Loyalty reward card apps go head to head - CardStar vs Key Ring Reward Cards

Loyalty cards next to a BlackBerry Style
By Kerri Neill on 1 Jul 2011 04:48 pm EDT

The majority of us probably have had at one time or another a loyalty reward card from a store or two. You know, those little plastic debit cards or the miniscule keychain version. From there it just snowballs. Next thing you know, you've got 20 of those little plastic nusiances hanging from your keychain. I'll sign up for just about anything if it saves me a buck or two. When I heard about CardStar for BlackBerry back in May of last year, I was ecstatic! No more having my husband complain that the cards hit his knee when he drove my car or the added bulk when he carried my keys in his pocket. All my cards were safely relocated onto my device and all were still easily accessible when I went out shopping. I've used the app numerous times and never had much of a problem with it except for a difficult scanner here and there. Yesterday I ran across an app called Key Ring Reward Cards in BlackBerry App World. I was very curious to see how this app would compare to CardStar and if I'd prefer one over the other. Keep reading after the jump to see which app came out on top!

Let's begin with a brief introduction to each application...


CardStar logoCardStar, by CardStar Inc., lets you store your rewards, club and loyalty membership cards on your BlackBerry device. With CardStar, you select the merchant and then enter in your membership/barcode numbers. Once the information is saved you receive notice (in the app) of certain promotions going on for that particular merchant.

Key Ring Loyalty Cards

KRLC Logo Image

Key Ring Loyalty Cards, by Mobestream Media, states you can simply scan (yes SCAN!) or type the barcode number into the app to add all each of your cards. After you've added your cards you'll instantly receive coupons (in the app that are available to print) if any are available.

The Basics


Both CardStar & Key Ring are currently available for BlackBerry, iOS, Android & Windows Phones. CardStar is also available for the Ovi platform. CardStar's current version is 1.4 MB (the main reason most complain about this app) while Key Ring comes in at only 789.4 KB.


Both are free apps.

Getting Your Cards into the App

With CardStar, you have to manually select each retailer that you have a loyalty card for and then enter in your membership or barcode number.

Key Ring has the same option as CardStar to select & manually enter in your memberships or you can scan the barcodes and let the app decode and add the number itself. If there isn't a barcode you can simply select the no barcode box and type in your membership number. The scanning does work but it is a bit tricky. After talking with Chris Fagan, the CEO of Mobestream Media, and following his tips, I was able to successfully scan my cards into the app using my BlackBerry's camera. Good lighting is a must. I found holding the card under a light source or out in the sun makes the barcodes easier for the BlackBerry camera to get a clear shot and decode without a hassle.



    CardStar allows you to back up your cards onto your device's media card. You can then email that file to any other devices that you may want to have the same cards available on. At this time that is your only option for sharing cards. You do have the option of consolidating all your cards into 1 or 2 cards through an affiliate program just to have on hand in case you forget your device.

    Key Ring's backup is cloud based. Once you create an account and sync your cards to the cloud, you're done. Any other devices with the app and using the same account can just click sync and the cards will automatically update (I have it on 4 devices, 3 of which are different platforms). You can also login via your computer and manage your cards online. Key Ring also has an option to email the card to specific people via email. This works out great in instances like when I'm visiting my mom in Virginia and need her loyalty card for a local grocery store. I don't want to have to sign up for a card that I may only use 4 or 5 time a year. Key Ring can also give you a printout of all your memberships with barcodes.

    Barcode Scanning

    Both CardStar and Key Ring have the option of displaying your barcode (if there is one for that loyalty program) or membership number in case the scanner won't scan it. I've scanned from both apps at numerous locations without any issues except once or twice at Best Buy, who still hasn't updated their scanners. Very rarely will the cards scan from either app if the clerk tries to swipe it over the flatbed scanner.

    New Loyalty Programs/Exclusive Savings

    For CardStar, if you know a store has a loyalty program you'll have to either sign up online or actually go into that store and get your membership number that way.

    Key Ring has an in app option to join new programs that are available in your area. You simply fill in your info and you're done. The membership number is automatically loaded into the app. No more filling out those little flyers!

      When joining new programs within Key Ring, there may be special offers available once you sign up. Free queso, yum!

      In App Promotions/Coupons

      CardStar shows certain promotions at retailers much like what you would see on the retailer's website.

      Inside the Key Ring app, you will find promotions and specials as well as exclusive coupons. The app will even let you know if the coupon needs to be printed out in order to redeem in store. In an update that is coming, you will have the option to share these offers via Facebook and Twitter.

      Website/Contact Info

      CardStar has the option to go to the retailer's website and get contact information, some account login access and location searches.

      Future Updates

      CardStar's last update was back in December I believe with the introduction of the in app promotions.

      Chris at Mobestream Media informed me that they have a dedicated team working on the BlackBerry version of their app and that future updates (hopefully being released very soon) will include similar features that are already available in the other platform versions such as the following:

      • Facebook & Twitter integration enabling the ability to share deals & coupons with friends/family
      • Notes section (great to make shopping lists for each store!)
      • Website/Contact Info

      Final Thoughts

      I'm always trying to simplify my daily routine by utilizing my BlackBerry to the fullest extent. I've been using CardStar for over a year and have recommended it to numerous friends and family. It's a nice app but doesn't seem to be doing much with the BlackBerry version like they have with the other platforms. With the functionality and options that Key Ring Reward Cards already offers and the updates it will soon have, I for one have made the switch (I literally scanned all 32 loyalty cards and entered in 8 manually, only because they didn't have barcodes, into my BlackBerry last night) and have already started telling my friends and family about it. This is definitely the app to have regardless of which platform you use and especially if you are a multi-platform user. Just knowing I can easily recover my cards via the sync option if I lose or switch devices without having to re-enter a thing is a huge plus for me.

