Why Birchbox Doesn't Actually Suck: The Points System & A Haul | Hello Pretty Bird! - A beauty and not-so-glamorous lifestyle blog

29 March, 2014

Why Birchbox Doesn't Actually Suck: The Points System & A Haul

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Warning: This post is going to be rambly as hell.

Folks who read my subscription box reviews regularly may have noticed that I complain about Birchbox sometimes. Here's the thing - I feel like they sent me weird, shitty samples these last couple of months. Yet I've stayed subscribed. Why, you may wonder? Because their reward points system makes it still sort of worth it.

If you've been on the fence about subscribing to Birchbox you may want to read this post, as I'll be talking about some of the finer points of the rewards system. I'll also be showing off all the crap I just bought with my points, so I guess it's worth sticking around even if you just like hauls. :P

Let's go over the REAL basics first: Birchbox is a monthly subscription that sends out surprise beauty and lifestyle samples. It costs $10 per month shipped, which is relatively cheap for a subscription/sampling service. What a lot of non-subscribers may not realize is that they actually have a really lucrative rewards system, which is maybe (probably) the reason why a lot of people stay subscribed even when the boxes suck. All of the details are covered in the Birchbox FAQ, but I'll break it down really simply for you:

  • On Planet Birchbox, 100 "points" is equal to $10. You can spend the points on full-sized products in their shop. Their shop has a ton of stuff in it, some of which is actually pretty nice.
  • You can earn Birchbox points EVERY SINGLE MONTH just for being a subscriber. Each month you'll get 4-6 things in your sampler box, and you'll get 10 points for each thing if take a moment to write a quick review of them in the shop. That means around 50 points on average each month, or $5 worth of credit.
  • You can also earn points by spending money in the shop (1 point per dollar) or referring new subscribers (50 points per referral).
  • Points can be redeemed in $10 increments. Bear in mind that if you redeem $10 worth of credit and only spend $8, you're not going to retain the extra couple bucks on your account, so plan your purchases accordingly.
  • Birchbox occasionally offers % off coupon codes, and they CAN be stacked with rewards points.
  • Orders of $50+ BEFORE THE DISCOUNTS qualify for free shipping, though occasionally there are promotions that lower the free shipping threshold.

Got that all? Anyway, I had about $30 worth of credit amassed in my Birchbox account from reviews/referrals when I got the following e-mail message:

Use code FIRST20OFF on your $35+ order—available through March 28.

I had already purchased something small from the Birchbox store before so I'm not sure why I was getting a "first time discount" e-mail, but whatever, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I did some mental math and realized I could actually get a really good deal if I went ahead and spent the $30 now - you'll see why in a second. Here's my order breakdown:

Mystery Sample Pack (free with $35+ order)  - $10.00
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream) - 30 ml  - $16.00
Limited Edition: Birchbox Finds Box  -  $18.00
Chuao Chocolatier Chocolate Bars  -  $6.00

Subtotal    $50.00
Shipping & Handling    $0.00
Discount (Free Sample Pack with Purchase, 20% Off For You, FIRST20OFF)    -$18.00
Tax    $2.84
300 reward points    -$30.00
Grand Total    $4.84

Do you see that "Mystery Sample Pack" thing for $10? Don't ever pay $10 for that, it's not worth it. But as an extra freebie or thing to bump up your order total, sure, it's fine. Because your total has to hit $50 BEFORE discounts to receive free shipping, I was able to use that to bring me up to the threshold. Add in the extra 20% discount and my entire order cost only $2.00 out-of-pocket before tax (curse you, New York State!) Birchbox suddenly seems more appealing, doesn't it?

But wait, that's not all! The value gets even better when you see which stupid crap I bought. But I'm sure you're on the verge of falling asleep now, so here's a pretty picture:

Birchbox shop haul March 2014

I got a 30ml tube Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré, which is a skin cream I actually first sampled through Birchbox. That's why the points system really exists, so you can buy full sizes of the crap you've tried easily. Anyway, it's good. I like it. I might even do a full review if people are interested.

Also in the frame is Chuao "Pop Corn Pop" chocolate bar. I got this for my boyfriend because he is nice to me. He described it as "weird and crunchy" but kept on eating it, so I guess it's OK.

