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The REI Dividend: What It Is, How to Spend It

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Your REI dividend has arrived! Here’s how to spend it. With top outdoor gear picks and a bit of history thrown in, this is our guide to the REI dividend.

Like Christmas in spring, the arrival of the annual REI dividend is March Madness for gear junkies. We caught up with REI to ask how the time-honored dividend came to be — and to get some hints on how to spend it wisely.

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So, you’ve spent a small treasure chest on gadgets, outdoor clothes, and equipment. Or, maybe you’ve upgraded to an REI Mastercard, amassing a small fortune in dividend rebates. Either way, your day has come. The envelope has arrived. You bypass all the voting paperwork and scan for the metrics — what’s an REI dividend really worth?

History of the REI Dividend

If all this dividend hoopla reads like a fantasy football conspiracy, here’s the gist. REI is a massive cooperative (one of the largest) with millions of members. You don’t need to be a member to shop at REI. But for $20, you can join REI for life and reap membership benefits, which include getting 10 percent back on your annual purchases through the aforementioned dividend.

We caught up with REI to drill down on the dividend’s history.

How did REI’s dividend get started?

REI: The dividend got started in 1938 when Lloyd and Mary Anderson formed the co-op with 23 members, who each paid $1 for a lifetime membership. Not wanting to make money off of their friends, Lloyd and Mary gave dividends back to all members. In the first several years, the dividends were distributed on a quarterly basis but, by 1948, the co-op transitioned to the annual dividend that we all enjoy today.

And enjoy it we do! Has it always been a 10-percent dividend?

In 1938, the co-op gave back either 5 percent or 25 percent of the total spent, depending on what each member bought. By 1947, quarterly dividends were consistent at 15 percent; a year later, the co-op began to use the annual 10-percent dividend that we’re familiar with.

Who all can be listed on a membership?

Only one name can appear on the membership, but friends and family can make purchases using the same member number — though the dividend is always issued to the individual who’s listed on the membership. Members cannot share one membership number or transfer the membership number to another person. There’s nothing that says only one membership per family, so we see many families where each person has their own membership to earn their own dividend and coupons.

What if you’ve got everything you need (never said by a gear junkie)? Can you donate your dividend to a higher cause?

Many members have nothing to spend their dividend on or would rather donate their dividend than purchase gear. In these cases, members have the option of donating their dividend to The REI Foundation, which is a separate 501(c)(3) focused on connecting the next generation of adventurers and environmental stewards to the outdoors and promoting the benefits of the outdoors among diverse audiences. Last year, the foundation invested in the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition and made a multimillion-dollar, multiyear commitment to the National Park Foundation in support of this year’s centennial.

How to Spend the REI Dividend

So, you’re a member and you finally got that dividend in the mail. What to spend it on? Choices galore! We asked REI what it liked this year. Not surprisingly, GearJunkie likes much of the same gear. Below is a list of items for all budgets.

YETI Rambler Tumbler with MagSlider Lid: $30

YETI Rambler Tumbler

The YETI Rambler Tumbler will keep your drinks cool or hot for most of the day, and they now come in a slew of unique colors. Why are these so popular? Mostly because of durability and function.

Shop YETI Rambler Tumbler

Jetboil Flash Cooking System: $100

Jetboil Flash

Boil water in mere minutes with the Jetboil Flash. This easy-to-use cooking system will cook up your backpacking meals quickly, giving you more time to enjoy the landscape, set up camp, and enjoy nature.

Shop Jetboil Flash Cooking System

REI Co-op Roadtripper Recycled Duffel 40L: $40

REI Co-op Roadtripper Recycled Duffel 40L

Express your inner REI pride with these recycled duffels. Boasting old-school REI patches, the 40L Roadtripper is made entirely of recycled fibers, has a DWR coating to repel water, and fits in the overhead bin on an airplane.

Shop REI Roadtripper Recycled Duffel 40L

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus Tent: $229

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus Tent

The REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus tent gives you car camping comfort in the backcountry. This REI-designed tent boasts cutting-edge tech features, like pole architecture that boosts livable space, overhead vents, and a double-door, double-vestibule construction. Plus, there are some cool colors available for this iconic tent!

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus Tent

KEEN Targhee III Low WP Hiking Shoe — Men’s & Women’s: $135

KEEN Targhee III Low WP Hiking Shoe

Log this summer’s hikes in the KEEN Targhee III Low WP Hiking Shoes. The brand made these hikers to stay comfortable all day long with leather uppers, waterproof membranes, and all-terrain rubber.

REI Dividend: Get Your Gear Now

Dividends have an expiration date: Annual dividends are good for 2 years after issued and expire on January 3. The brand issues refunds for unredeemed REI credit card rebates.

Finally, it’s worth noting REI pairs the dividend release with an annual sale — make a purchase with your dividend on or before April 4 and get an additional 20 percent off a full-priced item and an outlet item. So act soon to make the most of your dividend.

By
Contributing Editor (and Gear Junkie Idaho Bureau Chief) Steve Graepel is allegedly a crook and a thief, conning his friends to steal away time from their families in pursuit of premeditated leisure, which typically involves a bike, a pack-raft, skis, running shoes, climbing rack, or all of the above.