/ 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

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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.

Perhaps we should all donate our Nectar points towards research into why the bee population is declining.

Truly excellent idea Wavechange – Nectar points to save the bees ! I would do this like a shot, if I only knew how – and I’m sure many other people would too. Judging by comments above, and my own experience, Nectar points clearly don’t provide very much advantage to anyone else !

Yes I would certainly do that – but it’s an appalling exchange rate so we need a lot of people to sign up for it and the drones will presumably prevail.

Unlike many of my comments it was a serious suggestion. The declining bee population is something we can all relate to, and if allowed to continue it will affect the price and availability of food.

I am often asked if I have a Nectar card and would sign up if I knew that the money would support a worthwhile cause. I take John’s point about the poor exchange rate, but I expect that quite a lot of points are collected even if they are never redeemed.

I have written to Nectar to suggest that people might be prepared to donate Nectar Points to a university engaged in research to explore the reasons for the declining honeybee population. If I get a positive response I will try to find out what is already going on. Our universities are increasingly getting involved with projects that the public can relate to.

Brilliant. You might like to start with Dundee University which is working with Royal Holloway, London, University College London, and the University of Newcastle.

See this BBC News item from 2010:

Thanks very much John. I’ll wait for a reply from Nectar and look to see what these and other research groups have published. Please bee patient.

I would happily commit my current balance of 3,873 points and all future points to this good cause – as Esther asks: how do we do it?

John and Esther – I don’t know the answer. Many universities do engage with the public on projects they can relate to, even if the research is complex.

The only reference I have found to Nectar points is in this article about work at the University of Sussex: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/24264

At the moment I don’t know if the best solution would be to find a university doing honeybee research (several appear to be doing this at present) or to suggest this to Nectar.

From the Nectar card-holder’s point of view I think the simplest route to get the value of Nectar points to the research body would be to have an opt-in facility so that we could assign all our points to this purpose and then the points earned by all the participating shoppers would automatically go into a virtual charity box within the Nectar system which is then tipped out each month into a “bee research trust account” held by the lead university.

Julie Dell says:
7 February 2015

I have both nectar and Tesco and do quite well with both. Tesco I also use their credit card and buy a lot of my monthly stuff on that unless it’s from a cash back partner at Utility Warehouse eg. Sainsburys! I average about £100 a year with Tesco points which I generally double up for an offer. With Sainsburys I’ve just found ‘my vouchers’ on their site where you chose so many online vouchers to use up – can be printed as well. I shop online with them. Use my UW cash back card to pay (3% off utility bill for that) and collect nectar points at same time and making sure I use their bonus vouchers as well. I’ve clocked up over £30 in the last 2 months which I will probably use on fuel unless kids go to the Vue Cinema which the means they can double up the points for money off at the till. Guess they have become a habit with me now!

I have a Tesco Clubcard. I use the £5 vouchers etc for the accumulated points and some of the money off vouchers for items I buy, but usually ignore the ones intended to get me to try new products. I have never used the promotions to double the value of my vouchers if I take advantage of one of the promotions.

In order to provide all the discounts available, Tesco have pushed up the price of their goods. I would shop elsewhere if there was any alternative near my home.

Soon after I signed up, I received a phone call asking about some aspect of my shopping experience, at which point I asked not to be contacted for marketing or similar purposes. I hate the fact that Tesco is tracking my purchases, which is very obvious from the discount vouchers that arrive by post.

One thing I can commend my local Tesco for is their prescription service. They collect my prescriptions from my GP surgery and within 48 hours, the prescription is available for collection in the supermarket.

Tesco now informs me that my prescription is going electronic, so perhaps they will use the details of our medication to encourage us to buy certain products by giving us discount vouchers. If I forget to buy oranges one week I might get a voucher for money off vitamin C tablets. 🙂

Lynn says:
8 February 2015

This is just mentioned for your information, I hope you are not offended. You mention the prescription service you use at Tesco. This service is also available at Boots or any other Chemists it is not something only Tesco do, you can direct where you want the prescription to go. Again the prescription going electronic is something you can do if you wish, you can opt out if you want to. The only difference is that Tesco do not have to send someone physically to collect your prescription from your doctors, so it is more convenient to them. I know you are being flippant but as far as I am aware your prescription details are confidential and should not be used by anyone else, even Tesco’s.

Lynn – I’m certainly not offended and thanks for your comment.

I have now had a look at the Tesco leaflet, which makes it clear that I have the choice of nominating Tesco or another pharmacy to handle my electronic prescriptions. Perhaps I should have read this before posting. As you say, the information should be confidential.

It is amazing what lengths companies will go to to collect information. When I tried to register a Russell Hobbs kettle to gain an extra year’s warranty, I was asked all sorts of questions, some of which were rather personal. If I recall, they wanted to know my income. Even when I phoned up to object, I had to provide my date of birth. Maybe they want to send me a birthday card.

