/ Shopping, Travel & Leisure

Raw deal on holidays for Tesco Clubcard holders

Pig holiday

Putting Tesco Clubcard points towards money off a holiday sounds like a good deal in theory. But if you’ve done that with travel company Cosmos Holidays, we’ve found you might have been charged extra for your trip.

There’s no better coping strategy for dealing with the gloomy British winter than booking a holiday in the sun.

But if you booked that holiday through travel company Cosmos Holidays using Clubcard points, then you may have been charged more than if you’d just booked it normally.

Points meant paying more

Until recently, Clubcard customers were able to trade in £10 worth of points for £30 worth of Cosmos vouchers – but to use the vouchers you had to go to a separate section of the Cosmos site.

In November, we checked prices on 36 different package holidays and 33 of them cost more when booked through the Clubcard section of the Cosmos site than when booked normally. The site didn’t give us any indication that prices would be different.

The holidays we looked at in our snapshot research cost £1,159 on average through the regular Cosmos site. But the same packages cost £1,285 on average, before applying any vouchers, when booked through the Clubcard section of the site – a difference of almost 11%.

The worst offender was a 14-day holiday in Florida. It normally cost £1,685, but, even after applying a £30 voucher, we would have paid £1,903 on the Clubcard section of the site – an extra £218.

Who else is charging extra?

I own a Tesco Clubcard, and mostly use my points to get discounts on train travel. It’s always a nice bonus when a few months’ worth of food shopping has paid for a ticket back home to Manchester.

But until a Which? member contacted us to report this problem with Cosmos, I’d never considered that I might be offered a different price just because I’m using Clubcard points. Are there other companies out there doing this too?

We contacted Cosmos about this, and it said it was about to change its website so that everyone would be charged the same. When we asked why Clubcard holders had been charged more, Tesco said that sometimes Cosmos prices were lower because of temporary discounts, and that Cosmos previously wasn’t able to accept Clubcard vouchers as payment in these cases. We think Cosmos should have made this clearer on its website at the time.

If you’ve noticed that you’ve been charged extra when using Tesco Clubcard points – or any other loyalty card – let us and we’ll investigate further.

Comments

Often taking walking breaks in England we tried using clubcard vouchers to book suitable hotels nearby the location we were visiting. We found this a very stressful experience on more than one occasion for the following reasons.

Location – we obviously tried to find hotels near to where the walks are, mainly in rural areas. This proved to be very difficult and took sometime as although there are many “hotels” listed allot did not participate in clubcard voucher stays or did not have any allocations left for clubcard vouchers.

Participation – what a joke! After numerous attempts to book a hotel always being advised they do not participate or have no clubcard allocation left I decided to ring hotels direct that had turned me down to investigate this virtually impossible task! Low and behold they had plenty of rooms available to book if you did not mention clubcard.

Price – all I can say is unbelievable! An example is a hotel who wanted £360.00 in clubcard vouchers for a double for 2 nights. When I rang the hotel direct the same was £160.00. What a rip off!

It’s also very annoying as you have to book your stay through a dedicated number, not the normal hotel booking system. When you do find a place at an inflated price you have to then order the vouchers from Tesco, and as the hotel will not save or hold a booking until you have the voucher numbers you are taking a chance on the clubcard allocation being given to someone else.

Believe me you will need a break after all this just to book a 2 day hotel stay!!!

Ian Johnson says:
28 December 2013

slightly different problem with tesco clubcard points but my wife and I have had several weekends away with tesco clubcard but hotel chains in the scheme seem very reluctant to offer rooms using this scheme. I have to book very many weeks ahead, have to be very flexible with both the weekends selected and also destination required. It makes me wonder whether this scheme is worth pursueing

Marshall Douglas says:
31 December 2013

Noticed this a couple of years ago, tried to book two nights for four in a mercure hotel in london using my vouchers, This was also 3 months before i intended to go, on getting the price from central reservations at mercure i was quoted the price of £700 for 2 double rooms bed and breakfast while at the same time on the hotels website i could get the same deal for £490, when queried i was told i would need to take it up with tesco, which i did to no avail, spoke to the highest person i could regarding this but the informed me that they could not discuss their tie in with the hotel group and if that was the price quoted that was what i would have to pay, got my vouchers returned used them for eating out, which is still dodgy, you have to do your homework there as well as some resturaunts are at it too.

