Loyalty schemes are no longer just about points - they can also unlock big discounts and other exclusive rewards.
However, it can be hard to tell which ones are worth using. Different schemes let you earn different amounts of points which are, confusingly, often worth different amounts of money when you come to spend them.
Our research reveals you'll save between 50p and £10 for every £100 you spend with the loyalty schemes on offer today. However, these savings could easily be cancelled out if the shop's prices are higher than its 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 use.
Below, we explain how the major loyalty schemes work, calculate how the points and rewards stack up and share tips on how to get the most out of loyalty schemes.
Here we've compared the main loyalty schemes. We haven't included M&S Sparks, Morrisons More or MyWaitrose in the table because they don't offer points. We've explained each scheme in more detail below the table.
|Loyalty scheme||What does membership give you?||Points per £1 spent in store||Earn/use points through partners?||1 point is worth:||Return on spend (%)||Spend £100, get:|
|Boots Advantage ()||Points||4||No||1p||4%||£4|
|Co-op ()||Return on spend for you and a local cause||N/A||N/A||N/A||2% into membership account + 2% to local cause in your community||£2|
|Iceland Bonus ()||Credit and discounts||N/A||N/A||N/A||5% (add £20 and you get £1 extra)||£5|
|Lidl Plus ()||Discounts||N/A||N/A||N/A||2%, or 5% if you spend £200+ in a month||£2, or £10 if you spend £200+ in a month|
|Paperchase Treat Me ()||Vouchers and freebies||N/A||N/A||N/A||10%||£10|
|Nectar ()||Points and offers||1||Yes||0.5p||0.5%||50p|
|Tesco Clubcard ()||Points and offers||1||Yes||1p||1%||£1|
Asda doesn't yet have a full customer loyalty scheme, although it is running a pilot rewards scheme via a smartphone app across 16 stores in West Yorkshire and the West Midlands.
It also has a Christmas Savings Card. In the run up to Christmas, each time you shop you can add a few pounds into a 'savings' account. You'll get £1 when you've saved £30, £3 when you've saved £80 and so on, up to a maximum of £15 on £280 savings.
The Co-operative membership loyalty scheme doesn’t give you points. Instead, you earn money back on your purchases.
2p for every £1 you spend on selected Co-op products and services goes into your Co-op Membership account, and the Co-op gives the same amount to support community organisations and local causes. You can spend the rewards you earn on most things you buy, not just Co-op products. You can also choose to donate your rewards.
There are exclusive member deals and personalised offers, as well as discounts on Co-op services such as funerals and insurance.
Other benefits include having a say over how the company is run and a claim to its profits.
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 offers when you shop and a special treat on your birthday, as well as free delivery on in-store orders over £25 and online orders over £35.
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 at The Food Warehouse.
Lidl's loyalty scheme offers exclusive discounts and rewards via an app.
You get four weekly coupons for different products, such as 20% off fresh pizzas or 15% off crackers and crispbreads.
Spending £100 in a month gives you £2 credit, while spending £200 or more will earn you £10.
M&S Sparks membership gives shoppers personalised offers, the chance to win what they're buying and money donated to a charity of their choice each time they shop.
If you've got More points saved up from prior to the switch you can convert them into Morrisons Fivers vouchers until 9 August. Vouchers will be valid for 56 weeks from the date they’re issued.
Morrisons also has 'clubs' for NHS staff, teachers, students and families with babies, offering exclusive offers, discounts and treats.
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 and free access to The Good Food Guide online.
The Sainsbury's Nectar scheme allows you to earn one point per £1 spent in-store, online or on fuel 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 get weekly personalised offers via the Sainsbury’s website or app - you may need to update your app to see the new features.
You can also use your Nectar card to collect and spend points with over 300 big brand partners, including Argos, eBay, Esso, the Sky Store and Vue. Most partners will give you two points for every pound you spend, but some are more generous. You can check the webpage of each one for more details.
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, of which there are almost 300 including Alton Towers, Hotels.com and Cafe Rouge.
Tesco also offers Clubcard Plus, 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 in-store 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.
Each point is worth 1p and you can spend your points anytime, as long as you have enough points to 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 eight points per £1 spent on baby products until their child turns five, while members aged 60 or above will qualify for eight points per £1 spent on Boots own-brand products plus sub-brands including Soltan and No 7.
Advantage cardholders can also receive a free health and beauty magazine.
Boots has also launched Advantage Plus. This give customers the same four points for every £1 spent, but also 10% off most of your shop plus free online delivery and triple points in your birthday month. It costs £20 a year so you would need to spend around £200 a year to make it worthwhile.
Superdrug's Health & Beauty card 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 22p difference.
Members also get free standard delivery on online orders worth over £10 (non-members have a minimum £15 spend), plus special discounts every Thursday, exclusive member pricing and a birthday treat to look forward to every year.
Shoppers using Paperchase's Treat Me card can earn rewards including a £5 gift on your birthday, £5 when you spend £50, and a free greeting card when you buy seven within 12 months.
Shoppers in Waterstones can earn a 'plus' stamp for every £10 spent.
Ten stamps will give you £10 to spend in Waterstones shops or online. Students get an additional 5% discount.
Earn extra points
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.
Boost point values
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 - you can turn every 50p of Tesco Clubcard vouchers into £1.50 to spend at Pizza Express, for instance. Sainsbury's Nectar points can be spent with hundreds of brands, from Argos to eBay.
Research point 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, back in 2017 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.