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 and Boots Advantage including the unique LoyaltyChecker tool, which helps 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, 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 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.
Watch for the vicious circle of loyalty
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 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'll 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 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 this example from the Tesco Clubcard credit card website:
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.
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 partners such as E.on.
Clubcard Boost. 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.
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), a Cineworld ticket for £4 in points, or a year's Merlin theme parks pass for £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.
Earn Tesco points with E.on
E.on energy customers 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, switch to the cheapest provider for your postcode and energy use. See the Cheap Gas & Elec guide for info on how to do it.
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 Boost tokens and it becomes a more respectable 0.75% or 1%.
Tesco Bank current account. Earn extra Clubcard points on all debit card spending
Similar to the Tesco credit card, Tesco current account customers can earn clubcard points for spending on their debit card. Customers earn one extra 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 their points to Clubcard Boost tokens to get best value for money.
Join Tesco's clubs. They send special extra points vouchers
If you join one of Tesco's clubs, such as its Baby Club or Christmas Savers, 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. 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.
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 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 18.9% representative APR.
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Tesco Clubcard Boosting Discussion
Nectar points boosting
Use a Nectar card in Sainsbury's, BP, Britsh Gas, Debenhams, 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
When spent in-store at Sainsbury's, each Nectar point is worth 0.5p (so 1,000 points equals £5 off shopping), 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.
Nectar's currently offering a boost of up to 4x for some redemptions.
Until 12 Aug, members can get 4x value at theme parks, including Thorpe Park and Alton Towers (1,000 points means £20 off), 4x value for entry to participating swimming pools, 3x value for days out, including Longleat Safari Park, and 2x value at Pizza Express (1,000 points means £10 off).
Nectar cardholders need to exchange their points for vouchers online or at customer service desks in larger Sainsbury's stores (not Local branches). Vouchers need to be used by 30th Sep. See the Nectar Double Up* page for the full list of venues taking part in the deal.
Surveys. Answer a few questions for points
Nectar periodically runs surveys or questionnaires which let you gain 120 points per survey, 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 25% representative APR interest which dwarfs any points gain.
In non-Nectar stores it gives two points (worth 1p) per pound spent, in some Nectar stores (eg Sainsbury's) you get two points, on top of the two points you get for using your loyalty card, so four points in all. Plus spend £2,000+ in the first three months and you get an additional 20,000 bonus points (worth £100).
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 rewards. 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 and online (except for infant 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 in-store.
Use the Boots kiosk.
Hidden extra discounts and coupons
Many, mainly larger, branches have Extra Offers Kiosks. Stick your card in one before shopping and it offers 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.
Mega Points Weekends. Hold off on big purchases if you can
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, Mega Points 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 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 More Treats 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 an Extra Offers Kiosk within six months or you'll lose them. Points are ready for collection five days after you spend.
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) to see if it's worth it.
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Boots Advantage Card Boosting Discussion
Choose the best value redemption
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 Entertainment website a DVD of Lincoln could be bought with 2,000 Nectar points. On the same site the Call of Duty: Ghosts game for the Xbox 360 console would have cost 9,000 Nectar points.
If customers buy online via Sainsbury’s Entertainment, 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 Entertainment voucher they require (£1, £5, £10, etc). They then click 'Get it now'. The voucher's then ready to use.
Value the points.
Now use the LoyaltyChecker to see what the value of those points is. Here 2,000 points is worth £10 and 9,000 is worth £45.
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, Lincoln was available for £9.99, while the Call of Duty: Ghosts game could be bought for £39.97.
Choose the best value redemption.
Pick the one that's the best use of your points. While Lincoln was £10 in points and about the same in the shops, the Call of Duty game cost £45 in points but could be bought for less in cash. Therefore the DVD was a slightly better use of points.
Value your loyalty 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.
|Tesco Clubcard points||In store 1p|
|Boots Advantage points||1p|
For info on the valuation scheme used, see the LoyaltyChecker