It's possible to boost the value of your loyalty points by up to eight times without spending a penny.
This guide's jammed with detailed tips and tricks for Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Boots Advantage and more, including the unique Loyalty Checker tool to help you assess the value of your points stash.
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 and reward new customers over existing ones.
Their prime weapon is loyalty cards, allowing 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, the distinction is 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 their value is often deliberately misted, so use the Loyalty Checker 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.
Though don't think 'points are better than cash'; after all, you can't spend them in nearly as many places.
Watch for the vicious circle of loyalty
Many in-store promotions now deliberately give discounts as extra points rather than money off. This is very clever, because while £1 of points feels like a one pound 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 spend again, earning more points, requiring you to return yet again to redeem them; earning more points, requiring you to return again...
Loyalty Credit Cards... beware the spin
Most of the big loyalty points 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 there's no 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 this example from the Tesco Clubcard credit card website:
While the marketing intimates using this card in Tesco is a hefty boost, it's not. Its normal loyalty card pays eight points per £4 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.
Boost your loyalty points
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.
Tesco Clubcard Point Boosting
You accumulate Tesco points at a rate of one per pound spent. You earn them in-store at Tesco, or via its partners such as Eon.
Clubcard Rewards. 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 Rewards vouchers, and each £5 voucher becomes worth £15 or £20 to use on a non-Tesco item or service.
Clubcard Rewards include train tickets, days out, magazine subscriptions such as Cosmo, travel including Virgin hols, gifts, hotel rooms and more. Among the options are an £18 RAC membership (see Breakdown Rewards), a Cineworld ticket for £4 in points, or a year's Merlin theme parks pass for £42.50.
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.
Pay Eon bills with Tesco vouchers
It's now possible for Eon customers to pay their bill with Tesco points. Spend Clubcard vouchers in-store and they're usually worth 1p, but swap them for Tesco Rewards and they are worth up to 3p. Each £10 Clubcard voucher gets £15 off your Eon bill, so effectively they're worth 1.5p.
How it works
Simply go online to the Tesco Rewards site and swap your Tesco points for Eon vouchers. Enter these voucher codes in your Eon online account. Redemptions wil be clearly marked on your next bill. It's a trial scheme, which is currently due to end 5 August 2011.
It's NOT worth switching to Eon purely for this, switch to the cheapest provider for your postcode and energy use. See the Cheap Gas & Elec guide for full info on how.
This won't work if you have one of its social tariffs like Warm Assist or if you have a pre-payment meter. But it does work on its cheaper online tariffs.
There's no limit to the amount you can save and it's been confirmed you can also create a credit on your bill if you want to use up lots of vouchers before the deadline.
It's worth noting you may get better value from other Tesco Rewards.
Tesco Credit Card. An additional 1 point per £4 spend
The Tesco Credit Card pays you 1 point per £4 you spend, which if redeemed in store at Tesco is a rather paltry 0.25% return on spending. Trade them in for Clubcard Rewards and it becomes a more respectable 0.75% or 1%.
Join Tesco's Clubs Mailing list. It sends special extra points vouchers
If you join one of Tesco's clubs, such as wine, food, baby or healthy living (see full list) you'll get vouchers in its emails to earn extra points when buying relevant products.
Extra clubcard points. Can lead to Tesco paying you to shop
Look out for any Tesco promotions offering extra clubcard points, as 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 Beef In Gravy & Johnsons baby powder loopholes which originated on this site and ended up in all the papers. They worked like this:
When you bought any two Johnsons products, you got 100 extra points. The cheapest item was baby powder, at 76p; this meant you could therefore spent £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. Though do be slightly careful, 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, and it gave 999 bonus points on top of the usual points. These were worth £42 of Clubcard Deals, meaning the iPod effectively cost £7.
Though do bear in mind that Tesco has since cut the amount of Rewards you can grab in exchange for your vouchers from 4x to 3x.
Ordinarily, you should repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest. However, Tesco offers 15 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 after 15 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 16.9% representative APR.
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Tesco Clubcard Boosting Discussion
Nectar Points Boosting
Use a Nectar card in Sainsbury, BP, Debenhams, Amazon, Expedia and others (see full list) and every £1 spent usually gains 2 points.
Points are worth an average 0.5p and can be redeemed online or by phone for a range of days out, gifts or shopping discounts off member stores.
Pick the right redemptions.
Boost what points are worth
The start point for Nectar is to remember a point when spent in store at Sainsbury is worth 0.5p, yet many of its redemptions work out at better value than this. Therefore when picking you can calculate to see if you're getting a good deal.
