It's possible to boost the value of your loyalty points by up to four times without spending a penny.
This guide's jammed with tips and tricks for Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Boots Advantage and Morrisons' new Match & More card, plus the unique LoyaltyChecker tool which helps you assess the value of your points stash.
In this guide...
When loyalty pays
Loyalty is a consumer disease. Retailers utilise every tactic possible to keep us shopping in their stores without checking out the competition, rewarding new customers over existing ones.
Their prime weapon is loyalty cards. They allow you to collect points in specific shops when you spend - usually requiring you to return there to redeem them. While credit or store card reward schemes work in a similar way, loyalty cards don't allow you to pay with them (except when redeeming points).
When to use loyalty schemes
Never feel the shop's giving you something for nothing, as schemes are incorporated into pricing policies. To evaluate the overall cost, consider loyalty points gained like a discount. The difficulty is that their value is often deliberately misted, so use the LoyaltyChecker to reveal the real value of each point.
This story should help...
Irma Rightone loves the Boots Advantage card scheme, believing it's very generous as it gives four points, each worth a penny, per pound spent. So in she pops to buy her favourite matt foundation for £6, then shines in the glow of her 24 points.
Ivor Secret loves the same foundation, and while his wife's not looking, sneaks out to buy it. He's seen it at the local supermarket for £5.50. He realises Boots points are an effective 4% discount, and calculates its real cost in Boots at £5.76, so buys it in the supermarket instead.
Yet of course it's not practical to weigh up every single product's overall price, therefore the golden rule is...
Never choose where you shop due to loyalty schemes, yet always use it if you shop somewhere with one.
Don't think "points are better than cash" - you can't spend them in nearly as many places.
Many in-store promotions give discounts as extra points rather than money off. This is very clever, because while £1 of points may feel like a £1 discount, of course it only costs the store what it paid its suppliers, not the full retail price.
Add to that the fact it ensures you must return to that store to spend the points. When you do, it's likely you'll spend again, earning more points, requiring you to return yet again to redeem them; earning more points, requiring you to return again...
Most of the big loyalty schemes have a credit card too. Here you don't just accumulate points on spending in a specific chain, but on all spending.
This can be a boon, provided you repay in full each month, so you don't pay any interest. Yet always check the actual gain from using the credit card rather than just a loyalty card, then compare this to what you could earn on the Top Cashback Credit Card or other Credit Card Reward Schemes.
Watch the multi-earn argument
You need to be careful here, as promotional leaflets for many credit card schemes use a neat double-counting trick. Take the Tesco Clubcard Credit Card* for example, which gives you one Clubcard point for every £4 you spend everywhere outside Tesco.
While the marketing hints using this card in Tesco is a hefty boost, its normal loyalty card pays one point per £1 anyway. So the credit card only adds one extra point. Put another way, you gain a quarter of a point per pound spent. It's this amount you should compare to Top Cashback Cards.
Every loyalty scheme has its quirks and can be manipulated. There are two obvious routes: first, try to earn more points for the same spending; next, try to beat the average point's value on whatever you redeem. To help, here are scheme-by-scheme point-maximising tips.
You accumulate Tesco Clubcard points* at a rate of one per pound spent. You earn them in-store at Tesco, or via partners such as E.on.
Each point is worth a penny if used for in-store shopping, and they're sent out in vouchers (if you've at least 150 points on your account) every three months.
It's possible to get back lost or unclaimed Clubcard vouchers if they're less than two years old. Follow the steps in our Reclaim Tesco Vouchers guide to see if you've got any hiding from you.
- Clubcard Boost Partners. Triple or quadruple points value when redeemed elsewhere.
This is the powerhouse of the Tesco points boosting method. Trade in normal vouchers for Tesco's special Clubcard Boost* tokens, and each £10 voucher becomes worth up to £40 in exchange and rewards with Boost partners.
Clubcard Boost includes offers for train tickets, days out, magazine subscriptions such as Cosmopolitan, travel, including Virgin holidays, gifts, hotel rooms and more. Among the options are an £18 RAC membership (see Breakdown Rewards), an adult cinema ticket for £4.50 in points, or a year's Merlin theme parks pass for £50. See our top 10 deals under the Boost scheme for more info.
