Shopping

A guide to the best loyalty cards

If you're a budget-conscious shopper, your wallet is probably filled to the brim with loyalty cards. But are you taking taking full advantage of the perks?
loyalty cardsWith more and more shops fighting for your custom, loyalty cards and reward schemes are popping up left, right and centre to entice you in.

You can make some serious savings just by showing a little bit of plastic every time you reach the till – so take advantage of this!

But which are the best cards to have, and what difference do they really make? Here, we give you the lowdown on the most popular cards on the high street.

Beware that supermarkets have recently been exposed for tricking shoppers into thinking they're getting a bargain when they're not! Read more here.

Are loyalty cards worth the effort?

loyaltycardsIn a word – yes! If you're a frequent shopper then why not start earning something back for your custom?

It's true that some loyalty cards offer more in return than others, but if you're going to be making these purchases anyway, you might as well take advantage of what's on offer.

One thing to be wary of, however, is the temptation to let reward cards dictate how and where you shop – these should only be used to supplement spending that you would be making anyway with some additional bonuses, no more than that.

It's also super easy to sign up to these schemes. You just need to spend a minute signing up or registering online, then pop your card in your purse/wallet and forget about it until you're next in store. It also costs you nothing, but could save you a decent amount of cash.

What have you got to lose?

Our top 11 loyalty cards

It's also worth knowing that all of the loyalty cards mentioned below are available as apps too. If you're not a fan of carrying around copious amounts of plastic in your wallet, spend a minute downloading all your loyalty cards so you'll have them on your smartphone instead.

Another option is to get an app like Stocard or Loyalive, which allow you to enter all your loyalty card details into the one app and it will store them in one place so they're easily locatable and take up less of your precious app space!

  1. Nectar card

    Sainsbury's Nectar Card

    How can I get points?

    Nectar cards are best known as Sainsbury's own loyalty card, but in fact you can collect points with it at heaps of different gaffs, including Homebase, House of Fraser, BP, and Vision Express.

    Additionally, you can even collect points booking your holidays online with Expedia, buying on eBay, or even paying your bills if you're with British Gas. Check out the full list here.

    How many points will I earn?

    You'll earn one point for every £1 you spend, but only one point per litre of fuel.

    They're worth half a penny each (so 500 points will give you £2.50), though you'll often find promotions that allow you to double your points.

    What can I spend them on?

    You can use your points against purchases in Sainsbury's as well as hundreds of other online retailers (see list above). If you redeem your points online through one of the partnering brands, you can sometimes get double or even triple the value of your points.

    Nectar points can also be used for days out, in restaurants and for discounted tickets.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    Nectar sends out regular mail shots to everyone who's subscribed for a card, and these contain the details of many promotions and special offers. Make sure you keep your eye open for any mail coming through your door, and don't just dismiss it as junk!

    When you donate items to your local Oxfam, you can earn two points for every £1 your items sell for when you sign up to Nectar's ‘Tag a Bag' scheme.

    Any drawbacks?

    Nectar card now offers half the value of points than Tesco after they decided to drop the rate 50% in April 2015.

    If your account remains inactive fore 12 months, your points will also be wiped.

    Get your Nectar Card »

  2. Co-op Membership

    co-op membership cardHow can I get points?

    With Co-op's membership scheme, it's not so much about earning loyalty points, but rather you ‘earn' 5% of what you spend on own-brand products.

    How does it work?

    For every Co-op own brand product or service that's in your shopping basket, you'll get 5% of the cost stored in an online account for you, that can be spent using your card in any co-op store.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    For every 5% of the product spend you receive, a further 1% will automatically be donated to charity too. You have three different charities to choose from, which can be chosen online when accessing your account.

    Any drawbacks?

    Although you can earn 5% on Co-op services as well as products, this doesn't include Co-op insurance at the moment.

    Get your Co-op card »

  3. Tesco Clubcard

    tesco-clubcard
    How can I get points?

    You'll earn points on your Tesco Clubcard every time you make a purchase either online or in store. You'll also earn points if you have a Tesco credit card, have an account with Tesco Mobile or are an E.ON customer.

