’n Long Life lamp immediately. I sat on the makeover until early July (which was horrific), and didn’t need the free shipping because I had already signed up for Sephora Flash.
Additionally, some products are offered to VIB customers preferentially (first option to buy), or are even only available to that tier of buyers. VIBR members get an additional birthday gift and access to purchase even more exclusives.
SIGN UP for free and access GWP codes on purchases of $25 or more.
Ultamate rewards is similar in that it is free and you earn one point per dollar with occasional multipliers. Points do expire after a certain period of time – but I’ve never let that happen. Instead of redeeming points on micro-makeup trinkets, points are redeemable for dollars-off an order. Point discounts are considered same-as-cash and can be used on anything. All services and items (including prestige) qualify. Birthdays are celebrated with a small gift and double points during the customer’s birthday month. Bonus point events are more common at Ulta than Sephora but bonus points do not count towards your tier. Ulta offers free samples as well, but you only get to pick the category, not the specific items. Furthermore, there does not seem to be a guarantee of the quantity of samples you will receive.
$400 spent lands you Platinum status. That’s a bit more than Sephora, but when you consider that they don’t only sell prestige skincare and makeup, it’s a lot easier to hit $400+ spent per annum. Between the Salon at Ulta, the Benefit Brow Bar, some locations offering Dermalogica skincare services and others offering nail services, it isn’t hard.
Platinum at Ulta means your point earnings increase 25% to 1.25 points-per-dollar; so for every $4 you spend, you get 5 points instead of four. You can also bank your points to save up for bigger discounts instead of risking expiration. Upon hitting Platinum, you receive a $10 off coupon, and you receive a HUGE amount of freebies or GWP offers. The purchase required for the GWPs is almost always low – you could go in and buy a drugstore chapstick and still get the thing. In addition to those perks, you also get far more point multiplier offers. 3x points on anything is common, and 5x on specific brands are, too. The icing on the cake for me, though, is the 3-4x per year 20% off your entire purchase including prestige brands (but excluding services) coupon.
SIGN UP for Ultamate Rewards for FREE & get $10 off your first purchase.
The above link is a referral link. If you sign up there, we both get $10 off.
I do not have a relationship with Ulta beyond that of a regular customer. This is not a promo exclusive to this blog.
So if you tend to shop brands that both stores carry, which is better?
This definitely does not have to be an, “or,” situation. If you really only wanted to shop at ONE store and were basing your decision on the available loyalty perks…go with Ulta! I enjoy the in-store shopping experience at Sephora better (atmosphere, store is organized better, etc), but if that isn’t as important to you as saving money is (or, if you primarily shop online like I do), Ulta wins.
Between the two, Ultamate Rewards, and Platinum in particular, rewards your loyalty more more than Sephora BI and VIB. When you consider that Ulta carries a wider range of products and price ranges (drugstore AND prestige, for instance), I can rack up points at Ulta far easier than Sephora, and I end up getting more frequent discounts from them than from Sephora. A lot of the point perks at Sephoraare underwhelming. I would much rather be able to redeem for dollars of my purchase than for some rotating hodge-podge of minis.
At one point, I banked $33 of Ulta points, stacked it with one of the rare 20% off anything coupons, and got a Naked2 for $10.20. Can’t really argue with a $54 palette for that little. That just does not happen at Sephora!