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The beginning of the year always seems like a time when people flock to the gym in an effort to burn off the extra calories gained over the holidays and also to become more fit. Even apart from this, it seems to be the time of the year when there’s an influx of various fun runs, marathons, challenges and fitness programs.

I have one friend who is very fond of this time of the year, particularly because he is somewhat of a fitness freak.

From registering for nearly every marathon, to preparing months in advance, he definitely is one determined guy, set on his fitness goals.

While browsing the internet I came across the Sportsmans Warehouse website which informed me of their online gift card purchases, which I was totally unaware of.

Immediately, I thought this would be a great way of getting a gift (which he could choose for himself) for my friend for one of his races, especially because we now live in different cities.

All I had to do was to visit the Sportsmans Warehouse website to register for an online gift card which would automatically be sent to my friend, simply by filling in this online form.sportsmans formAfter I had chosen the amount of the gift card, which ranged between R100 and R1000, I specified my friend’s details and added the gift card to my cart like a product. Payments can be made using MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards which are registered with any South African bank. EFT payments are also accepted.

Once I checked out and my payment was confirmed, the voucher was sent to his email address. So when my friend wanted to make his purchase at a Sportsmans Warehouse in his city, all he had to do was to present the emailed gift card to the cashier to be redeemed.

SMS or Email vouchers such as these presented by Sportsmans Warehouse are a great way of reducing the risk of loss or theft by not having physical vouchers.

Now purchasing vouchers for my fitness fanatic friends, both near and far, has become as simple as a few clicks.

*Please note that the Sportsmans Warehouse gift cards are currently only redeemable in their stores and are not valid for online purchases.

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The Christmas season is always filled with the hustle and bustle of running around, trying to figure out if you’ve bought enough presents for everyone, if  you’ve budgeted enough for your spends and if the grocery cupboards are stocked up for all your visitors. I now understand why this time of the year has also been dubbed, “the silly season”, because it seems that the amount of spending – even sometimes without realising it – can become quite silly and overwhelming.

Various banks. including FNB eBucks, Nedbank Greenbacks, Standard Bank UCount Rewards and Investec’s Dividents Rewards Programme, have introduced their very own rewards programmes for times just like these. Simply by swiping your card, depending on who you bank with, you can instantly gain rewards which can be saved and used when you need that extra cash to spend.

Because I bank with Absa, I was able to reap the benefits of the Absa Rewards programme where I pay only R21 a month to gain rewards everytime I swipe my debit card. Rewards redemptions vary in amounts, depending on where I swipe my card, offering me highter redemptions if I swipe at any of Absa’s redemption partners.

You can imagine my surprise this week when I realised I could spend a little bit more without the added expense, all thanks to my Absa Rewards and my Pick n Pay Smart Shopper account.

My family have decided to visit me in Johannesburg for Christmas this year. Being Christmas time, I want to be able to spoil them with yummy treats and sweet goodies, especially for my younger little cousins, making their Christmas away from home that much more memorable.

My Absa Rewards, which I had gained from swiping my Absa debit card at various outlets, allows me the option of choosing to redeem my rewards either as cash, airtime, shopping vouchers, giving back to charity or redeeming through their Redemption Partners (Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points or Dischem Benefit Programme points). This came in really handy to get those extra grocery goods for the family and redeeming my Absa Rewards as Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points was such an easy process.

All I had to do was to call the Absa Rewards customer care line on 0861 788 888. Once I was on the line, I prompted to press number “1” on my phone which gave me the option of redeeming my rewards. I was then put through to an operator who was very helpful in converting my rewards to my Smart Shopper points, now redeemable at any Pick n Pay. All I had to do was to provide him with my South African ID number, he confirmed my details, asked how much of my rewards I wanted redeemed as Smart Shopper points and just like that, it was done.

To make things even better, because of this kind of redemption of my Absa Rewards, I gained an extra 15% on the amount redeemed, giving me even more to spend.

For security purposes and to keep me, as the customer, in the know about my transactions, I received two SMSes, one alerting me of my redemption transaction and another letting me know what my remaining rewards balance was.

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You can redeem your Absa Rewards online too if you are registered with their online or cellphone banking. If not, visit their website to sign up.

As easy as that, I was able to go to my nearest Pick n Pay and spend using my Smart Shopper points, without any extra expense to me. Now I can spoil my family, with no extra costs incurred. I’ve rewarded myself this Christmas, why don’t you?