The top loyalty cards for shoppers: Boots, Nectar, Waterstones and more

Updated on 09 December 2016

New research shows we have signed up to over three loyalty schemes, but we rarely make use of them. Here's a reminder of which shops offer the best loyalty cards and how much can you earn.

'Drowning in loyalty cards'

It turns out that though we hoard a lot of loyalty cards, we rarely actually use them.

A whopping 89% of us belong to a loyalty scheme, according to new research from Nielsen, averaging 3.6 each. However, less than half of British shoppers would choose to buy from a retailer with a loyalty scheme over one without. Only 55% said they shop with retailers with loyalty schemes, lower than the global average of 67%. 

Make sure you don't miss out on the savings to be found in your wallet. Here's a reminder of what the top schemes offer and what you can get for using them.





The ubiquitous high street pharmacy offers the Advantage card which you can use to buy items in store.

What benefits do you get?

  • You’ll earn four points for every £1 spent in store and at
  • Each point is worth one penny.
  • You can also earn four points for every £1 spent at Boots Opticians.
  • You can take advantage of extra benefits such as ‘double points’ promotions.
  • You also get access to benefits like the Boots 'Treat Street' which gives you discounts on a range of retailers.
  • Points can be used to purchase items in Boots branches or online.
  • Points cannot be spent on prescription items, infant milk (up to six months), gift vouchers/cards, postage stamps, mobile phone top-up cards, travel services and Boots Insurance.

Our verdict: Boots offers the most generous scheme of the lot at four points per £1. This means it's easy to build up points and there's also frequent promotions to boost the number you have. Some items are excluded as you can't use your points to buy anything from brands such as Boots Opticians or Boots Insurance. It's a good card but will only benefit you if you use Boots on a regular basis for your shopping.

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer offer a loyalty scheme called SPARKS, which is free to join.

What benefits do you get?

  • You get 10 ‘sparks’ for every £1 spent at M&S.
  • The number of sparks you earn is rounded to the nearest multiple of 10, with 10 bonus sparks for each transaction you make.
  • There are also 50 Sparks bonus points up for grabs for using the clothing Shwop service in-store and 25 for every product review you write that is published online.
  • Sparks points have no cash value but will give you access to exclusive deals. Members are sent personalised offers through every fortnight, normally an in-store or online discount.
  • Better offers are unlocked as you earn more sparks. 3,000 sparks allow you to see new season previews including new collections from M&S; 5,000 sparks will allow you to preview and buy sale items a day before they go on the M&S website;14,000 sparks will bag you invitations to special events including exclusive shopping evenings, catwalk shows and food masterclasses. It's not until you reach 17,000 sparks that you get the experience rewards like the vineyard visit or a personalised styling session.

Our verdict: If you're a regular M&S shopper this scheme could work for you, but as you can imagine, it might get a bit confusing.

Though some of the benefits are more appealing, they'll take you quite a while to save up for. Oddly, your sparks will reset every year but you’ll still get the same level of reward rather than having to start building up points again.


Sainsbury’s participates in the massive Nectar card loyalty scheme.

What benefits do you get?

  • Grocery shopping at Sainsbury’s will allow you to collect one points per £1 spent. 
  • 500 Nectar points are worth £2.50 for spending in store.
  • You'll also get one point per litre of fuel purchased at Sainsbury’s fuel stations.
  • You can spend straight from your card at Sainsbury’s, both in store or online, or use it to buy treats such as hotels, holidays or days out at

Our verdict: Recent changes to the Nectar card make it much less desirable than it used to be, though it can still be beneficial for regular Sainsbury's shoppers. The bonus of this card is that Nectar cards can be used at a wide range of retailers, such as Homebase and British Gas, allowing you to maximise your points on more of your spending.


Tesco shoppers can use the Tesco Clubcard to earn loyalty points.

What benefits do you get?

  • You’ll collect one point per £1 spent in store, online and at Tesco Direct.
  • When purchasing Tesco fuel you'll also get one point for every £2 spent.
  • Every 150 Clubcard points you earn is worth £1.50 in Clubcard vouchers.

Our verdict: This scheme is better than most and you can also multiply your points when you spend them at certain retailers. If you have a Tesco credit card, you're also able to earn more points and a full list of where you can pick them up can be found on the website.


The high street beauty chain offers the 'Health & Beautycard' to loyal shoppers.

What benefits do you get?

