Many supermarkets extol you to save for up to 4% bonuses in their (not Government-protected) savings-stamps schemes.
Yet they're 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, Wilkinson and more.
How supermarket savings work
Supermarket savings stamp schemes encourage year-long saving for Christmas, yet a loophole allows you to get the year's bonus in one day. Most pay it depending on how much you’ve saved by a specific day or month, so dunk the cash in then, and it’ll add up to 4% on top.
They're booklets or electronic cards. Some 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, usually lottery tickets, petrol or goods from third party concessions (when a retailer has a space in a larger department store). Some also don't allow you to redeem online.
How safe are supermarket savings schemes?
It's important to understand these DO NOT have the same protection as savings in a bank (see the Safe Savings guide). 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 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 cash, depending on how much you’ve saved, by a specific date. Dunk the cash in by 5pm on 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 the money by Sat 15 Nov and the bonus will arrive at 8am on Sun 16 Nov. Don't spend the cash until the bonus arrives.
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 to spend the balance. You don't have to spend all the cash on the card in one go.
Anything to watch out for? Remember, as with other supermarket savings schemes, the cash must be spent at its stores. You can't use the card balance to pay for petrol or lottery tickets.
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.
So any time you're shopping in-store at Tesco in December, buy a stamps card to pay for it, and get £1 off for every £49 you spend.
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 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.
- 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, £49 and £74 levels, plus £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, and you can pick them up in store and add your bonus 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 as you like and it pays bonuses all year round. You don't have to spend all the cash 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.
- Max payout: 4%
- Payout limit: Unlimited (use multiple cards)
- Bonus date: Any time
- Type: Paper/electronic
Iceland's Bonus Card savings scheme runs year-round. For every £25 you save, you get £1 free. Read more...
How to do it. Pick up cards and £1 stamps from its saving machines in stores. You get a £1 bonus at the £29 and £49 levels.
Alternatively, apply for an electronic Bonus Card in-store. The payout's better - for every £25 you load, a £1 bonus arrives in your account within 48 hours.
The downside's it takes up to four week for the electronic card to arrive. When you've got it, ask the cashier to load the cash onto the card when you check-out..
What to watch out for? The electronic card (and the cash on it) will expire if you don't use it for 24 months.
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.
For more help cutting food shopping costs, see the full
Supermarket Shopping guide