/ Money

Are loyalty cards worth the hassle?

Tesco clubcard

With some supermarkets changing the awards on their loyalty cards, are they something you’ll still carry around in your wallet or are they now just not worth the effort?

Loyalty cards seem to split opinions. On one hand, they offer something for nothing, delivering discount vouchers in exchange for shopping that you probably would have done anyway. However, they’ve still been labelled a waste of time in this very community in the past.

The Tesco Clubcard and Nectar Card are the most popular, sitting in millions of wallets across the UK.  On the surface, both cards only offer points worth 1% of your total spend. For some, that’s not worth the wallet space they take up. Yet, if you save up your points throughout the year, you should at least have enough to pay for a Sunday roast.

Loyalty bonuses

A free roast dinner is the least you can expect if you‘re a basic loyalty card user. There are actually many clever methods for maximising the points you earn, multiplying their value and getting even more rewards for your loyalty.

Fancy getting your hands on a half-price Hudl? Or a range of perfumes and fragrances at a 75% discount? Maybe you fancy a ticket to Thorpe Park or Alton Towers for just £12? There are a bunch of possibilities if you play the loyalty card game well. We have some tips in our loyalty card guide to this effect, but if you have any of your own tips I’d love to hear them.

A free lunch? Worth the data

Sure, many supermarkets have been reducing the rewards associated with these cards.

Sainsbury’s will soon be halving the Nectar points handed out to shoppers – and there’s been a storm in a teacup over MyWaitrose cardholders being required to buy a snack if they want to sit in a cafe with their free hot drink.

Concerns about your personal data remain, but for me the benefits are still worth the effort of finding and scanning this free piece of plastic.

Are you a keen user of loyalty cards? Do you make the most of the rewards on offer? Or are you concerned about the data you’re giving away?

Do you think loyalty cards are worth the hassle?

No (57%, 179 Votes)

Yes (39%, 124 Votes)

Don't know (4%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 315

Loading ... Loading ...

The thing I don’t like about loyalty cards is having to carry so many of them. Fortunately most loyalty cards are simply a barcode, which can be replicated by smartphone apps such as Fidall. Usually this works only with handheld scanners, but annoyingly it doesn’t work at all in some branches of Sainsbury’s or in any of its petrol stations. Tesco’s own smartphone app can display one’s Clubcard barcode, but Nectar refuses to offer this functionality, presumably because of the problems with this at Sainsbury’s.

Why can’t we instead register our credit or debit card with the supermarket so that any loyalty points are automatically earnt? Such registration of credit and debit cards is already possible with Transport for London, not for loyalty points but in order to see one’s journey history online after using a contactless credit or debit card at the ticket barriers. Why can’t supermarkets do something similar for earning loyalty points in order to eliminate the need to carry so many cards?


NFH, I think that’s because both Tesco Clubcard and Nectar already offer their own brand of credit card. If they allowed any credit card to be used for loyalty points, these brands would suffer. Therefore, although I think you had a great idea, I suspect the stores wouldn’t be interested in following it up.


Clint, both Tesco and Sainsbury’s already allow those paying with other credit cards to earn Clubcard or Nectar points. All I’m saying is that instead of identifying the customer’s Clubcard or Nectar account with a barcode on a plastic card, they should identify customers via their registered credit cards. The current way that the supermarkets identify their customers is archaic and needs to modernise.


It has taken us 13 years to accumulate £225 on Nectar. That is £17 a year…Hmmm and they are going to halve that?

We don’t go out of our way to make the most of loyalty cards and having dietary needs don’t have loyalty to any one supermarket as none of them do everything we want. We do go to Sainsbury’s most weeks though sometimes for a big shop. Considering how often we hand over or register our Nectar with other companies as well, £17 a year is a very poor return.

Just got a statement from Tesco with a £2 voucher and a few money off and extra points vouchers. We might use them if we happen to go to Tesco otherwise it would cost that in petrol getting there.

Holland & Barrett have a customer-friendly rewards system. They send you a voucher that lasts about 3 months. If you don’t have it on you when you go in the shop, they look you up and give you the discount. They even give you your points this way if you don’t have your card on you.


