Getting discounts in Korea
There are a number of ways to save money at various stores in Korea. Sometimes it can be easy to miss, but many people are, in fact, eligible for certain discounts through phone plans and bank cards. In addition, there are a number of loyalty point systems that you can also use to save money here and there.
Phone carrier discounts
If you are with one of the major phone carriers, you can usually find a list of businesses that will provide you with discounts or other rewards. Usually, the discounts will scale by your membership plan, with VIP customers getting more extensive benefits.
You can check the T world website for a full list of businesses. Go to https://www.tworld.co.kr/, navigate to T멤버십, and then 멤버십 혜택. You can sort the relevant businesses by category and see what discounts you are eligible for.
The memberships are split into Silver, Gold, and VIP. For example, at CU, you can get a discount of ₩50 or ₩100 on purchases over ₩1000. At Gong Cha, all SKT customers get a flat 10% discount.
In order to get these discounts, you can use the T멤버십 app on your phone. Once you have set the app up, you can scan the barcode on the home screen when you are at the cashier.
KT is very similar to SKT – to see the list of businesses, go to kt.com, click on 멤버십/혜택, and scan through the list of businesses and categories.
KT has Gold, VIP, and VVIP levels. At KT, there are 2 types of benefits. One is a regular discount that you can use at any time, and the other (for VIP and VVIP members) is a once-per-month larger benefit. For example, you can get a free coffee from Starbucks or ₩30,000 off meals at Outback Steakhouse. You only get one monthly reward across all eligible businesses.
Again, similarly to SKT, you can access these discounts through the KT app, scanning the barcode when you check out.
Bank card discounts
You can also get certain discounts based off which bank you are using. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see where you can get these discounts. For example, some KEB Hana cards give you a discount at amusement parks like Everland or Lotte World. For these discounts, it’s best just to check when you go to buy the ticket if there are any discounts for your card.
Loyalty point systems
There are a number of loyalty systems in Korea, such as Happy Point and CJ One, as well as loyalty cards for specific department stores. Instead of giving you flat discounts, you accumulate points with each purchase which you can use later to buy things. When you scan this barcode (or input your phone number), you have the option to accumulate points or use your points, but it seems like most cashiers will assume that you want to accumulate points (적립) unless you tell them otherwise.
Written by Ewan Smith