    How many points will I earn?

    You'll earn one point for every £1 spent in Tesco; 1/2 point per £1 spent on petrol. Every point is worth a penny when you're buying items in Tesco, though you could trade them in to make massive savings at high street restaurants.

    For example, £10 worth of points can be exchanged for a £40 Cafe Rouge or Pizza Express voucher.

    What can I spend them on?

    Don't be fooled into thinking they can just be redeemed in Tesco. As mentioned above, they can actually save you money in high street stores, restaurants and tourist attractions across the country.

    You can redeem up to 4 times the value of the voucher if it's spent with a partnering businesses on things like train travel, magazine subscriptions, meals out etc.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    You'll receive regular vouchers through the post (normally every three months) that you can then redeem in store. The interesting thing with Tesco is that they keep a tally of what sort of products you normally buy, then send you vouchers tailored to this.

    With Tesco credit card, you can also earn 0.25 points for every £1 you spend and half a point per £1 spent on your energy bill if you're with E.ON (although you need to register your Clubcard with your account online before you'll start earning points).

    If you're a Tesco Mobile customer, you'll be racking up one Clubcard point for every £1 spent on your bill or topping up if you have pay as you go. Again, just make sure you register your Clubcard to your account!

    Any drawbacks?

    Tesco will deactivate your account if it is unused for more than two years. Most vouchers have an expiry of two years as well – you can find the exact expiry date on your voucher.

    Get your Tesco Clubcard »

  4. Boots Advantage Card

    Boots advantage card loyalty points

    How can I get points?

    With a Boots Advantage Card, you'll earn points every time you make a purchase at Boots online or in store.

    How many points will I earn?

    The standard rate is four points for every £1 (equal to 4p). There are also regular promotions that will allow you to earn more.

    What can I spend them on?

    You can spend your points in Boots stores or online. At the current time, no other retailers are involved in the promotions.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    Check out the Boots app that often gives out extra vouchers and coupons for cardholders. When you make a purchase in store, almost every time you'll be handed a voucher for money off an item, but remember not to let these sway you into buying something else just because it's on offer! This is not saving money.

    If you're a parent, you could also sign up to the Boots Parenting Club, which will let you earn up to ten points for every £1 on certain purchases. Look out for special offers coming through your letterbox.

    If you set up an account with Boots.com, you'll also be sent special offers tailored to what you normally buy in store.

    Any drawbacks?

    You can't earn points on prescriptions, powdered milk products, stamps, gift vouchers or phone top-ups.

    You can also only use your Advantage points for money off if it covers the cost of an entire item.

    For example, if you're buying a mascara at £4 and a bottle of water and you have 400 points on your card, you'll be able to get the mascara for free, but if the mascara cost £4.99, you wouldn't be able to use your points and pay the remaining 99p.

    Get your Boots card »

  5. Starbucks Card

    starbucks card

    How can I get points?

    The Starbucks Card is slightly different to other loyalty cards in the sense that you need to load it up with cash before you can use it.

    Once you've got cash on your card, you use it to pay for your purchases and you'll earn ‘stars' for every beverage you buy.

    How many points will I earn?

    You'll earn one ‘star' every time you pay with your card (that's per transaction not per beverage, so if you're buying more than one drink you could ask to pay for them individually if you're feeling reeeeally saving-savvy, or pass your card on to whoever you're buying for and get them to make their transaction separately).

    What can I spend them on?

    15 ‘stars' will earn you one free drink, and you'll also receive emails with details of any drinks promotions they have going.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    Once you've made more than 50 purchases in a year, you'll be upgraded to gold level membership (ooooOOOOoooh). This means you can get a free extra shot in your drink if you like your coffee strong, free soy milk, free syrups or free whipped cream.

    Any drawbacks?

    No real drawbacks to speak of, although the fact you have to prepay your card might convince you to buy from Starbucks more often than you normally would (smart, huh?) and if we're honest – the benefits included in the loyalty card won't exactly blow you away! Not to mention the fact that card number 8 below will get you your coffee free of charge!

