Some smartphone applications will relieve you of having to lug around a deck of reward cards for supermarkets and retail outlets, offering not only convenience but reduced pocket clutter.
And, if you're intent on posting your every move as a social-media event, such apps help to turn a trip to the drugstore into a likable moment among your Facebook friends.
These apps include tutorials that explain how to get your loyalty and reward accounts loaded into the phone and ready to flash at the cash register. And they provide ways for users to find stores and access additional merchant discounts, such as e-coupons.
CardMobili, free, from Desenvolvimento de Software S.A., comes in versions for Android and Apple devices. Merchant information that loads with each card usually includes a phone number for the chain, along with location maps and corporate addresses.
The app is supposed to read bar codes to make loading easy, but that feature failed to work with my iPhone camera, so I had to manually load my reward numbers. After that, however, I was up and running, with bar codes at the ready for purchases that I made at CVS and Acme, where checkout clerks didn't bat an eye about scanning from the phone's screen.
By also loading some non-store reward-account numbers into the app, I was able to use CardMobili instead of my wallet to retrieve a frequent-flier account number while purchasing tickets at an airline website.
A scanner in the self-checkout lane at the supermarket could not read the smartphone screen, though. Tips within these apps say some scanners don't work well, or at all, with bar codes on a screen, so be prepared to ask a cashier to key in numbers.
Key Ring, free for Android and Apple from Mobestream Media, did read the bar codes from my loyalty cards, so I didn't have to type in the numbers into the app.
Loading my A.C. Moore store card instantly put coupons for two significant discounts into my hand. Tapping "More" gave me a screen with options for taking notes, calling up store locations on a Google map, and connecting to the retailer's Facebook page.
The app has a page that puts all the current discount offers from your stores in a single list for easy study, and it pitches additional "Express Coupons" based on your location.
CardStar, free from CardStar Inc. for Apple and Android, lets you check in from your location with your friends on the Foursquare social-network service, get to the website of a card issuer easily, and call the business' customer-service number with a tap.
As with the other applications listed, you can create an account at the app's website and sync your list of cards for use on other devices, or for safekeeping if you lose, wreck or replace your phone.