Most of us have at least one loyalty card in our wallets, but research shows we probably aren’t making the most of it. A recent study revealed UK consumers are missing out on billions of pounds worth of unused loyalty points by forgetting their cards, or failing to understand how to use them properly.
So, we take a closer look at the country’s main reward schemes, helping you to reap the benefits.
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Your everyday grocery shop at Sainsbury’s can net you two Nectar points (equal to a penny), for every £1 spent. Every bag you re-use in store is also worth a point. If you don’t have your card with you, don’t worry. Sainsbury’s will add the points if you revisit the store with your receipt and your Nectar card within 14 days of the purchase.
You’ll gain a point for every litre of fuel bought at a Sainsbury’s filling station, and points can be collected through a host of other stores, including Homebase and Vision Express. Many staff at these participating retailers will ask at the till if you have a Nectar card. When you’re online, access the goods via Nectar to ensure you’ll earn the points.
Keep your account active by collecting or spending points within any 12 month period. You usually need to spend at least £250 to gain a £2.50 benefit. You can use points by swiping your Nectar card at the checkout with participating retailers.
In terms of spending power once you’ve totted up enough purchases, 500 points gives you £2.50 to play with at a variety of stores and venues, such as Sainsbury’s, Argos, Vue and Amazon.
Double points offers mean 500 points are worth £5 with some providers – such as a Merlin day out at Warwick Castle, Madame Tussauds or Alton Towers. Some treats are individually priced, like specific titles at Nectar Books or 2,000 points for an adult ticket to The Eden Project, which would usually cost up to £23.
Like many other schemes of this kind, you can’t collect or spend Nectar points on medical items, tobacco products or alcohol.
Boost your points power by shopping online via the Nectar eShops, where offers and promotions mean points are often worth double or even triple their usual value. Look out for the Double Value symbol on the site.
If you are a Nectar member and register on the site then you’ll be sent regular personalised bonus offers, but remember to opt in to receive these emails. Many of the site’s eShops also offer limited time only deals on a regular basis. Most of these pay two points for every £1 spent.
An extra 100,000 points, among other prizes, are available in Nectar Play’s latest competition. You just have to spend 50 points and answer a simple question to enter by 25 June.
You can earn points through internet searches, including 100 points if you download the new Nectar Search toolbar. You’ll get one point for every two valid searches up to a maximum of 50 points each month – worth 25p or £3 a year.
For those who prefer to earn points on the move, there are three free-to-download smartphone apps – Nectar, Sainsbury’s and BP – for more exclusive offers. If you aren’t sure where points can be gained, there is a store finder on both the Nectar app and the scheme website, but ebay, iTunes, British Gas and Ford are just a few of the providers.
To get the best out of your Nectar membership, download this helpful guide. Or call the Nectar helpline for the answer to specific queries. The number is on the back of your card.
You’ll collect a point for every £1 spent either in store, online, at Tesco Direct or on Tesco fuel.
Every 150 points gets you a voucher worth £1.50 to spend at Tesco. You’ll receive this with your monthly Clubcard statement, which includes other money off and extra points coupons. So, that’s a minimum spend of £150 for a £1.50 benefit, on a par with Nectar in terms of value.
There’s a minimum threshold of 150 points before you’ll receive any vouchers. Any points below this, or unused points you decide to leave in your account, carry over into the next collection period. And they won’t expire for two years! Plus they can be used either in store or online if you prefer to have your groceries delivered. Log in to your online account to print off any vouchers you’ve yet to spend. If you’ve never logged in before, you’ll need to register.
Once logged in, you can go to My Clubcard account to change your preferences. Opt-in to receive e-coupons for exclusive use online. These will replace the in-store coupons you get with your statement, a good option if you usually buy your food shop online.
Opt-in to the Christmas saver scheme to store all your vouchers through the year to spend during the festive season. You can top up your Christmas saver account with your own money. Top up £50 or more throughout the year to get a £3 bonus voucher, or over £100 for an extra £6.
Clubcard users may know that when they buy a re-useable Tesco grocery bag, recycle an ink cartridge or electrical item, or choose bagless deliveries, they’ll earn green Clubcard points. These can be kept or donated to Together For Trees, a partnership between Tesco and the RSPB to save the world’s rainforests.
If you forget your Clubcard, you can still claim the points within 14 days of the purchase. Just take your card and your receipt to the Customer Service desk. You can’t do it more than twice a day however.
Some products are exempt from points, such as tobacco, stamps, lottery, Tesco gift cards and prescription medicines.
If family members use Tesco they can scan a Clubcard key fob, which will add any points they earn to your household account. This way, you don’t miss out on points your partner or kids earn, even if they don’t have the card with them at the time.
Smartphone and iPad users can download the free Clubcard app. This lets you scan your virtual Clubcard in store.
Swap every £5 in Clubcard vouchers for up to £20 in Rewards, such as meals out, cinema tickets and tourist attractions. Pizza Express will let you pay for all or just part of a meal using rewards vouchers at this exchange rate, while Jessops gives you £10 worth of rewards for £5 in Clubcard vouchers.
Now and again, participating retailers will stretch the value of your points even further, so rewards are arguably the best way to get value from the points you earn.
If you spend £100 at Tesco every week, in two-and-a-half months you’d have enough points for a £40 reward, which can be exchanged for two adult tickets and one child’s entry to Cadbury World.
Look out for double points promotions which are usually advertised in store and on TV. Sign up for emails in the Preferences section of your personal My Clubcard account online, so you don’t miss out on finding out about these.
Sign up online, by phone or in store. Your permanent card will take two or three weeks to arrive, but there’s a temporary card on the application which you can use to earn points straight away.
