Does coffee shop loyalty pay?

GAETAN BALLY/PA

We love our coffee. In fact, we love it so much we spent a whopping £1.9 billion at coffee chains in the 12 months to August 2011, according to figures from insurer LV=.

Most of us who pay for our daily caffeine fix know we could save a packet by making it ourselves, but the convenience and superior taste keeps us forking out around £2.70 a time at our favourite cafes. So just what do we get in return?

Many of us have our preferred coffee shop, perhaps the one nearest the office, train station or bus stop, but have you ever thought what you get in return for your repeat custom? Sure loyalty cards purport to give the customer something back, but we've found there's quite a disparity in the generosity of our popular coffee chains.

The best to the worst for coffee loyalty

1. Wild Bean Café
Sixth drink is free.

Wild Bean Cafe offers a free coffee for the fewest number of purchased drinks. Collect stamps on a card – one for every regular or large hot or iced drinks – five stamps gives you a free large drink.

2. McDonalds
Seventh coffee is free

Peel a sticker off each coffee cup, apply to the loyalty card – six stickers give you a free regular coffee.

3. Caffé Nero
Tenth coffee is free

Collect stamps on a card – one for every hot drink purchased – nine stamps gives one free of any hot drink.

4. Starbucks
No free drink

The Starbucks card doesn't operate by collecting stamps or points, but gives a discount and free extras when you pay using the card.

Customers must register the card online, pre-load it with credit and use it to pay in order receive the discounts, which include 50p off any size fresh filter coffee and free extras include select syrups, extra shots of coffee, soy milk and whipped cream.

5. Costa
No free drink

The Costa Coffee Club card works more like a Boots Advantage or Tesco Club card – collecting points by swiping the card at each purchase, which can then be spent on anything within the café.

New users receive 100 free points (or £1) when registering the card online but then the rewards seem pretty meager. Customers receive 5 points for every £1 spent and 1 point is worth 1p. This means that for a typical coffee at £2.50 a pop – you'll need to buy 20 drinks to collect enough points to buy a 'free' one with the card.
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