I am wary about having a wallet full of reward cards because of the risk increasing the amount of marketing information I could receive from companies, not forgetting the ‘carefully selected companies’ that they believe that I might wish to hear from.

I have been using t he Tesco prescription service for some time now and have found it to be very convenient. There is, though, one change to the procedure that I found to be necessary. The normal system is that the pharmacy will request a repeat prescription from the surgery based on the expected usage of the previously supplied items. This is not necessarily convenient owing to unexpected circumstances. I now have it set up so that the initiation of a repeat order is by me ‘phoning the pharmacy.

On one occasion I experienced the benefit of the electronic transfer of prescriptions. At a consultation with my GP he prescribed a particular item. After a bit of typing on his computer he told me that the pharmacy now had the prescription and the item would be ready for collection when I got there. It was!

I have used the Tesco prescription service for years, selecting which items I want from a web form, linked to the GP surgery’s website. It keeps a record of past prescriptions and when a medication review is due. The electronic prescription is new to me and I do not yet know if my surgery is set up to use it at present.

The amount I use of one of my drugs varies according to various factors and it would be hopeless to have automatic prescription. That would mean that I would accumulate pills unnecessarily.

The Tesco prescription service that I have at present is by far the best aspect of shopping there.

You jest – I wouldn’t put it past them. I get vouchers for a certain chocolate and sensitive toothpaste. They’ve certainly got us all under observation but can’t always join up the dots; we bought several bars of luxury chocolate as stocking fillers and we took advantage of a 3.4.2 offer on the toothpaste – we have no brand loyalty there.

Nectar – use it for fuel but have never claimed – one day I suppose I’ll use the few pounds it has accumulated. Not strictly a loyaly card but I use my M&S credit card all the time. 1% on M&S purchases, 1/2% elsewhere is trivial, but every so often I get money vouchers to use at M&S – where I shop for food. Every little helps (that’s not them is it?).

Jen. S says:
7 February 2015

im quite good at using both my nectar card and my tesco card. Both joint cards with my husband. There are only 2 of us, children all grown up.
I collect nectar points through eBay and as I often get amazing money off vouchers for sainsburys I collect there. I usually exchange them for Amazon vouchers and buy my cat food but this year I bought new Christmas tree lights from Homebase using my points direct.
I am a member of testosterone Christmas club so only get my money vouchers once a year and they’re valid for a couple of years so added together and then using their multipliers it adds up to a tidy sum.
But I hate both shops price matching schemes, Morrisons beats them hands down. If your shop is more expensive at Morrisons then the difference is added to the card. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve either lost, left at home or just simply forgotten to use the ridiculous scraps of paper that Sainburys and tescos hand out and I don’t mean for pence. They are valid for too short a period of time but they should add the amounts to your card OR better still give you the difference back in cash at the till point ….

I decided Nectar was a waste of time a few years ago especially after they failed to award 1000 points earned through nectar confused insurance comparison and it cost me half the points value trying to talk to them to resolve it! But really it takes years to accumulate much of value. Having said that I have however had approximately £45 worth of stuff through nectar points acruall.

I find tesco points a little more worthwhile partly because of tesco club card boost at Christmas. There are a many opportunities to double the value of the points over Christmas so I only use points at this time of year. As they often have specials on then too it is possible to do quite well.

I have had a free lunch from boots and a few free coffees from various places.

The place where I seem to get the most vouchers per spend is the garden centres. Not sure why.

I don’t determine my spending by loyalty cards though. And in fact I am more inclined to use cash back sites which give more reward than loyalty cards do (sometimes simultaneously).

Lynn says:
8 February 2015

I am not being argumentative you make some valid points, but you say nectar points are a waste of time, and then say you have had £45 worth of stuff free, how can that be a waste of time?

Rachel says:
7 February 2015

i used to collect nectar points.

Last year I lost nearly all of them

There is nowhere local that offers that scheme so my card hadn’t been used physically -so Nectar took them all away.

No incentive to shop online at sainsburys or ebay etc any more


We’ve been building up Nectar points for the last 5 years wondering when and how to spend them. Finally last week blew the lot on 2 return Eurostar tickets to Paris. I never go out of my way to chase points they were pretty well all earned at Sainsbury’s. We have various Tesco vouchers tucked away but rarely go there and if we do we forget either the card or the vouchers

I usually use my Nectar points in Argos but lately I’ve been shopping in Morrisons more and more because it is easier than price matching (even with the MySupermarket app which is great).