The list price of goods in the brochure is sometimes higher than the market price, so you may not always get 3x or 4x value. Yet if you're exchanging to buy something you would've bought anyway, it is a great deal.
Christmas Boost. Double-value spending for Christmas.
Tesco runs its double-up Boost at Tesco* promo on and off throughout the year and annually at Christmas time - it means that £5 in Clubcard vouchers can be swapped for £10 of Boost vouchers to spend in certain departments in-store or online.
- Earn Tesco points with E.on. Earn points when paying your energy bill.
Customers of E.on can earn Tesco Clubcard points, if you're on one of its tariffs with rewards. You can choose to receive your E.on rewards either as vouchers for high street retailers or Clubcard points.
Customers can earn up to 1,500 E.on reward points each year which can be exchanged for an equivalent number of Clubcard points. This is only £15 off Tesco shopping but can be worth up to £60 in Clubcard Boost Rewards. Choose to take your E.on rewards as Clubcard points and register your Clubcard with E.on. It's NOT worth switching to E.on purely for this, see Cheap Gas & Elec for how to find the cheapest provider.
Tesco Credit Card. An additional 1 point per £4 spend.
The Tesco Clubcard Credit Card* pays you 1 point per £4 you spend anywhere outside Tesco (5 points per £4 spent at Tesco), which if redeemed in-store at Tesco is a rather paltry 0.25% return on spending. Trade them in for Clubcard Boost tokens and it becomes a more respectable 0.75% or 1%.
Ordinarily, you should repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest. However, Tesco offers 19 months' 0% on new spending - the longest available. This means you could do ALL normal spending on it to rack up the points, stashing away the cash you'd normally spend, then pay it off in full within 19 months. More info in the 0% Cards and Stoozing guides.
Compared with the top cashback card, which pays up to 5% cashback initially (see Top Cashback Cards), this is weak. Following the 0% period, if you don't pay the Tesco card off in full, you'll pay 18.9% representative APR.
Tesco Bank current account. Earn extra Clubcard points on all debit card spending.
Similar to the Tesco credit card, Tesco Bank Current Account customers can earn clubcard points for spending on their debit card. Customers earn one clubcard point for every £4 spent in store or on fuel with Tesco.
Clubcard points can also be earned on purchases away from Tesco stores at the lower rate of 1 point for every £8 spent.
As with the credit card, rather than use reward points to cut the cost of the weekly shop customers should convert points to Clubcard Boost tokens to get best value.
Tesco Bank mortgage. Earn extra Clubcard points on mortgage repayments.
Customers who have a mortgage with Tesco Bank can receive Clubcard points. You collect one point for every £4 of regular payments and overpayments, but not from any charges or fees related to the mortgage. These points should be added to your Clubcard account within six weeks of each payment. Check our Mortgage Best Buy table first to compare though.
Earn points with your mobile. Bonus points for Tesco Mobile customers.
Tesco Mobile* customers can collect one Clubcard point for every £1 spent on pay as you go top-ups and monthly bills. You'll need to register your Clubcard with Tesco Mobile to start receiving points. You can do this through your online account or by calling 282 free from your phone.
You'll need to top-up online, using a Tesco store or by calling Tesco Mobile's top-up phoneline to get the points.
Do you stream online TV and movies? Earn Clubcard points while you watch.
If you're a Blinkbox user then you can also register your Clubcard with your account and receive one point per £1 spent on it, which is a nice extra boost. If you're going to watch more than one or two movies a month though, a streaming subscription may be a better deal - see Watch Movies & TV Online for more.
Join Tesco's clubs. They send special extra points vouchers.
Watch out for in-store promotions. Can even lead to Tesco paying you to shop.
Look out for any Tesco promotions offering extra Clubcard points. These can open up loopholes where it's worth buying the goods even if you don't want them.
The best examples are the famous Johnson's Baby Powder and beef-in-gravy loopholes which originated on this site and ended up in all the papers. They worked like this:
When you bought any two Johnson's products, you got 100 extra points. The cheapest item was baby powder, at 76p. This meant you could spend £1.52 to get 101 points, worth £4.04 of Clubcard deals vouchers, making more than £2.50 PROFIT.
