How do supermarket loyalty schemes work? Tesco Clubcard, Nectar points, M&S Sparks and My Morrisons explained

The cost of living crisis means we all need to save as much money as we can. Here are the details of each retailer loyalty scheme, and how they compare

The UK is in the midst of its worst cost of living crisis in more than a generation.

With household budgets facing their tightest squeeze in four decades, people up and down the country are looking for ways to save money.

Supermarkets can be a help and a hindrance for consumers on this issue.

While they have the power to lower prices, they are also ultimately designed to generate profits, meaning the consumer doesn’t always get the best deal.

One way in which most retailers get shoppers to keep coming through the door is with loyalty card schemes.

Supermarkets curtailed most promotional activity during the Covid pandemic (image: AFP/Getty Images)

These can offer money back and special offers - although these offers are not always as good for your wallet as shopping around at different chains can be.

Loyalty schemes also allow supermarkets to collect data on their shoppers’ spending habits, meaning they often tailor offers to you.

So, NationalWorld has taken a look at how all the supermarket loyalty schemes work - as well as their positives and negatives.

Tesco Clubcard

The basics: Tesco Clubcard offers points back for money spent in the supermarket, which ultimately generate vouchers, as well as exclusive discounts.

How do Clubcard points work?

You get one point for every £1 you spend at Tesco, or one point for every £2 you spend on petrol at Tesco fuel stations.

Collect 150 points (the equivalent of £1.50) or more and you’ll be sent a money off voucher by Tesco.

Clubcard points can also be put towards offers at other businesses.

For example, you can use them towards a meal at Pizza Express or a TV subscription with Disney+.

Tesco Clubcard vouchers also appear digitally in the supermarket’s app or online (image: Getty Images)

What offers does Tesco Clubcard provide?

Tesco launched Clubcard prices in 2020, meaning Clubcard holders could access special deals on dozens of products.

These can offer big savings on the shelf prices of everything from ice cream to cereals.

However, there has been criticism of Clubcard prices, with Tesco accused of artificially raising the price of some products to make the discount look bigger.

Nectar points at Sainsbury’s

The basics: Nectar at Sainsbury’s gives you points you can spend in store, as well as exclusive discounts

How do Nectar points work?

Similarly to Tesco, you generate Nectar points as you shop.

You get one point for every £1 you spend on most items, or one point for every litre of fuel you put in your tank at a Sainsbury’s petrol station.

The major difference is that you can spend your points at any time through your Nectar card, rather than having to wait for a voucher to be generated.

You can pick up points at ‘partner’ stores, meaning Nectar offers a wider benefit than Clubcard in some respects.

For example, you can get points for spending money with Argos, British Airways and Esso.

Sometimes, the number of points you can collect from these other businesses is more generous - two points for every £1 spent.

Some firms don’t let you collect Nectar points but accept them as payment.

How do My Nectar Prices work?

Launched in September 2021, My Nectar Prices is similar to Clubcard Prices - although the offers are tailored to the individual based on their spending habits at Sainsbury’s.

You will also have to use the SmartShop app (where you scan products using your phone and then bag them without having to go to the checkout) to get the offer.

Sometimes the shelf price of the product may be lower than the My Nectar Price.

While Sainsbury’s say the lowest price will automatically apply, it’s worth checking your receipt to make sure.

My Morrisons

The basics: Launched a year ago, My Morrisons does not reward points, but instead offers instant vouchers. These are more generous for some key workers and students.

How does My Morrisons work?

My Morrisons generates personalised vouchers every time you shop in a Morrisons store.

Morrisons is urgently recalling several of its chicken products (Photo: Shutterstock)

Morrisons had previously offered a points system similar to Tesco and Sainsbury’s, but said it had changed its proposition as a result of customer feedback.

As an entirely digital loyalty scheme, you can select which offers apply to your shop before, during or even after you’ve wheeled your trolley around the store.

All you do then is scan your digital card at the checkout, which will automatically apply your savings.

The old physical cards still also work, if you don’t have a smartphone.

As well as savings, Morrisons also says its scheme offers exclusive events and first looks at upcoming offers.

But ultimately, My Morrisons is much more limited in scope than Clubcard or Nectar.

Lidl Plus

The basics: Offers several new digital coupons every Thursday which can be turned into savings

How does LidlPlus work?

As a discounter, the savings at Lidl are mostly already in front of you as you move around the shop.

