When I first published the Canadian grocery store comparisons, some readers pointed out the benefits of the PC Insiders subscription program. Since we have been doing more and more shopping at Superstore, the idea of earning more PC Optimum points was quite enticing. I began to wonder…Is the PC Insiders membership fee worth it? Below is my honest and unbiased PC Insiders review and whether PC Insiders is worth it.
After one year, here are some data points based on our family of four:
- We earned extra $320 with of PC Optimum points
- Saved $146 in PC Express pickup fees
- Saved 30 hours from shopping in the store
- Received $40 worth in PC Insiders surprise gift box
- $99 PC Travel credit
- A net benefit of $506
Is the PC Insiders subscription worth it? After being a PC Insider for a year, I believe the answer is yes. My PC Insiders review is positive. However, recently Loblaws announced that PC Insiders will go through some changes. These changes will be effective as of October 8, 2020. Many of these changes are significant soI have updated this post to closely examine these changes and determine whether the PC Insiders membership is still worth it after Oct 8, 2020.
Table of Contents
- PC Insiders Benefits – Old vs. New
- PC Travel Credit
- PC Insiders surprise gift box
- Free PC Express pickups
- Free delivery
- Maximizing PC Optimum Points
- PC Insiders Benefits Analysis
- Changes to PC Insiders Benefits – An Analysis
- PC Insiders Review – The pros and cons of PC Insiders
- Who is the PC Insiders subscription program best suited for?
- Is PC Insiders worth it? Depends on your shopping style.
PC Insiders Benefits – Old vs. New
PC Insiders is a subscription based membership program. It is Loblaws’ answer to Costco’s membership program. The PC Insiders subscription program is available at the following stores: No Frills, Loblaws, Superstores, Shoppers Drug Mart, Zehrs, Extra Foods, Pharmaprix, Atlantic Superstore, valu-Mart, BloorStreet Market, Maxi, Independent, Fortinos, Provigo, and Joe Fresh.
Old PC Insiders Benefits
When you enroll in the PC Insiders program, you get many benefits as a PC Insider. The old PC Insider benefits are:
- $99 PC Travel credit via PC Travel website. Note: You only get this benefit if you are on the annual subscription.
- Earn 200 PC Optimum Points per $1 spent on PC Organics products, Joe Fresh purchases, PC Black Label Collection purchases, all brands of baby diapers and formula, and all luxury beautyBOUTIQUE products on shoppersdrugmart.ca.
- Free shipping at Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart
- No pickup fees at PC Express. Without this PC Insider benefit, PC Express pickup would cost between $3 to $5, depending on the pickup time (i.e. $5 for busier time slots).
- Exclusive offers on PC Insiders Collection
- Exclusive PC Optimum offers
- One surprise gift annually (with annual subscription only)
When you pay the $99 annual membership (plus tax), you would get a $99 PC Travel credit. In this case, you are almost breaking even.
New PC Insiders Benefits
As of October 8, 2020, PC Insiders program will go through some major changes. As a result, the PC Insiders benefits are going to be quite different. The first big change is that the annual subscription fee will change from $99 to $119 (plus tax). The monthly subscription option is no longer available. The new PC Insiders benefits are:
- Earn 10% back in PC Optimum points on all over 12,000 PC products
- Free PC Express pickup with priority time slots
- Free shipping at Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart
- 10% back in points on all Joe Fresh purchases
- 5% back in points on PC Travel bookings, including car rentals, hotel bookings, flights, and vacation packages
- A Welcome Box featuring PC products (only for new PC Insiders members)
- Exclusive inspirational contents: recipes, cooking tips, insightful videos, and more
- Get the scoop on innovative new PC products and services and sneak peeks
- Dedicated member care
Here’s a quick & easy comparison between PC Optimum vs. PC Insiders:
As you can see, there are significant changes. Whether the PC Insiders membership fee is worth it will depend heavily on your shopping style as I will examine later.
PC Travel Credit
One thing to note is that you only get the PC Travel credit only if you subscribe for the annual PC Insiders program.
You can redeem the $99 PC Travel credit by booking something through PC Travel. You either use the travel credit or you lose it, since it cannot be transferred or refunded. The travel credit can be used for flights, hotels, car rentals, even cruises and vacation packages. If you plan to redeem the credit for hotels, the hotel stay has to be at least 3 nights.
