PC Optimum Points – Your Ticket To Free Groceries

PC Optimum Points – Your Ticket To Free Groceries

Shoppers Optimum used to be the best rewards program, of any type, in Canada.

And even since its merge with PC Plus to create PC Optimum in 2018, it's still hanging on to that title thanks to its convenience and value.

I've never encountered another program where you can earn rewards so quickly, of such good value, in a very short period of time, with little effort...all without needing to use a credit card.

Sound too good to be true? Well right now, it isn’t. And hopefully it stays this good forever.

So let's get to know the PC Optimum program a little better.

Let's learn about:

The value of a PC Optimum point

Unlike Air Miles, the value of a single PC Optimum point and the program's regular rate of return is quite easy to calculate.

This is because they're always redeemed at a rate of 10,000 points for $10, except on special redemption days (more on that in the redemption section).

Calculating CPP

Cents per point (CPP) is an easy way of calculating how much value you can get out of rewards.

You calculate it by dividing the cash value of the purchase by the number of points required to purchase it. Then times that by 100 to get cents per point, not dollars per point.

PC Optimum points are always redeemed at a rate of 10,000 = $10, unless there's a special promotion going on. This gives a 0.1 cent per point (CPP) value, or 10 points = 1 cent:

$10 / 10,000pts = $0.001 x 100 = 0.1 CPP

Calculating rate of return

Though there's less value per point than Air Miles, PC Optimum points give a better rate of return, even on normal days.

You can calculate rate of return by figuring out how much you spend earning points vs. the overall value you get for those points.

Note that since you can only earn points on Shoppers Drug Mart purchases, the rate of return is only at Shoppers. The rate of return for Loblaws purchases is 0%, except for special promotions and custom offers

The formula for a $10 purchase looks like this:

150pts x 0.1 CPP = 15 / $10 = 1.5% return

So on normal purchases, you get a 1.5% return on everything you buy at Shoppers Drug Mart.

This stays the same no matter how much you redeem, since you can only redeem at intervals of 10,000 points.

Restrictions on earning and redeeming

Before you start your earning and redeeming journey, you should be aware of the various restricted items that you can neither earn points on nor redeem points for.

First of all, you only earn points on regular purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart, unless you have one of PC Financial's credit cards or Loblaws is having a promotion. But you can redeem your points at both Shoppers and Loblaws.

According to PC Optimum's terms and conditions, here's the list of excluded products:

  • tobacco,
  • lottery tickets,
  • alcohol,
  • bottle deposits,
  • gift cards,
  • prepaid cards,
  • wireless or long distance phone cards,
  • transit tickets and passes,
  • event tickets,
  • post office transactions,
  • passport photos,
  • cash back,
  • gifts that come with purchases, and
  • delivery charges (where applicable).

Also keep in mind that not every merchant in the store is part of the program, including Canada Post.

Earning points on pharmacy purchases depends on your province, though PC Optimum doesn't list which provinces allow it. You'll have to ask the pharmacist at your local store to find out for sure.

If you have a PC Financial mastercard, you may be able to earn points on these restricted items. This information will be included with the booklet they gave you when you got your card.

Related: Sneaky Grocery Store Tricks (And How To Avoid Them)

Earning PC Optimum points

There are 6 main ways to earn points:

Let's take a closer look at each one.

Shopping at Shoppers Drug Mart

The main way you can earn points for the PC Optimum program is simply by shopping at Shoppers Drug Mart (or Pharmaprix in Quebec).

This way, you'll earn 15 points per dollar spent on eligible products, giving you a 1.5% rate of return.

The amount you earn is based on the purchase price before taxes and after discounts.

This isn't too bad as far as rewards programs go, but you might want to consider your other options since they can increase your earn rate by a lot.

Your personalized offers

In the "Offers" tab of your PC Optimum account, you'll see several offers that are personalized to you for use at both Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws locations.

These offers usually have an expiry date of a week away, but some of them will have the option to "Save for next week" incase you can't get to the store in time. And it's important to remember to "load" your offers before you pay for your purchase, or else you won't get your bonus points.

