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?
With more and more shops fighting for your custom, loyalty cards and reward schemes are popping up left, right and centre to entice you in.
They might seem like a waste of time, but in some cases you can make some serious savings just by showing a little bit of plastic (or an app) every time you reach the till – so take advantage of this!
Of course, not all loyalty cards are as good as each other, so we've ranked some of the most well known in order of best value for money.
Are loyalty cards worth the effort?
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.
However, don't let reward cards dictate how and where you shop. They should only be used when making purchases that you would be getting anyway, and viewed as means of potentially getting some extra bonuses or discounts - no more than that.
It's also super easy to sign up to these schemes. You just need to spend a minute filling in a form or registering online, then either pop the card in your purse or wallet, or download the app version instead. It also costs you nothing, but could save you a decent amount of cash.
Loyalty card apps
The vast majority 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, which allows you to enter all your loyalty card details into one app so you can store them in one place and locate them easily when you need them - plus, they'll take up less of your precious app space!
What’s on this page?
Top loyalty cards for students
How do you get Tesco Clubcard 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 have a current account with Tesco Bank.
You'll earn one point for every £1 you spend (or 0.5 points for every £1 you spend on fuel).
How much are Clubcard points worth?
Every point is worth a penny when you're buying items in Tesco, but you can trade them in for discounts at a huge range of high street stores and brands, making them stretch even further.
Every three months you'll receive vouchers based on the amount of points you've collected. You can either spend them in Tesco as they are, or use the codes on the vouchers to spend them with one of Tesco's Reward Partners instead - usually tripling your points value!
Best way to spend Clubcard points
As we we always say, there's not much point in using your points to buy something that you don't need or you wouldn't be buying anyway. However, we would definitely recommend cashing your points in for discounts with a Reward Partner, rather than using them in Tesco, as by doing so you're boosting your points up to three times.
For example, you could turn every 50p you have in points into £1.50 to spend in Zizzi, Prezzo, Pizza Express or other restaurants.
Another good way of using your points is exchanging them for a Red Spotted Hanky voucher, again tripling their value. Getting discounts on rail tickets (apart from through your 16-25 Railcard, of course) can be tricky so this is a good way of saving some cash on what can be an annoying student expense.
Tesco Mobile: 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. Just make sure you register your Clubcard to your account! It's also worth remembering that you won't get the points if you top up at a cash machine or anywhere that isn't Tesco.
Tesco Clubcard Credit Card: You'll collect one extra Clubcard point for every £4 spent in store, and one extra point for every £8 spent outside of Tesco.
Tesco Pay+: This is a new app that allows you to store your own credit/debit and Tesco Clubcard in one place, so you can pay quickly at checkout and automatically collect your points.
Tesco Bank Current Account: If you open up a current account with Tesco Bank, you'll get one extra point for every £1 you spend in store or on fuel using your Tesco debit card, and one Clubcard point for every £8 you spend elsewhere. However, there are better bank accounts than this - we've ranked the best student bank accounts by their value for money.
Tesco will deactivate your account if it's 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.
Where can you collect Nectar points?
Nectar cards are best known as a Sainsbury's loyalty card, but you can actually collect points from hundreds of different brands including Topshop, Apple, Argos, Vue Cinemas and House of Fraser. Just bear in mind that with many of these, you can only collect points when you shop online, not in store.
At Sainsbury's you'll earn one point for every £1 you spend, (and one point per litre of fuel from a Sainsbury's petrol station). This varies across other brands, however, so you might earn one point for every £2 you spend, or two points per £1 - the Nectar website will specify the rate for each store.
How much are Nectar points worth?
Again, how much Nectar points are worth when redeeming them varies depending on where you're shopping. In Sainsbury's, one point is worth 0.5p, so 500 points will get you £2.50 off your shop.
This tends to be the going rate across most stores, but in some cases your points might be worth more. For instance, you can currently use 2,000 points to get £15 off your next meal at Pizza Express.
The best way to spend Nectar points
To get the most out of your Nectar points, check the Nectar website for special deals that will make them worth more. 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.
However, make sure you don't let this dictate where you spend your money. Your Nectar points are currently worth more if you use them in Pizza Express, but if you had no intention of eating there, are you really saving money?
Nectar Canvass - Sign up to Nectar Canvass and complete surveys to earn Nectar points. This is a great way of earning points without having to spend a penny!