Note: Although my experience with PC Travel was positive, I have found that PC Travel prices are more expensive than other travel websites. There are also some restrictions when booking through PC Travel. For complex travel itineraries, I would be hesitant to book through PC Travel.
Sep 2020 Update: With the new changes to PC Insiders, the PC Travel Credit will no longer be available as of October 8, 2020. Instead, PC Insiders will earn 5% PC Optimum points when booking through PC Travel.
PC Insiders surprise gift box
When we signed up for the PC Insiders membership, I was very curious about the annual PC Insiders surprise gift box.
We received two surprise annual gift packages during the first year of being a PC Insider even though you’re supposed to get one only. The surprise gift packages contained PC Black Label products and a few recipes.
After looking up these products online, I would estimate the value of each PC Insider surprise gift box at approximately $20.
Sep 2020 Update: This benefit will now be called the Welcome Box and will only be shipped to new PC Insider members. If you’re renewing the membership, you won’t receive the Welcome Box.
Free PC Express pickups
Mrs. T and I have been looking at Superstore’s online grocery shopping (PC Express) as a way to save time, but we didn’t want to pay for the $3 to $5 pickup fee every time.
As a PC Insider, PC Express pickups are free. We now order groceries online and then pick them up in-store at a time slot that is convenient for us. It is easy to select grocery items on the Superstore website. The website also displays the most frequently shopped items. Since we usually buy more or less the same things, we can quickly select the items we need and check out. It usually takes us less than five minutes to pick out everything we need, select a pickup time slot, and check out.
When I arrive at Superstore, I would pull into a designated PC Express parking stall, call the PC Express number, give the representative the parking stall number, and have my groceries delivered right to my car within five minutes. If I want to redeem our PC Optimum points, I would let the representative know during the phone call, and he or she would take the amount off our bill.
Overall, PC Express has been straightforward and simple. I had my doubts about online grocery shopping before, but I am now a true believer. Using the PC Express has saved me a lot of time because I no longer need to spend time walking around the store and pick up things that we need.
After a year of PC Insiders membership, we saved $146 in PC Express pickup fees and approximately 30 hours. The time saving with PC Express alone makes the PC Insiders program worth every single penny.
Sep 2020 Update: Fortunately PC Express pickups remain to be free for PC Insiders after Oct 8, 2020.
As a PC Insider, you can get Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart products delivered for free. This can be a big benefit for those that shop frequently at Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart.
We don’t shop at Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart frequently so we haven’t taken advantage of the free delivery benefit.
Sep 2020 Update: The free delivery benefit continues but this may not benefit too many people.
Maximizing PC Optimum Points
Every 10,000 PC Optimum Points is worth $10. You can redeem the points in $10 increments at checkout. PC Optimum Points are earned through targeted weekly offers and in-store weekly promotions.
To earn more points, you can apply for one of the no annual fee PC Mastercards. We have the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard which gives us 30 points for every $1 spent at participating stores or 45 points per $1 spent at Shoppers Drug Mart. You can also double up on the offers too, as you can see from my tweet below. Points do add up pretty quickly.
Since I’m a math nerd, it’s becoming a fun game for me to figure out how to maximize PC Optimum Points each week.
PC Insiders Benefits Analysis
For me, the most intriguing part of PC Insiders is the increased earn rate of PC Optimum Points. In the last few years, we have been more mindful of our food consumption. As a result, we have been purchasing and consuming more and more organic products. Naturally, when we shop at Superstore, we have been purchasing more and more PC Organics products.
Comparing prices between Costco and Superstore, the PC Organic products usually are very price competitive. The pricing gets even better when you consider all the PC Optimum points we can earn by combining weekly flyer offers, 3% back on the PC World Elite Mastercard, and the 20% extra points for being a PC Insider.
For example, organic bananas are $0.87 per pound at both Costco and Superstore. If we add the extra PC Optimum points we could earn, it would mean the organic bananas cost $0.67 effectively.
It is not always cheaper at Superstore though. For example, baby spinach cost $1.28 per 100g at Costco and $1.76 per 100g at Superstore. Even with the 20% and 3% extra PC Optimum earn rate, baby spinach would come out at $1.36 per 100g, slightly more expensive than Costco. In other words, we need to pick and choose which PC Organic products to purchase at Superstore. It is also important to check the weekly flyer offers.
After one year of PC Insiders subscription, we were able to earn extra PC Optimum points that worth $320. We could then use this money to redeem against our grocery bills.
This is why our experience with the PC Insiders program has been extremely positive. I’m convinced that the PC Insiders program is worth it based on our grocery shopping habits.