Also remember to check which store your offers are good for. Some of them can be "Shoppers exclusive" so you won't be able to redeem them at Loblaws.

As the "personalized" suggests, your offers will become more and more tuned to your purchase habits as you buy more with your PC Optimum account. You'll likely start out with fewer offers and get more as their algorithm gets to know you – kinda creepy but super useful.

Most of the offers earn you a 15-20% rate of return, way better than the regular rate of 1.5%.

These can come in different forms, so let's look at the 2 most common examples.

Spend X and get Y amount of points

You can significantly increase the amount of points you get by cashing in this offer, making it worthwhile.

For example, I saw an offer where you'd get 7,500 points when you spend $50. Since you'd only get 750 at the normal earn rate, you get 10x the amount of points with this offer. Your rate of return increases to a juicy 15%.

Not bad at all.

Get X amount of points for every $Y you spend on Z product

I've seen a lot of these and they seem to offer many of them at once.

An example of this offer is "Get 200 points for every $1 you spend on apples." This gives you a 20% rate of return, which is much better than 1.5%.

I've also seen the offer with increased bonus points and spend amount, for example "Get 400 points for every $2 you spend on PC liquid soap products." This gives you the same earn rate increase, you'll just have to spend a bit more money.

The best part is there are no restrictions on how much you spend on the special product. Just be careful about buying 100 apples, since they'll most likely go bad before you eat them all. The liquid soap offer, on the other hand, is an excellent opportunity to stock up on this necessity while earning amazing points.

Related: Non-Extreme Couponing For The Everyday Shopper

Promotional offers

Every so often, there are offers available to all PC Optimum holders, not just personalized for you. You can find these via the in-store and online flyers as well as signs in both Loblaws and Shoppers.

These mostly come in the same form as the personalized offers, so you'll be looking at similar rates of return.

20x points days

This is the staple of all the Shoppers Drug Mart promotions and by far the most popular.

At least 4 times a year SDM runs a one-day-only promotion (often a Saturday) where you get 20 times the usual amount of points on everything you buy. Of course there's a specified minimum amount you have to spend, usually $50.

During these events, you get 300 points for every dollar you spend, giving you a 30% rate of return on everything.

Remember to make sure you only have eligible products so you can reach the minimum. For instance, buying $50 of cigarettes won't get you the bonus.

Using PC Financial credit cards

As usual, a great way to maximize your points is to use the right credit card.

PC Financial currently offers 3 mastercards, each with no annual fee and accelerated earning potential.

These cards will get you the following earn rates:

Store PC Financial Mastercard PC Financial World Mastercard PC Financial World Elite
Loblaws + subsidiaries
(per dollar)
= 1% rate of return
= 2% rate of return
= 3% rate of return
(per dollar)
25 pts
= 2.5% rate of return*
= 3.5% rate of return*
= 4.5% rate of return*
(per litre)
Minimum 30pts
= 3% rate of return
Minimum 30pts
= 3% rate of return
Minimum 30pts
= 3% rate of return
PC Travel
(per dollar)
= 2% rate of return
= 2% rate of return
= 3% rate of return
Everywhere else
(per dollar)
= 1% rate of return
= 1% rate of return
= 1% rate of return

*Please note that the Shoppers rate includes the 1.5% that everyone gets when shopping there. You get 1-3% extra when using your PC Financial credit card.

Related: PC Financial Mastercard Review – Big Grocery Rewards, No Annual Fee

Alternative (better) credit cards

But you have other options if you're looking to earn some nice grocery and gas rewards. And you won't be limited to just earning and redeeming your rewards at PC Optimum dealers.

Let's take a look at some examples.

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite

The cash back card will give you a 4% rate of return on all your gas and grocery purchases – the highest spending bonus of any cash back card.

It will also get you a 2% return on your drugstore and recurring bill payments, plus 1% everywhere else.

Find out more here:

Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard

The is a no fee, cash back card that'll give you a 2% rate of return in up to 3 categories of your choice – so if you're super keen on earning rewards on your grocery and gas purchases, make that your choice.

