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Are loyalty card changes good or bad for your money?

4 min read

Are loyalty card changes good or bad for your money?
With many popular loyalty card schemes changing how they work, money columnist Andy Webb explores if they are good or bad for your money
The last year has seen big changes to the way big loyalty schemes work, most recently at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots and Morrisons. There’s been the growth of “member-only” pricing, though those gains have been offset by changes to the value of some points schemes. 
Of course, if you’re already shopping at these retailers it makes sense to sign up for a card and swipe it at the till. You may as well get something back for your spending. The amount you earn won’t be life-changing, but the little amounts will add up. 
"View the member-only discounts with some scepticism"
However, I wouldn’t shop at any retailer just because you want to earn points. It’s better to shop around to see who will actually charge you less. And don’t underestimate the time savings you’ll get from shopping at a nearby supermarket rather than going out of your way for these schemes. 
I’d also urge you to view the member-only discounts with some scepticism. The likes of Clubcard Prices and Nectar Prices will make items you buy with a loyalty card cheaper than without, but they are only on selected products. You might find you can pay less or get better value if you buy a different brand or size—even if it’s not part of these schemes. Remember, own-brand products are often much cheaper than the equivalent from the big names. 
With all this in mind, here’s what you need to know about the most recent changes to the big schemes. 

Tesco Clubcard

You’ll still earn 1 point per £1 spent in-store, which works out as 1% back if you use those points at the supermarket.
But the popular way to boost this to 3% through swapping them for things like magazines, days out and meal vouchers was devalued to 2% in June.
Though that’s still more than what you’ll get at most supermarkets, don’t just assume that doubling your points is good value. Many of the things you can exchange them for can be obtained via special offers elsewhere, so you might not be getting a 2% return in real terms.  
Trolley in a supermarket aisle
Take the theme park ticket offers. You’re effectively getting 50% off full-price entry via Clubcard, but that same offer is readily available elsewhere. Some deals are better, such as buying a railcard where discounts are less common. 
And of course, if there’s nothing you really want from the partner offers you may as well just use them on your food and drink
Elsewhere, Tesco’s Clubcard Prices offer continues to grow. In fact it’s almost impossible to get any savings in this supermarket if you don’t have a Clubcard. 
It’s also worth checking the Tesco app on your phone to see if you’ve access to coupons for further savings. 

Boots Advantage 

Though Boots Advantage points are still worth the same, you’ll earn less when you shop. It’s now 3 points per £1 rather than 4. Not only is this a 3% return rather than 4% on your shopping, you’ll need to spend more before you can use the points. 
"Saying that, it’s still one of the most generous schemes out there"
That’s because there’s a minimum redemption of 100 points (worth £1). And worse still, you can’t partially pay with points—you need to be able to cover the full amount. Since there’s very little you’re likely to buy under a quid, it means it’ll take longer before you’ve enough to actually cash them in. 
Saying that, it’s still one of the most generous schemes out there, and the other change introduced this year was Boots Advantage Prices, offering 10% off any own-brand items, from sun cream to meal deals. If they fit your needs, and with most off-the-shelf medications it’ll do the same as big brand versions, then you’ll hopefully save more than you would have with the old points system. 

Morrisons More  

A couple of years ago Morrisons ditched points in favour of personalised discounts. Well, points are now back, though you won’t earn them on all your spending. Instead, they’re just on specific products, largely own brand bakery, produce and counters. 
The points themselves aren’t worth much, with 10 adding up to a single penny. And you can only swap them for vouchers every time you have 5,000 (worth £5), so it can take a while to cash out. That might be a problem if you’re not regularly earning them as your points expire after a year, as do the vouchers once converted. 
You’ll also find additional coupons based on your shopping history in the app, so make sure you check for these. 

Sainsbury’s Nectar 

Rather than change the way you earn and spend Nectar points (it’s still 1 point per £1 spent), Sainsbury’s has introduced its own Nectar Prices scheme on top. As with Tesco, you’ll need to scan your loyalty card to get reductions on everyday items. Similarly, there can also be some very decent savings, but only if you need to buy those included.  
Woman shopping in supermarket with scanner
There’s also a Your Nectar Prices offer via the Nectar app that provides personalised discounts on items you regularly buy—though you have to use the SmartShop scanners to take advantage and it won’t work with online orders. 

Asda Rewards 

Though this scheme launched almost 12 months ago, it’s worth a quick recap. You earn actual pence and pounds back rather than points, though as with Morrisons it’s only on specific items rather than your whole shop. 
"You earn actual pence and pounds back rather than points"
You’ll need to amass £1 in your Cashpot before it can be swapped for a voucher of the same value. Make sure you remember to exchange them within 6 months of earning and use them within the following 6 months so they don’t expire. 

MyWaitrose 

Another scheme that had a revamp late last year is from Waitrose. You’re able to claim two vouchers every week and though they’re linked to products you buy, you can actually scan them at the self-service checkouts regardless of what you buy. 
The free hot drink also returned this year, though you’ll need to make a purchase first to get it. There’s no minimum spend so you could always just grab something like a banana to be eligible.  
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