Beauty,  Shopping

Ulta v. Sephora: Volume I – Point Perks

Sephora and Ulta Beauty are THE two most recognized, brick-and-mortar, makeup megastores, world-wide. In my baby-free, Manhattan days, I would spend hours pouring over Sephora’s vast selection (there were no Ulta’s on The Island back then 🙁  ), amassing my makeup stash. There was a store at the entrance of my subway station – the Universe was practically forcing me to go there, buy all the makeup and become a VIB Rouge (#cringe).

Now, my closest Sephora is a 30-minutes drive away and while I always have the option to shop online, my local Ulta Beauty is much closer and allows me to swatch and play with high end AND drugstore brands in-store. Being that I have spent a significant amount of time and countless dollars (seriously…much better if we don’t count!) at both establishments, I have several comparative thoughts to share.

Today’s topic: Points – let’s see which store has the “best” point perks system!

Sephora Beauty Insider 

When you join the free Sephora Beauty Insider (BI) program, you will earn one point for each dollar spent. I wasn’t able to find anything stating that the points expire, so it seems that as long as you do not redeem for any perks, you will continue to accrue points as you spend.

Sephora offers beauty goods, services and experiences in-exchange for points. The more points you have accrued, the greater the reward (and this could be in sheer quantity of products or value/exclusivity of reward). The breakdown is typically like this:

  • 100 points: Product mini. A tiny skincare, beauty or fragrance product in the original brand packaging. Definitely a step up from one-time use sachets and vials. Good for travel or as a generous sample to test out.
  • 250 points: Slightly larger mini(s) or brand swag. Larger fragrance samples, beauty or skincare duos or trios.
  • 500 points: Brand specific mini gift sets. Typically around a theme: haircare set, brands’ top rated items, full face kit, etc.
  • 700-2500 points: Makeup related services. Recently they had offered custom makeup charts from their senior artists. Not sure if this means you physically meet with the artist, or send a picture or video chat. Another option is larger mini gift sets – usually for more higher end brands.
  • 3000-4500 points: Gift sets with full sized product.
  • 5000-15,000 points: Exclusive gift sets with full sized products (even fragrance) and experiences. These can include invitation to a masterclass by a large brand, tickets to a brand launch party, opportunity to shadow brand CEO for a day. Do not include travel cost.
  • 20,000+:  A beauty-related trip. Appears to be travel cost-inclusive.

The higher the point perk, the more limited the quantity. At the moment when I am typing this, all point perks over 1000 points are all sold out. The perks are updated twice weekly on the site’s Rewards Bazaar page. Interesting note: any perk redemption over 750 points does not require a purchase to redeem. Also, you can only redeem one of any reward.

Ulta Beauty Ultamate Rewards

Ulta Beauty offers essentially what I view as an Ulta giftcard in exchange for points. Being loyal to Sephora first, I was so shocked when I was asked at checkout if I wanted to use the $17.50 I’d earned towards my purchase. This was a Caveat: the points expire a year after you earned them, unless you are a Diamond or Platinum member, then they will not expire as long as you retain either status. However, given the reward value and the fact that the dollars earned can be redeemed however you like (for both prestige and non-prestige brands) within the year, it’s still a fantastic deal. Points can also be combined with any promotions/coupons – in fact, the Ulta Beauty salespersons I’ve spoken to have strongly recommended it!

Here is the general earning structure:

  • 100 points: $10 off
  • 500 points: $17.50 off
  • 750 points: $30 off
  • 1000 points: $50 off
  • 2000 points: $125 off

This is not the full list – there are more denominations in-between and every Ulta Beauty salesperson I have spoken to had a laminated page detailing the perk amounts at each register for reference, so don’t be afraid to ask!

All Ultamate Reward members earn one point per dollar spent (free to sign up). Once you spend $450 in a calendar year, you are upgraded to Platinum status and now earn 1.25 points per dollar spent. As of this year, if you spend $1200 in a calendar year (…wow…), you are upgraded to the new Diamond status and will earn 1.5 per dollar spent.

Both stores offer 2x-5x point earning opportunities at times, so these are good times to shop if you had any purchases in mind. Especially at Ulta! Be sure to check your account either online or via the Ulta Beauty app. You will need to manually activate these offers as they become available.

I’m gonna have to crown the Point Perks Battle Winner as Ulta Beauty! You see immediate cash rewards with as little as 100 points. Although some of the high point perks for Sephora are truly amazing, one-of-a-kind experiences, they require an investment of at least $5000 (yikes!) and sheer luck to ensure you are able to actually redeem for the very limited quantities.

Another piece of exciting news: Ulta Beauty has recently announced that they will be expanding their selection of not only their affordable brands, but prestige brands as well, including Chanel (in store)! With Sephora continuously expanding their lesser known-brands selection, I’m excited to see how these two makeup megastores grow and change over the next few years 🙂

What are the most memorable point perks you’ve ever redeemed for? Mine are my Balenciaga neck scarf and Dior charm bracelet. BUT, my next several will most definitely be Ulta cash!!



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