Bucksambler says:
2 January 2014

I have also had the same situation with Irish Ferries. I looked for prices to sail from Holyhead to Dublin on 25/4/14 going out and returning on 1/6/14, both trips on Fast Ferry services. Price using Tesco Clubcards was £359 and with no Clubcard use £319. Why should we have this differential? I feel I’m being cheated out of a promised ‘deal’.

Susan - Swansea says:
3 January 2014

I have used the Clubcard voucher scheme since it started but I do feel it has gone downhill since they stopped giving you 4 times the amount. I have used them for short breaks in the same 5* hotel for years, but found that last year the difference was really noticeable, it was costing £260 per night on vouchers and less than £200 without- making one wonder if it is really worth using them for this.

Many years ago I did buy a holiday and paid virtually in full (you are unable to do this now) with the Tesco vouchers so things are definitely not getting better.

Susan - Swansea says:
3 January 2014

I have used the Clubcard voucher scheme since it started but I do feel it has gone downhill since they stopped giving you 4 times the amount. I have used them for short breaks in the same 5* hotel for years, but found that last year the difference was really noticeable, it was costing £260 per night on vouchers and less than £200 without- making one wonder if it is really worth using them for this.

Many years ago I did buy a holiday and paid virtually in full (you are unable to do this now) with the Tesco vouchers so things are definitely not getting better.

I have looked at various websites and found other people have changed their minds on using Tesco vouchers and decided to return them and book direct with Macdonald Hotels. Food for thought.

Jacky says:
7 January 2014

I booked a Cosmos holiday with my Tesco clubcard vouchers prior to seeing your information in the latest Which. Checked online and found the one week holiday I booked for 2 people costs 877.52 including an upgrade for B&B and transfers. The cost of the holiday with the clubcard vouchers was £1000.50. I added in transfers which cost £12 each but when I booked with the clubcard vouchers I was not given the option to not have transfers. We are actually hiring a car so don’t need transfers but I wanted a like for like comparison.
They really should make it clearer when you go on the website and I believe Tesco have a responsibility to be up front about their deals.

John Parry says:
13 January 2014

I have used the Tesco clubcard scheme for many years, but I question whether I will continue to do so after the way I was treated just before Christmas. I purchased an Apple TV via the rewards exchange. There was a 25% discount from the standard price by using the vouchers – but my issue is the fact that when I reported the Apple TV as faulty to Tesco, they simply did not want to know, stating that the item was a “corporate gift” and that I would have to take-up the issue with Apple. (Reluctantly, I had no choice but to take this course of action – and Apple were very helpful and supplied me with a replacement Apple TV). I was offered no help at all by Tesco, even though they were happy to supply the item. In future, I shall purchase electrical items from John Lewis, who would, I am convinced, have replaced the faulty item should I have had to return it to the retailer. Not good customer service, Tesco

If you use nectar points to buy Easy Jet tickets you end up paying a booking fee. In a recent example I used 4000 points worth £20 to buy tickets, but only saved £10. A waste of points.

Richard Brown says:
21 January 2014

I see the comments about Cosmos when using Tesco clubcards for booking holidays in the January 2014 edition of Which? If you want to use Clubcards for booking holidays, you could do worse than convert the Clubcard points to Avios (formerly Airmiles). Since collecting Airmiles using Tesco Clubcard my wife and I have had a totally FREE return flight to Lisbon with BA and a totally FREE return flight to Paris, also with BA, who incidentally were excellent. In both cases it included taxes and charges etc. In the second instance, Airmiles were in the process of converting to Avios, which charge taxes and fees, and I was allowed to book the flights in Airmiles and convert to Avios afterwards. Avios regularly have special offers and the latest offering is a 24-day Caribbean cruise with a 40% discount on the P & O price with 10,000 Avios. The result is a 24-DAY Cruise with outside cabin for £1289 each, advertised P & O price is over £2100, a saving for the two of us of about £1700. For another 20,000 Avios we get a 4-star hotel room in Southampton the night before sailing, 25 days car parking at the hotel and a taxi to and from the docks at the beginning and end of the holiday – ALL for £45, and we still have 20,000 Avios in the bank. We sail in March. Bearing in mind we pay the same price for the groceries with or without collecting Clubcard points, they really are free. To put icing on the cake, we now have a branch of Aldi just 100yds from Tesco. Now we have cheap groceries and fantastic special offers from Aldi, the full range of goods available at Tesco that aren’t available at Aldi, not to mention the regular 5p per litre discount offers on petrol when we stock up with goods which we would have bought anyway in the fullness of time. The offers are all out there, all it requires is engaging brain.

