Why you should sign up to every loyalty card going.

Despite the title, this is not an essay on polygamy! Instead today we’re talking one of The Financial Wilderness’s favourite things – loyalty cards.

The relationship between loyalty cards and your friendly host is the subject of several jokes between him and his friends. If any of you remember 90’s sitcom Seinfield, George Costanza carries around an ever expanding mega wallet, convinced he’ll one day need the receipts inside (until it finally explodes and scatters said receipts in the street.) You should have similar concerns for TFW’s wallet, which seems to contain every loyalty card going……

In all seriousness, our first tip today is actually on making that easier to do. The Stocard app allows you to scan in and tag any loyalty cards on your phone rather than physically carrying them. It simply duplicates the barcode that would be on the physical card so the cashier can scan it off your phone – easy!

There are two core types of loyalty card. Your pure classic coffee shop card is a literal loyalty card, you keep coming back you fill it with stamps and you get something in exchange (probably a coffee) to keep you coming back.

Big store loyalty cards (for example, Nectar) are more transactional – usually they’re offering you perks in exchange for data about how you shop. TFW sees this as a fair trade – whilst most of us give out data very easily, he is content that Waitrose knowing he eats too much pizza isn’t likely to worry him. They might even send him more pizza…..

The simple fact is though that you give up very little (even with those schemes that don’t offer much – I’m looking at you, M&S Sparks) by always using a loyalty card…. but you can gain quite a lot.

As a result treat this like a long term benefit – most points don’t generally expire particularly quickly so you benefit over a long period of time. Sometimes these can really add up without you noticing. TFW was pleasantly surprised to find enough points for £40 off a recent hotel booking in a rarely used Nectar account.

Here are a few of my favorite schemes:

Hotels.Com: Rather generous. If you book 10 nights of hotel rooms in total, you’ll get a night free to the value of the average cost of your 10 paid for nights. If for simplicity we assume you stay in the same place for your 10 paid nights, that’s effectively 10% off which is nice when travel can be expensive.

Krispy Kreme: Totally worth joining as they will provide you with a free donut on your birthday, and send rather frequent offers on boxes – excellent if you’re buying the office treats!

Nando’s: I mean who doesn’t love a Nando’s? (Ok, the answer might be chickens…..) The Nando’s scheme is great as with each qualifying spend you get a “chili” which adds up to increasingly generous rewards, and you don’t need to visit that much to get the benefits. Slightly ridiculous but if you’re buying for a group, if you put in each order separately you’ll get a chili for each, whereas even if making a very large single order you’ll just get one chili.

Tesco: The actual value of the points is reasonably minimal, but Tesco offer occasional “Clubcard boosts” which multiply the value of spending on your points on other things (such as days out or Now TV). It’s often worth saving your hard-earned points for these promotions rather than working on a pay-as-you-go basis.

MyWaitrose: MyWaitrose is a little bit of an oddity in that whilst they may occasionally send you vouchers based on what you’re buying, you don’t earn “points”. However there are a couple of standard benefits that are worth having:

  • A free instore coffee when making a purchase (you must bring your own cup, and your free coffee must be rung through the till.)
  • A free newspaper when spending £10 or more.
  • And occasional “Fish Friday” and “Steak Saturday” promotions where they take 20% off anything purchased from the butcher/fishmonger counter on those days.

Boots: The Boots card actually offers pretty good payback rates, and with double points promotion if getting anything from here on a semi regular basis is well worth having in your wallet! For big purchases wait for their triple points events if you can – buying with these can equate to 12p off every £.

Nectar: The Nectar card itself isn’t actually that generous, however the advantage is that there’s quite a few ways you can collect points, meaning they can add up fast regardless. It’s worth looking at their website on cashing out as there’s quite a few ways you can boost the value of your reward (if you like theme parks for example, getting your tickets with Nectar points is usually pretty beneficial).

Do you have a favourite scheme I’ve missed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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