With the similar beef-in-gravy episode, one MoneySaver bought a few hundred pounds' worth, donated it to a homeless shelter and used the points for a return trip for two to New Zealand. Be careful with these loopholes, as Tesco reserves the right to block people for fair usage breaches. All major loopholes will go in the free weekly email.
Even if you can't make a profit, the bonuses can lead to serious discounts. For instance, Tesco once sold iPod Shuffles for £49 - a good price - adding 999 bonus points on top of the usual points. These were worth £42 of Clubcard Deals, so the iPod effectively cost £7.
Share tips or read others' experiences in the Tesco Clubcard Boosting Discussion.
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Nectar points boosting
Use a Nectar card when spending at Sainsbury's, BP, British Gas, Ebay, Expedia, Homebase and others (see full list) to grab points. The amount you get varies - at Sainsbury's right now you'll usually earn one point for every £1 spent. You used to get two points, but this fell from Sat 11 Apr (see the Nectar points cut in half MSE news story).
Points are usually worth 0.5p, though it's possible to boost their value. Redeem them online or by phone for a range of days out, gifts or shopping discounts at member stores.
Fill up at Sainsbury's petrol stations until Sun 10 May and you can earn 10 points per litre instead of the usual one point per litre. There is no limit on how many times you can fill up - for more details see the Cheap Petrol guide.
Nectar double-up at Sainsbury's. Exchange points to boost rewards.
These double-up promotions usually happen each quarter - so if you've got a stash of points it's a good way to boost their value. Points are usually exchanged for vouchers worth twice their usual value - so 2,000 points will get you a £20 voucher instead of the usual £10.We'll update this article as soon as we hear about the next one.
Register your Nectar card with Sainsbury's' My Coupons* site and choose up to five coupons to add to your 'My Coupons Wallet', each of which offers you between 40 and 220 bonus points on products you usually buy - anything from grapes to washing powder. You can also sometimes get double or triple points coupons valid on your whole shop.
You don't need to print anything off (although you can, if you want to remember what to pick up in store) - the points are added to your account when you buy the product either in store or online. If you don't use a coupon, after a few days it'll expire and you can pick another. Remember, this is a way to get extra points on items that you're going to buy anyway - never buy an item just for the extra boost.
MSE Megan does this and has already amassed £50-worth of points:
In four months Iíve collected an extra 9,967 points, worth £49.83. Youíre able to use it alongside other in-store promotions too, so sometimes Iíve managed to bag double triple points. You canít bank on a bonus as the coupons change weekly, but itís really easy and only takes a couple of days for points to be added after the shop. - MSE Megan
Usually when spent in store at Sainsbury's, each Nectar point is worth 0.5p (so 500 points equals £2.50 off shopping). Yet if you redeem points through the Nectar website you can sometimes get 2x or even 3x the value:
- More than 3x value. Annual membership for Gourmet Society usually costs £69.95, but can be bought for 2,000 points (worth £20 under the usual calculation.)
- 2x value. Use points to buy tickets for Merlin Attractions, including Madame Tussauds, Legoland, Alton Towers and Chessington. 500 points will get you get £5 off. Remember you can often get 2-for-1 offers elsewhere though.
- 2x value. Use points to buy tickets for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express - 500 points equals £5 off tickets. Maximum limit of 5,000 points (worth £50) on UK journeys and 10,000 points (worth £100) on overseas journeys.
- 1.5x value. 500 points equals £3.75 off at Pizza Express - you can to exchange for points eVouchers to spend at your nearest restaurant. Choose vouchers for either £3.75, £7.50, £15 or £30.
- 1.5x value. You need a minimum of 500 points to buy tickets on Virgin Trains East Coast website, which normally gets you a £2.50 eVoucher - however until 31 May there's a bonus offer running so 500 points is worth £3.75.
The redemption process varies by retailer - eg, you can just use your card at Madame Tussauds to spend points, while you'll need to get an eVoucher to print and spend in Pizza Express. See the Nectar website for more info.
Online surveys. Answer a few questions for points.
You can earn extra Nectar points for completing surveys - up to 120 points a pop. Register with Nectar Canvass and you'll get an email when there's a new survey to complete.