The yellow and brown box those things are resting against is the "Birchbox Finds" box. In case you didn't know, "Finds" in Birchbox lingo = drugstore/mass market products. This "Finds" box cost $18.00 (or less if you're the type to hoard points like me) and contained so much stuff that the lid would barely close. Now I'm going to break that down for you item-by-item, because I want you to really understand how much crap I got for my stupid two dollars.

Birchbox Finds March 2014 unboxing contents item values

1. John Frieda Frizz Ease® Nourishing Oil Elixir (3fl oz/88ml, value $9.99):
This is probably the thing in the box I was most interested in trying. It's a nourishing hair treatment with a little bit of argan oil in there for extra fanciness. I've had reasonably good results with John Frieda products in the past, so I'm optimistic.

2. COVERGIRL Bombshell Volume by LashBlast™ Mascara -Very Black (0.66oz/20ml, value $11.99):
This is a dual-ended mascara with one end designed to "volumize" and the other to "intensify". Sounds gimmicky as hell, but I'm game. I thought the original LashBlast mascara was decent, so maybe this will be too.

3. COVERGIRL Bombshell Shine Shadow by LashBlast™ in Ice Queen (0.18oz/5.4ml, value $8.99):
A creamy, shimmery eyeshadow. This is the one thing in the box I'm not sure if I'm going to keep or not - it doesn't sound awful, but it's not something I'm jumping to use either. Have any of you used this? Is it awesome? Let me know.

4. NIVEA Kiss of Care & Color in Sheer Crimson (0.17oz/4.8g, value $4.99):
A tinted lip balm with an extra-hydrating core. I love stuff like this.

5. Bioré Self Heating One Minute Mask (4x 0.25/7g packets, value $7.99):
OK so I don't know if I'm the only one who remembers this, but YEARS ago Bioré used to make this self-heating mask that was sort of whitish in color and burned like hell. I LOVED IT. It was discontinued a while back and I was very sad. The model on the box has grey crap on her face instead of white, so it's probably been reformulated, but I can dream can't I?

6. Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure™ in Pink A Card (0.5oz/15ml, value $7.99):
I'm sorry, but that's a terrible shade name. Actually, I'm not sorry. Anyway, this nail polish is supposedly a "multitasking wonder" and "a base coat, top coat, and color gel polish in one" so like... whoa. "Pink A Card" is a ridiculous name but it's a nice enough color, I guess.

7.  Rimmel London Stay Glossy 3D Lipgloss in Back Row Smooch (0.18oz/5.5ml, value $4.99):
Whoa, saucy name. This is a pink lip gloss, suitable for back row smooching and potentially getting your date's hair stuck to your mouth. Delicious. I've been on a lip gloss kick lately - maybe it's nostalgia? So I'll give it a try.

Total box value: Approximately $56.93

All of those values are the full prices, and drugstore stuff often goes on sale, so the real "value" may be different. But even if everything were "worth" half the price it would still be a good deal. And I haven't even added it up with the Embryolisse cream or chocolate bar or mystery pack yet. Oh yeah, speaking of the mystery pack, here's what was in that:

Birchbox Mystery Sample Pack (free with $35+ order)  - $10.00

Color Club Nail Laquer in Top Shelf (Sample size 0.25oz/7ml, approximate value $4.00):
Metallic nail polish in a champagney color. I got a Color Club polish like this (except silver) from Birchbox in November or December, and it chipped the same day I applied it. Here's hoping this one does better.

Gilchrist & Soames Conditioner (Sample size 1.5oz/45ml, approximate value $3.00):
It's conditioner. Shrug. I'm sort of amused that they sent just this and not the matching shampoo, but whatever. I gave it to my boyfriend so he can luster up his locks.

Total box value: Approximately $7.00

All of that for $2 (BEFORE TAX DAMNIT) out-of-pocket. Now, obviously I have been paying $10 per month for the Birchbox subscription so it's not exactly "free", but if I do ONE FINAL BREAKDOWN you will see that it still isn't a shitty deal:

Total retail value of all the crap shown above: $85.93

Out of pocket expense on this order: -$2
Four months of Birchbox subscription: -$40 (yielded 200-ish points, or $20 credit, plus all the samples)
Referrals (no cost): $0 (yielded 100 points, $10 credit)

Retail value of the box minus the money I actually spent: $43.92

I'm still coming out ahead - well, sort of. If you don't have money to spend on a Birchbox subscription to begin with then it's obviously not worth it. But if you've been wondering why the hell I stay subscribed even after I get really shitty boxes, this is the reason, haha.

