Supermarket loyalty schemes can be a useful way to save money, whether it’s on your weekly food shop or on a day out. We compare loyalty schemes from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op and the rest.
UK supermarket loyalty schemes
It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of supermarket loyalty schemes available, so it can be tricky to decide which one is right for you.
We have rounded up what all these loyalty schemes by UK supermarkets have to offer, including a new scheme by Lidl, and whether they are worth your time.
Asda’s loyalty scheme allows you to earn reward points on homeware and clothes purchases. George Rewards offers points on every purchase from the George product line.
Those points give you access to exclusive discounts on future shopping although discounts change regularly.
It's worth stressing you'll only earn points for online purchases and you can't earn points on groceries shopping.
You can read our verdict on the scheme here, or scroll down to see what other supermarkets are offering and find out if you could save money.
Lidl Plus is the discounter’s first foray into the world of loyalty schemes, and comes in the form of an app available on both Android and iOS.
The free app officially launches on 3 September, but is available to download and use now. Shoppers need to download the app to their mobile device and then register with their personal details.
They will then be presented with a host of coupons which they can ‘activate’. At the time of writing, this includes £5 off your first £25 shop and 20% off confectionary. Once you ‘activate’ a coupon within the app, you will have a limited period in which to use it before it expires.
To use the coupon, you need to scan your digital card in the app when you get to the till. Personalised offers will be provided later on, based on the items shoppers actually buy.
What’s more, every time you get your digital card scanned at the till you’ll receive a scratchcard, with the potential to pick up more prizes.
As well as offering the chance to save money at Lidl, you’ll also be presented with discount offers for partner retailers. At the time of writing, these include 25% off Sky TV and a free two-month Readly subscription.
Users can also read a digital version of Lidl’s weekly leaflet through the app.
Our verdict: It’s a little too early to tell. While Lidl Plus won’t offer a return on the money spent in store, as is the case with other loyalty schemes, it will offer regular Lidl shoppers a little extra so is likely worth a try at least.
Marks & Spencer
M&S recently revamped its SPARKS loyalty scheme after admitting the old version was too confusing.
But it’s still not that clear what you’ll get back with the new scheme.
Every week, one shopper who swipes their SPARKS card at the till will get their shopping for free. On top of this, shoppers are presented with special offers or treats based on their shopping, while some will receive special ‘gifts’.
A donation to charity is made on your behalf every time you shop too.
Our verdict: The new SPARKS scheme only launched in July so again it’s a bit early to tell how good it is. It’s almost certainly worth a try if you are a regular M&S shopper though.
With the card you can earn five points for every £1 spent in-store or online, at Morrisons’ Cafés and for every litre of fuel bought.
Morrisons also says there will be promotional events for cardholders to earn more.
Each point is worth 0.1p so you will need 5,000 points to get a £5 voucher.
Morrisons dropped its popular price match scheme in October 2015, which allowed shoppers to earn points if their shop would have been cheaper at another supermarket.
Our verdict: This is a decent reward scheme for Morrisons shoppers. The only downside is that unlike other schemes from Tesco and Nectar, you can’t exchange points for days out or leisure activities.
Last year, the loyalty scheme was revamped so that you’ll now get weekly one-off, limited time offers, based on what you buy most frequently, which will arrive every Friday.
You can save the offers you like and ignore the ones you don’t, so you get more relevant offers (and help Sainsbury's learn more about your spending preferences, of course).
Crucially, your offers can only be viewed through Sainsbury's website or app, so you can now leave your physical Nectar card at home and simply scan using the app on your phone (available via Apple and Google Play).
Ultimately, it seems the changes are designed to get more people spending regularly through their app in particular.
Existing ways to make the most of the scheme
There are other ways you can make the most of the Nectar scheme. Perhaps the most 'profitable' way is to pick up extra points with Sainsbury’s Bank products.
The Sainsbury’s Bank Dual Offer Credit Card, for example, allows you to earn 750 Nectar points each time you spend £35 or more on Sainsbury’s shopping.
You can do this up to 10 times in the first two months, giving you the chance to collect up to 7,500 points.