Oxfam Tag Your Bag - If you have any unwanted clothes, books, DVDs or games, donate them to Oxfam and earn Nectar points in the process. Simply sign up to Tag Your Bag (and earn 100 points) and receive your personalised tags in the post. Donate your stuff to your nearest Oxfam store, making sure your bags are clearly marked with the tags, and you'll earn two points for every £1 your items raise.
Check the website - They sometimes have special deals and promotions where you can earn bumper points, or even earn points without having to spend anything - you can currently earn 150 points just for connecting your Nectar card to your eBay account, for example.
Nectar card points are now only worth half of what Tesco Clubcard points are worth, after they decided to drop the rate by 50% in April 2015.
If your account remains inactive for 12 months, your points will be wiped.
Paperchase Treat Me card
How does the Paperchase card work?
The Paperchase Treat Me is less of a points card, and more of a ticket to discounts and freebies. However, there are some actual tangible benefits to a Treat Me card that can save you some decent money in the long-run, especially if you shop at Paperchase often.
You get some benefits just from signing up, then every time you spend in store or online, you'll move a step close to your next 'treat'.
In our opinion it's worth it just for the free £5 spend on your birthday (no purchase required).
What are the benefits?
• 15% off your first purchase using the Treat Me card (valid for 28 days after you register your card)
• For every £50 you spend, you'll get £5 off your next shop
• You also get £5 off on your birthday (valid for 14 days from your birthday)
• Free Click and Collect (normally £2.99) when you spend £10 or more
• Free regular premium coffee every week from one of Paperchase's in store cafes, as well as 10% off food.
Once you rack up £50 worth of spending and get your £5 off, you only have 28 days to use it (although staff are normally really good at letting you know when you're getting close to the £50 spend mark).
You also can't use your Paperchase student discount in conjunction with Treat Me offers and discounts.
Boots Advantage Card
How do you get Boots Advantage points?
You'll earn points every time you make a purchase at Boots online or in store. For every £1 you spend you'll receive four points, so a £20 spend would get you 80 points. This makes the Boots Advantage Card one of the most generous on the market.
How much are Boots Advantage points worth?
Every point is worth 1p to spend in store or online, so the 80 points from a £20 spend would be worth 80p.
To use your points, just show your card at the till and ask to pay with points, or select the Advantage card icon at the checkout when shopping online.
Mega Points Weekends: These are special events where you can earn a bunch of extra Advantage points for spending over a certain amount in store or online - 1,000 extra points (worth £10) for spending £50, for example.
If possible, it's a good idea to delay purchases until these events so you're able to spend the money without buying stuff you don't want. If you're planning on buying a lot, split it up into separate £50 transactions, as there's not normally a limit on how many points you can earn.
Tailored offers: Check the Boots app, your emails and the 'My Offers' page on Boots.com for tailored offers, which often include bumper points for buying specific items.
You can't earn points on prescriptions, powdered milk products, stamps, gift vouchers, insurance or mobile phone top-ups.
You also can't use your Advantage points to part-pay for an item - you need enough points to cover the entire cost.
For example, if you're buying a £4 mascara 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.
If your Advantage card is inactive for two years, your points will be wiped.
Superdrug Health and Beautycard
How does the Superdrug Health & Beautycard work?
Like most loyalty cards, the Superdrug Health & Beautycard comes both as a physical card (with a handy mirror on it) or as an app.
Use it when you buy in store or online, and you'll earn one point for every £1 you spend. Save these points up to get money off your next purchase.
How much are Superdrug points worth?
You can only spend your Superdrug points in multiples of 100. 100 points will get you £1 off, 200 points will get you £2 off and so on...
This does mean you have to spend quite a lot to get any discounts, as a £100 spend will only get you a quid off your next shop.
However, the best thing about the Superdrug loyalty card (as opposed to the Boots Advantage card) is that you can use your points for part-payments. So you can buy something that costs £4.99, and use 200 points to get £2 off, paying the difference (£2.99) yourself.
• Exclusive lower prices on certain products - these change every few weeks, and you'll be notified by email
• Bonus points (50, 100, 200 or 500) when buying selected products or on special events
• Treat Thursdays - exclusive member discounts on a certain product/category every Thursday
• Free standard delivery on orders over £10 when shopping online.
• Not necessarily a bonus, but you do need to have a Healthy & Beautycard to get their 10% student discount (along with a UNiDAYS or TOTUM/NUS Extra card).
You need to use your card once every 12 months or your account will be closed. Since you have to spend your points in multiples of 100, 190 points will still only get you £1 off your shop (until you spend another £10 to reach 200 points).