If you suddenly find yourself inclined to subscribe to Birchbox, you can do so here.

What do you think of the "Finds" box? And fellow Birchbox subscribers, how do you use your points?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, check out my full disclosure policy.


  1. LOVE this post. I am from the UK but I subscribe to Birchbox here and the main reason I stay subscribed to it is for the points. Everything seems so overpriced in the BB shop and the points allow me to justify purchasing some of these things. I bought a beautyblender travel set with my points, I would no way spend £22 on one, but I had £30 worth of points and I also picked up a cleansing balm with the rest of my points. Free shipping so I only spent £2! Score.

  2. Awesome! From what I can tell the UK site has basically the same system, so the same "rules" would apply. I think some of the things are overpriced in the BB shop, but some things are on par with other merchants... the dreaded "it depends", lol. But you're right, it's perfect for splurging on things you might not have otherwise (like the Beauty Blender set!)

  3. I also feel like you are getting one over on Birchbox when you save up your points and get something for free, makes up for the times when they send shit samples!! :P

  4. Haha yes! I was really annoyed with my last two boxes, but I felt better after I got all the stuff you see above, lol.

  5. I love your Birchbox math, and am a little sour I didn't receive that sexy 20% off coupon in my email. Also, the Birchbox Finds box, which so far I've resisted getting, actually looks really good here. I would totally try that shimmer shadow. Oh, and I'd love to read an Embryolisse review -- I'm always on the lookout for a new (& miraculous!) face cream.

  6. Lisa @ Ameliorer la VieMarch 29, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    Yeah, I stayed subscribed to Birchbox way longer than I would have normally all because of those points which I used on stuff that I really wanted.

  7. For sure. What finally pushed you over the edge to quit?

  8. I am not a subscriber of Birchbox, but now I know why so many people stay subscribed to them.

  9. Ricki Marking-CamutoMarch 29, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    I actually loved the Find box. I got different colors of some of the products than you did (Sally Hanson in Rosy Outlook, the Nivea balm in Sheer Caramel, and the Rimmel lipgloss in Popcorn for 2). I did like the Covergirl shadow, but I love silver shadow and I love creams.

  10. Yep! I think Ipsy bags usually have a much higher dollar value, but their points system isn't nearly as good. So both of them have their pros and cons I guess.

  11. Haha! This post made me chuckle (in a good way!). You know, I never even pay attention to the points system on any of my subscription boxes. I do Birchbox also, and their boxes have sucked lately. But I definitely will be paying attention to the points thingy now!!! I never do the surveys, but will start now. Thanks girl!

  12. I think a lot of box rewards systems (like Ipsy) aren't very valuable, so it's nice that it's so easy to earn points through Birchbox. FYI regarding the surveys: "For a review to be eligible for Points, it must be posted between the
    date your receive your box until the 9th of the month following that box
    month. By way of example, if you receive your September box on
    September 20th, you will have until October 9th to post reviews of the
    products in the September box and earn points." (from their FAQ). So if you got a box this month make sure to fill out the reviews/surveys soon so you can earn points for them!

  13. Well when you explain it in that terms it does seem like a good deal. However, I agree that they def need to step it up subscription items wise... if they want to continue to compete with Ipsy. I wish Ipsy had a cool points system like this though. Their points system sucks at Ipsy...1,000 points for a $10.00 Nyx quad...its going to take me forever to get to get that many points and I review my products every month.

  14. Oh, definitely. Ipsy's points system sucks - the only way to get enough is to refer people, and even then you only have three rewards items to choose from - blah. But at the same time, Birchbox sends much crappier samples on average, haha. Pros and cons, pros and cons.

  15. Yea that is very true lol

  16. Lisa @ Ameliorer la VieMarch 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    Well, I tried Ipsy and liked it wayyy more, so I canceled Birchbox.

  17. Not a fan of the Covergirl Bombshell mascara, it's exactly as you describe a gimmick. Not to mention the tube is chunky as hell so it makes it extremely difficult to apply. Hopefully you have a better experience than me!

  18. Hmm, OK! I'll still try it because I already have it, I guess. I could see the tube being awkward though.