    Bonus tip: Apparently, Starbucks cards now have more credit loaded on them than some banks do. That's a serious global caffeine addiction!

    Get your Starbucks card »

  6. ASOS A-List

    ASOS A-ListHow can I get points?

    You automatically qualify for ASOS A-LIST as soon as you make a purchase of more than £1 with a registered UK account. Therefore, if you're already a frequent ASOS shopper, chances are you've already started accumulating points without even realising it!

    However, in order to start using any of the benefits, you need to reach the 400 point mark to ‘unlock' your access to a Level 1 account (equivalent of spending £80). You'll be upgraded to a Level 2 account once you've reached 1,000 points and 3,000 will get you into Level 3.

    How many points will I earn?

    You'll earn 5 points for every £1 you spend, and receive a £5 voucher for every £100 you spend. The three different levels to the loyalty scheme also get you access to different extras such as occasional free delivery.

    What can I spend them on?

    A-LIST points can only be spent on further ASOS transactions. As well as getting you vouchers for money off, your points will also ‘earn' you access to different levels of account (but you won't have to spend your points on accessing new levels, you'll just be automatically upgraded).

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    With level 1 and 2 accounts, you'll get 15% off on your birthday, and Level 3 account will get you 20% off that day. You also get access to days where you can earn triple points on your purchases (number of triple points days depends on with level your account is at).

    Worth mentioning that A-List can also be used in conjunction with your 10% ASOS student discount.

    Any drawbacks?

    Any vouchers you earn will expire in 6 months, so be sure to keep an eye on your account! ASOS also won't necessarily inform you when you've qualified for a voucher, so there's a chance you may even already have a voucher waiting for you that is on the road to expiry.

    Check out ASOS A-List »

  7. Nando's Card

    how to use your nando's card

    How can I get points?

    With a Nando's Card, you'll earn a ‘chilli' every time you spend £7 or more on your meal.

    How many points will I earn?

    You can only collect one chilli per customer per day, so even if you spend £14, you'll still just get the one stamp. Therefore, if you're dining with a fellow Nando's card holder, make sure you pay separately to maximise chilli earnings!

    What can I spend them on?

    As you complete each line on your loyalty card, you'll progress to bigger prizes. Once you have three stamps, you'll get a free 1/4 chicken or appetiser. After you have six stamps, you'll get a free 1/2 chicken or any single wrap, burger or pitta. For ten stamps, you'll get a free whole chicken or single combo meal.

    If you're a vegetarian, there are options suitable for you at each stage, so you needn't miss out!

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    At the current time, there are no extra bonuses available as part of the scheme. If you're a regular Nando's fan though, it's a great way to pick up a few freebies along the way.

    Any drawbacks?

    Bear in mind that chilies only last for exactly one year from the day they're acquired, so make sure you spend them in time!

    Get your Nando's card »

  8. Waterstone's Rewards

    waterstone's rewards card

    How can I get points?

    You can earn Waterstone's Rewards points shopping in stores or on their website.

    How many points will I earn?

    You'll earn 3 points for every £1 spent but 10 points for every £1 spent if you're a student! Bonus points are also available on certain authors during promo times. As someone in store or check online for details.

    Waterstone's also have a loyalty stamp card where you receive one stamp for every £10 you spend in store. Once you've completed the card, you have an additional 1000 points (equal to £10) to spend on another book.

    What can I spend them on?

    You can spend your points in store or on the Waterstone's website.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    Students also get an extra 10% off at Waterstones.com if they spend £25 or more with UNiDAYS.

    You'll still earn reward points on these purchases, but you'll earn the regular non-student rate of 3 points per £1 spent rather than 10 points per £1 on these transactions.

    Any drawbacks?

    Points can't be accrued on tokens, vouchers or stamps. The rewards scheme also doesn't apply to Waterstone's marketplace. If you don't use your card for 3 years, you're points will also expire.

    Get your Waterstone's card »

  9. IKEA Family card

    ikea family card

    How can I get points?

    You don't actually earn points with an IKEA Family card, but instead the card gives you automatic discounts on promotional products and other incentives.

    What are the benefits?