How does the Subcard work?
Once you've registered your Subcard (which comes in card or app form), you'll receive 10 points for every £1 spent in store.
If you haven't registered your card, you'll only receive five points for every £1 spent (and you won't be able to redeem your points for freebies).
How much are Subcard points worth?
The more points you rack up, the bigger the freebies.
100 points (£10 spend) will get you a free hot drink, 200 points (£20 spend) will get you a free snack, 500 points (£50 spend) will get you a free six-inch sub, flatbread or salad and 1,000 points (£100 spend) will get you a free footlong sub or flatbread.
You'll earn double points during your 28-day Welcome period after you first register your card - so 20 points for every £1 spent.
You'll also earn double points if you come back and make another purchase within seven days of your previous purchase - so if you buy a Subway every week, you'll essentially be earning double points every time.
Using the Subway app, you and 2-9 friends can form a Subsquad.
When someone in the group makes a purchase, everyone in the group will receive a notification. If you buy a Sub within four hours, you'll get 50 bonus points on top of your normal points. The original purchaser will also receive 50 bonus points (as long as someone else in the Subsquad makes a purchase within four hours of theirs).
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 you're a serious Subway enthusiast!
You'll also lose your points if you don't use your card for a year.
I love the Subcard! In between the Subsquad bonuses and the double points every time you return within seven days, I used to be able to pay for my Subway Monday-Thursday and get it free on Fridays.
Of course, after a while I got a bit sick of Subway, so now I go less often. But it just goes to show how generous the points scheme can be if you know how to play it!
How does the Nando's card work?
With a Nando's Card, you'll earn a 'Chilli' every time you spend £7 or more on your meal.
You need to register your card online or on the app first, and you'll receive a bonus Chilli for doing so.
Each Chilli you earn will be added to your 'Chilli Wheel' - make your way round the Chilli Wheel earning rewards as you go.
You can only collect one Chilli per customer per day, so even if you spend £14, you'll still just get one stamp. Therefore, if you're dining with a fellow Nando's card holder, make sure you pay separately to maximise Chilli earnings!
How much are Nando's Chillies worth?
When you earn a certain amount of Chillies you'll be able to claim a reward - and the more Chillies you have, the better the reward will be.
3 Chillies: Green Reward - 1/4 chicken or Fire-Starter
5 Chillies: Orange Reward - 1/2 chicken or any single wrap, burger or pita
10 Chillies: Red Reward - Whole chicken or single combo meal with regular sides
When you claim a reward your points don't reset - you just keep making your way towards the next reward (until you claim your Red Reward, and the process starts all over again).
Bear in mind that Chillies only last for exactly one year from the day they're acquired, so make sure you spend them in time!
How does Waterstones Rewards work?
Waterstones have combined their previous Waterstones Card and Stamp & Save scheme to launch Waterstones Plus, a new loyalty scheme which works slightly differently.
You'll earn one 'Plus stamp' for every £10 you spend in store or online, and every 10 stamps will add £10 to your Plus balance. Essentially, for every £100 you spend, you'll get £10 off.
With a Waterstones Plus Student card, you'll get an extra 5% off all purchases, as well as collecting the Plus stamps.
Any points you've already earned with the previous Waterstones Card will automatically be transferred across to the new Plus scheme.
You'll get priority for signed and limited edition books, access to prize draws, discounted tickets to events and advance copies of new releases.
You won't earn stamps when buying gift vouchers, book tokens, postage stamps and event tickets.
If your card/account is inactive for 12 months, your stamps will be wiped.
How does Co-op Membership work?
When you buy Co-op branded products and electricals in store, 5% of what you spend will be put in your Co-op Membership account.
You can then spend this in store on whatever you want (not just Co-op products).
Help a worthy cause - With a Membership card, 1% of whatever you spend on Co-op branded products will be donated to local causes in your community (and you can choose your own local cause, so you know exactly who you're helping).
Exclusive offers - As a member, you'll receive offers and discounts on Co-op services like insurance and legal services.
Although you can earn 5% on Co-op services as well as products, this doesn't include Co-op insurance at the moment.
How does the Starbucks Card work?
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. These stars stack up and once you've collected enough you'll earn a reward.
How much are Starbucks Stars worth?
You'll earn one 'star' every time you pay with your card - but that's per transaction, not per beverage. If you're buying more than one drink you could ask to pay for them individually, or pass your card on to whoever you're buying for and get them to complete their transaction separately.