You'll also earn 0.5% cash back everywhere else.

Check out more details:

And finally…

MBNA Smart Cash World Mastercard

The will give you 5% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases for the first 6 months (up to $500 spent).

After that you'll get a 2% rate of return on gas and grocery purchases from then on (also up to $500 spent per month) and another 1% on all other eligible purchases.

To top it all off, this card has a low annual fee of $39 and pretty impressive insurance coverage.

Here's more info:

Earning PC Optimum points on gas

You can also earn points when you fuel up at Esso or Mobil stations, as well as when buying Esso convenience store items and car washes.

You'll earn 10 points per litre on gas or 10 points per dollar spent in store. This means your rate of return will be around 1%, a bit less than normal.

But since gas is yet another necessity for most of us, earning points on something you were going to buy anyway is pretty sweet no matter what.

If you're still not thrilled by this number, you can increase your rate of return by using your PC Optimum mastercard at the pumps. This will give you 1% on the total transaction, plus another 20 points per litre (on top of the 10 points you get). This means that with a gas price of $1/litre, you'll get a 3% return.

Earning points at The Mobile Shop

If you're a PC Optimum member who's also in the market for a new cell phone, you may want to stop by one of The Mobile Shop's booths in Loblaws.

Certain phones come with PC Optimum point bonuses up to 300,000 – that's $300 worth of points.

Keep in mind it depends on the phone, the plan, and the carrier. Still, you can get some major points this way so it's worth considering.

Here's the link if you want to check out what phones are currently available. Make sure to change it to your province in the top right, and you can filter by point promotions on the bottom left.

Redeeming points

PC Optimum points can be redeemed at a rate of 10,000 points for $10 off.

You can only redeem them in intervals of 10,000 points – so 10,000 for $10 off, or 20,000 for $20 off, etc.

If your purchase comes to $47, for example, you can redeem 40,000 points and pay $7 out of pocket. You also have the option of redeeming 50,000 points to cover the $47 purchase, forfeiting the $3 difference.

In order to redeem your points, simply bring your items (worth at least $10) to the checkout, present your optimum card, and tell the cashier the number of points you want to redeem.

Whether or not your points can cover taxes depends on the store. But either way, remember food items are not usually taxed so you can get away without paying anything if your purchase consists entirely of non-taxable food. Free food is always a good thing.

Keep in mind you don't earn points on the amount you pay with points for – in other words, a $10 Shoppers purchase paid entirely with points will net you 0 points earned. For this reason, it's best to save point redemption for Loblaws purchases, since you don't earn points per dollar spent there anyway.

Redemption promotions

Every once in a while, Shoppers has a "Super Spend Your Points" event where your points are worth more. Here's what the breakdown for one recent event looked like:

  • 70,000 pts = $95 off (extra $25)
  • 140,000 pts = $200 off (extra $60)
  • 300,000 pts = $450 off (extra $150)

This is a good option for spending your points at Shoppers, but otherwise you might want to keep redemption to Loblaws.

Some tips for PC Optimum points

There are also aspects to the PC Optimum experience that aren’t directly related to earning or redeeming points, but will help you get even greater value and prevent unneeded frustration.

Missing PC Optimum Points? Get the most out of customer service

The PC Optimum customer service representatives are your source for resolving almost any points-related issue you might run across.

You'll find that these CSRs are usually way more informed about how the point system and various promotions work when compared to the cashiers or even the managers and store owners.

Don't be surprised if you encounter a cashier that doesn't even know the terms of a current promotion – I've had to inform them about their own promotions in the past.

If you do end up in a situation where your points transaction was poorly managed by the in-store staff, you can usually call in to get your problem promptly resolved. Just keep in mind it may take a couple hours for your transaction to become visible to them.

After fully explaining your issue, you can even politely ask for compensation in terms of a few extra points and they may comply. Doesn't hurt to ask! I've actually had them offer to do this themselves on several occasions.

Spend those points

It's a constant threat with rewards programs that your points may lose value in future updates.

When PC Optimum was just Shoppers Optimum, they were pretty good at maintaining value overall. But one hit in 2010 reduced the overall redemption value from 2% to 1.78%.

