UK supermarket loyalty schemes: which offer the best deals?
Grocery prices are rising at their fastest rate in more than 40 years, with the cost of budget items such as vegetable oil and pasta shooting up by 65% and 60% respectively over the past year, according to official figures this week.
These big increases are adding almost £650 to the average amount that households will pay at the checkout this year.
The scale of these increases means many Britons are having to make changes. While the value of supermarket sales increased by 4.7% in the four weeks to 8 October, the amount bought fell 6%, according to the data firm NielsenIQ – indicating shoppers are spending more but buying less because of inflation.
In these difficult times, supermarket loyalty schemes that offer exclusive discounts or personalised offers can help you get more bang for your buck. The consumer group Which? estimates they can save shoppers between 50p and £10 for each £100 spent.
Most of the big supermarkets (bar Aldi) offer a loyalty scheme, and if you have not signed up or used one for a while, you may find that a lot has changed over the last year or so. For example, Asda announced in August that shoppers nationwide could access its new loyalty programme, while Morrisons announced a new scheme last year, and other supermarkets have been tweaking their offerings.
Apps are increasingly replacing the need to carry a plastic card and mean shoppers can get instant and personalised offers.
In the past, some shoppers may have been sniffy about whether these schemes were worth using but the cost of living crisis has rather changed all that – and some of these programmes do seem to have some fairly decent offers. A Morrisons customer told us they used the retailer’s scheme recently “and it gave me £1 off my next shop, plus 20% off fruit and veg, which was actually useful”, while a Co-op member told us they are typically being offered discounts of about 50p off various items including butter and frozen pizzas.
Richard Green, a shopper insight manager at IGD, says Tesco’s Clubcard and Sainsbury’s Nectar lead the field in terms of scale. “About 79% of shoppers are signed up to Clubcard, and 67% have a Nectar card. These schemes offer a fantastic opportunity for retailers to target shoppers with personalised offers,” he says.
Some argue that the points-based systems give shoppers more flexibility, with Tesco edging slightly ahead of Sainsbury’s because of the wider range of partners that points can be spent with. However, others will prefer the money-off vouchers offered by supermarkets such as Morrisons and Asda as food prices soar.
The basic advice is to sign up for the scheme on offer at the supermarkets you usually shop at.
However, while you may get exclusive price discounts or personalised offers, Reena Sewraz, a money expert at Which?, warns that any savings could easily be cancelled out if the shop’s prices are higher than its competitors in the first place.“This means that while it’s probably worth signing up to the loyalty schemes offered by the shops you regularly use, changing your shopping habits just to earn points won’t be as effective as shopping around or opting for own-brands when it comes to saving money,” she adds.
We took a look at the loyalty schemes the big UK supermarkets are offering to see what value they are giving.
Asda’s new loyalty scheme – the newest on the list – was rolled out to all UK stores and online this summer after undergoing a trial in several regions.
Asda Rewards users earn pounds rather than points when they buy specific “star products”, earning 10% cashback on that item’s value. Buying “superstar products” will different amounts to your “Cashpot”.
Shoppers can earn bonuses for completing in-app “missions”. For example, at the time of writing, spending £12 on fruit and veg before the end of the month will add £1 to your pot.
Therefore, the amount you will save depends on which products you buy.
At the time of writing, star products included a £7 tub of Lurpak Lighter, £4.75 Young’s breaded haddock fillets, and a £25 bottle of Gordon’s Premium Pink gin. Buying these items would add £3.67 to your pot.
Asda Pounds can be spent in-store and online but they will expire six months after they were earned.
“Customers can keep track of their Cashpots as they shop and use the savings to create a voucher giving them money off their next shop. For online customers, the Asda Rewards app will link to their Asda.com account, making it even easier to earn rewards time they shop,” the retailer said.
The app appears to have had some teething problems, however, with some shoppers taking to social media to complain they were unable to spend their Asda pounds in-store.
Others said their balances had been wiped before the expiration date, and some people claimed that their email addresses had been used to set up accounts without their knowledge.
An Asda spokesperson says: “The Asda Rewards app has been very popular since launching in August and we currently have more than 2.5 million active users. If any customer has experienced a problem while using the app, we would ask that they contact us so that we can look into this for them.”
Co-op members can save money on their in-store shopping using personalised offers.
It costs £1 to sign up – the cost of owning one share in the business – but you will receive a £3 discount as soon as you register.
You will then be sent weekly offers that you can save in the Co-op app or online and use in-store.
One customer told us that “users can choose two from a selection of eight to 10 different money-off vouchers via the easy-to-use Co-op smartphone app, which are instantly added to the membership card applying the discount at the till. The offers are typically discounts of about 50p off an item, and include reasonable selections of own- and name-brand products.”
For example, our customer was offered 50p off any Mr Muscle product, Co-op frozen pizza or garlic bread, and 50p off any Co-op butter or spread.
Iceland’s Bonus card works in a different way to the others. Shoppers top it up with money and receive a £1 bonus each time an aggregate of £20 is added to their savings balance.
It also unlocks discounted prices on selected products in-store. For example, at the time of writing, Iceland was offering Bonus card members a bag of frozen chips for £1.75 rather than £2, and Mediterranean fish bakes for £1.87 instead of £3.75.