However, it does offer additional savings through the Lidl Plus digital loyalty scheme.

Every Thursday, several new offers are generated which offer percentage savings or money off certain products (these can be found on the Lidl website).

These do not need to be selected to be used, with a QR code generated in the Lidl Plus app all you need to scan when you get to the till.

Lidl is undergoing a rapid expansion programme. Picture: Lidl.

If you’ve got the products in question, you’ll receive the discount which you will be able to see on a digital receipt generated in the app.

The loyalty scheme also currently gives you general money off coupons if you spend certain amounts at Lidl in the space of a month.

A £50 spend gets you a free bakery item, £100 gets you £2 off and £200 gets you £10 off until 31 August.

You also get an opportunity to win as much as £20 off your next shop with the Lidl scratchcard if you buy at least one item in store.

And there are also perks at ‘Lidl Plus Partners’, such as money off cinema tickets.

M&S Sparks Card

The basics: a scheme offering personalised offers, charity donations and the chance to win perks

How does M&S Sparks card work?

With either a physical or digital card, you can generate personalised offers on a regular basis when you shop at M&S.

Similarly to the Co-op’s membership scheme, Sparks generates a charity donation from every shop you do at M&S.

Bosses at Marks & Spencer have so far been unable to close any Russian stores. (Credit: Getty Images)

Alongside these features, M&S provides its Sparks customers with perks including small gifts, the chance to get their shopping for free, the opportunity to win gift cards and a birthday offer.

Every week, one customer in every M&S store will get their shopping for free.

If it’s you, you’ll find out at the checkout.

Given M&S’s proposition as a supermarket is geared towards quality products, its loyalty scheme is not the most generous out there.

MyWaitrose

The basics: Recently revamped to provide more of a focus on savings, MyWaitrose provides personalised offers as well as exclusive savings

How does MyWaitrose work?

MyWaitrose is essentially split into two pillars - personalised offers and exclusive savings.

The first of these sees Waitrose tailor offers to each shopper, with the amount of choice you get dependent on how often you shop at the retailer.

Vouchers become available weekly and can be accessed through the MyWaitrose online membership hub where they can then be loaded onto your MyWaitrose card.

Waitrose is set to focus MyWaitrose on providing greater value rather than perks (image: PA)

The supermarket’s exclusive savings offering includes deals like ‘Fish Friday’, as well as offers from its other service counters.

These offers are refreshed every month, with Waitrose saying they aim to promote smaller suppliers and British produce more generally.

You can also get money off extras, like dry cleaning and Waitrose Cookery School classes.

Co-op membership

The basics: a loyalty scheme you have to pay to join which generates personalised offers and gives 2p in every £1 back to you when you shop

How does Co-op membership work?

Unlike the other loyalty schemes on offer at UK supermarkets, you have to pay to join Co-op’s membership.

This is because, as its name suggests, it’s a cooperative.

So joining the membership gives you a share in the Co-op.

It costs £1 to join, and for that fee you get 2p in every £1 back on your shopping - an amount that can soon add up if you regularly shop at Co-op.

Co-op’s membership scheme is more generous in some ways that Tesco CLubcard and Nectar at Sainsbury’s (image: PA)

This rate is effectively more generous than Tesco Clubcard and Nectar at Sainsbury’s, who offer the equivalent of 1p back for every £1 spent - although the Co-op cannot always compete with the shelf-prices on offer at the UK’s two biggest supermarkets.

Another 2p in every £1 you spend goes towards charities in your local area, which you can choose.

Every week, you get to choose two personalised offers from a range of several.

There are also exclusive member discounts, as well as offers and discounts across the wider Co-op group, such as Co-op Funeralcare.

Iceland Bonus Card

The basics: Iceland Bonus Card generates offers everytime you shop at the frozen retailer

How does Iceland Bonus Card work?

Iceland’s Bonus Card almost works like a bank card, with shoppers able to load money onto it - either online or at the till - and then spend it at either Iceland or Food Warehouse stores.

You get £1 back for every £20 you load - equivalent to 5% cashback - making the scheme much more generous than the others in this list.

However, the mechanics of loading money onto a loyalty card might not be as appealing.

Other benefits include exclusive prices.

For example, you can make Iceland’s summer fakeaway offer even bigger using the Bonus Card.

You also get personalised offers and free home delivery if you spend £25 or more.