Join the club: supermarket loyalty cards

By Ali
Category: Financial | Date: Sat 27 Sep, 2008

Why I should have listened to my college mum

Way back in September 2003, when I was 18 and about to go off to university, my “college mum” – a designated second-year at my Cambridge college – gave me a ring. One of the things she said was “Get a Nectar card.” (The nearest supermarket to the college is a branch of Sainsbury’s).

Being a good, dutiful and diligent daughter, I promptly ignored her advice for a year.

I was somewhat gutted the next year when I finally got round to getting myself a Nectar card, and realised that not only could I have earned a good £30 or so back on groceries, I could have collected points on ebay and Amazon (and a whole load of other online stores) too.

If you don’t already have a loyalty card (often known as a clubcard) for the supermarket(s) you shop at, get one on your next visit. Those points you save up now will be useful when you’re skint just before the Christmas break…

What is a clubcard?

A clubcard or loyalty card is not the same thing as a store card (which lets you buy on credit); it’s simply a way for the supermarket to reward you with loyalty points every time you shop. The main supermarket ones are:

  • Nectar card (Sainsbury’s)
  • Tesco’s clubcard
  • Co-Op dividend vouchers

The Nectar card and Tesco’s clubcard are free. To get the Co-Op dividend card, you need join the Co-Operative movement – this only costs £1.

Nectar card

Your Nectar card can be used at a huge number of other retailers; you might know about the high street ones such as Debenhams, but check out the online stores where you can earn Nectar points. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find quite a few of your favourite shops listed there. Go through the Nectar portal and get your points whenever you buy from:

  • Amazon
  • Dell
  • Ebay
  • HMV
  • I Want One Of Those
  • PC World
  • Play.com
  • Zavvi

It won’t cost you anything extra – and you’ll get points which you can spend on food or on loads of entertainment or “useful” options (days out, cinema tickets, books and so on). When it comes to using those points, browse through the different options: you can get anything from computer games to fitness equipment.

Tesco’s clubcard

I must confess something here. I didn’t learn from my lackadaisical Fresher attitude towards the Nectar card, and promptly made the same mistake when I moved to my current residence with a little Tesco’s down the road. I figured I’d be stocking up by cycling to the big Sainsbury’s, so I’d not need to bother with a tiny Tesco’s Express.

Nice theory; in practice, I end up schlepping to Tesco’s for milk/bread/veggies/etc at least once a week. So I’ve finally got a Clubcard, and in a month or two, I’ll let you know what I think of it compared to the Nectar card.

I’ve already gathered that Tesco’s Clubcard deals are a great way to make your points go further – you can get up to four times more value than if you spent those points on pot noodles.

(You can even use your clubcard vouchers for Open University courses; if you’re studying part-time or want to take an extra course during the summer, this could be a great way to save some cash.)

Looking out for promotions and special offers can sometimes net you a lot of points: one man managed to make £15K before Tesco’s realised and cancelled his clubcards. (I fear I lack the organisational skills to pull something like that off, but it’s an impressive story!)

Green points

Both Tesco and Sainsbury offer “green points” at the moment; extra loyalty points earned for every bag you reuse. Nectar periodically sends me money-off vouchers that they think might interest me (according to Paul, who used to work for Sainsbury’s, these are based on what we’ve previously purchased, which seems to be mostly cake and biscuits …)

If you’re concerned about privacy, be aware that the supermarkets use your clubcard to collect details of your buying habits. For instance, when I first shopped online at Sainsbury’s, the site gave me a list of my “Usuals” based on items I’d bought in-store when using my Nectar card.

How do I get my card?

To sign up for a Nectar card, go to the Nectar site.

To sign up for a Tesco Clubcard, you need to pick up a form instore then register online at the Clubcard site.

To get a Co-Op dividend card, you need to become a member – find out more on the Co-Op’s site.

Further reading:

Do you have a supermarket loyalty card? Have you got any good tips for earning extra points on it? What’s the best reward you’ve ever spent your points on?


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