Many supermarkets urge you to save for up to 4% bonuses in their (not Government-protected) savings-stamps schemes.
Yet the bonuses are often paid solely based on what you've got saved up on a set date - so it's possible to bag a year's interest in a day. This is a rundown of schemes from Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and more.
How supermarket savings stamps work
Supermarket savings stamp schemes encourage year-long saving for Christmas, yet a loophole allows you to get the year's bonus in just one day. Most supermarkets pay out the bonus based on how much you’ve saved by a specific day or month, so dunk the cash in just before and they’ll add up to 4% on top.
The savings themselves come in the form of booklets or electronic cards. Some supermarekts only allow stamps to be redeemed at set points in the year, while others will let you spend at any time.
Don't think of this as a gift
It isn't the supermarkets being generous, it's good business acumen. You save for a year, they earn interest on your money, and eventually give you a little back. And more importantly:
You must spend the cash at that specific retailer, so they effectively lock in your custom
You won't be surprised to hear there are some exclusions on what you can buy with the stamps - you can't usually spend them on lottery tickets, petrol or goods from third party concessions (when a retailer has a space in a larger department store). Some supermarkets also don't allow you to redeem them online.
How safe are supermarket savings schemes?
It's important to understand these DO NOT have the same protection as savings in a bank (supermarket bank savings do though, ie Tesco Bank - see the Safe Savings guide for more). In fact, this is exactly what happened with the Farepak debacle back in 2006. It's the reason we've always cautioned against savings clubs.
If saving for Christmas over the year - a fantastic aim - save in the bank (see Top Savings Accounts and Top Cash ISAs). Then withdraw it and buy savings stamps the day before the bonus date to bag double interest.
As this technique's about keeping a small sum of cash on the cards for just a couple of days, the risk's reduced. The chance of a big supermarket going bust in that time is pretty slim, though nothing's impossible.
Supermarkets tend to pay the bonus on a specific day or month, normally during November or December. The bonus earned only depends on how much is in there, not how long it's been there. Therefore, you can simply...
Buy all the stamps/credit required just before the bonus date, get the full bonus, then use the funds to shop.
The cash must be spent at that specific store, so only do it if you would've spent there anyway. Keep your card safe, as many don't keep a record of your savings, unless it's an online scheme. So lose it, and your money's gone.
Top supermarket savings stamp schemes
No two schemes are alike, and some of the following are more Scrooge than Santa. Ensure you make a careful note of the timings.
Asda's Christmas Savings Card scheme pays the bonus, depending on how much you’ve saved, on Sun 16 Nov. Top-up with credit by Sat 15 Nov and it’ll add up to 4% on top. Read more...
How to do it. Pick up an Asda card in-store and pay into the account at any till. Those with between £49 and £96 get a £1 bonus, those with £97 to £143 gain £3, and those with £144 get £6. There's a limit of £144 per card but you can have more than one card.
Add credit by 5pm on Sat 15 Nov and the bonus will arrive at 8am on Sun 16 Nov. Don't spend on the card until your bonus arrives though.
To check your balance and top up online, register your card. Plus if it's registered, Asda lets you transfer the balance to a new card if you lose it.
There's no limit on how many cards you can get, and you have two years from your last transaction to spend the balance. So, providing you use the card at least once every two years, you won't lose the credit. You don't have to spend all the credit on the card in one go either.
Anything to watch out for? Remember, as with most other supermarket savings schemes, any credit must be spent at its stores - it's not valid online. You can't use the card balance to pay for petrol or lottery tickets but see its terms and conditions for more.
For every £48 you collect, Co-op's saving scheme adds £2 when you spend in December. You can collect as many cards as you like. Read more...
How to do it. Pick up a booklet at any Co-operative Food store and buy the stamps at the till. The card has no expiry date, though you must spend in December (no specific bonus date applies) to bag the bonus. You can get as many cards as you like.
Anything to watch out for? Cards can't be used in Co-op concessions (such as Peacocks or Greggs) or on petrol, anything from the coffee shop or lottery tickets. You can only use the card in-store, not online.
Look after your booklet, as you can't register it online. If it gets lost, you lose the cash but in the event the Co-op gets into trouble, your money is fully protected (it's held separately by an independent trustee).
- Max payout: Up to £6
- Payout limit: Unlimited (buy multiple cards)
- Bonus date: Any time
- Type: Electronic
Pick up an electronic Wilkinson* Saver Card in-store and you get a £1 bonus at the £24 level, an additional £1 at £49 and again when you reach £74, plus an extra £3 at £99. Bonuses are credited overnight, so you can use the total the next day. Read more...
How to get it. Cards are electronic - you can pick them up in store and add your top-up at the till.
Once you've a total of £99 (£96 of your savings, plus three of bonus payments for each savings level), you'll get an additional £3 bonus. So that's a total £102 on your card for a £96 load.
You can get as many cards as you like and Wilkinson pays bonuses all year round. You don't have to spend all the credit in one transaction. You can only get information about the scheme at your local Wilkinson store – there are no details online. See its store locator.
Anything to watch out for? You can't protect your card by registering it and it can't be redeemed online, so be careful. The bonuses can't be used for lottery tickets, gift cards or postage stamps. Your card is valid for 12 months after first activation.
- Max payout: 4%
- Payout limit: Unlimited (use multiple cards)
- Bonus date: Any time
- Type: Paper/electronic
Iceland's electronic Bonus Card savings scheme runs year-round. For every £25 you save, you get £1 free. Read more...
How to do it. You can apply in-store and top-up at the till. The £1 bonus arrives in your account within 48 hours of hitting the £25 savings trigger.
Iceland also has a paper card scheme but the payout isn't as good - you get a £1 bonus at the £29 and £49 levels. Pick up cards and £1 stamps from its saving machines in stores.
What to watch out for? The electronic card (and the cash on it) will expire if you don't use it for 24 months and can take up to four weeks to arrive.
Morrisons Saver Stamps is another old-school paper scheme. Load £49 and you get £1, or £97 and you get £3. To get the bonus, just buy the stamps and spend them any time in November or December. Read more...
How to do it. Pick up the card and stamps from the till at your nearest Morrisons. The card has no expiry date, though you must spend in November or December to bag the bonus. You need to spend the card in one go but you can get change.
Anything to watch out for? There's a maximum of five Saver cards per household, though you can use as many as you like in one transaction.
Tesco runs an old-fashioned savings card scheme where you buy stamps from a dispenser which takes £1 coins. Put £49 of stamps on your card and you'll get an extra £1 when you redeem the card any time in December. Read more...
How to do it. Simply pick up a card from the stamp machine at your nearest Tesco store. There's no limit on the number of cards you can pick up, and you can use as many as you like in one transaction, but you don't have to spend all the credit in one go.
Anything to watch out for? The card has no expiry date, though you must spend in December to bag the bonus. Plus, as it's just a piece of card, if you lose it, the cash has gone for good.
For more help cutting food shopping costs, see the full
Supermarket Shopping guide