Supermarket loyalty schemes allow you to earn points on your shopping or give you access to exclusive rewards – but it can be hard to tell which ones are worth using.
Our research shows that you'll typically save between £1 and £4 for every £100 you spend with the loyalty schemes on offer today.
However, these savings could easily be cancelled out if the supermarket’s prices are higher than their competitors.
So while you probably shouldn’t change your shopping habits just to earn points, it may be worth signing up to schemes offered by shops you already visit.
Below we explain how the major supermarket loyalty schemes work, calculate how the points stack up and round up our favourite tips for saving money in supermarkets.
The Sainsbury's Nectar scheme allows you to earn one point per £1 spent in-store or online at Sainsbury’s. 500 Nectar points are worth £2.50, which you can spend at the till or online using your Nectar card or app.
In addition, you'll now get weekly personalised offers each Friday, with bonus points on selected purchases.
The offers can be viewed through the Sainsbury’s website or app, which you may need to update to see the new features.
New customers can head to the Nectar website or download the app if you're keen to get started before your card arrives.
You can also use your Nectar card to collect and spend points with over 400 partners, including Argos, eBay, Esso, Amex, the Sky Store and Sainsbury’s Bank.
The Tesco Clubcard scheme has been around since 1995. It allows members to collect one point for every £1 they spend in-store and online, and one point for every £2 spent on fuel.
You can collect points through Tesco Bank and Tesco Mobile, too.
Every 150 points you earn is worth £1.50 to spend in store or online - but points are often worth more if you spend them with Clubcard partners, including Alton Towers, Now TV and Prezzo.
Tesco has also launched a new Clubcard Plus loyalty scheme, which costs £7.99 a month and offers a 10% discount on two 'big shops' per month (in-store only), 10% off selected Tesco brands including F&F and Tesco Pet all the time, double data on Tesco Mobile, and the opportunity to apply for a Clubcard Plus credit card.
The Boots Advantage scheme offers four points for every £1 spent in-store or online.
You’ll also be sent personalised offers if you sign up to receive Boots emails or when you download the Boots app on your phone.
You can select the offers that take your fancy and they will be loaded onto your Boots Advantage card for you to redeem in-store (you won’t be able to use these offers online).
Each point is worth 1p and you can spend your points anytime you want just so long as you can cover the whole transaction. For example, if you have 199 points you can use them to buy goods worth £1.99 in total.
There are also extra offers available to some customer groups - for example, members of the Boots Parenting Club can earn 10 points per £1 spent on baby products until their child turns five; while members aged 60 or above will qualify for 10 points per £1 spent on Boots own-brand products plus sub-brands including Soltan and No 7.
The Co-operative loyalty scheme doesn’t give you points. Instead, you earn money back on your purchases.
You’ll get 5% back when you buy Co-op own-brand items or services (except insurance) and a further 1% is donated to local charitable causes in your community.
The money you earn is paid into a membership account which can be spent with Co-op including its insurance services.
To become a member you need to pay £1. Other benefits include having a say over how the company is run and a claim to its profits.
Morrisons offers the Morrisons More loyalty scheme.
You’ll earn five points for every £1 spent in-store or online, fuel or the Morrisons Café, and for every £1 spent on gift cards in-store.
You need 5,000 points to get a £5 voucher, which means each point is worth 0.1p.
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.
In addition, you’ll get exclusive bonuses and offers when you shop and a special treat on your birthday.
Your reward will be paid into your account, and you can use it along with your pre-loaded cash to pay for your shopping in-store at Iceland or The Food Warehouse.
Waitrose offers a loyalty scheme called myWaitrose. Rather than collecting points you can get freebies and access to discounts on your grocery shopping.
A popular perk is the free hot drink offer for members each time they visit a store – but you’ll need to buy something in store and bring a reusable cup.
Members also get a free copy of the Waitrose & Partners Food magazine, as well as deals like 20% off at the fish counter on Fridays.
M&S offers a loyalty scheme called Sparks, where members can collect sparks points when they shop, ‘shwop’ (bring in old clothes to recycle) or write a review.
You’ll earn 10 sparks every time you shop, plus 10 sparks for every £1 you spend. Each review you write on the website will get you 25 sparks and every time you ‘shwop’ you will get 50 sparks.
Sparks have no cash value but once you reach different thresholds you can unlock perks.
In addition, M&S will give you personalised offers based on your spending habits. You just need to select the ones you want to load onto your card, and they will be applied the next time you shop in-store or online.
M&S says it will donate to the charity of your choice each time you shop with your Sparks card.
Superdrug offers the Health & Beauty card, which allows you to collect points in-store or online.
You can earn one point for every £1 you spend and each point is worth 1p.
Points can be redeemed in multiples of 100. So, you can use 100 points to get £1 off or 200 points to get £2 off.
Unlike the Boots Advantage scheme, you can pay with a mixture of points and cash, meaning you don’t need to wait until your balance is exactly right to use them.
For example, if your shopping comes to £5.22 and you have chosen to spend 500 points, you can take £5 off your total amount. You can then just pay the difference.
Members also get free standard delivery on their online orders worth over £10 (non-members have a minimum £15 spend), plus special discounts every Thursday, exclusive member pricing plus and a birthday treat to look forward to every year.
Once you have a few loyalty cards, you should try to make the most of them. We’ve rounded up some tips below.
One way of making your loyalty card work harder is to maximise the points you earn. Keep an eye on the store's website to spot the opportunities.
For example, if you shop at Sainsbury's, the Nectar website and promotions, such as 'double-up' or 'bonus' events, offer extra points in selected categories. You can also collect points by shopping with selected partners, including Argos and eBay which can help you to collect points faster.
When it comes to spending your points, most popular points-based loyalty cards have a very low return. 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 ca turn every 50p of Teco Clubcard vouchers into £1.50 to spend at Pizza Express. Sainsbury's Nectar points can be spent with more than 400 brands, from Argos to eBay.
It pays to research offers before you take them up, to make sure that what looks like a good use of points really is.
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, and there was even a free travel bag with a claimed value of £20 thrown in.