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

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

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Your REI dividend has arrived! Now, here’s how to spend it.


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 get some hints on how to spend it wisely.

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% 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% dividend?

In 1938, the co-op gave back either five 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 multi-million dollar, multi-year 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! We asked REI what they liked this year. Not surprisingly, many of the items REI likes, GearJunkie likes as well. Below is a list of items from low price to high.


YETI Rambler Tumbler; 20 fl. oz.  Keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. We’ve been using and loving this stainless steel double-walled mug all winter long. $30.


REI Flash 18 — A little pitch for the home team, REI’s 18-liter rucksack is super simple and doubles as a stuff sack when lugging equipment to base camp, making an ideal match for summit pitches or workday jaunts to the gym. $34.50


Eno DoubleNest Hammock — 2016 might very well be the year of the hammock. Eno’s DoubleNest hammock provides room for two to enjoy the experience. $70.


Kelty Tru.Comfort Zip 29 Sleeping Bag; Women’s — Like a convertible for the campsite, the zip-out liner can be removed from the 20-degree bag to accommodate warmer nights or tucked in to keep you snuggly warm on cooler evenings. $130.


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite SV Sleeping Pad  Therm-a-Rest’s NeoAir is a GearJunkie favorite. With its new “SpeedValve” inflation (amazing if you haven’t tried it) the latest iteration inflates with a few quick breaths. REI tagged this as “great for the outdoors person who has ‘everything'”. $160-$180.


Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent  For big spenders, Big Agnes’ three-season tent offers great livability at minimal weight … 1 lb. 15 oz! $389.95.

REI Dividend: Get Your Gear Now

Dividends have an expiration date; annual dividends are good for two years after they’ve been issued and expire on January 3rd. Refunds are issued 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 4th and you get an additional 20% off a full-priced and outlet item. So, act soon to make the most of your dividend.

tagged: REI
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.