Changes to PC Insiders Benefits – An Analysis
I was not too pleased when I learned about the changes to PC Insiders coming Oct 8, 2020. The old PC Insiders benefits were great, especially for new parents that needed diapers and baby formula, and people that purchase PC Organic products.
If we compare the old vs. new benefits, here are the biggest changes:
- Subscription fee increased by $20 per year (plus taxes)
- A reduction of earn rate from 20% to 10% for PC Organics, Joe Fresh, PC Black Label Collection purchases.
- Removal of 20% PC Optimum earn rate on baby diapers and formula
- Removal of 20% on all luxury beautyBOUTIQUE products on shoppersdrugmart.ca.
- Earn 10% on all PC products, including PC, PC Organics, PC Black Label Collection, PC Blue Menu, PC Nutrition First, and PC Chef. -> New benefit
- Welcome Box only applicable to new members.
- 5% earn rate when using PC Travel -> New benefit
Whether you will earn more or less PC Optimum points with the new PC Insiders program depends on your shopping style. If you frequently buy PC products, then you may come out ahead with the new changes.
For us, based on our one year shopping history, 7% of our purchases were Joe Fresh products and 93% of our purchases were PC Organic products. We rarely buy other PC products. We do buy No Name products occasionally and it’s really unfortunate that No Name products aren’t included under the PC Insiders benefits umbrella.
Parents are the biggest losers of new PC Insider changes. Parents that shop at Loblaws stores for baby diapers and formula will no longer earn 20% PC Optimum points. This is a huge blow. Under the new PC Insiders program, it would be way more worthwhile to purchase baby diapers and formula from Amazon, Walmart, or Costco.
Another big change is the removal of the $99 PC Travel credit. Although my experience with PC Travel was positive, my overall review of PC Travel was not due to some of the PC Travel shortcomings. It seems that prices via PC Travel are generally more expensive than other travel booking websites. Therefore, I can see that the $99 PC Travel credit went unclaimed for many PC Insiders previously.
While the new PC Insiders program offers a 5% earn rate for bookings made via PC Travel, I’d be hesitant to book any complex travel itineraries with PC Travel.
Based on the old benefits and an earn rate of 20%, we earned 320,000 in PC Optimum points after one year of being PC Insiders. This is equivalent to $320 that we could redeem on grocery bills. Since the new program dropped the earn rate from 20% to 10%, that means we’d have earned 160,000 PC Optimum points or $160 based on the new PC Insiders benefits.
With the new annual membership fee of $119 plus tax ($133.28 for BC), that means we’d come out ahead by $26.72, not including the savings we’d have gotten from free PC Express pickups.
I’d argue this dollar amount alone isn’t significant, but it certainly covered the cost of the new PC Insiders annual membership fee of $119. Since we’d still come out ahead, it makes sense for us to continue with the new PC Insiders program.
Based on the PC Insiders calculator, a family would need to buy $23 per week or $1,196 per year on PC Products to break even with the PC Insiders annual subscription fee (ignoring tax here). If a family spends $50 per week or $2,600 per year on PC Products, they would come out ahead by $141. So whether the PC Insiders program is worth it or not depends on whether you purchase many PC products or not.
PC Insiders Review – The pros and cons of PC Insiders
After being a PC Insider for one year and renewing it for the second year, here are some of the pros and cons of the PC Insiders program. I’d like to mention this is my review of the PC Insiders program and these pros and cons of PC Insiders are purely my personal opinions. Your experience may vary based on your grocery shopping style.
With the announcement of the new PC Insiders program, I have decided to re-evaluate the pros and cons of the new PC Insiders program.
Earning 200 PC Optimum points per $1 spent on select brands like PC Organic products.
- Free PC Express pickup for online grocery shopping.
The $99 travel credit pays for the annual membership fee itself.
- Earn 100 PC Optimum points per $1 spent on all PC products.
The extra 200 PC Optimum earn rate is only for a handful of brands. For example, we don’t shop baby formula and diapers anymore, so the extra earn rate on baby formula and diapers is no use for us. You may be able to find better rates than PC Travel. So this may prevent you from using the $99 travel credit.
- If you prefer shopping in the store yourself and do not take advantage of PC Express, then the free PC Express pickup isn’t of any value.
- If you don’t buy PC products regularly, the extra 10% earn rate may not be worth it.
Who is the PC Insiders subscription program best suited for?
