The Nectar loyalty scheme is famously less generous than some of its competitors (ever since the reward for shopping at Sainsbury's was halved two years ago). However, we shouldn't give up on it, just because you only get back 0.5p for every £1 you spend, because there are seven ways to earn more points - and make the scheme far more rewarding.
See also: How to get cinema tickets on the cheap
See also: Are supermarket loyalty cards worth the bother?
1. Collect them when you shop at partners
There are loads of other shops that allow you to collect Nectar points, from BP to Next, EasyJet and ASOS. Each operates slightly different rules for ensuring you get the points, so it's worth checking the website. eBay, for example, allows you to link your accounts. Expedia, meanwhile, requires you to click through from the Nectar site, and then include your Nectar card number when you book, while BP lets you just scan your card when you shop.
2. Check the site for deals
There are special offers running regularly, offering double points, triple points, or quadruple points on a huge variety of things. There are deals offering special bonus points, including 1,000 bonus points when you book Virgin Trains tickets (expires 25th January). These expire regularly, so you'll need to check what's live on a regular basis.
3. Load up your card before you shop
One regular deal is for bonus points on your next few shops at Sainsbury's. However, in order for the deal to work on your card, you'll need to visit the nectar site and load up your card before you go in store.
4. Check whether there are bonus points on the things you regularly buy
There's a fine line between timing your purchases to take advantage of deals, and being forced into buying things you wouldn't otherwise have bought. However, there are some opportunities. So for example, there's a deal running until 14 February offering 100 bonus points when you buy Quorn chilled food (worth 50p). If you would have bought items from the range over the next few months, and you favour those items that can be frozen until you are ready to eat them, you could earn a reasonable stack of points.
5. Consider waiting for double-up
You can spend the points in store, but if you plan to do this, it's worth waiting for the 6- monthly double-up events, which offer twice the value of vouchers in specific departments. The deal hunters expect the next event to be around May - but this isn't guaranteed to happen.
6. Investigate where else to spend your points
In store you will normally get £2.50 to spend for every 500 points. However, you can get more for your points at partners, including a number of theme parks where you get £5 for 500, and Pizza Express where you get £3.75 for 500.
7. Get a Sainsbury's credit card
This, of course, comes with a number of provisos: if this is going to pay off, you always have to be able to pay in full and on time, otherwise you'll be out of pocket very quickly. If there's any risk you won't have the discipline to do this, then don't take the chance - don't get the card. There are a few different cards, but all will offer 5,000 bonus Nectar points when you use the card to spend £250 on Sainsbury's shopping and fuel in your first month. Those points are worth £25. After that, you get double the usual number of points when you shop in Sainsbury's.