As always, make sure you clear your debt in full each month in order to avoid costly interest that will wipe out any benefits.
The card also allows you to earn two points for every £1 spent on Sainsbury’s shopping or fuel and one point for every £5 spent elsewhere.
500 Nectar points are worth £2.50, which you can spend straight from your card or app at Sainsbury’s, both in-store or online, or use it to buy treats at Nectar.com.
Our verdict: Sainsbury’s used to offer two points per £1 but scaled back the scheme to match other supermarkets like Tesco. However, the Nectar card can be used at a wide range of retailers, allowing you to maximise your points on more of your spending.
There are also loads of ways you can dramatically boost the number of Nectar points you earn when you shop, as we explain here..
You can choose from two different Clubcard schemes if you want to earn loyalty points at Tesco.
First off, there's the standard (and free) Tesco Clubcard scheme, which lets you collect one point per £1 spent in store and online. When purchasing Tesco fuel, you'll get one point for every £2 spent.
There are also lots of opportunities to earn points through other Tesco products like Tesco Mobile, a Tesco Bank current account and Tesco credit cards.
The Tesco Bank Purchases Card, for example, allows you to earn one point for every £4 spent in Tesco and for every £8 spent elsewhere.
Each point is worth 1p and for every 150 Clubcard points, you get £1.50 in Clubcard vouchers.
You can also boost the value of your points with selected partners, as we explain in our guide to boosting Tesco Clubcard points.
Tesco Clubcard Plus
Tesco Clubcard Plus is a monthly subscription service that offers additional discounts and perks.
It costs £7.99 and the headline offer is a 10% discount on your grocery shopping.
Crucially, this has a number of limitations. It is:
- only available if you shop in-store (not online or Click & Collect);
- limited to two big shops a month;
- capped at a maximum value of £200 per shop.
There are a few other perks like extra data on your Tesco mobile deal and savings on Tesco clothing, as we explain in our Tesco Clubcard guide, but the food discount is really the main reason to sign up.
If you do a couple of big shops in-store each month, this scheme will save you a small fortune. For example, two £150 shops a month will save you £30, or £23 once you subtract the monthly charge.
However, if you do numerous small weekly shops or mainly shop online you'll get far less benefit and could well end up losing money.
Remember the monthly fee adds up to almost £100 a year so you need to be making good use of it to justify upgrading to Clubcard Plus rather than the free version.
Our verdict: The standard Clubcard scheme is risk-free and there are plenty of opportunities to pick up points and you can boost their value when you spend them at, for example, retailers.
The Clubcard Plus is a great idea for those who do at least two big shops in store each month, but for others the benefits will be far more limited. Do the sums before you sign up, but as a general rule, aim to spend at least £80 on a qualifying food shop to cover your costs.
The Co-op loyalty scheme allows you to earn 5% cashback when you buy any Co-op own-brand item or service (apart from insurance) and a further 1%, which goes to a local charity in your area.
Any money you earn will be paid into your membership account and can be spent with Co-op businesses, including its insurance services, whenever you want.
The Co-op says a member that spends £20 a week on own-brand goods can earn £52 in rewards for themselves and £10.40 for charities in a year with the scheme.
To become a member, you will need to pay a one-off fee of £1.
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.
The new reward scheme offers benefits on top of the dividend and does not replace it.
You can find out more about how the scheme works in the video below:
Our verdict: As the Co-op is a local convenience store, it makes 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.
Instead of collecting points, it offers freebies and discounts.
One of the major benefits is that it allows cardholders to get a free tea or coffee each time they visit a store – but you need to buy something in store and bring a reusable cup.
You get a free copy of the monthly Waitrose & Partners Food magazine and access to in-store deals like 20% off all fish from the fish counter every Friday.
You can also get a free selected newspaper when you spend at least £10 and exclusive myWaitrose prices.
Our verdict: The Waitrose card is worth having if you have a Waitrose near you and you shop there regularly as the rewards like the hot drinks and magazines are instant.
But with no points system, you’ll have to keep a close eye on the discounts and make sure to use them to get the most out of the scheme.
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.
But 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 on your cashback card, 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.
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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