It just goes to show that we never really know what a company will do. And as they state in their terms and conditions, they have the power to change their program at any time.

The lesson here is that you need to spend your points often. Don't save them for retirement, okay?

Look for sign up bonuses

If you don't have a PC Optimum account yet, keep an eye out for any welcome bonuses they may have running.

For example, right now you get 10,000 points (worth $10) on your first purchase of at least $40. At a normal rate, you only get 600 points for this purchase.

Shoppers Drug Mart Seniors day

Shoppers Drug Mart hosts a senior's day on the last Thursday of every month where customers aged 65+ (and their families) receive 20% off regularly priced merchandise.

While the majority of the people reading this probably don't fit in that age demographic, I kid you not in saying that many deal addicts at RedFlagDeals and elsewhere will drag their senior parents or grandparents out to Shoppers on these days to reap the benefits.

Redeeming points for fixed value products

Products at Shoppers Drug Mart can have inflated prices. This is where fixed value items come in handy.

What are fixed-value products?

These are products that have a very low markup and tend to have a fixed price no matter what merchant is selling them.

Big ticket items are the best because you really get a sense of satisfaction when you walk out the door with a product that costs $200 down the street at FutureShop and you got it for free at SDM with your points.

Here are some ideas of fixed-value products that are either sold at SDM now or have been in the past to get you started:

  • Video games and systems (PS4, XBox One, Nintendo Switch, etc.)
  • Flat panel televisions.
  • Digital cameras and camcorders.
  • iPods.
  • Stamps – the books found at the cash, not the post office.
  • Prints of your photographs.
  • Passport photos.
  • Milk – except in Atlantic Provinces.
  • Magazines and novels.
  • Greeting cards.

What about you?

You can probably tell I think pretty highly of the PC Optimum program, but I want to know what you think.

Are you a member? What do you think of the merge? Are you still happy with your point values?

Do you have any tips or questions about the PC Optimum program? We'll be compiling a FAQ section in the coming months so we're looking for some input. Let us know if you have anything to add!

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.


Adam Kovic
Adam Kovic 's picture

Lovely article with great insight! Awesome!

January 14, 2019 @ 10:20 am
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Adam!

Happy saving :)

January 15, 2019 @ 9:44 am
ERich's picture

I think its a great program -- very satisfied 3% is great plus bonus points
can still shop elsewhere with Tangerine 2% -- groceries and recurring bills
and Rogers 1.75% for everything else

January 15, 2019 @ 11:13 am
Roger's picture

Shopper seniors discount applies at 55

January 15, 2019 @ 11:22 am
Kathryn's picture

And seniors day is EVERY Thursday - and the last Thursday of the month has a bonus offer if you spend (usually) $50 - eg a gift card.

January 16, 2019 @ 1:12 am
MALCOLM EYRE's picture

Another way to earn PC points is at Esso gas stations. 10 points for every dollar spent

January 15, 2019 @ 11:32 am
Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson's picture

Here’s an example of how my Loblaws personal offers that say “spend x on this product and get y points” work:
Offer: spend $5, get 500 points. (Should be a 10% bonus).
At the store: item is priced at $4.99. Buy 2 @ $9.98, get 500 points (actual return 5%)
This totally takes advantage of people who don’t do the math.

January 15, 2019 @ 11:37 am
Kathryn's picture

Actually, I have found that the offers use *round up* pricing and I have found I always get the per $1 offer when the price is .99. I did not realize this in the prior program but the new one it definitely works that way. It works automatically and it works when I send in an online *points missing* request.

January 16, 2019 @ 1:10 am
Rita's picture

The "senior" age for Shoppers Drug Mart is actually 55.

January 15, 2019 @ 12:14 pm
TECH GUY in BC's picture

I have used PC since 1998 and have taken advantage of the points in most of the ways you describe.

One recent drawback - PC Mastercard redesigned its website so you can longer download your raw data and import it into a financial tracking software like Quicken. Very frustrating.