    For a start – free tea and coffee if you're in store Monday-Friday!

    If you're lucky enough to live close to an IKEA store, you'll probably visit the cafe more often than you care to admit, and you'll be happy to hear your IKEA Family card will get you discounts on food (which is already amazing value for money, if we're honest).

    Additional bonuses are 10% off on top of sale items and free insurance to cover any damage during delivery or ropey building.

    They also run a ‘Swipe a Surprise' scheme where you'll get a barcode and prize number on your receipt when you swipe your Fam card at checkout. You can win anything from free food or IKEA products to a family holiday – check your number online or at an IKEA kiosk to see what you've won!

    Get your IKEA Family card »

  10. My Waitrose card

    my waitrose card

    How can I get points?

    Again, you don't earn points with a My Waitrose card, just access to freebies, discounts and other offers.

    What are the benefits?

    It's worth grabbing yourself a Waitrose card for the free tea and coffee alone! If you've ever stopped for a caffeine fix in Waitrose before, you'll know that it's pretty decent coffee, and beats paying through the nose for something that essentially costs pennies to produce.

    Other benefits included in the My Waitrose card is free food magazines that have heaps of good recipes, 20% off the fish counter on a Friday and 20% off beef steak from the meat counter on a Saturday.

    Any drawbacks?

    Waitrose have now made a rule that you need to buy something in store in order to qualify for your free coffee (or buy something to eat in the Waitrose cafe if you plan to sit in) since it was suggested that the scheme was being ‘abused' by people who never actually shop there but are only in it for a freebie.

    However, a trick to avoiding this new rule is to use the self service coffee machines, and then pop over to the self service check-out in order to scan your My Waitrose card to verify your free coffee. Sneaky!

    Get your My Waitrose card »

  11. Subway card

    earn points on your subcard

    How can I get points?

    You earn points each time you spend money in a Subway store with your trusty Subcard in hand.

    How many points will I earn?

    If you haven't registered your card online yet, but you do have one in your hand, you'll earn 5 points for every £1 you spend. Once your card is registered, you'll earn 10 points for every £1 you spend.

    What can I spend them on?

    100 points (so equal to £10 spend) will get you a free drink. 500 points will get you a free 6″ sub and 1000 points will get you a footlong sub free of charge. 200 points will also get you a free snack.

    Are there any extra bonuses?

    For the first 28 days when you register, you'll be earning double points – so 20 points for every £1 you spent in store. Subway are also running a new scheme that as long as you continue to make purchases within 7 days of each other, you'll earn double the points.

    Any drawbacks?

    You can only have 5000 points on your card at one time, so you'll have to keep spending those points as you go along if your a serious Subway enthusiast!

    Get your Subcard »

  12. M&S Sparks card

    have you swiped your sparks card

    How can I get points?

    You collect points or ‘sparks' when you shop in stores or on the M&S online store using your Sparks Card.

    How many points will I earn?

    You earn an automatic 10 points per transaction, then a further 10 points for every £1 you spend.

    You can also earn an additional 25 sparks for every product review you write on the M&S webstore, and 50 points every time you make a clothing donation or what they call a ‘Shwop' which will be donated to Oxfam.

    What can I spend them on?

    Those points might sound impressive, but here's our beef with M&S Sparks: your sparks points have no monetary value whatsoever, and the ‘rewards' M&S offer are underwhelming to say the least.

    3,000 sparks (so roughly £300 spend but depending on how many additional points you get for each transaction) will get you a pitiful preview of new season stock. Huh? Other benefits include 5,000 sparks for early access to new sales and 17,000 sparks will ‘allow' you to enter competitions they have running for free holidays, etc.

    Any drawbacks?

    Aside from being a pretty unrewarding rewards scheme, your points also expire after a year (but let's be honest, do you really care?).

    Get your Sparks card »

Are you a loyalty card fanatic and reckon we've missed out a loyalty gem in our list? Let us know in the comments below!

If you're mad for discounts and freebies just like we are, sign up to our weekly newsletter – you'll get a round-up of the 20 best Student Deals we've found for that week.

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