Lynn says:
8 February 2015

I’m sorry I have not read all the comments so this may have already been mentioned and your link to the guide doesn’t work, if so Sorry. I am a fan of loyalty cards I have several. My first was a Boots Advantage Card, I buy the essential we all need like toothpaste, collect my points and treat myself to a luxury I would not possibly buy with my points, like a really expensive perfume. I’m getting it for free so that has to be good surely. I have a Tesco card as you said you get your shopping and points extra, also as you say you get your coupons, bonus, and if you use the boost option you get to double your savings. again good surely. I do have a nectar card and have used it since the launch at my local supermarket, I don’t buy a huge amount there, just the usual bread and milk but the points add up anyway. As has been said Sainsbury’s is cutting the points issue but hey it is still something for nothing, I still need the bread and milk. I have used mine to connect to my ebay account which I use a lot that pushes the total up and I also have it connected to my energy account on-line and collect points everytime I submit a metre reading another bonus. So I don’t see a problem, ok so I have to carry three bits of plastic, (considering what most women carry in their handbags it’s no big deal) but I’m getting a bonus for things I have to buy or do, and the big one is it’s free, HOW CAN YOU LOOSE. Sorry I’m off my soap box now, lol.

The headline to this Conversation had to be a bit sensational to draw us into the topic, and I agree with Lynn that using “loyalty” cards is not exactly a hassle for anyone. Some people see them as a benefit and work them hard, others see them as an additional cost that feeds back into prices. Obviously, they’re all about market share for the companies that offer them. No one has to have one, no one who has one has to use it, and no one has to be loyal to any particular retailer [in my opinion, loyalty is a one-way street; it counts for nothing when things get tough, viz. Sainsbury’s halving their Nectar exchange rate: spend them soon – 11/04/15 is devaluation day]. But I do think the stores have built a cat’s cradle of administrative nonsense around them to make redemption less than straightforward. To it’s credit, Tesco beat the other grocers with money-value coupons sent out monthly that can be spent in its stores like cash – but I only give them two out of three stars because they are not totally transparent with their Price Promise; they should just knock it off the bill, not make you come back again another day to get the discount. Obviously they are trading on the expectation that a large number of Price Promise dockets will never turn up again so they can keep prices artifically high [how did a small basket of groceries recently cost over £5 more than it would have done in Sainsbury/Asda/Morrison, I’ve been wondering?]. Morrison’s Match & More is a good one – they include Aldi and Lidl in the comparison.

I support what NFH said at the top of this Conversation: “Why can’t we . . . register our credit or debit card with the supermarket so that any loyalty points are automatically earnt?”

Lynn says:
8 February 2015

Personally I gave up some time ago on loyalty to companies. Loyalty does not work for most of them which is why they had to come up with this type of scheme to get loyalty. I remember several years ago when people discovered that loyalty to a Insurance company was costing them money, what do you know, we got comparison sites (yes I do know that they are not all transparent either). Even the banks are now agreeing that offering good deals to new customer instead of the customers they already have is a bad idea. Eeemmmmmm I wonder what they are all going to be doing now, lol.

You say you think, others see them as an additional cost that feeds back into prices, they may be right but isn’t that more reason to take the benefits offered. Surely if the cost is on all our prices it’s silly not to get back your share.

I must say a big thanks to you, it is so lovely to be able to voice an opinion in nice way, with no arguements.

Lynnn, you’ll find this is a very polite and civil site that welcomes all shades of opinion within its sensible commenting guidelines. Indeed, it has the best kept etiquette on the net.

Lynn – The lack of loyalty to existing customers annoys me too. One way to get round this is to say you plan to take your business elsewhere and they sometimes come up with a much better offer. When phoning a company I have even been invited to press something like button 4 if I am considering leaving. That is a very strange form of loyalty.

I strongly agree with what John says about etiquette on this site.

Tesco just gave me 20p off every litre of Diesel used to fill my tank with their loyalty card.

This is the only thing that redeems them, so it works.

I agree cjw37 – that’s the only offer I look forward to getting, but unfortunately I’m rarely sent it. It seems these supermarkets only offer me 30p off cheese or two for one on orange juice, etc.

Also, the team’s touched by the kind comments posted here today – we do try our best 😀

I start from the principle, I think realistic, that all retailers somehow manage to rob me here and there of quite a few pounds as I shop throughout the year. Having reward cards means that I get robbed by slightly fewer pounds.

When the vouchers come in the post, I think, hey, I’ll be able to buy a couple of pairs of socks for “nothing” (eg at M&S the other day). There is that wee psychological effect there, isn’t there, even if we’re not duped by it, oh, here’s a voucher arrived, a wee treat.

An example of shops robbing us blind is the mark up at airports. Waste your Boots “loyalty” points on a bottle of water just to bring it down to a reasonable price.

Yes, Lynn, I agree with John Ward and wavechange, excellent etiquette on this site, absolutely essential. Otherwise I think a lot of us would have stopped conversing here a long time ago.

i consider so called loyalty card holders backward as they obviosly dont understand the concept of retail! for every £ spent in super markets 60p is profit so a store gives you a point its only worth a penny theve still had you over for 59p. then they send you vouchers for products that you dont buy anyway never vouchers for what you but regular