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24 November 2020
It's possible to boost the value of your loyalty points by up to three times without spending a penny. This guide's jammed with tips and tricks for Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Morrisons More and Boots – on how to earn more points, and how to get the max value when you redeem them.
Loyalty's a consumer disease. Retailers use every tactic possible to keep us shopping with them and away from 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).
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.
This story should help...
Jean loves the Boots Advantage card scheme, believing it's very generous as it gives four points, each worth a penny, per pound spent. So she pops in to buy her favourite matte foundation for £6, then shines in the glow of her 24 points.
Eileen loves the same foundation but she's seen it at the local supermarket for £5.50. She 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.
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, in reality the item you buy 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...
It's all very well for us to say "if you've got a loyalty card always use it", but that can lead to a chunky wallet. Thankfully many schemes now let you scan digital a version of your card via their apps (including Boots, Clubcard, Morrisons and Nectar). Don't throw the cards away though, as you sometimes need them to redeem your points.
What's more, if you use Google Pay or Apple Pay, you can add loyalty cards to your virtual 'wallet'.
There are also free apps dedicated to storing your loyalty cards, so you don't need to carry them all with you. Simply scan your loyalty card barcode with your mobile (it takes seconds) – the app logs the barcode, then reproduces it when you show it in store. Alternatively, you can usually enter the card number.
It's worth noting Boots says it doesn't "recommend" these apps and MSE forumites report that Boots cashiers won't accept them. But you can now use the Boots app to scan your Advantage card instead. Let us know how you get on in the Loyalty card app forum thread.
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 with Credit Card Rewards.
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 £8 you spend everywhere outside Tesco, and one point for every £4 you spend in Tesco.
While the marketing hints that using this card in Tesco provides 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 £1 spent. It's this amount you should compare to Credit Card Rewards.
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 can earn them by shopping in store or online at Tesco and when buying fuel at Tesco petrol stations.
Each Clubcard 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.
Tesco also now offers a Faster Vouchers* scheme allowing Clubcard holders to request vouchers for their entire points balance whenever they want. To get them, log in to the Clubcard app or your online account and say you'd like to turn your points into Faster Vouchers. They'll appear in your Clubcard account within 24 hours.
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.
The Tesco Pay+* app is available on Android and iOS. It lets you store your credit or debit card and Clubcard details, then quickly pay for shopping and automatically collect Clubcard points at Tesco by scanning the barcode in the app.
You can use Pay+ to pay at all Tesco stores and petrol stations. There's no minimum spend and you can pay for up to £250 per transaction. It's worth noting Tesco checks your card is genuine by making a £2 request to your account – the money won't actually be taken but in some cases will appear in your transactions and then disappear.
If you'd prefer not to pay using the app (eg, you're paying in cash or with a gift voucher), Tesco also has a Clubcard app*, which you can use to scan your Clubcard at the till. It's available for iPhone and Android.
You can get the biggest boost to your points' value by exchanging vouchers for Clubcard Reward Partner* tokens. They can be spent on train tickets, bicycles, jewellery and more.
Until June 2018, you could swap your Clubcard vouchers for between two and four times the value in rewards, but they're now worth three times the value in almost every case (ie, 500 points gets you £15 in vouchers).
A few partners let you exchange vouchers for something without a strict cash value, eg, Avios points, though the boost's roughly the same. See our updated top 10 picks under the Boost scheme.
Tesco's Clubcard Plus subscription service launched in 2019. It costs £7.99/month and gives perks such as discounted shopping (you can get 10% off two shops up to £200 each, including most items, every month).
See our full analysis of what you get and whether it's worth it for you.
The Tesco Clubcard credit card gives you one extra Clubcard point for every £4 you spend in Tesco (you get one extra point per £8 spent elsewhere). That's on top of the points you'd normally collect.
You could get a better return with a cashback card though – for full help and options, see Credit Card Rewards.
Ordinarily, you should repay IN FULL every month to avoid interest. However Tesco offers up to 18 months 0% on new spending. 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 18 months.
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 via your online account or by texting 'CLUBCARD' to 28578 for free from your mobile.
You'll need to top up online, using a Tesco store or by calling Tesco Mobile's top-up phone line on 4444 to get the points. Note, you won't get points if you top up from a cash machine or shop that isn't Tesco.
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.