  • You earn one point for every £1 spend both online and in a branch
  • Every 100 points is equal to £1 in store
  • You can use your points as part-payment when buying an item
  • There are lots of bonus promotions on offer, such as Treat Thursday where discounts are offered to members on a certain brand or product category.
  • You get an exclusive treat on your birthday

Our verdict: The Superdrug card is pretty much identical to Boots' Advantage card but offers less cashback when you spend in store or online. It makes sense to have one if you shop at Superdrug regularly and keep an eye on the bonus promotions to rack up more points. It’s also good because you can pay with a mixture of points and cash so you don’t need to wait until you’ve collected a certain number before you start spending.


The Waterstones loyalty scheme gives you the chance to earn a decent number of points while you shop for books

What benefits do you get?

  • Earn three points for every £1 you spend – each point is worth 1p.
  • Earn and redeem online or in a shop
  • Earn points every time you don’t take a plastic bag
  • Enjoy savings and discounts at museums, galleries, shows and literary days out
  • Upgrade your hot drink from regular to large at Cafe W.

Our verdict: This card offers one of the highest rates of cashback around, although any points you collect will only be valid on products within the Waterstones range. There are lots of promotional deals to boost the number of points you have and your card can also be used for discounts at a host of different venues including the Natural History Museum.

The Co-operative

When you become a member of the Co-op you join a collective and get a say not only in how the company is run but also a claim to its profits.

What benefits do you get?

  • Earn 5% when you buy any Co-op own-brand item or service (apart from insurance)
  • Further 1% of your spend goes to a local charity in your area
  • Spend the money built up in your membership account at Co-op businesses, including its insurance services, whenever you want
  • Scheme costs £1 to join

Our verdict:  As the Co-op is a local convenience store, it makes total sense to have this card handy to use when you pop in. The 1% cashback for a local charity is also a benefit you can feel good about. Most items have a 1% cashback rate but you also need to pay out £1 to join (taken off your first share of profits). If you cancel the membership the £1 will be returned. It's a great idea because you also have the option of donating the money earned to a local community project.

Are cashback credit cards better?

Cashback credit cards are generally seen as a better alternative to schemes which offer loyalty points or rewards. This is because you have the freedom to spend your cashback wherever you like without any limitations, while earning cashback on all your purchases.

What’s more, the highest cashback rates tend to beat the equivalent value of most loyalty points. After all, the market-leading cashback cards – the American Express Platinum Cashback card – offers 5% cashback in the first three months (up to a maximum of £125) with up to 1.25% paid after that depending on how much you spend on the card.  

You can also earn cashback of up to £15 on purchases from in your first three months of card membership. Apply before January 31 2017 to get the offer.

However, cashback cards should only be used as a way to earn rewards as these often have a higher APR than most standard credit cards. To use them efficiently you should spend as normal and then pay this off at the end of each month. This means you'll get all the rewards of the card but you won't have to pay any interest.

If you won't remember to pay the card off each month then set up a direct debit to do this automatically from your current account.

Our comparison tables give a full run down of the cashback and reward credit cards but here I've picked out four of the best.

The top five cashback credit cards


Cashback amounts

Average APR


American Express Platinum Cashback Card 5% for three months on spending up to £2,500 (up to 1.25% after). 3% up to £15 on all purchases from for three months. 28.2% Annual fee £25

American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Card

5% for three months on spending up to £2,000 (up to 1.25% after). 3% up to £15 on all purchases from for three months.



ASDA Money Cashback Plus Credit Card

2% cashback on all Asda spend, 1% on all other transactions, 10% on all other transactions


Annual fee of £25 a year (current account customers are exempt)

AA Fuelsave Credit Card MasterCard 4% on fuel when you spend over £500 a month (or 2% if you pay less), 0.5% standard on all other purchases, £150 annual cap 22.4% Annual fee of £42
Nationwide BS Select Credit Card Visa 0.5% on spend over £1 per year 15.9%  

Many of the top cashback credit cards are only available to people with a squeaky clean credit history and you'll need to earn at least £20,000 for most of them. The Boots and Tesco schemes offer far more generous equivalent rates - albeit on a limited range of purchases - without the need to apply for a credit card and with no minimum spend required.

Meanwhile other schemes, particularly the Nectar card, will give you lots of opportunities to earn extra points which could be even better than the best cashback rates.

Do you use loyalty schemes and which one do you think offers the best value for money? Let us know in the box below.


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