There are points to be had simply for using the internet. For instance, once you register with the Nectar card website, you can collect 100 Nectar points just by signing up to its newsletter and another 100 points by downloading its toolbar. You get a further 1 point for every 2 internet searches using the toolbar, up to a max of 200 points per month.
Nectar also has a free app for smartphones, tablets and laptops which offers users bonus points offers exclusive to the app.
You can earn two points per £1 spent on advance tickets (standard and first class) booked through the Virgin Trains East Coast website. Your journey must include a Virgin East Coast train though.
The amount of points doesn't depend on how much energy you use. Instead, you get a fixed 200 points for gas and 200 points for electricity each year (at a rate of 50 points per quarter), plus 200 points just for linking your Nectar card to your customer account. If you submit meter readings or have an EnergySmart meter you get a further 480 points per fuel, plus you'll rack up 800 points if you pay by direct debit.
These points are paid out at different times, so you don't have to wait the whole year to get them: you'll receive points monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the fuel you use and how you provide meter readings. Plus you can get additional points if, for example, you take out extra insurance or repair services.
Oxfam's Tag your Bag scheme rewards you for donating items to Oxfam. You'll receive 100 Nectar points just for signing up and registering your card. Then, if you donate any items with your personal tag attached, they'll be tracked and you'll receive 2 points per £1 when the item is sold.
Oxfam may recyle or reuse the item if it doesn't sell. You won't get any points if this happens, but you'll still have done your bit for charity.
If you're an avid Nectar collector, then you can earn more points by using the Nectar American Express* credit card, but always pay it off in full each month or you'll be charged 25% representative APR interest which dwarfs any points gain.
In non-Nectar stores it gives two points (worth 1p) per £1 spent. With some Nectar partners (eg, Sainsbury's) you get one point on top of the two points you get for using your loyalty card, so three points per £1 in all.
Plus spend £2,000+ in the first three months and you get an additional 20,000 bonus points (worth £100).
Overall this makes it a decent alternative to the top paying cashback card, provided there's something you want from the Nectar catalogue.
Share tips or read others' experiences in the Nectar Card Boosting Discussion.
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Morrisons Match & More points boosting
The new Morrisons Match & More* card combines its price match policy with a loyalty scheme. It was launched initally in October last year in 11 main stores and to all stores by the end of 2014.
Automatic price match. Refunded in loyalty points.
Instead of asking you to use paper vouchers or keep track of old till receipts, when you swipe your Match & More card it automatically checks the total cost of your basket against Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, plus Aldi and Lidl (Morrisons is the first of the major supermarkets to price match against discount supermarkets - see the Morrisons to begin price matching Aldi and Lidl MSE news story.)
If your shopping would have been cheaper elsewhere, the difference is automatically added to your account. For every 10p difference, you get 100 Match & More points.
You need to spend a minimum of £15 and at least one product needs to be eligible for comparison for your shopping to be assessed under the price match. (Eligibility depends on whether the product is comparable via the independent firm Morrisons uses. Products only sold at Morrisons won't count but if an item of the same weight and type is sold by one of the others it will be. For full details see Morrisons' T&Cs.)
Bonus Match & More. Get extra points with special offers.
You can also get extra Match & More points when you buy specially marked products in stores or online. But remember, except in exceptional cases, never buy products for the extra points. You're usually better off buying for best value instead.
Spend on fuel. Get extra points when you fill up.
Boost your money-off vouchers when you buy fuel at Morrisons petrol stations. For every litre of fuel you buy you'll get 10 Match & More points.
Get £5 off every time you reach 5,000 points. Vouchers generated automatically.
You automatically get your money-off vouchers at the till in stores or petrol stations once you've accumulated 5,000 points.
Vouchers are valid for 52 weeks, so you can hold on to them but our advice is usually to spend them as soon as possible to avoid losing them down the back of the sofa. They can't be used to buy fuel, medicines, mobile phone top-ups, stamps or tobacco.
Turning points into prizes? Voucher rewards scheme to follow soon.
Although points can currently only be used for money off your supermarket shopping, Morrisons has said it plans to expand the programme to allow them to be turned into leisure vouchers that can be used for travel or eating out. As soon as details of this are announced, we'll update the guide.
Use the Boots Advantage Card* in-store and online (except for infant milk, prescriptions, stamps, gift vouchers and mobile phone top-ups) and you earn four points per pound.
