Tesco Clubcard and Nectar members were dealt a blow this week after both loyalty schemes announced plans to scale back their offerings.
From the end of December, Nectar members will no longer be able to spend or collect points at Homebase. The DIY giant is one of Nectar's major retail partners, but its new owners have said they want to focus on price cuts instead.
Similarly, Tesco Clubcard members have been told they can no longer switch earnings from cashback site Topcashback for Clubcard points as of end July.
It comes just weeks after Tesco announced it was scrapping its popular Clubcard Boost events, which allow Clubcard holders to double up their vouchers at certain times of the year.
So with all these changes in mind, we’ve taken a look at how some of the biggest loyalty schemes from Tesco, Nectar, M&S, Waitrose, Morrisons and Boots compare and whether it’s still worth signing up.
The Clubcard scheme from Tesco is really the original loyalty scheme, having launched back in 1995. You earn points, which can then be exchanged for vouchers off in store or money off a range of experiences or days out.
You can collect one point for every £1 spent online and in-store, while shopping with selected partners like E.ON, Esso and TopCashback can earn you extra points. Each point is worth 1p.
After you sign up for a Clubcard you’ll receive vouchers every three months based on the number of points you’ve collected, but you won’t start receiving vouchers until you reach 150 Clubcard points.
So if you spend £200 a month with Tesco, you'd earn 2,400 points over the year, or £24. That'll shave a bit off one of your weekly shops.
To help them go a little further, Tesco runs Clubcard Boost throughout the year, which allows you to double, triple or even quadruple the value of your points when you spend them with a Clubcard partner. So for example right now you can turn £2.50 in Clubcard vouchers into £10 to spend at ASK or Pizza Express (four times the value), while £10 in vouchers can be turned into £30 to spend with Eurotunnel (three times the value).
Tesco also runs Boost events, where you can double the value of your vouchers in certain departments in-store or online at Tesco. However, this perk is being scrapped and the last event will be held between 16th May and 26th June.
So those £24 in vouchers could be worth nearly £100 with certain Clubcard Boost partners, or nearly £50 if you cash them in during a Clubcard Boost event (before 26th June).
To get even more bang for your buck, Clubcard customers should look at banking with Tesco or taking out a Clubcard credit card.
With the credit card you get five points for every £4 spent in store and on Tesco fuel, as well as one point for every £8 spent elsewhere.
So spending £200 a month at Tesco with a Clubcard credit card would see you pocket 3,000 points (worth £30 in vouchers), and that's before you consider the points you could pick up on spending elsewhere too. If you then cash those vouchers in during a Clubcard Boost event (before 26th June), you're looking at a £60 return, or you could use them with a partner retailer, meaning they are worth as much as £120!
Read more at How to boost your Clubcard points.
Nectar is a hugely popular loyalty scheme, with millions of users across the UK. Unlike Clubcard, which is tied closely with Tesco, Nectar has far more 'senior partner' retailers.
The primary way many people earn their Nectar points is by shopping at Sainsbury's. You get one point for every £1 in-store or online and on Sainsbury’s fuel.
Unfortunately, the rate of return from Nectar is only half as good as Clubcard as each point is only worth 0.5p. So while spending £200 a month at Sainsbury's would see you net the same 2,400 points as with the Clubcard example above, that would only be worth £12 in vouchers to spend at Sainsbury's or with various other Nectar partners.
Like Tesco’s Clubcard scheme you can boost the value of your points with selected partners. You can exchange 1,000 points (£5) for a £10 Merlin attractions voucher for theme parks like Alton Towers and Thorpe Park.
You can also significantly boost your Nectar points collection with the right credit card.
For example, the Nectar Credit Card from American Express will give you an amazing 20,000 points as a welcome bonus when you spend £2,000 on it in the first three months.
On top of that you collect up to four Nectar points for every £1 spent at Nectar partners and two points for virtually every pound spent elsewhere.
You get four points for every £1 spent at Sainsbury's, so that £200 a month translates into 9,600 Nectar points after a year. If you manage to spend enough on the card in the first three months to get the 20,000 bonus Nectar points, that equates to around £148 in vouchers to spend after 12 months.
In other words, Nectar itself is not that generous a loyalty scheme, unless you make use of the right financial product or exchange vouchers for days out to turbo-boost your points collection.
Read more at How to boost your Nectar points.
With Boots Advantage you get four points for virtually every £1 you spend on almost any product in-store and online. 100 points are then worth £1 in vouchers to spend in Boots.
You’ll also be invited to exclusive events in-store and you can also pick up Boots’ Health and Wellbeing magazine free of charge.
So even if you only spend a tenner a month, that's 480 points (£4.80), enough for a Wilkinson Sword Xtreme 3 disposable razor four pack (£4.49).
It’s even better for the over-60s, who can collect an impressive 10 points per £1 spent on Boots-branded products.
While if your child is under three you can join the Boots Parenting Club and collect 10 points for every pound you spend on baby products as well as getting free gifts.
Morrisons Match & More
The Morrisons Match & More loyalty card gives you five points for every £1 spent in store or 10 points for every £1 spent on fuel and each point is worth 0.1p.
You need 5,000 points to get a £5 voucher, so you will need to spend £1,000 before you can benefit from the scheme, which you could achieve if you spent £200 a month for five months at the store.
Apart from shopping and filling up at Morrisons there are no other real opportunities to boost your points.
Morrisons dropped its popular price match scheme in October last year, which allowed shoppers to earn points if their shop would have been cheaper at another supermarket. Plus unlike other schemes from Tesco and Nectar you can’t exchange points for days out or leisure activities.
myWaitrose, which launched in 2011, offers freebies, discounts and allows shoppers to get a free tea or coffee each time they visit a store.
You get a free copy of the monthly Waitrose Food magazine, worth £1.20 and access to in-store deals like 20% off all fish from the fish counter.
Rather than collecting points you can get 20% off up to ten products that you buy regularly, which you can pick.
So the card is worth having if you have a Waitrose near you and you shop there regularly, but you the ability to save money is limited.
The Marks and Spencer SPARKS card gives you 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. Bear in mind you can’t earn on gift cards, M&S Bank and Energy payments and the made-to-measure shirt service.
Better offers are unlocked as you earn more sparks. They break down like this:
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. 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. It's probably best if you keep up with your account online.
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.
Which is best for you?
A loyalty scheme is only really much use if you shop at the retailer regularly. This is especially true of supermarkets; if you drift between shops, you'd be best just trying to find the cheapest deals week to week.
This article has been updated from an earlier version