Every £1 you spend in store or online at Boots earns you four loyalty points, worth 4p when you cash them in – although every £1 spent at Boots Opticians gives you one point.
This 4p is four times more than either Nectar or Tesco Clubcard. So, if you spend £100 at Boots, you’ll earn 400 points, worth £4. And there are regular double points promotions. Register online with your Advantage Card number and once signed in, update your email newsletter preferences to make sure you hear about these.
Like Tesco and Nectar, if you forget your card, then you can save the receipt and ask staff to add the points next time you have it with you. Unlike the other schemes, which only allow two weeks grace, Boots gives you 45 days from the purchase to claim points before you lose them.
It’s useful to save points until you need to make a bigger purchase in store, such as Christmas gifts, electricals or fragrances.
There is an online points calculator to help.
Points can’t be spent at Boots Opticians, Boots online or Boots Hearingcare, or on certain items, like prescription medicines. You also need to ensure you have enough points on your card to cover the item bought – you need at least 799 points to buy a product priced at £7.99.
Many Boots stores have extra offer kiosks for personalised money-off coupons and offers based on the purchase history stored on your Advantage Card. Just put your card in the machine to access them.
And once you are finished with your old electrical items, like digital cameras, MP3 players, sat navs and mobile phones, you can swap them for Advantage Card points. These will be automatically loaded onto your card within 30 days. You just need to register at Boots Recycle, and send the goods in the freepost envelope you’re sent. An 8GB 3G iPhone is worth more than 5,000 points – which is £50 to spend!
Advantage Card holders can get a free copy of The Boots Health and Beauty Magazine in store. It has extra points offers and incentives, every two months.
Boost points by joining one of Boots’ two membership clubs. Registered Boots Parenting Club members get 10 Advantage Card points for every £1 they spend on baby products at Boots.
This means you could earn £10 worth of points on a £100 spend. You can join if you are pregnant, or have a child under two.
And over 60s can benefit from the Health Club, which gives them a 10 per cent discount on selected Boots branded products.
The new Treat Street scheme means you can collect an extra point to spend at Boots for every £1 spent online at stores like Ebay, iTunes, Play.com and thetrainline.com. Register or log in using your Boots.com account details and use the Treat Street portal to make sure the points are added to your account. You can also sign up to receive weekly Treat Street offers by email.
Refer a friend to get a £5 points bonus for them, and £2.50 for yourself once they’ve made their first Treat Street purchase.
Sign up online for an Avios account. If you are already a member of Airmiles.co.uk, you can use the same username and password to log into Avios.
Last year, Air Miles became Avios after its owner, British Airways merged with Iberia. This means points can be transferred between Avios and British Airways Executive Club memberships.
You can collect Avios points through your everyday shopping, whether it’s on travel and leisure, groceries and fuel, spending on certain credit cards or shopping for clothes and gifts online. There are countless brands you can access to collect points, such as Argos, B&Q, Purely Gadgets, Weight Watchers and Ancestry.co.uk. To get points with many of these, you’ll have to shop through the Avios eStore.
Like the other schemes we’ve mentioned, you will be sent personal offers via email once registered, as long as you opt in.
If you’re on the move you can access the mobile site, or download the apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPad. All of these offer an Avios calculator, so you can see where in the world you may be able to visit based on your average annual household spend on food, fuel, online shopping, holidays and car hire.
You can also collect points by swapping Tesco Clubcard vouchers for rewards from Avios. Or join Shell Drivers’ Club to get a membership card to swipe with every tank of fuel. Swap every £2.50 in Clubcard vouchers for Clubcard Rewards worth 600 Avios points, and 20 litres of Shell fuel is worth 10 Avios points. Although you’ll need at least 9,000 Avios points before you can claim a flight, if you cover a lot of distance on the road or have a big family, the points will soon add up.
Avios destinations have been grouped into zones ranging from the likes of Paris, Amsterdam and Prague in Zone 1, to Sydney in Zone 9.
For 9,000 Avios points, you can take a return flight to Zone 1, or opt to pay with 4,500 points plus £50 in cash. Prices in Zone 2 range from 15,000 Avios, and Sydney can be reached once you have 100,000 points. With all flights, you’ll also pay a £27 per person Reward Flight Saver fare.
Avios isn’t just for frequent flyers. It can also be used for car hire, hotel stays, travel insurance and experiences. For 17,700 points, choose a pamper day for two with three treatments each, or with 13,140 points, two adults and two children can enjoy a day at Thorpe Park.
In a year, a weekly grocery shop of £200 at Tesco will net you a stay in a three star hotel for 5,760 Avios points. Try the online points calculator to see where you could go on your average annual household spend.
If you’re conscious of the impact all of this travel will have on the environment, you’ll be pleased to learn that Avios allows you to offset your carbon footprint or choose hotels with a smaller footprint through its World in Mind programme. You can earn up to 7,500 Avios points for recycling an old mobile phone – almost enough for a Zone 1 flight.
The trick, once registered, is to make the most of your membership by signing up to mailing lists, making sure the relevant web address is bookmarked on your PC or Mac, and downloading mobile device apps. Look out for any extra discounts you may be eligible for too, like those for students, pensioners and parents.
But before you sign up for something which seems too good to be true, or part with extra cash to get something for free next time you’re out shopping, remember that a really great loyalty scheme won’t require you to change your everyday shopping behaviour in order to benefit.
By getting to grips with the scheme offered by your regular retailer, you’re likely to get more for the money you are already spending.
Details of all schemes contained within the above article are included for information only, and Virgin Money does not endorse them. Links to external websites are for information only. Virgin Money receives no income from them and accepts no responsibility for the website content. The information in this article is correct as at 13 June 2012.