How to save up to 8% off your supermarket shop every week using employee discount schemes

We don't believe in giving gift cards for Christmas - but there's a trick to get cheap ones via your workplace to use yourself. Millions of employees could be eligible for discounted gift cards at supermarkets and other major retailers, usually at 3%-10% off. Systematically use them for all your shopping and you could save £100s a year.

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What are employee discount schemes?

Thousands of employers have schemes that let employees buy gift cards for supermarkets and other retailers, usually at 3%-10% off. For example, grab £100 worth of Sainsbury’s gift cards and it could only cost you £95.

It’s rare to see discounts on gift cards, because stores are scared people will manipulate them and take advantage – which is what we're about to suggest.

What we’re focussing on here is supermarket savings, because getting discounts on your regular weekly shop in the place where you normally shop is as good as cash. Discounts can be powerful, like Trev's who tweeted us:

Using discounted gift cards for employees, our family of four saved approx £645 over the past year – 68% of which was on food shopping.

When it comes to other employee shopping offers (ie, discount vouchers), we’re quite sceptical, because they’re not always as good as general deals. Sometimes there are gems, especially for local businesses, but always check yourself whether you can get a better deal not elsewhere. See discounts and deals on our Vouchers, Hot Bargains and sales pages.

Employee benefits that are worth checking include pensionsprivate healthcarehealthcare cashback plans. Also see Cycle to Work Schemes, a tax-free benefit that helps spread the cost of buying a bike and cycling safety equipment.

Who can get employee discount schemes?

Millions of employees are eligible for these schemes. In a nutshell, the quickest way is to check on your employer’s benefits site to see if it runs a scheme or ask your HR department. Thousands of employers do this, though it’s less likely if you work for a very small business.

If you're in any of the following categories, you may be able to get discounts that way:

  • NHS and emergency staff. Work in the emergency services (ambulance service, fire service, police, etc) or for the NHS? There are a host of discounts on offer. Our bumper list of NHS and Emergency Worker Discounts includes 10% cashback on fresh food at Asda and £6 off a £45 spend at Iceland.

  • Care, charity, education and healthcare employees. The Ode prepaid card gets you cashback at over 80 retailers, including Asda, Boots, M&S, Sainsbury's and Waitrose. After an initial £5 top up to get the card, you can add extra credit (min £10) online or via its app with the funds available instantly. After the first year, a £2.99 annual fee kicks in, so diarise to cancel if you find you're not earning much cashback from it. See our full Prepaid card guide for more need-to-knows. 

  • Staff discounts for retail employees. Many stores offer staff discounts for employees who work there. To name a few, workers can grab 10% off at Asda, 20% M&S, 12-25% John Lewis / Waitrose, 50% Greggs baked goods, 10% Amazon, 10% Lidl, 10% Sainsbury’s and 15% off Morrisons.
  • Union members. If you’re in a union, check if it’s negotiated perks for members. Eg, National Education Union members can nab 40% off cinema tickets, 30% off glasses at Vision Express, 10% off at Foyles and up to 20% off Dell. Communication Workers Union members can grab discounts at Argos, M&S and John Lewis.

  • Armed Forces. Run by the Ministry of Defence, the Defence Discount Service offers savings for members of the Armed Forces, veterans and Armed Forces community. At the time of writing, deals include 10% off, 10% off Expedia and 10% off Sports Direct. 

Don't worry if you don't fall into one of these categories – millions more can get discounts through schemes their employers are signed up to.

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The major schemes and discounts

Depending on your employer's scheme, you could get 8% off M&S, 5% Sainsbury's, 4.5% Waitrose and more.

While employers weren't keen on telling us officially that they are signed up, we've heard through the grapevine that staff at M&S, Dunelm, Heineken, Accenture, Vodafone, Samsung, Axa, DHL and TFL get access to these schemes.

The scheme your employer is signed up to will vary - but biggies include BenefitHub, EdenredPerkbox and Reward Gateway. Here are the current discounts on gift cards from three of the main companies. (Sadly, we didn’t see any discounts at Aldi or Lidl.)

Employee gift-card discounts - how good are they?

