/ 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.

Dixter says:
18 December 2013

Clubcard savings. Lots of effort to “big up” the savings in ads and almost as much effort to sneak them back when you buy? Surprises me that Tesco are happy to have their brand associated with stuff that made me feel deceived. Cosmos and P&O. Is there a theme emerging here?

We used clubcard vouchers to get cheaper ferry travel on P&O to Ireland. My wife called up, went through the process and when it came to pay was told. Oh you cant pay for this with clubcards you have to go through a different price process. Guess what. The tickets were dearer in that process. £45 saving was reduced by 33% to £30.00. And that was after a load of postal processes that must deter plenty of folk. It all feels over-promised then awkward and feels deceitful to get the savings.

I have just looked at quotations from Irish Ferries for a return trip to Dublin for June 2014. If booked via the normal service for 4X4 and 2 passengers £285.00 If booked using Tesco vouchers, exactly same booking, £325.00. A 14% increase. I can find nothing on their website advising of any mark up. Add to that the postal issues mentioned above and the benefits start to erode greatly.

I am sure this sort of thing happens when you have discount vouchers/codes for hotels.
You are always asked to quote your discount code at the time of your booking before you are actually given the price of your stay.
Haven’t put this to the test but I’m sure someone may have noticed they could have got their stay at a similar price without the discount.
I might be being a bit synical but I’m sure these discounts are just bait.

My experience in July 2012 Tesco are well aware of the differences in prices when using Tesco clubcard vouchers against holidays but what really annoys me is that Tesco do not “prominently” display a link to the brochure that your vouchers will be based against and so when I researched an on-line Cosmos brochure for my holiday this was different to the link to their “adapted” on-line brochure resulting in a cost in excess of £315.

And although I see this as a rip off by Cosmos, Tesco are partly to blame for not highlighting this more prominently.

I don’t expect much to change but I think they should change their rewards site and put the links to the brochures alongside the Cosmos Logo on their reward site so there is no misunderstandings!.

(I should have cashed my vouchers in for Goldsmiths the Jewellers, bought some Jewellery and sold on e-bay and booked the holiday through their “non-Tesco influenced brochure” as I don’t think I would have lost over £300 that way).

In a similar vein, I find that buying car insurance through cash back sites such as Quidco are also inflated – making any savings in cash back negligible or worse than going direct to the insurer, or through a comparison site.

Clive Harrold says:
19 December 2013

We wanted to visit our children at the beginning of December 2013 so decided to use our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to book a hotel. When I contacted the dedicated number I was told that only a limited number of rooms were available to Clubcard offers – OK that seems reasonable. When I eventually got well down my list of preferrred hotels before there was any room available for the dates we wanted, I was told that the Clubcard rate for the room was £120 per night so for 3 nights I would need £120 of Clubcard vouchers for the required exchange value of £360. I decided not to proceed at that point and checked some of the search sites for other availability. I found a hotel much nearer the top of my preferrred list for £99 per night (no rooms available on Clubcard at this one) but also I found the hotel where I was offered a room under the Clubcard offer, exactly the same spec, for £95 per night.
This is not the only time I have come across this price differentiation if paying by Clubcard. We used to service my wife’s car at Nationwide Autos who were included in the Clubcard offers. When the time came for a service we obtained vouchers to the value of the offered service cost of £99, only to be told when the time came to pay, that the special discounted service did not apply to anyone using Clubcard vouchers and the full cost of £139.99 would be charged so we had to pay an extra £40 in addition to the Clubcard vouchers. When I queried this with their head office, I was told that they had to do this because Clubcard only reimbursed them for about 60% of the face value of the vouchers.
It all seems a bit cloak and dagger to me so we tend to simply use them on offers in store where you are not then embarrassed by being asked to pay more than you had expected.

John, Bristol says:
19 December 2013

My experience with Tesco clubcard vouchers and hotels is the same, on several occasions.
Typically you might be able to get the same hotel online at,say. £90 a night but when you have obtained your Tesco vouchers and ring up the charge is more like £130 a night, even though still £90 a night without Tesco vouchers. In my estimation, on past experience, the hotel vouchers are worth in real terms twice the face value of the original Tesco vouchers and not 3 times the value as Tesco claim.

Debs, Gloucester says:
19 December 2013

I spotted that Cosmos were hiking the prices for bookings made with clubcard vouchers earlier this year when I was looking to use £120 of vouchers as part payment for a holiday to Egypt. I complained to both Tesco and Cosmos. Tesco responded but the email basically said “tough”. Cosmos didn’t even bother to reply. In the past we’ve had two lovely holidays to the Maldives and two to Kenya with Virgin and Tradewinds, using our Tesco Vouchers to bring the cost down to an affordable level. The benefits of using vouchers to buy reward tokens has been gradually eroded over the years and now you only get 3 x face value, in most cases it takes much longer to build up enough vouchers for a worthwhile discount on a holiday or weekend break. I was so disappointed with Tesco’s response I voted with my feet. I used my remaining vouchers to buy a top of the range Sat Nav from Tesco Direct, closed my clubcard credit card and switched my allegiance to Sainsburys and Nectar card instead. I’m sure I am not the only one to make this choice. I won’t ever book a holiday with Cosmos either!

Derek says:
20 December 2013

Last year I had clubcard points to a value of £60, which I exchanged for vouchers to a value of £180. I wanted to use these against a stay at a Warners Leisure hotel, but found that these would be offset against the full price of the stays, whereas invariably, Warners were offering 50% discounts. Using the vouchers would have cost me more than I actually paid by not using them

Cocos says:
30 December 2013

I had a similar experience with Warners. I know it is not the same as the Cosmos situation but I had to pay the full brochure price as I was paying with Tesco Clubcard Vouchers. I am pretty sure that everyone else booking normally always gets a large discount of that quoted price. Having taken 2 short breaks there, I am constantly receiving offers from them by post, sometimes more than once a month.