From Wednesday 11 November until Tuesday 17 November, you'll be able to exchange your points for double-up vouchers via the Nectar smartphone app (available on Android and iPhone) and spend them in store. You won't be able to exchange your points in store (you could in previous years), though Sainsbury's says you can ask for help in store if you're having trouble.
You can exchange up to 10,000 points in total (that's £100 in double-up vouchers).
If the total of your purchases is more than the value of your voucher, you can pay the remainder in cash or by credit or debit card. Alternatively, you can use any Nectar points you have remaining on your card at the normal rate (1,000 points = £5) to pay the difference. You'll need to have at least 500 points left on your card to do this.
As vouchers are non-refundable, it helps to decide what you want to buy before you get them – MSE Sarah's top tip is to head to a store and put items in your trolley first, then add up what you've got (using your phone as a calculator if you need to). You can then use the Nectar app to exchange your points for vouchers, before you head to the checkout.
Here it gets a little fiddly:
If you change your mind about a double-up item, as long as you have proof of purchase and it's in its original condition, it can be returned or exchanged within 30 days in line with Sainsbury's usual returns policy.
Sainsbury's has recently done a major revamp of the Nectar scheme, and the big change is you can now select weekly personalised bonus point offers via the Nectar website or app (available on iOS and Android). The app also gives you a new 'digital Nectar card' you can scan at the till, though your physical card will continue to work as normal.
If you're already a Nectar cardholder, you don't need to create a new account, but to access the new offers you'll need to use the Nectar website or app (and if you used the previous version of the app, you'll need to make sure it's updated). Don't worry about your stash of Nectar points though – you'll keep any you accrued before the revamp and will be able to see your total balance in the updated Nectar app.
Each Friday, you'll be sent a range of points-boosting offers to choose from, based on your shopping habits (eg, 20 bonus points for buying Sainsbury's haddock fishcakes). You can view the offers on the website or app, and 'save' the ones you want to use before doing your Sainsbury's shop. You then have to use them within a certain period – typically a week or so.
To get the bonus points, scan your Nectar card at the till (your physical card or your new digital card via the Nectar app). Any bonus points you've earned will then automatically be added to your account.
Sainsbury's says its tills will continue to print paper coupons with bonus Nectar point offers, as before.
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 with companies Nectar has partnered with via the Nectar website, you can sometimes get a slight boost.
Previously we've seen partner deals worth 2x or even 3x the value, but when we last checked we could only find one deal that gave a (small) boost in value:
- Sky Store vouchers. You can redeem Nectar points on box sets and films at the Sky Store – for example, 1,050 points (norm £5.25) gets you a £5.99 voucher.
The redemption process varies by retailer. See the Nectar website for more info.
You can earn two points per £1 spent on tickets (standard and first class), booking via the website or app of Avanti West Coast (formerly Virgin Trains) for a west-coast line journey, or LNER (formerly Virgin Trains East Coast) for east coast. To be eligible for the points at least part of your journey must be on one of the lines.
You can also collect points when you buy advance tickets for South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Great Western Railway. See the Nectar website for more.
In 2019, Nectar switched its petrol station partner from BP to Esso. Scan your card or app at the till and you can collect one point per litre of petrol or diesel and two points per £1 spent in the shop – on most items – at most Esso garages. (About 1,000 Esso petrol stations are participating in the promo though those with Tesco Express shops attached aren't.)
You won't earn Nectar points on tobacco-related products, phone cards, baby milk, stamps, utility cards, e-top ups and lottery tickets.
And of course, don't let loyalty points determine where you fuel up, as Esso may not be cheapest. See our Cheap Petrol & Diesel guide for tips on finding the cheapest prices.
If you're an avid Nectar collector, 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 22.2% interest on purchases, which dwarfs any points gain.
You'll earn two Nectar points (worth 1p) per £1 spent on the card (plus your usual Nectar points). And spend £2,000+ in the first three months and you get an additional 20,000 bonus points (worth £100).
The £25 annual fee is waived for the first year (representative APR including fee is 27.3%).
Overall this makes it a decent alternative to the top-paying cashback credit card, provided there's something you want to buy with your Nectar points.
If you don't want to get, or aren't eligible for, the Amex Nectar card above, you could consider the Sainsbury's Nectar Dual* credit card instead. You get:
New customers will get 750 bonus Nectar points worth £3.75 each time they spend £35+ in Sainsbury's in the first two months from receiving their card – up to a maximum of 7,500 points in total. But don't use this as an excuse to spend more than you normally would.