Asda 3% 4%  4%
Apple Up to 10% Up to 10%  4%
ASOS 8% 8%  8%  
H&M 9% 9%  10%
Iceland 3% 4%  8%
M&S 7% 7.75%  7%
Morrisons  4% 5%  5%
Sainsbury's 4% 5%  5%
Tesco  3% 4%  4%
Waitrose/John Lewis 4% 4.5%  4.5%

Updated: December 2023.

Straight discount codes (rather than discounts on gift cards) are more unusual, though it’s always worth checking. Some employers offer discounted rates at local businesses (gyms, cafes etc). If you do find a discount, check on our Discount Vouchers page to see you can beat it.

How they work

To see if if your employer offers these, head over to your benefits site or ask HR. Terms vary by employer, but you can usually choose from e-cards or reloadable gift cards (some physical cards have a £2-ish delivery fee, so factor that in).

E-gift cards usually arrive instantly or within hours, and physical reloadable cards take a few days. You can buy a minimum of £1 for most cards, though for some it’s more. Do check as we’ve seen some with maximums of £500 per shop. Finally, note the expiry date – most are two years. 

How to max this

Gift cards count as cash, so you can usually combine them with sales or codes for effectively a double discount.  

You could also grab extra cashback on top via cashback sites, rather than going direct. With these sites, find the retailer you’re buying from and check if it gives you cashback via its special link – see Top Cashback Sites for a full rundown.

Warning. Only load money you’re planning to spend right away

Normally we're not fans of giving gift cards as presents, as they can easily get lost or forgotten and go unspent, plus there’s a danger of losing out if the retailer on your gift card goes bust. Yet, if you’re going to be spending it on something you wanted anyway, eg, supermarket shopping, then it’s a decent saving.

So only buy what you need, just before you spend it. We’ve even heard of folks buying instant gift cards while queuing for the till or getting the bill at a restaurant, though check your scheme's details for how long they take to arrive.

  • Can you ask your employer to go for a different scheme?

    Most HR departments welcome feedback and suggestions about the benefits they offer. After all, the point of these schemes is to engage employees. So if your employer doesn't offer a scheme, why not send a link to this guide?

  • Can I join up to them individually?

    Sadly, you can't sign up to the big employee-discount schemes independently. Yet apps such as Jam Doughnut let you earn cashback on gift cards and are open to all - see below.

  • What if my employer doesn’t offer a discount scheme?

    If your employer doesn’t offer discounted gift cards, there are apps and sites that pay cashback when you buy gift cards through via them, typically 2-6%. 

    As with the discounted employee discounts above, we would only load money you’re planning to spend right away.

    When we checked, these sites’ cashback payments were typically a smidgen less the employer discounts. Plus you get the bonus as cashback rather than a straight discount, so if your employer does offer discounted cards, they’re probably your best bet. Here are the main ways:

    • JamDoughnut. Download the free JamDoughnut app and you can earn cashback on e-gift cards. Once purchased, the cards are usually available to use instantly in the wallet section. Your cashback is paid in points and you can withdraw it to your bank account once you reach £10 (1,000 points).

    • Topcashback. As well as paying cashback when you shop at a retailer via its links, Topcashback pays you to buy e-gift cards through it. It says you usually receive your chosen gift card immediately via email. Gift card cashback simply goes into normal Topcashback accounts and there's no minimum threshold to withdraw. 

    • HyperJar. Slightly more fiddly than the options, Hyperjar pays cashback when you buy e-gift cards via its app. Any cashback goes into the prepaid-card account. Loading under £10 costs 50p per load (one free load per month). Transfers out of the HyperJar account cost 50p per transfer (four free transfers per month). Once bought, gift cards sit on the HyperJar app under the Cashback tab.

    Cashback on gift cards - how much can you get?

    Asda 3% 3.25% 1.6% 4%
    Apple N/A 3% N/A Up to 10%
    ASOS N/A 5%  6.1% 8%
    H&M N/A N/A N/A 10%
    Iceland 3% 3.25% 3.6% 8%
    M&S 4.5% 5% 4.75% 7.75%
    Morrisons  3% 4% 2.5% 5%
    Sainsbury's 4% 2.5% N/A 5%
    Tesco  N/A 3.75% N/A 4%
    Waitrose/John Lewis 2% 2.5% 2.5% 4.5%

    Updated: December 2023.

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