Peter says:
20 December 2013

I tried to book an hotel room using tesco vouchers and ceased the transaction when I saw the same room at almost half the price. I still stayed at the hotel in the lower priced room as the hotel was closest to my function venue. Very disappointed with similar transactions for hotels in the past where rooms for tesco patrons were often of lower quality and usually in annexes rather than main building.

Dave Coates says:
20 December 2013

I have been using Tesco Clubcard vouchers for several years on the IRISH FERRIES Pembroke to Rosslare route and have noticed that over the last few years they have been charging extra when using the vouchers. This used to be £10 extra each way , then £15 extra each way and now its £20 extra. Just checked for a trip in March and the two prices are £241 v £301, an increase of over 15%!!

Pauline Moss says:
20 December 2013

If you use your clubcard vouchers to buy a Warner Holiday you are charged twice the normal price of the holiday which does’nt seem right.

F C Keys says:
20 December 2013

Cosmos have had higher prices for Tesco Clubcard voucher clients for years. This is obvious when you compare brochure price with Tesco price. However, with the triple multiple (sometimes quadruple) you can show a good profit. For example, the maximum voucher payment allowed is around £5/600 so, if you save vouchers for, say, two years (maximum validity of vouchers) to get to this limit, you get a good deal. Doubtful morality by Cosmos but they are not really secretive about the different price structures.

For those who still champion Tesco and/or Cosmos as moral this is an extract from the rewards site “You can now exchange £50 in Clubcard vouchers and receive a 1 x £100 Cosmos token code to put towards a huge selection of worldwide holidays offering the best prices available with Cosmos,
Please note: The maximum value of token codes that can be used on a Cosmos holiday is £100 per passenger aged 2+.” – WHY WOULD YOU!

Linda Watson says:
20 December 2013

For those of you who are still championing the Cosmos/Tesco corner, this is an up to extract from the rewards site. “You can now exchange £50 in Clubcard vouchers and receive a 1 x £100 Cosmos token code to put towards a huge selection of worldwide holidays offering the best prices available with Cosmos, The maximum value of token codes that can be used on a Cosmos holiday is £100 per passenger aged 2+.” WHY WOULD YOU!

Dave Atkins says:
21 December 2013

Have found that when using Tesco vouchers to take our Grand kids on holiday to any Park Resorts caravan sites. We always feel that the caravans are slightly inferior to others and always in one of the worsts locations on the site. At the same time you are still getting something which on the face of it is for FREE!

I noticed something similar with Lufthansa/Star Alliance air miles. Flights from Birmingham to Berlin are available from £50 including taxes and charges. Booking with Lufthansa miles costs £100 in taxes and charges and alone, and these cannot be paid for using miles. Therefore, using miles for booking usually costs more in cash than booking without miles.

21 December 2013

HI Last year i used Tesco clubcards far a channel crossing by train. I went over with a car and 22 Foot Caravan . There was four passengers, and it cost me (Nothing).The price of the fair was £300 Return,so i sent 100 clubcard coupons to Tescos and they did everything.We had a lovely touring holiday for two weeks,and i think Tesco Club Cards are great value.They save me a lot every year.
Les Johnson

Ingrid Johnson says:
22 December 2013

we used the vouchers for cosmos & when we put cosmos in the website, monarch holidays came up, we found the holidays were a few hundred cheaper for a family of 4 as we are. Monarch is the sister company for Cosmos. We found we could not use the cheaper site with the vouchers. Also when you book, you cannot have any of the online discounts or any other offers when using the clubcard vouchers. What initially looks like a £1200 saving (£300 max per person you can use) instead becomes a £500 saving after you take all the above into account. Our view was it is better to save £500 than not save any money at all, but it gives a false view into what you are gaining. As you need £400 in vouchers to save £1,200 you are really just saving £100 as you could use the £400 off your shopping. If you used the double your vouchers to buy non food goods then you are losing £300 as you could have bought good to the value of 2 x £400 = £800.

Frank Bushell says:
23 December 2013

Wightlink ferries to the Isle of wight is another example where a premium is paid to use Tesco vouchers when booking a ferry crossing. Two price structures exist for exactly the same service economy and standard, when booking with Tesco vouchers the standard fare is charged at up to 30% more than the economy, same boat, same service, higher price.

Eric Williams says:
24 December 2013

We were recently disappointed in similar vein.
In booking a 4 night break at Warner Leisure Hotels recently, we saw the price on-line direct at £404.
We wanted to reduce the outlay by using Tesco vouchers – supposedly at 3 times face-value.
Accordingly we cashed in £110 of vouchers, giving a value of £330 off.
Having received the vouchers, we duly went to book with Warner’s – only to find the cost, using vouchers, was £647!
This left us paying out £317 cash, in addition to the vouchers!
For just another £87 more we could have paid direct for exactly the same holiday, meaning that we were getting NOT 3 times value but LESS THAN FACE VALUE for our vouchers!
We’re already disillusioned with Tesco in many respects – this experience serves only to heighten that feeling.

We used vouchers to buy a hotel stay with Hilton a few years ago. A separate booking phone number directed us to a specialist advisor who gave us the price after using our vouchers. The net price paid was no less than could have been achieved by using other travel sites, including Hilton’s own. In other words, the value for using the vouchers was nil. I think Hilton were using the rack rate as the start point.