Alex Neil: Are loyalty cards worth having?

Nectar, Clubcard, Advantage Card, Bonus Card - our purses and wallets are full of plastic cards promising us all sorts of offers and goodies should we spend enough in store and collect the points.
Are clubcards worth having?Are clubcards worth having?
Are clubcards worth having?

These loyalty cards are part and parcel of the whole modern-day shopping experience – 93 per cent of us carry them around.

But are they actually rewarding us for our loyalty? The answer from 1250 of you in our Which? survey was a pretty resounding “no”.

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In fact, overall you rated loyalty schemes poorly, and we discovered it’s questionable whether it’s really worth collecting points on some cards and spending them in-store.

Of course many of these loyalty cards recently haven’t been so loyal to customers.

Two years ago Nectar halved the base points you can earn in Sainsbury’s, and last year Tesco dropped its “Boost” events that gave twice the value of your points.

Waitrose even doubled the spend needed to get a free coffee and paper to £10.

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Which is probably why no loyalty card was rated better than “fair” for its benefits, and only Boots and Tesco were seen as “good” for the value of their points.

In fact, Boots came top overall with a customer score of 49 per cent – though the main gripe was that you can’t use your points to part-pay for an item.

And even once you’ve got the points, it seems if you want to make the most of them you’re better off not spending them in store.

Certainly, more Tesco Clubcard users spend their points at partnered businesses, especially restaurants.

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If you eat at Pizza Express you get four times the face value of your Clubcard vouchers (Nectar gives you just 1.5 times the value).

And, while MyWaitrose card users like the reward of a coffee and a paper they did not like other aspects which made using it “too much like hard work” – a complaint mostly directed at the M&S card scheme.

So perhaps it’s time to forget loyalty and just get savvy about the best offers in store.

Send me your consumer queries at [email protected]ASK ALEX

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We asked consumers to score loyalty cards in seven key areas: simple to join, simple to collect points, easy to use points, decent return on points, how good benefits are and information available on benefits.

Boots came top with 49 per cent, followed by MyWaitrose at 45 per cent, Tesco Clubcard at 40 per cent, Morrisons More at 40 per cent, Sainsbury’s Nectar at 35 per cent, M&S Sparks at 31 per cent and Iceland Bonus at 30 per cent. For all the information visit