Sainsbury's offers up to 20 months' 0% on new spending. Make sure you fully clear the card by the end of the 20 months or you'll be charged 20.9% APR interest on any remaining balance.
You can add to your stash of points without spending anything at all using the tricks below.
You can earn extra points for completing surveys via Nectar Canvass – up to 120 points a pop. Once you've registered and done the welcome survey, you'll be entered into a competition for a chance to win 10,000 Nectar points. You'll get an email when there's a new survey to complete. Plus, every time you attempt a survey, you'll get an entry in Sainsbury's quarterly £5,000 prize draw.
There are points to be had simply for using the internet. For instance, once you register with the Nectar website, you can collect 100 Nectar points just by downloading its browser extension. You get a further one point for every two internet searches you make, up to a max of 200 points a month.
Make sure you log in to your Nectar account regularly, on the website or the app, to check for new offers. Some require a spend, eg, 100 bonus points on your next shop at Sainsbury's. But occasionally you can find an offer for bonus points without any spend required – you just have to log in and load it to your card.
Oxfam's Tag Your Bag scheme rewards you for donating items to the charity. 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 two points per £1 when the item is sold.
Oxfam may recycle 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.
Shoppers can collect the points at all Morrisons stores, at petrol stations on items other than fuel (you get more for fuel, see below) and at Morrisons.com. Spending at Morrisons' flower shops and garden centres is also included. Morrisons also plans to run promotions to allow you to collect extra points on some products.
Boost your money-off vouchers when you buy fuel at Morrisons petrol stations. For every litre of fuel you buy you'll get five points.
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 until the date printed on them (56 weeks from the date you reached 5,000 points), 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, lottery tickets, prescription medicines, infant formula milk, gift vouchers or cards, mobile phone top-ups, stamps or tobacco.
Sign up to More for our NHS using your NHS email address and you can get 10% off your shopping plus 'special discounts, treats and offers'.
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 – don't forget about them, as your points will be wiped if you don't use the card for two years.
Once you've downloaded the app, link your Advantage Card to it by adding your card number, date of birth and postcode. Then simply select 'Advantage Card' in the app, and it will show a barcode for you to scan in store.
Get 200 'FREE' bonus points...
Newbies to the Boots app can currently get 200 bonus points 'free' (worth £2) when they download it for the first time and make a purchase in store.
Once you've linked your Advantage Card, you'll need to go into 'My Offers' and load the 200 bonus points to your card. You'll get the points next time you spend at Boots – the T&Cs say 'no minimum spend required'.
A few MoneySavers have reported they've been offered a '200 points on £20 spend' offer instead. We've checked with Boots, and it says this is being offered to those who've previously downloaded the app. If you don't think this is right, contact Boots.
... plus loads more offers via the app
The app's also handy for boosting your points stash as you can load personalised offers to your card. In the past we've seen examples such as 100 bonus points when you buy two or more shampoo products, and £1.50 off when you spend £15+ in a single transaction. Though of course, as the offers are personalised, not everyone will receive the same ones.
Boots sometimes has points events on particular days or over a weekend, where if you spend a set amount (usually £50 or £60) 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 (eg, into £50 or £60 spends), as there's usually no limit on how many extra points bonuses you can get. Boots usually advertises these events and emails you about them.
Boots sends out a weekly email to Advantage cardholders 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.
Both the Boots Parenting Club and More Treats for Over 60s club send mail-outs giving special offers on relevant goods, allowing you to get discounts and earn more points. The Boots Parenting Club gives an extra 8 points for every £1 spent on baby products and More Treats for Over 60s offers 8 points per £1 spent in store on Boots-branded items.
For all schemes, the key to maximising value is to choose the best value redemptions.
Imagine a boxset can be bought with 2,000 Nectar points, while a computer game costs 9,000 Nectar points.
Here 2,000 points is worth £10 and 9,000 is worth £45.
Let's say the boxset is available for £9.99, while the computer game can be bought for £39.99.
While the boxset is £10 in points and about the same in the shops, the game can be bought for less in cash. Therefore the boxset is a better use of your points.
If you're not happy about your product or the service you receive, you should first contact the shop in person, by phone, or in writing (either via an online form on its website or a traditional letter). However, if you're still not satisfied, you can escalate your complaint to the relevant ombudsman or trade body – for more info, see our Consumer Rights guide.
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