Members of Waitrose's loyalty cards programme are no longer able to get a totally free tea or coffee from all of its stores, after the supermarket began trialling a new scheme which requires shoppers in some areas to buy something before qualifying for a free drink.

Introduced in 2014, Waitrose's 'free tea or coffee' offer is a hugely popular part of its 'myWaitrose' loyalty scheme, allowing members to simply swipe their card at the till and help themselves to a drink at the self-service machine on a daily basis – with no need to buy anything or return to the checkout.

But eight Waitrose stores have now begun asking customers to buy at least one item before they enjoy their hot beverage, as part of an "ongoing" trial.

A Waitrose spokesperson told its Mountsorrel and Billericay branches had first begun asking shoppers to purchase something on 19 September, and this was expanded to a further six stores across the east of England on Monday. Fifteen Waitrose petrol stations also introduced a minimum £30 fuel spend to qualify for a free drink on 7 September.

The spokesperson refused to say how long the trial would take or whether it would be rolled out nationally if successful.

Since February 2015, myWaitrose members who want a free hot drink in a Waitrose cafe have been asked to purchase something first. The controversial change – you used to be able to get a totally free hot drink in Waitrose cafes too – similarly had been trialled in a number of stores first.

How does the Waitrose offer now work?

To be eligible for a free hot drink at Waitrose, you'll first need to sign up for a free myWaitrose loyalty card.

What you have to do to claim your drink then depends on where you're shopping:

  • At most Waitrose stores and most petrol stations, you can still get a totally free hot drink. You don't need to buy anything – just show your card and help yourself.
  • In eight stores, you now need to buy something before getting your hot drink. These are Billericay, Bury St Edmunds, Clifton, Leigh-on-Sea, Mountsorrel, Norwich, Southend and Swaffham. There's no minimum spend – you just need to buy one item, though this can't be infant formula, a single-use carrier bag, tobacco, stamps, mobile or e-top up vouchers, a lottery ticket, gift voucher or fuel.
  • In 15 petrol stations, you need to spend £30 on fuel before getting your hot drink. These are Bagshot Road, Battersea, Broxbourne, Burgh Heath, Burnt Common, Ealing, Guildford, Haslemere, Headington, Horley, Ken Gardens, Petts Wood, Roehampton, Sceptre and Tubs Hill.
  • At all Waitrose cafes, you need to buy something before getting your hot drink if you want to sit down. If you don't want to sit down, you can get a free drink to take away without making any purchase.

For more on how the Waitrose scheme works in some stores, watch MSE Jordon's video...