Tech Guy in BC

January 15, 2019 @ 12:15 pm
Pierre's picture


Having trouble understanding this part:

Note that since you can only earn points on Shoppers Drug Mart purchases, the rate of return is only at Shoppers. The rate of return for Loblaws purchases is 0%, except for special promotions and custom offers

Does this mean you don't earn any points from Loblaws at all? I know I get PC Optimum points from Superstore and YIG...

January 15, 2019 @ 12:15 pm
Kathryn's picture

It depends on the offers - my Shoppers does not have many food items so I use the food item offers I get (I do not shop there often and usually only for some produce items and a couple of others and they insist (!) on sending me more of those offers eg for mushrooms and bananas and No Name canned fruit and PC Greek yogurt, either points per $, or points per purchase. And sometimes they have had points offers in their flyer (I have only an Extra Foods store near me and refuse to enter Superstore).
But you do not get general points for just shopping there, as you do at Shoppers.

January 16, 2019 @ 1:18 am
Jean C
Jean C's picture

A good article but I wonder how many people will actually work through it to understand it all and even better how many will continue to work it on an ongoing basis because as you say companies can change the program as they see fit. I have both the Optimum card and the PC credit card and use both to advantage.

One item which is glossed over with the statement "Products at Shoppers Drug Mart can have inflated prices" is what I call their "premium pricing" policy. Frequently as I shop around Shoppers I see people putting regular priced stuff in their carts which are easily 10 to 20% higher than what I paid for the identical item at a different store. This is so prevalent that I now have a list of frequently used items which I never even consider buying at Shoppers unless it is part of a special promotion.

All of this has worked well for me but only because I devote the time to make it work.

January 15, 2019 @ 12:45 pm
JS's picture

One thing worth mentioning is that shopping at Provigo/Loblaws is probably one of the more expensive places to buy groceries in my opinion.

Retailers have a lot of overheads, loyalty schemes being one of them. If we think we're gaming the system, we're not. We are paying the salaries of the IT employees, the licenses, the overheads, the storage and maintenance fees, everything involved in the use of a loyalty system is a cost that the company has and will pass on to you.

Conversely if you shop at a local grocery with literally no frills theres a good chance you will pay $1 per pound less on red peppers, 20% less on bananas etc.

Pretty soon any 'savings' you made by getting a few extra points on the loyalty scheme is gone by paying more for a product that could be found significantly cheaper elsewhere.

January 15, 2019 @ 12:51 pm
ERICH's picture

you can also shop at the lower price Loblaw's subsidiaries like No Frills whose prices are very competitive

January 15, 2019 @ 1:27 pm
Julie Lee
Julie Lee's picture

Thanks for confirming PC loyalty program and all of its benefits as my grocery shopping includes a variety of retailers ... choices, thrifty's, no frills, costco, T&T as well as the Real Canadian Superstore.

What I fail to comprehend is the fact that as a customer loyalty program and having become a member of the "Loblaws' family, the T&T' program which does not entitle a customer to any points unless the purchase is a minimum of $20, is rather an embarrassing program if one examines the finer details of the program. It would be of great interest if the T&T loyalty program policy could be compared to their cousin's offerings for I strongly feel that the loyalty of the T&T's vast ethnic customer base is being totally dismissed in the existing T&T rewards' program.

January 15, 2019 @ 1:20 pm
Anne's picture

Nice thorough article, but I'm not a fan of the PC Optimum program. On the old PC Plus program, I was actually able to build up enough points to use towards groceries. On the new program, the points are so few they take forever to build up. In addition, I go to ESSO and Pharmaprix (Shopper's Drugmart).

I'm sure they did the stats to make sure they come out on top and the consumer on the very bottom.

January 15, 2019 @ 4:56 pm
Samantha Elizabeth Poisson
Samantha Elizabeth Poisson's picture

Valuable article and comments. I use all the suggested approaches plus I price match with Flipped app at Real Canadian Superstore which saves a serious amount on groceries. I have recently been annoyed with PC Financial MC as they will no longer permit data to be accessed by apps like Mint.com. I am considering changing cards because of it.

January 16, 2019 @ 5:30 am

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