Each point is worth 1p and can be redeemed on most things in-store.
Boots sometimes has Mega Points Weekends, where if you spend £50 either online or in-store, you get 1,000 extra points (worth £10). When one hits it's worth collecting together everything you were planning to buy in Boots to grab the excess.
Or if you're doing a really big shop, split what you're buying into £50 units, as there's usually no limit on how many extra points bonuses you can get. Where possible, we'll include Mega Points weekends or similar promotions in the free weekly email.
Get the Boots App. Get offers tailored to you.
Download the Boots App on your phone and get tailored offers sent directly to you. The app is available for iPhone and Android. It'll allow you to select the best offer available to you while in store so you can get it when you pay at the check-out.
A barcode scanner in the app allows Advantage members to access product information and reviews on the go.
Check the Advantage Card weekly email. It includes deals to maximise your points.
Boots sends out a weekly email to Advantage Card-holders with deals to earn extra points and coupons which can help you maximise existing points. For example, it might offer a bonus 500 points for buying a particular product.
Join Boots' clubs. Extra or double points on specific items.
Both the Boots Parenting Club and More Treats for Over-60s club send mailouts giving special offers on relevant goods, allowing you to get discounts and earn more points. The parenting club also gives an extra 10 points for every £1 spent on baby products.
Make use of My Offers Select offers for extra points or money off.
If you've registered your Advantage Card and created a Boots.com* account, the My Offers page will present you with a range of specialised offers tailored to your shopping habits.
These offers range from discounts on products to bonus points when you buy certain items or spend more than a specific amount. All you have to do is select the offers you're interested in and they'll be "loaded" onto your Advantage Card, ready to be used the next time you shop in a Boots store.
Extra Offer Kiosks Check in stores for extra offers and vouchers.
When shopping in larger Boots retail stores, keep an eye out for the Extra Offers Kiosk (they look like Boots branded cash machines). The kiosk allows you to check how many points are on your card, as well as immediately print off vouchers for bonus points or discounts. Simply insert your Advantage Card and see what's on offer.
Beware Advantage Card rewards. Often you can get more in cash.
Boots' Advantage Card offers a variety of different deals paid in points. For example you can gain points for selling/recycling your old mobile phone with it, yet always evaluate the cash value of the points (see the LoyaltyChecker) to compare that with the cash equivalents that are available (see MobileValuer.com).
Share tips or read others' experiences in the Boots Advantage Card Boosting Discussion.
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For all schemes, the key to maximising value is to choose the best value redemptions. The LoyaltyChecker tool can help you do this for different schemes.
Pick the redemptions you're interested in.
For example, in mid-2013, on the Sainsbury's website, a Blu-Ray of The Imitation Game could be bought with 2,600 Nectar points, while a DVD of the same film would cost 2,000 points.
If customers buy online via Sainsburyís website, they exchange points by getting a Nectar voucher from nectar.com to use for their purchase. They go to nectar.com and select the value of the Sainsbury's voucher they require (£1, £5, £10, etc). They then click 'Get it now'. The voucher's then ready to use.
Now use the LoyaltyChecker to see what the value of those points is. Here 2,600 points is worth £13 and 2,000 is worth £10.
Check the cost to buy.
See how much you'd pay for these items if bought in cash. One way is to use the MegaShopBot. In this case, the DVD of The Imitation Game was available for £9.99, while the Blu-Ray could be bought for £12.75.
Choose the best value redemption.
Pick the one that's the best use of your points. While the DVD was £10 in points and about the same in the shops, the Blu-Ray cost £13 in points but could be bought for less in cash. Therefore the DVD was a slightly better use of points.
Loyalty points are awarded for credit card spending, shopping and much more. But it's deliberately difficult to evaluate most schemes, instead a feelgood factor which doesn't promote their true worth is promoted.
The LoyaltyChecker tool gives you a quick assessment of your current stash of over 40 schemes, based on points' average, not boosted value.
Loyalty points compared
|Tesco Clubcard points||In store 1p|
|Boots Advantage points||1p|
|For info on the valuation scheme used, see the LoyaltyChecker. Morrisons' new loyalty card scheme is not currently covered by the tool.|