With the old PC Insiders program, I think the program is worth it and everyone can benefit from it. Given the current economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes some sense for Loblaws to review its PC Insiders program. But many of the existing PC Insider members certainly won’t be happy with the new changes. Who is the new PC Insiders subscription program best suited for?
Buy organic food regularly. At 200 extra points for PC Organic products ($0.20 value), if you buy $500 worth of PC Organic products, you’d already get the value of the $99 annual membership. You’ll earn additional points for all future PC Organic purchases.
- Want to save time and money by shopping for groceries online and picking up at the store. If you usually pick up during after work rush hours,
you only need 20 PC Express pickups to get your annual $99 PC Insiders subscription worth ityou need 24 PC Express pickup to get your annual $119 PC Insiders subscription worth it. That’s 2 PC Express pickup per month which should be quite easy to hit for the average Canadian family. Young families using baby diapers and formula for their newborns or toddlers. Baby and toddlers will go through a lot of disposable diapers. It’s nice to be able to earn extra points on this newborn & toddler essential item. Occasionally purchase PC Black Label products
- Shop Joe Fresh and Shoppers Drug Mart and have things delivered for free.
- Buy PC products regularly. If you spend $23 per week on PC products ($1,196 per year), you’d break even (excluding tax).
On the old PC Insiders program, we earned most of our points on PC Organic products. We also utilized PC Express pickup quite a bit to save time. So were very well suited for the PC Insiders program. This is probably the key reason why our experience with the PC Insiders program has been overwhelmingly positive.
Is PC Insiders worth it? Depends on your shopping style.
On the old PC Insiders program, we earned extra PC Optimum points worth $320, saved $146 in PC Express pickup fees, received approximately $40 values of surprise packages, and received the $99 PC Travel credit. This means we got a net benefit of $506, making the PC Insiders subscription well worth the money. Our experience with PC Insiders has been extremely positive. We have been thoroughly pleased with PC Insiders and the extra benefits we have received. In fact, the experience is so positive, so we decided to renew our annual membership for another year.
However, I was not too happy that Loblaws decided to change the PC Insiders program with a month’s notice to existing members. To make matters worse, the new program is a shadow of the former self. Many existing PC Insider members would not be happy with these new changes, especially those members that are new parents and rely on PC Insiders to earn extra PC Optimum points on baby diapers and formula or those members, like us, buy primarily PC Organic products.
For me, I think these new changes were a big slap to the face to loyal Loblaws customers. Loblaws gave very short notice and would not provide any sort of grandfather terms to existing PC Insider members. Grandfathering the terms and old benefits would have been the least Loblaws could have done. Since we don’t regularly buy other PC products, the changes coming to the PC Insiders program on October 8, 2020 means our earn rate will reduce by 50%.
With the old program, we received $99 PC Travel credit, earned extra PC Optimum points worth $320, saved $146 in PC Express pickup fees, and got approximately $40 values of surprise packages during our one year PC Insider subscription. In other words, by being a PC Insider member, we were able to get a net benefit of $506, making the PC Insiders subscription well worth the money. But this analysis is based on the old/existing PC Insiders program.
If our grocery shopping style stays the same as the previous year, with the new PC Insiders program starting Oct 8, 2020, our PC Optimum earn rate will drop by 50%. This means that we’d earn about $160 PC Optimum points, save $146 in PC Express pickup fees, or a net benefit of $187.
Assuming our grocery shopping style stays the same as the previous year. It is still worthwhile for us to continue being a PC Insider member. Having said that, we’ve noticed that lately, we have not been using PC Express pickups as often. For smaller orders (i.e. buy a handful of items), we found it quicker to run in the store and grab the items rather than using the PC Express pickup. If this trend of not using PC Express pickup continues, it may not be worth it for us to continue with the PC Insiders program. Given that we already paid for our second year membership fee, I think we’ll stay on with the program and see how our second year experience is. We can make the renewal decision next year.
With all that said, if you and your family frequently purchase PC products, then the new PC Insiders program is totally worth it. You’d only need to purchase $23 per week on PC products. For the average Canadian family, this shouldn’t be difficult to do.
Want to join PC Insiders? Please use my referral code BL1611 to get 25,000 PC Optimum Points for free (an equivalent of $25) when you sign up for an annual subscription.
I hope you have found this PC Insiders review helpful in determining whether to become a member or not. Are you a PC Insider? What is your PC Insider experience?