Surveys. Answer a few questions for points
Nectar periodically runs surveys or questionnaires which let you gain 50 points or more from spending a couple of minutes filling them in (also see the Survey Sites guide showing you how to make cash doing this).
The Nectar Credit Card. Earn more wherever you spend
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 19.9% representative APR interest which dwarfs any points gain.
In non-Nectar stores it gives 1 point (worth c. 0.5p) per pound spent, in some Nectar stores (e.g. Sainsbury) you get 2 points, on top of the 2 points you get for using your loyalty card (so 4 points in all). Plus spend £500+ in the first three months and you get an additional 5000 points (worth c. £25).
It also gives 5,000 bonus points (worth c.£25) when you spend £500 in the first three months of account opening.
Overall this puts it up as a decent alternative to the top paying Cashback Card, provided there's something you want from the Nectar catalogue.
Beware Nectar Awards. Often you can get more in cash
Nectar is a very wide ranging scheme and tends to offer 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 points' cash value (see the LoyaltyChecker) and compare that with available cash equivalents (use the MobileValuer tool to see if it's worth it).
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Nectar Points Boosting Discussion
Boots Advantage Card Points Boosting
Use the Boots Advantage card in-store/online, except for infant's milk, prescriptions, stamps and gift vouchers and you earn 4 points per pound.
Each point is worth 1p and can be redeemed on most things instore.
Use the Boots ATM.
Hidden extra discounts and coupons
Many, mainly larger, branches have what looks like a cash machine called an 'Extra offers kiosk'. Stick your card in it before shopping and it lists immediately printable discount vouchers, for specific products or general discounts.
This is especially important if you're spending big, as sometimes there's a voucher giving lots of extra points on spending of £30+ or £50+. At one point it randomly allocated a bonus 1,000 points, worth £10 in-store, to 200,000 Advantage card holders.
Find your nearest Boots Extra offers kiosk.
Mega Points Weekends. Hold off on big purchases if you can
Boots sometimes has 'mega weekends', either online or in-store where if you spend £50, 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, Megapoints weekends or similar promotions are included in the free weekly MoneySaving email.
Check the Advantage card magazine. It often contains free points incentives
Always look in the in-store Advantage magazine for points coupons. For example it sometimes gives 500 points (£5 worth) for people who join the prescription collection service.
Join Boots Clubs. Extra or double points on specific items
Both the Boots Parenting Club and Healthclub For Over 60s send mailouts or give special offers for relevant goods, allowing you to get discounts and earn more points. The parenting club also gives 10 points for every £1 spent on baby products.
Don't lose online points. Fail to register in store and you lose them
Spend at Boots.com, and you must 'collect' your Advantage Card points from one of the Boots ATMs (Extra offers kiosks) within six months or you'll lose them. Points are ready for collection five days after you spend.
Beware Boots Awards. Often you can get more in cash
Boots is a very wide ranging scheme and tends to offer 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) to see if it's worth it.
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Boots Advantage Card Boosting Discussion
Points boosting for other schemes
For all schemes, the key to maximising value is to choose the best value redemptions. The LoyaltyChecker tool can help you do this for over 40 different schemes.
Pick the redemptions you're interested in.
E.g. at the time of writing from the Sony Pulse Scheme a Blu-Ray of Casino Royale is 2,000 points and a 2GB Walkman MP3 player is 6,200.
Value the points.
Now use the Loyalty checker to see what the value of those points is. Here 2,000 points is worth £9.20 and 6,600 is worth £29.
Check the cost to buy.
See how much you'd pay for the goods if bought, a quick way is to use the MegaShopBot. In this case, while Casino Royale has a recommended retail price of £24, it's available for £8.93. The Sony Walkman is available for £16.99
Choose the best value redemption.
Pick the one that's the best use of points. Here while the Blu-Ray costs £9.20 in points and about the same in the shops, the Walkman costs £29 in points but can be bought for half that in cash. Therefore the Blu-ray is a much better use of points.
Value your loyalty points
Loyalty points are awarded for credit card spending, shopping and much more, but it's deliberately made difficult to evaluate most schemes to promote a feel good factor not reflected by their true worth.
The LoyaltyChecker tool gives you a quick assessment of your current stash of over 40 schemes, based on points' average not boosted value.
|Tesco Clubcard Points||In store 1p|
|Boots Advantage Points||1p|
For info on the valuation scheme used see the Loyalty Checker