      More information / download of CardStar

      More information / download of Key Ring Reward Cards

      Reader comments

      Loyalty reward card apps go head to head - CardStar vs Key Ring Reward Cards


      I've been beta testing the Key Ring app and helped them work through a few bugs. Ever since the GA version was released, it's been an absolutely rock-solid app. I've yet to have a problem scanning a reward card at a register, including flatbed scanners (seems to work for me!). I wholeheartedly recommend Key Ring. Great team, responsive, and solid app.

      I used to use the Tesco app on my iPhone, I have tried to get it on my 9800, although it says supports all models, I dont think this app has aver been upgraded and wont run on the 9800

      After using both apps, I find Cardstar to be much better.

      With Key Ring, it seemed like a hassle to get the barcode number entered correctly. With Cardstar, you just enter the number next to the barcode (with no spaces) and it formats it accordingly.

      I'm not sure what you mean. When you type the number in, it isn't next to a barcode and will format itself correctly once you save the number. I personally was able to scan all my cards in without issues then used 4 different cards that same day. I loved CardStar too but they seem to have forgotten us BlackBerry users. The updates are few & far between plus having the cloud sync with Key Ring means everyone in my household has easy access regardless of their device.

      Also, I'd be interested to know how you "scanned in" your cards into the app, I don't see that option anywhere. Unless that function is not available on the devices I'm using....

      The scan card option is in the "add new card" section. When you go to add a new card, at the very bottom you should see a camera icon & the words "scan barcode". 

      Literally an app (or two) for everything. Thank you for the review Kerri, I know what I'll be doing for the next hour or so!

      Remember if scanning the cards you need excellent lighting and hold the card about 4 to 6 inches from the camera. I waited for it to focus then held the trackpad down while taking the picture.

      I've had a bit of trouble in the past scanning barcodes with my BlackBerry (have the Storm2), so I'm using my iPod Touch. Not spot-on with all of the cards, but your advice definitely helps!

      Yeah, I tried a couple with my Touch too and found it took some work adding them with it too. Guess no platform is perfect lol.

      I was already using Cardstar with no issues, but I figured I'd give Key Ring a try anyway. Nearly all the barcodes given for my cards appear to be incorrect. Only my Petsmart, Scene and local grocery store cards have identical barcodes when entered into the app. I can't seem to get my barcodes to scan despite the advice posted here and in the app.

      I do, however, like that Key Ring lets you add a merchant image for your 'custom' cards, enter notes, and that it has the ability to sync with a single click. Neat features I wish Cardstar had, but if the barcodes don't work those features become moot.

      I just noticed my Borders card didn't match so my mission this weekend is to use the ones that don't and see if it even matters. Check back & I'll keep you all updated. You can always shoot an email over to the developers. The team there is great & they'd love feedback, good or bad.

      I downloaded Key Ring today and have had no problems scanning barcodes as of yet. I haven't had a chance to use it in store yet, however.

      Thanks for the review, I've already downloaded it and put my cards in. This will alleviate the need for me to bring my keys along when the Mrs. drives.

      Downloaded last night, but it wasnt able to scan any of my cards, so I had to manually input all of them. Next step - see if the stores can scan em. Thanks!

      On Torch and have been using cardstar. This app looked decent. Have not been able to add any cards by scanning. I even tried in direct sunlight outside this afternoon. App said no image was taken even though the image is in my pictures folder. Ended up manually adding. Have two that the bar codes don't match (Jewel-Osco and Best Buy). I had the timeout error this afternoon for a while but it is gone now. Added one card from a retailer not in the list. Bar code looks good. Went online and that card is not showing up in my list online. I even did a sync but still doesn't show.

      I actually just got back from a couple of stores where I used Key Ring and they all scanned perfectly. At most places just hold up your BB and the clerk will use the hand I've used the app at Kroger, Jewel-Osco, Food Lion, Best Buy (50/50 on if it works even with handheld scanner), Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Toys R Us, Dick's, Michaels and a few others.

      I am on android for over a year and keyring works great.
      Same as on blackberry, turn screen brightness up. Screen protectors sometimes interfere.
      Also, flatbed scanners are a no go and to make scanning easier handheld scanners seem to pick up the tags in portrait mode better then landscape mode.

      Hi, i use airpass, a product developed by airpim; it's formidable. I think it's the best one i've never used. (you can download it from www.airpim.com).
      You can not only have all cards in your phone, but you can receive promotions, new products, communications. Moreover, you can update your personal information instead of fulfill a format. You can decide whick information you want to share.

      I love this idea. Granted, I'm on Android, but I love your review of them both. I was wondering what the difference was between them.

      The only thing I can say, in addition to what you've already said, is to be sure to back it all up AND keep those little tags in a file somewhere, just in case. About two days after I keyed in all my tags, I had a problem with my phone. I wasn't able to get another one for a few days and in the meantime, I needed those tags because I still needed groceries! Thank goodness I had the foresight to imagine a problem like that and didn't throw them out or put them somewhere that I wouldn't remember.

      Also, some cards (Pilot gas stores, for example) will not accept the tags nor the digitized version of the card. If I want to pay at the pump then I'm SOL, unless I have the full sized card. That irritates me, but it's the cheapest gas in my town so I have to deal with it.