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3 Mar 2022

Which coffee loyalty scheme saves you the most money? Costa Club, Pret Perks, Starbucks Rewards and more compared

Some coffee shops' loyalty programmes let you earn and spend points, while others are led by freebies - but which is best for you?
Man drinking coffee in street

If you're one of the thousands of workers returning to the office after almost two years of working from home, you might be considering joining a coffee chain's loyalty scheme or even taking out a subscription.

But if you're working in a town or city with multiple chains to choose from, it can be tricky working out which scheme will save you the most money.

Here, Which? compares loyalty schemes from Caffu00e8 Nero, Costa Club, Greggs, Pret a Manger and Starbucks to reveal which is the most generous.

Caffu00e8 Nero and Costa offer the most generous coffee loyalty schemes

All of the loyalty schemes work a little differently (we've explained each of them in more detail below), but here's a broad overview of how quickly you can earn free coffee and/or snacks through each scheme:

Coffee shop schemeHow do you earn?Stamps/stars needed for a freebie
Caffu00e8 Nero1 stamp per drink bought (2 if using a reusable cup)9 (4.5 with reusable cups) for a free hot drink
Costa Club1 'bean' per drink bought (2 if using a reusable cup until 31 March 2022)8 (4 with reusable cups this month) for a free hot drink
Greggs1 stamp per item bought from each category (including drinks, sandwiches and sweet treats)9 within a single category for a free item from the same category
Pret Perks (only available to coffee subscribers - see Pret section below)1 star per purchase10 for a surprise freebie
Starbucks Rewards3 stars per £1 spent150 for a free hot drink

As you can see, Costa Club is currently the most generous scheme if you remember to take your reusable coffee cup every time you visit.

However, this offer only lasts until the end of the month, after which Caffu00e8 Nero will become the scheme that most quickly grants reusable cup owners free coffee.

If you don't use a reusable coffee cup, Costa is the most generous scheme, followed by Caffe Nero and Greggs.

Pret's is almost level, but it works slightly differently in that you get a surprise treat rather than being able to choose a hot drink and you have to have its coffee subscription.

At the other end of the scale, you'd have to spend £50 in Starbucks before getting a drop of free coffee.

Caffu00e8 Nero's loyalty scheme in detail

Caffe Nero loyalty programme

How does the Caffu00e8 Nero loyalty scheme work? Every time you buy a drink, you'll get a reward stamp in your Caffu00e8 Nero app (or, if you're a longstanding user, the paper reward card which is still accepted).

You'll get an extra stamp if you choose to use a reusable cup.

For every nine stamps you earn, you'll get a free drink, so if you always take your reuseable cup that's one free coffee for every four and a half you pay for.

The app also offers exclusive promotions and discounts on food and drink.

How do I start collecting stamps? Download the Caffu00e8 Nero app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

If you want to, you can also link your debit or credit card, meaning you can collect your stamp and pay for your coffee with one swipe of the app in Nero stores.

You can even order ahead using the app's click and collect feature.

More info at:CaffeNero.com.

What rewards does Costa Club offer?

Costa Club app

How does the Costa Club work? Costa's loyalty scheme app lets you earn a 'bean' for every drink you buy from a branch of Costa or from a Costa Express machine in a participating petrol station or convenience store.

Until 31 March, you can also earn an additional bean when you use a reusable cup in a Costa store.

Collecting eight beans entitles you to claim a free drink of any size, so if you buy four drinks using a reusable cup between now and the end of the month, you'll land yourself a free coffee.

Club members also get free cake on their birthday if they opt to share their date of birth in the app, as well as a range of exclusive discounts on food and drinks, and bonus bean offers.

How do I start collecting beans? Download the Costa Club app from the Apple App Store or Google Play and set up an account.

When you're next in a branch of Costa, open the app and click 'shop' to generate a QR code, which you can show the barista to earn your bean.

Or, if you're buying from a Costa Express machine, tap 'machine' on the app instead, followed by 'collect beans only', and scan the code that's displayed on the machine's screen.

How do I claim my free drink? Select 'reward' in the Costa Club app, then 'free drink' and 'use now'. This creates a QR code to scan at the checkout.

Any complimentary drinks you earn are stored in the app for six months.

More info at:Costa.co.uk.

Greggs gives freebies from the get-go

Greggs loyalty app

How does the Greggs offer work?The rewards are instant with Greggs, which offers you a free hot drink as soon as you've downloaded its app.

After that, each time you purchase an item in any category (breakfast, savouries and bakes, drinks, sandwiches and salads, sweet treats and hot food) at a Greggs branch you'll get a stamp.

Once you've collected nine stamps in a category you get your 10th item free - and you can collect stamps from multiple categories at once.

Click and collect is available through the Greggs app too, meaning you can order ahead and skip the queue. You'll also get a free sweet treat on your birthday.

How do I start earning rewards?Download the Greggs app from the Apple App store or Google Play.

More info at: Greggs.co.uk.

Pret Perks offers surprise treats rather than regular free coffees

Pret coffee shop

How does Pret Perks work? The first thing to mention is that Pret Perks is currently in a trial phase and only available to people with a Pret coffee subscription, which costs £25 a month for up to five barista-made drinks per day.

Under the Pret Perks scheme, each time you make a purchase in a Pret store, you'll earn a star. You'll also get a star each month your coffee subscription renews. Employees can give out bonus stars to customers at their discretion.

For every 10 stars you earn, you'll be given a surprise freebie. That might be a choice of crisps or popcorn, a canned drink, a baked treat or a hot drink.

How do I start collecting stars?Provided you're a coffee subscriber, sign up to Pret Perks and download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. (Or, if you don't want to download the app, log into your account via the website on your phone's browser.)

Then, every time you shop in Pret, scan the QR code.

How do I claim a Pret Perk? Check your app or online account to see what freebie you've earned, then scan the QR code at the checkout for it to be taken off your bill.

Perks expire after 30 days, so make sure you claim yours in time.

More info at:Pret.co.uk.

Starbucks less generous than competitors

Starbucks Rewards app

How does Starbucks Rewards work? Starbucks Rewards members collect stars based on how much they spend.

For each pound spent, you get three stars. Once you reach 150 stars, you get a free drink. This means you need to spend £50 to get a complimentary beverage - around twice as much as you do with the likes of Caffu00e8 Nero and Costa.

It's important to note that you can only use the scheme if you've preloaded money onto your plastic Rewards card or app, as you have to use this to pay and collect stars. So for that reason, unless you're a regular Starbucks customer, it's best to wait until you know you're heading to a Starbucks before doing this, to avoid wasting money.

On the other hand, if you do visit Starbucks frequently, there is an auto top-up option to ensure you don't get caught short.

Once you've collected 450 stars (ie after spending £84), you'll reach 'Gold Level' membership. At this stage, you can claim perks like extra shots of espresso, dairy-free milks and whipped cream on the house, alongside a free drink for your birthday.

How do I start collecting stars? Join the Starbucks Rewards programme by signing up through the website or downloading the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

You'll need to add money to your account, then you're good to go.

How do I redeem my rewards?Once you've earned enough stars, Starbucks will send you an email. You can then go to a Starbucks store, tell the barista you want to redeem your stars, choose your free drink, and scan your app or card.

More info at:Starbucks.co.uk.