dawn harris says:
21 January 2014

We booked a holiday with cosmos using our tesco vouchers to find there was a difference in price I wrote an e-mail to them asking why, I got a reply that made sense and they asked me what type of holiday and where the broucher price was 499 per person, they came back with 374.75 per person and when I went to book 355.75 then we had to take of the 75.00 per person in vouchers total price for 7 nights in egypt 5 star all inc 280.75 I think a great deal you just have to ask why the price is so different.

Hamish Clark says:
29 January 2014

When booking a Virgin holiday when using the Tesco clubcard, one is forced to go through a live phone operator, thereby loosing the approx 5% discount available to those who book online. Also, when trying to book a Cunard cruise before the end of Feb 2014 in order to obtain the $500 onboard spend voucher, I was told that, such offer would be lost of I were to use my clubcard. I therfore tend to think that all Tesco clubcard “deals” are similarly tainted.

Janine says:
3 February 2014

In January I booked a cruise using tesco clubcard points with P&O cruises although the price I was charged for the cruise was the same as if I had not used deals I was not able to have the offer of on board credit and free parking. This made my £555 vouchers only worth £115 as the on board credit would have been £440 not a good deal I wont be shopping in tesco to get points the deals have gone downhill in the last 2 years

Claire says:
23 March 2014

My situation involved a Nectar card. I decided to use my Nectar points in exchange for tickets to Chessington World of Adventures. Unlike Tesco Clubcard points, which have to be exchanged for vouchers in advance of a visit to Chessington, you just hand over your Nectar card at the ticket booth and the points are deducted directly from the card. I requested two adult tickets and one senior, but they were only able to deduct points for three adults, meaning I didn’t benefit from the reduced senior price. I felt I had missed out as I hadn’t been able to save points by exchanging less points for the senior ticket. In future I will exchange points for adult tickets, but not for a senior ticket, where you don’t gain anything.

K Burton says:
22 November 2014

Dear all, it’s not just Cosmos, Virgin charged us hundreds of pounds more than their online and brochure price, we had already swapped the vouchers so couldn’t do anything else, except book the holiday. When I complained, their weak excuse was that their prices were ‘live’. At the least its a rubbish deal, at worst my personal view is its a con. I now shop at Aldi and Lidl and go on holiday with BA.

niamhirl says:
6 February 2015

As with many people above I’ve encountered this issue with Irish Ferries, I was hoping to use my £75 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers on a return Ferry trip to Ireland. I went through the online booking process with out select the Tesco Vouchers option and my fare cost £333, however when I went through the same booking system but this time selected Tesco vouchers sterling the cost of the fare was £373, that’s a £20 admin fee each way. In the terms and conditions that come with the vouchers it states that Irish Ferries charge a £20 admin fee, I don’t understand how the admin costs can increase when using the same booking system for both fares and also how a return fare booking means that admin costs are doubled there is no extra admin required. I thought there was an EU ruling against excessive admin charges when using online booking to come into force in 2014 or does this just apply to the admin fee in relation to credit cards?

Jason Foord says:
3 June 2016

I have just compared booking Irish Ferries (Holyhead-Dublin return) with & without Tesco Vouchers. Without, it was £104 each way, +£5 admin fee, and a total of £213. Exactly the same crossings, but using Tesco vouchers was £124 each way, +£5 admin fee, resulting in a total of £253. Is this a con, fraudulent, illegal or immoral ? I have recently used Tesco vouchers on Hoseasons holidays and have genuinely received a £30 discount for every £10 worth of Tesco points converted. On 2 separate occasions, I used multiples of Tesco points to get really good genuine discounts with Hoseasons. WELL DONE HOSEASONS. HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME IRISH FERRIES !

dieseltaylor says:
4 June 2016

Thank you for providing this detailed account. It does look very wrong. perhaps Which? could ring up and get back with a response from Irish Ferries