Are supermarket loyalty cards worth it?
By Ellie Simmonds
Are supermarket loyalty cards worth it?
We compare what you get from supermarket loyalty schemes and how to get the most out of them.
While it's not worth changing where you shop just to take advantage of loyalty schemes, it may be worth signing up to schemes offered by shops you visit regularly.
Our research shows that you'll typically receive £1 or 50p back per £100 you spend (£4 for Boots). However, this can easily be cancelled out if the supermarket you visit sells its products for slightly more in the first place.
The table below shows what you'll get from each of the supermarket loyalty schemes, where you can use your points and how to get the most from them. Underneath the table we've rounded up our favourite tips for saving money in supermarkets.
|Loyalty cards compared|
|Loyalty card||Do you get points?||Points per £1 spent in store||Earn/use points through partners?||1 point's worth in store||Return on spend (%)||Spend £100, get...||Spend £1,000, get…|
|No, membership scheme||n/a||n/a||n/a||5% on own-branded products into membership account, 1% to your community||n/a||n/a|
|No, savings scheme||n/a||n/a||n/a||5% to spend at Iceland||£5 (£1 if you put £20 on your card)||£50|
|You get 'Sparks'||10 Sparks + 10 Sparks each time you shop||No||Exclusive deals||n/a||At least 1,010 Sparks (depending on the number of transactions)||From 3,000 Sparks, you earn deals|
Table updated: 8 March 2018
Earn extra loyalty card points
One way of making your loyalty card work harder is to maximise the points you get. Have a good look at the store's website to check out the opportunities.
For example, if you shop at Sainsbury's, you can use the Nectar website and promotions such as 'double-up' or 'bonus' events to gain extra points in selected categories. You can also collect points by shopping with selected partners, including Virgin Trains, BP and Expedia, which can help you to collect points faster.
Make your loyalty points worth more
When it comes to spending your points, most popular points-based loyalty cards have a very low return, so you’ll need to take advantage of bonus points and offers to make the card worth the space in your wallet.
For example, Tesco Clubcard has Reward Partners that can offer better deals for your points. For example, you can get £7.50 to spend at restaurants including Pizza Express, Zizzi and Prezzo for £2.50 in vouchers. Sainsbury's Nectar points can be spent with more than 500 brands, as diverse as Argos, BP and Debenhams.
Questionable points offers
It pays to research offers before you take them up, to make sure that what looks like a good use of points really is.
For example, in a March 2017 investigation, we found a deal to buy a 10-issue subscription to National Geographic Traveller magazine for 37% off its normal £39.50 cover price, for the special Nectar price of £25 and 5,000 Nectar points (which equates to spending £5,000 in Sainsbury’s). But, on the National Geographic Traveller website the same deal cost only £27 in a separate discount, and there was even a free travel bag with a claimed value of £20 thrown in.
Other loyalty schemes
Not all loyalty cards work on a points system. MyWaitrose offers customers exclusive vouchers and competitions, as well as a free magazine and a free tea or coffee as you shop.
Iceland Bonus cardholders earn their reward by effectively paying for their shopping in advance. For every £20 saved onto an Iceland Bonus Card, Iceland adds £1. It's one of the better percentage returns, but what customers think of it may surprise you: see our best and worst loyalty cards to find out how it's rated.
And the Co-op has a membership scheme, in which you get 5% back when you buy selected products and Co-op gives 1% of what you spend to charitable causes in your local community.
Ways to save on your supermarket shop
As well as having a loyalty card for the supermarket you shop at, there are also lots of other ways to save money on your supermarket shopping.
We've pulled out five of our favourite tips in the gallery below:
For more ways to save money at the supermarket, see our guide on Aldi and Lidl offers. We try out special buy offers on electricals – from coffee machines to irons – to help you decide which ones are worth buying. On top of that, we've identified some top discounts on garden equipment including pressure washers and hedge trimmers.