What you get for your stars depends on what 'level' you're on. Once you make your first transaction with your Starbucks Card, you'll become a 'Green Level' member, which means you get a free drink for every 15 stars.
If you make 50 transactions in a 12-month period you'll be upgraded to 'Gold Level'. You'll receive the same as 'Green Level' members, but each time you purchase a drink in store, you'll be able to add some extras to it for free. These include free (select) syrups, free extra shots of espresso, free whipped cream and free Soya, Coconut, Almond or Oat dairy alternative (or a combination of them all).
Sign up for My Starbucks Rewards email updates and you'll get special offers on your favourite items, plus exclusive early access to new products.
You can also use the Starbucks app to pay for your drinks and collect your stars.
Once you become a 'Gold Level' member, you have to continue making 50 transactions a year to keep access to your free benefits. This is just one of many ways in which the Starbucks Card is designed to make you spend more money than you otherwise would.
The fact that you have to top-up the card with money in advance means you're committing to spending a certain amount, and many users report feeling the pressure to buy more drinks just so they can reach that elusive Gold level membership.
Essentially, this card is only worth getting if you tend to use Starbucks a lot anyway.
Costa Coffee Club
How does the Costa Coffee Club work?
Pick up a card or download the app to register, and you'll get 100 bonus points. Then remember to show your card every time you spend in store, and you'll get five points for every £1 you spend.
How much are Costa Coffee points worth?
100 points are worth £1, and you save up your points to get money off your next purchase.
If you compare this to the rival Starbucks card, you have to spend way more in Costa to get a free drink than you would in Starbucks.
With the Costa Coffee Club card, to get a free drink worth £2.65, you would have to buy 27 cups of the same drink beforehand, costing you about £70. By contrast, Starbucks give you a free drink after every 15 transactions, regardless of how much you're spending.
IKEA Family card
How does the IKEA Family card work?
You don't actually earn points with an IKEA Family card, but instead the card gives you automatic discounts and access to other incentives.
What are the benefits?
For a start - free tea or filter coffee if you're in store any time Monday-Friday!
No start to the term is complete without some IKEA meatballs, so 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 an extra 10% off of sale items and free product insurance to cover any damage during delivery or assembly (because we all know how stressful that can get).
In the past they've also ran a 'Swipe a Surprise' scheme where card holders get a barcode and prize number on your receipt when you swipe your Family card at checkout. You can win anything from free food or IKEA products to a family holiday. Keep an eye out in case it comes back.
It's not the best loyalty card on the market, as you can only get discounts on specific items, which tend not to be things you necessarily need or want.
How does the myWaitrose card work?
Again, you don't earn points with a My Waitrose card, just access to freebies, discounts and other offers.
Waitrose isn't exactly the cheapest supermarket out there and the myWaitrose card doesn't offer much in terms of rewards, so this is probably only going to be of use to those who can afford to shop here anyway.
What are the benefits?
• Waitrose will send you relevant vouchers and coupons in the post based on your spending history
• Free tea or coffee when you shop in store - but you'll need to remember to bring your own reusable cup!
• 20% off all beef, lamb and pork steaks from the meat counter on Steak Saturday
• 20% off all fish from the fish counter on Fish Fridays
• A free newspaper if you buy one when spending £10 or more
• Access to Quick Check, the scan-as-you-go shopping technology which speeds up checkout.
Under the previous 'pick your offer' scheme, customers could select ten items out of hundreds to get 20% off each time they shopped. Since this has been scrapped, some have complained that the offers aren't as relevant.
M&S Sparks card
How does the M&S Sparks card work?
You collect points or 'sparks' when you shop in store or online using your Sparks Card.
You earn 10 sparks for every £1 you spend, plus an extra 10 sparks for every transaction.
You can also earn 25 sparks for writing a review online, and 50 points every time you use Shwop (donating unwanted clothes to Oxfam).
How much are Sparks worth?
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, depending on how many additional points you get for each transaction) will get you fast track access to the latest products and trends. Huh? Other benefits include 5,000 Sparks for early access to new sales and 17,000 sparks will 'allow' you to enter competitions for experiences at Spark HQ.
At 0 sparks you can choose one offer to enjoy, at 100 sparks you can choose two offers... There's really nothing particularly exciting about this loyalty card.
Aside from being a pretty unrewarding rewards scheme, your points also expire after a year (but let's be honest, do you really care?).
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!