Loyalty cards - a great way to lessen the Christmas load

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Rachel England

Love it or loathe it, Christmas is sitting resolutely on the horizon, meaning everyone’s wallets are soon going to be a lot lighter. Last year, we spent an average of £414 each on Christmas shopping – about the same as the cost of a holiday to recover from the festive period.

That’s a fairly substantial sum, but with a few savvy shopping tricks and a purse full of plastic (no, not credit cards), Christmas needn’t be quite as steep. We look at the top four loyalty card schemes and see how they can pay off at this time of year, plus hunt out a few tips for stretching points even further.

Tesco Clubcard

Earning points: Earn 1 point for every pound spent in Tesco stores and petrol stations, as well as on Tesco mobile, broadband, E.ON energy bills and with a Tesco credit card.

Spending points: Tesco sends out £1 vouchers for every 100 points accrued, on a quarterly basis. These can be redeemed in-store or spent on rewards at Tesco partners such as Cineworld, Pizza Express or Alton Towers.

Boosting your points: Convert your points into reward deals and they can be worth up to four times the amount. For example, a voucher for £10 to be spent in-store could be worth up to £40 at Longleat Safari Park. Visit www.tesco.com/clubcard/deals for ideas. Alternatively, check out the Tesco Wine Club, where points go further than they do in-store.

The maths: With eight weeks to go until Christmas, spend £50 a week with your Clubcard and earn 400 points. That’s a £4 voucher or up to £16 in reward offers (and easily a pizza in Pizza Express). Alternatively, do the average Christmas spend of £414 with Tesco this year and earn the same for treats in the New Year.

Verdict: Because Tesco issue its rewards and vouchers on a quarterly basis, you’re better off spending money with them this Christmas and benefiting in the New Year, instead of relying on the scheme to make any noticeable dent in your festive fork-out.

Nectar

Earning points: Card holders can earn one or two points for every pound spent at hundreds of stores, including Sainsbury’s, House of Fraser, Amazon.co.uk and Game.

Spending points: Five hundred points equals £2.50. You need multiples of 500 in order to redeem your points, which you can do directly from your card, at any time.

Boosting your points: Each point spent in-store is worth half a penny, but better value can be had by spending points on the Nectar site. Earn double points on every spend when used with a Sainsbury’s credit card, and taking a few minutes here and there to fill in email surveys often nets you a couple hundred additional points. Look out for double points offers, too.

The maths: Eight weeks of a weekly food shop at £50 will give you 400 points. Factor in that £414 average gift spend with a mix of retailers offering double points offers, as well as your Christmas decorations from Homebase and a couple of fill-ups at BP, and you could be looking at £12.50 in points.

Verdict: The Nectar Card offers flexibility and the widest range of retailers to earn points with. It’s not the most generous scheme on the market but if you’re a regular customer at its participating outlets then you’ll quickly rack up points. And you’re sure to see the pay-off if you use it for Christmas shopping.

Boots Advantage Card

Earning points: The UK’s most generous loyalty card, offering 4 points per pound spent. Each point is worth one penny.

Spending points: Points can be redeemed at any time, straight from the card. No multiples required, but they cannot be used for part-payment.

Boosting your points: Boots frequently runs Advantage Card offers and bonus points promotions. Also, always check out the Advantage Card kiosks in store for extra deals, which are tailored to your regular purchases.

The maths: Unless your household goes through a monumental amount of toothpaste or shampoo, you’re unlikely to rack up many points between now and Christmas on regular shopping. However, over the course of the year you could easily earn around 500 points (£5), based on the monthly purchase of toothpaste (£2.10), shampoo (£3.49), shower gel (£1.45), deodorant (£2.99) and handwash (74p) alone, never mind say, razors or cosmetics. However, thanks to a wide gift selection, do your £414 pressie shop at Boots and that’ll be a hefty £16.56 worth of points. Easily enough for a detox kit for the New Year.

Verdict: Probably the most valuable loyalty card for your wallet this Christmas, especially for gift-buying. Use it throughout next year to make a significant dent in Chrimbo 2012, too.

Superdrug Beautycard

Earning points: Earn one point for every pound spent in-store, or five points per pound online.

Spending points: 100 points equals £1 to spend at any time. Part-payment is accepted too.

Boosting your points: Shopping online is the easiest way to give them a boost, and watch out for promotional offers in-store, too. Signing up for email newsletters can also lead to extra points.

The maths: As with the Advantage Card, you’re not likely to pick up many points between now and Christmas – less so here as the Beautycard isn’t particularly generous. For the same purchases, you’ll earn 10 points (the equivalent of 10 pence!).

Verdict: This is a card worth a look, sure (especially if Superdrug is your pharmacy of choice), but don’t rely on the Beautycard for any discernible festive finance relief.