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Supermarket loyalty schemes: how do they compare?

Supermarkets are battling to get you to spend your hard-earned cash with them (Getty Images)

Fans of Tesco’s Clubcard loyalty scheme were outraged when the supermarket this week said it was cutting back on its higher value ‘rewards’.

Such was the outpouring of angst that within a couple of days, Tesco had rowed back on its decision and delayed the “simplification” until June.

But, while shoppers now have a few more months to cash in their rewards vouchers at four times the face value, the fact is all of the Clubcard rewards will soon be worth three times, not four.

MORE: Tesco backtracks on Clubcard changes – so here’s how to boost your points

So, how do the various supermarket reward schemes compare?

Is there one you most definitely should sign up to? And are there others to avoid?

Store name Card Points/£ How does it work Perks & benefits Where can you spend them?
Sainsbury’s Nectar 1 pt to £1 spent in-store/online. 500 Nectar points are worth £2.50, which you can spend straight from your card at Sainsbury’s, both in-store or online Sainsbury’s Bank Purchase Credit Card, for example, sees you earn 1,000 Nectar points each time you spend £35 or more at Sainsbury’s in the first two months, up to 10,000 points You can use Nectar points to buy treats such as hotel stays, holidays or days out at Nectar.com The Nectar scheme also includes Homebase, House of Fraser, BP, and Vision Express, among a host of others
Tesco Clubcard 1 pt to £1 spent in-store/online Lots of opportunities to earn points through other Tesco products like Tesco Mobile and Tesco Bank Current Account and Tesco credit cards Clubcard vouchers are worth (until June) two, three or four times their face value. So £10 worth of points is worth £40 at certain eateries Various partners such as Alton Towers, London Zoo, Cafe Rouge, Pizza Express and others accept vouchers as part or all payment
Iceland Bonus card £1 bonus for every £20 you top up on the card Acts like a pre-paid card, standard bonus cash will be added to your card within 48 hours of earning it The maximum balance you can have on the card including bonuses is £1,000 Unlike other supermarkets, it can only be used in Iceland stores  
Co-op Membership only Earn 5% cashback when you buy any Co-op own-brand item or service Any money you earn will be paid into your membership account and can be spent with Co-op businesses, including its insurance services The Co-op says a member spending £20 a week on own-brand goods can earn £52 in rewards for themselves and £10.40 for charities in a year with the scheme Every time you buy selected Co-op products from food stores and other businesses, 1% of what you spend is given to local causes near you
Waitrose myWaitrose No points but freebies and discounts Regular exclusive offers for discounts at in-store cafes, money of dry cleaning etc Allows members to ‘pick their own offers’, choosing up to ten products that you buy regularly to save 20% on Links to cookery schools, regular competitions
Marks & Spencer SPARKS 10 ‘sparks’ every time you shop and for every £1 spent Sparks have no cash value. Members are sent personalised offers through every fortnight, normally an in-store or online discount The more sparks you ‘earn’, the better the offers you’ll see – but it’s a long haul to get to the best of them 17,000 sparks will see you rewarded with a visit to a vineyard, but there’s also exclusive shopping evenings, catwalk shows etc
Morrisons Morrisons More 5 points for every £1 spent in-store or online, fuel or at the Morrisons Cafés Each point is worth 0.1p so you will need 5,000 points to get a £5 voucher Special student-only offers Unlike other schemes from Tesco and Nectar, you can’t exchange points for days out or leisure activities

While many of the well-established supermarkets continue to offer loyalty schemes, newcomers such as Aldi and Lidl have made a point of not bothering.

They say their rock-bottom prices are enough to keep shoppers coming back for me – something that appears to be borne out by the latest sales figures that show the two discounters continuing to make swift in-roads into market share.

MORE: Big 4 supermarkets face rising threat from discounters as Christmas lunch eats into extra spending

Equally, Asda does not operate a loyalty scheme but regular shoppers could make use of its Cashback Credit Card, which allows you to earn unlimited 1% cashback on Asda shopping and Asda fuel and 0.5% elsewhere.

Loyalty cards, the little bits of plastic, may soon disappear but the schemes will survive, say experts (Getty Images)

Some see the end is nigh for rewards cards – but not necessarily loyalty schemes. “Shoppers are no longer monogamous,” Natalie Berg, research director at analysts Planet Retail, told the BBC.

“The idea of being loyal to a particular supermarket is a thing of the past.”

MORE: Busy Britons are ditching the big weekly shop – and the jumbo supermarket trolley is going, too

Shopping habits have also changed. There is evidence people no longer trudge round the aisles doing a “weekly shop”, preferring instead to shop for a couple of days at a time.

Indeed, Waitrose has slashed the number of ‘jumbo’ trolleys it puts out as more and more people use baskets or the shallower trolleys.

However, Martin Lewis, found of consumer website MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “It’s the final stages of loyalty cards, but not of loyalty schemes

“The idea that it’s a piece of plastic, and that you get points back and vouchers, is going to go.”