Practically every large chain of high street shops has its own reward card scheme these days – in fact, the average UK adult has at least three different loyalty cards in their wallet at any one time. Are these schemes worth signing up to, though? We take a look at what’s really in it for you.
Who Benefits from Reward Schemes?
To start with, remember that the whole point of ‘reward schemes’ is to reward customers for loyalty to a brand. That means that although you’re getting something out of it, the brand is benefiting to a greater extent by encouraging you to spend more money with them. The schemes also make it much easier for companies to track your spending habits, which can be valuable information.
If you do most of your shopping at a particular store anyway for purposes of convenience, then it’s worth signing up. It’s not really worth signing up for dozens of schemes and trying to spend a little money with a lot of brands, as you won’t accumulate anything worth having.
Types of Reward Schemes
Rewards schemes can be roughly divided into two groups – those that offer money off vouchers or points to spend in-store (such as Tesco and Sainsburys), and those that operate more like a club and offer members-only deals (like Waitrose, Marks & Spencers and the Co-op).
The amount of money you’ll earn via money-off coupons alone is generally pitiful – for example, Sainsbury’s Nectar card earns you only 50p for every £100 you spend, while Tesco’s Clubcard earns you £1 for every £100. The best points deal on the high street are Boots, and Holland and Barrett, both of which offer £4 for every £100 spent. The Iceland Bonus card scheme also offers a good return, but needs to be pre-paid – for every £20 you load onto your card, Iceland will add £1 which works out at an extra £5 per £100.
Most of the schemes have more going for them than just plain money off, though. You’ll often be entitled to special deals, or you can look out for particular products or deals that offer double points or some other reward.
Only buy the product if you actually need it, though – buying something you later throw away because it’s gone out of date just to get the extra points is not a saving!
Do be aware that you might actually be paying more for the product in the first place, as well, compared to other supermarkets.
Tesco’s also have a points exchange system where you can double the value of your points on certain items. Some schemes also offer money off with various partners, such as restaurants or cinemas. Sainsbury’s Nectar points can be spent with hundreds of other retailers as well as the supermarket itself.
Marks & Spencer’s scheme is one of the most unusual, with customers gaining ‘Sparks’ instead of points or vouchers. These can’t be spent in store, but instead gain you access to exclusive events and perks such as early access to sales goods. You’ll also get access to personalised offers every couple of weeks via email, including offers and discounts for food, clothing and homeware.
Reward schemes are now very sophisticated and personalised, and you’ll normally receive extra money-off vouchers tailored to your usual spending habits.
Again, these will save you money as long as you wanted the things in the first place! These extra vouchers are generally short dated, so put them somewhere you’re likely to remember to use them.
Although the money you’ll save from supermarket reward schemes certainly isn’t life-changing, it’s nice to be able to collect all your money-off vouchers throughout the year and use them to pay towards your Christmas food shop or a special birthday meal. Most of us only have a limited amount of space in our wallets, though, so use it wisely!