Are supermarket loyalty cards worth the bother?
Loyalty cards are on the wane. Tesco has dropped its popular Clubcard Boost promotions; Sainsbury's has halved the number of Nectar points you earn on your grocery shopping; and Morrisons has ditched the 'Match' part of its 'Match and More' card. The experts say that there's every chance that these schemes will be dropped by the supermarkets altogether in future, so should we bother with them at all?
The theory that the days of loyalty cards are numbered are based on the fact that the pressure is on for supermarkets to drop their prices, and as a result they are looking to slash costs wherever possible.
So far, they have made the schemes less generous - so they're cheaper to run - which technically enables them to drop prices. However, if the march of the discounters continues, there could come a time when the traditional supermarkets decide their only option is to ditch the schemes entirely, to help them compete more effectively against the discounters on price.
So are they worth the bother?
What's on offer?
Nectar is a prime example of a scheme that has become decidedly less generous recently. You can pick up points from a variety of retailers (including BP, Homebase, Argos and eBay) - which offer varying numbers of points in return for your spending. At Sainsbury's you only get 1 point for every £1 you spend nowadays. Unfortunately a point is only worth 0.5p, so you need to spend £1,000 in order to get £5 off. You can, however, boost this by spending the cash at various partners - where you get more for your points.
Morrison offers the same level of rewards, and since it axed the 'match' aspect of the card (where it matched prices at other supermarkets including Aldi and Lidl and gave you the difference in points) it has been decidedly less enticing.
Tesco recently announced that the latest Clubcard Boost promotion would be its last (where Clubcard points are doubled when you spend them in certain departments during the promotional period). However, it still offers 1 point for every £1 spent, and each point is worth 1p, which makes it more generous than Sainsbury's and Morrisons. Money off vouchers can also be traded for up to 4 times their value with selected partners.
Waitrose, meanwhile, doesn't offer points, Instead you 'pick your own offers', where you select ten items you always get a discount on. You also get free tea and coffee in store, a free newspaper, a free Waitrose magazine, and you qualify for a number of other discounts.
Is it worth it?
Given that the loyalty schemes are funded by the supermarkets charging marginally higher prices, it means that if you shop at a supermarket with a loyalty card, you are already paying for it. It therefore makes sense to profit from the scheme too.
Editor in Chief, Hannah Maundrell from money.co.uk says: "To get the most out of using loyalty cards, you need to remember to use them every single time you shop and be sure to research your options when it's time to redeem your points. If all you do is use your vouchers as money off your shopping, you could be missing out. Check whether you can up the value of your points by swapping them for tickets or services the supermarket partners with. Some loyalty schemes have apps which allow you to squeeze more rewards from your points so it's worth looking into downloading these too to get the most out of your faithfulness to the store."
There are also more advanced techniques, such as both members of a couple getting a card, and using them in turn. Once you have used the first card exclusively for a few months, the supermarket will see you haven't used the second one for a while - and will send you special offers to tempt you back. You can then switch to the second card to take advantage of the offers, and after a few months you'll start getting offers for the first card instead.
Of course, there's no guarantee that these schemes will endure forever, and there may well come a time when the supermarkets turn their back on loyalty cards. However, that doesn't mean you should be in a hurry to ditch them. While they are still around, it's worth getting as much out of them as you possibly can.