I have similarly never redeemed any Nectar points. In 2000, Sainsbury’s terminated its agreement with British Airways, to which I used to transfer all of my Sainsbury’s points, and two years later replaced the Sainsbury’s Reward Card with Nectar. Tesco took over from Sainsbury’s as the British supermarket where one can earn miles on British Airways. Nevertheless I have continued shopping at Sainsbury’s and rarely shop at Tesco. Since I started earning Nectar points, I have never found anything useful to transfer them to, given the notable absence of a travel loyalty scheme to which points can be transferred.

CatFan says:
7 February 2015

So you don’t redeem against your shopping then ?


So far, I’ve always just redeemed my Nectar points against Sainsbury’s shopping. Yes, I know they do special deals for certain restaurant chains or theme parks, but you can almost always find coupons on the Internet that give you the equivalent discounts for these same places without having to use your Nectar points. The trouble with these special offers (even with Tesco Clubcard, which often says you can quadruple your points value) is that you can only use them against the full price of the product, which is usually over-inflated. For example, I currently use my Tesco Clubcard points to purchase RAC breakdown cover at supposedly a quarter of the cost. However, when you consider that you can find online discounts and cashback deals which you can’t use Clubcard points for, then the Clubcard points deal is hardly an advantage. I think I’m only saving a few quid a year by using Clubcard points for RAC.


Redeeming loyalty points against shopping at the same supermarket is usually the worst value. Transferring to a third party, ideally a frequent flyer or hotel scheme, is usually the best value.


I have a Nectar card but although I do most of my shopping at Sainsbury’s, I have never redeemed my points there. Most of my points have been used at Argos so I have managed to buy several items without needing to pay any cash, including on one occasion a washing machine.

Save East Coast Rewards says:
15 February 2015

@NFH unfortunately with Nectar there’s no good value. £2.50 off your carrots is also £2.50 off easyJet. Even those partners that offer more value for the point are not as they seem. For example you get a slightly better rate redeeming at Pizza Express, but paying with Nectar there invalidates you from other offers. Usually it’s quite easy to find offers for 20-40% off food which you can’t use with Nectar.

So effectively Nectar is a 1% cashback scheme, Clubcard is so more, as you know you can redeem for Avios and many other partners for much better value.


Joe, the link to the loyalty card guide doesn’t work.


Morning Alfa, thanks for spotting. I’ve updated the link and it seems to be working now 🙂


I have never thought very highly of Nectar although we use it because we do our bulk shop at Sainsbury’s and we have a BP filling station nearby. Since we usually order our groceries on-line for delivery it’s not very convenient for spending the accumulated points – that has to be done in a Sainsbury’s store – and I always seem to forget to ask at the check-out to clear the points first before paying the balance.

I had similar expectations of Tesco Clubcard but it has turned out to be much more useful. We do top-up [and impulse!] shopping at a Tesco superstore that is actually closer than Sainsbury’s and it’s amazing how may points just seem to accumulate. And unlike Sainsbury’s where you have to remember to redeem the points at the checkout, Tesco send out a monthly statement with money-value spending coupons as well as loads of specific product vouchers with either discounts or additional points. For a modest spending level in Tesco in January we received cash vouchers totalling £12 plus lots of discount/points vouchers. The good thing about the vouchers is that they are generated through our purchasing history so mostly they are relevant to what we are actually buying.

The M&S card [I am one of the few customers left with an old M&S Account card – most staff do not recognise it!] has a useful cash-coupon facility but the vouchers for discounts/points at the till require use of the M&S card for payment. Since as a matter of policy we do not use deferred-payment cards for purchasing consumable items [food, etc] these are not much use to us.

The Boots Advantage card also has its quirks. If you want to spend the accumulated points you have to contrive to get a basket of shopping to not more than the value of the points you wish to redeem and put that through the checkout separately from any additional purchases you wish to make at the same time; plus you have to be careful to get the BOGOF buys in the right basket to qualify.

Unlike with Tesco and Boots, I don’t get the impression that Nectar are making any sensible use – for either Sainsbury’s benefit or ours – of the information they are capturing through use of the card. I read with dismay that Sainsbury’s were devaluing the Nectar card but it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant and I’d rather see keener prices. I note that Morrison’s have now jumped back on the loyalty card bandwagon; probably too late – in our part of the country Morrison’s is sometimes the only supermarket around so it’s not loyalty that keeps customers coming back and it’s interesting that Aldi and Lidl are targetting such locations for new openings and price will prevail overall.

I sometimes wonder how we’ve allowed ourselves to get into this bind when all we want is clear competitive pricing at every stage.