Members are eligible for free home delivery when they spend £25 in-store or £40 online.
There’s an app, you can sign up online or you can pick up a physical Bonus card in your local store.
The Lidl Plus loyalty app gives customers special offers, which refresh every Thursday. This week the budget supermarket was offering 15% off Nixe tinned salmon and JD Gross dark chocolate bars, 10% off Rivercote oatcakes, crackers and crispbread, and 50p off Dulano bockwurst.
Consumers also unlock rewards or discounts when they have spent a certain amount of money each month: currently it’s a free bakery item when you spend £50 a month, a £2-off coupon if you spend £100 a month, a free W5 cleaning product when you spend £150, and a 10% off coupon when you spend £250. However, that 10% off deal is capped at a £200 shop, so the maximum you could save is £20.
The Lidl scheme underwent a shake-up last month, and some of the rewards have changed as a result, says the website MoneySavingExpert.com.
Lidl Plus customers get a digital scratchcard every time they make a purchase, giving them the chance to win money off their next shop.
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer’s Sparks loyalty scheme allows shoppers to get personalised offers, donate to charity and access sales early.
How it works is that you sign up online and pick up a Sparks card in-store (it is free). You can also access your Sparks account via the M&S app.
You sign into your account when you shop online or scan your card in-store. Each time you shop you collect “sparks”.
Customers get 10 sparks every time they shop, another 10 for each £1 spent, 25 for every review they write, and 50 every time they “shwop” (bring a pre-loved item of clothing into an M&S store so it can be resold, reused or recycled). The more sparks you earn, the more is donated to your chosen charity.
One Sparks customer per store gets their shopping for free every week, and scanning your card at the checkout enters you into a draw to win £2,000 of M&S online gift cards.
Sparks customers are sometimes offered a free treat such as Percy Pig sweets, a box of chocolates or a candle.
M&S says if you collect 3,000 sparks you will get “fast-track access to the latest products and trends”, adding: “At 5,000 sparks, enjoy jumping the queue in the M&S sale.”
Morrisons scrapped its points-based loyalty scheme last year and replaced it with a new digital system.
The scheme, My Morrisons, gives shoppers personalised offers in the app, such as vouchers and money off their next shop.
It also gives consumers the chance to win a “basket bonus” when they scan their barcode, with examples of freebies including a bunch of flowers, a free bakery item or a £5-off code.
Those such as NHS workers, teachers and people with babies can join specific My Morrisons “clubs” to access more savings.
There are three ways you can use My Morrisons: via the app, online or with your card at the till.
Sainsbury’s shoppers can sign up for a Nectar card – which is also available as an app – and earn one point for every £1 they spend in-store or online and for every litre of fuel bought at a Sainsbury’s forecourt.
Nectar points can be spent in blocks of 500 (worth £2.50) when shopping at a Sainsbury’s store.
Nectar users are also given special offers to earn more points on specific items tailored to their buying habits.
There are a number of items that Sainsbury’s shoppers can’t collect Nectar points on, including spirits and tobacco.
The points can also be collected and spent elsewhere – Nectar boasts “300-plus big brand partners”, with others including Argos, eBay and British Airways.
Tesco Clubcard members get one point for every £1 they spend on groceries, or £2 on petrol.
You can collect points in-store and online, with Tesco Mobile (£1 spent = one point), Tesco Bank credit cards (£4 spent = one point) and at Tesco petrol stations or Esso sites with a Tesco Express (for the latter it is £3 spent = one point).
Shoppers get vouchers worth £1.50 for every 150 points, meaning you have to spend £150 on groceries to get a £1.50 voucher. These are sent out every three months, or customers can request them.
Alternatively, you can trade in the vouchers and spend your points with one of the supermarket’s partners including Pizza Express, the Picturehouse cinema chain and Alton Towers, and get up to three times the value.
The supermarket has expanded the scheme since its launch in 1995. Crucially, as well as collecting points, shoppers can now unlock lower “Clubcard prices” when shopping in-store and online.
For example, at the time of writing, a 24-pack of Diet Coke was £10 for shoppers without a Clubcard or £7.50 for those with one, and 12 Richmond sausages were £2 with a Clubcard or £3.20 without, while it was £2 for a spinach and ricotta pizza rather than £3.50.
Some would argue that it is now almost not worth shopping at Tesco without a Clubcard.
The other thing to note is that Tesco has just increased its meal deal prices. Until a few months ago everyone paid £3 but as of this week it is £3.40 with a Clubcard and £3.90 without.
The grocer also offers a Clubcard Plus subscription service for £7.99 a month, giving shoppers 10% off two shops in-store every month and 10% off the F&F clothing range all year round.
Its scheme is called myWaitrose, and members get personalised vouchers every week, plus access to benefits including 10% off Waitrose cookery school courses.
The retailer says: “With myWaitrose membership, you save on the products you buy most often.”
The scheme is available digitally or you can opt for a physical card.
It is worth knowing that Waitrose is bringing back its free hot drinks for members from 7 November. It scrapped the popular promotion during the coronavirus pandemic. Shoppers will have to make a purchase and bring their own cup to get the freebie, after the deal previously became popular with non-spending visitors.