/ Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Do you love coffee shop loyalty cards?

Coffee shop

Are you lured in by coffee shop loyalty schemes? Do they actually affect where you go for your local coffee?

The other morning I was handed a free coffee in my local Pret – a pleasant if mildly embarrassing moment, but apparently something they do fairly often.

Are such random acts of kindness really the best way to inspire customer loyalty – or does a more organised loyalty system make you more inclined to return for your caffeine fix?

Most coffee chains now run such a loyalty scheme (Pret doesn’t) but our research has found that some schemes aren’t as impressive as all that.

Loyalty schemes

At Costa, you get the equivalent of 5p for every £1 you spend. So, say you’re a latte fan (the nation’s favourite coffee apparently), well £51 worth of medium lattes consumed in store will earn you enough points to get yourself a free one (£2.55). At Cafe Nero it’s simpler. Buy nine drinks and get your tenth one free. Nice and easy.

I used to be a big fan of coffee shop and other high street loyalty schemes. Well it’s something for nothing, isn’t it?

The desk drawer in our back bedroom is crammed full of cards for different shop schemes from Holland and Barrett (from that time I thought I was get really healthy by consuming whey protein and fish oil) to Waterstones cards and probably, if you looked hard enough, some sort of Woolworths scheme.

Loyalty schemes have quite a history. Many of us will remember our mums sticking Green Shield Stamps in a book. I know my mum loved the physical act of licking them and collected them in albums. And I remember the thrill of seeing the ‘free’ gifts that you got in return for them.

So I’ve probably inherited something of that joy at the idea of getting something for nothing. And in among my collection of loyalty cards is a Costa card that these days gathers more dust than points and several crumpled Cafe Nero cards in various stages of stamp completion.

For quite a while, I was happy to hand over my Costa card to get scanned and my Cafe Nero card to get stamped. And then I stopped bothering.

With Costa, the reward seemed so far away it hardly seemed worth bothering to carry the card and by the time I got to hand over the Cafe Nero card it was crumpled virtually into pieces. In fact, I wonder whether such loyalty schemes really have much effect on where we go for our brew.

Coffee shop preferences

For me, it’s more about convenience or the feel of the shop. I like our local Costa because the local branch is a nice, quiet place to read the papers on a Sunday morning (well it is until my sister arrives with her kids). The prospect of a free Americano some 15 drinks down the line is less of a spur than a peaceful corner.

So how about you, do loyalty cards and schemes affect where you drink your coffee?


I don’t visit coffee shops very often. When I do, my friends are happy to have the points put on their cards if I’m paying.

I’ve got about a dozen of them! I love to get a free coffee now and again. For example I can get a coffee downstairs where I work and a medium latte is my Friday morning treat. Every 10th cup is free and that’s an extra treat. Apart from this I change coffee shop according to my mood or my husband’s. We would go to those coffee shops anyway, so we may as well have their loyalty cards, and we also go to coffee shops where there are no loyalty cards. Loyalty cards are just an added bonus.

Sophie, I agree with you. I do tend to go to a coffee shop, or even a café in a department store such as M&S or House of Fraser, and you might as well as get a loyalty card if this is something you’re going to be doing any way. When you do then qualify for a free coffee, this then is a bonus, as you say!
While my choice of where to go for a coffee is not influenced so much by loyalty card, if I think that I might fancy something to eat, it does influence my choice.
In such cases, I tend to favour Costa as, whatever you spend your money on equates to loyalty points, whereas, for instance, at Caffe Nero you only get a loyalty stamp for the coffee or tea that you buy.

I’m not lured in by coffee shops.

When I worked for Serco, I did enjoy free workplace tea and coffee.

My problem with loyalty cards is that, for a 10th “free” coffee, I will know that I have already paid for it via 9 previous instalments.

Like some of your comments coffee shop loyalty means nothing to me infract any loyalty does not mean nothing unless that particular company is offering me some genuine loyalty. These days any business needs to look after its genuine customers or do not expect them to cow tow to your business.

It would probably take a few years for me to be awarded a free coffee with a points system. It’s much cheaper for me to pop into Waitrose, produce a Waitrose loyalty card, and I enjoy a coffee and cake of my choosing for the price of just the cake which usually amounts to less than £2.00. I admit to not exactly getting something for nothing but I may be tempted to visit the large coffee shop chains if they could compete with this instead of fiddling around collecting points. What is the point?

Just now I’m loyal to no-one in particular in spite of having numerous loyalty cards, but, provided their coffee was to my linking, I’d be loyal to a chain who recycled their takeaway cups and lids. None do to my knowledge.

I’m not sure what some think loyalty in commercial circles means, or why they should expect to be treated any differently from anyone else. Certainly I’d continue to patronise a shop I like, but that is not loyalty on my part; I’m just getting the deal and service I want. I have a “loyalty” card for one I regularly use, but it is really nothing to do with “loyalty” in the emotive sense; they want me to keep spending with them and offer small incentives. Just like the free coffee at Waitrose.

There are those who say that because they have been with an insurer, AA, bank or energy company a long time they deserve special treatment as loyal customers. Well, their record might help them but the reality is they want to profit from you as much as anyone else. You’ll have to negotiate just as hard.

Loyalty is to friends and family.

I confess I don’t patronise coffee shops. I think buying wine in a restaurant at 3 times the price you’d buy it normally is OK, but when you pay 12 times what it costs to make a nice coffee at home? But then I’m a bit of a scrooge. I’d thought of taking all the family out for afternoon tea as a birthday treat. Anywhere nice seemed to cost around at least £15 each. A lavish picnic with smoked salmon and other finger sarnies, trifle, delicious cakes and cold drinks by a waterway was £6 and for more relaxed and enjoyable. Told you I was a ……. 🙂

A Waitrose loyalty card for me is an unrequested bonus as I have always shopped there long before these cards were introduced. I accept no supermarket is perfect but I do like the clean and airy ambiance, the quality of the fresh fruit and veg, the numerous offers (yes I do my mental arithmetic when choosing!) and the helpful and polite staff. It also happens to be the nearest supermarket in all directions from my home. This morning I enjoyed a large coffee and freshly baked almond croissant for £1.65………. Mmmmmmmm 🙂

The only downside was the 40p parking ticket but that was refunded at the checkout. I am not complaining

I always considered commercial loyalty to be a one-way street. They change the rules of loyalty cards whenever it suits them. I have a few loyalty cards and do like to get spending vouchers back from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S and John Lewis but have never taken up one of the offers that some of the cards present as they are not products that I desire, and even discounted I do not want. These companies have a wealth of knowledge of what we like to buy, and which we will anyway, so they concentrate on offering us temptations into new areas. Wasted on me. I won’t go out of the way to Waitrose for a free bun and a newspaper; however, I wouldn’t mind if they delivered them FOC with the large order we place every month.

I have a couple of supermarket loyalty cards but am really only interested in vouchers worth money and certainly not ones to attract me to try new products.

Regarding Malcolm’s comment about insurance companies, I would have thought that it might be sensible to try to keep customers who have not made claims rather than hike their renewal premium well above what a new customer would be offered.