Clubcard vs Nectar: the ultimate guide
THE idea of rewarding brand loyal supermarket shoppers with vouchers was introduced by Tesco 20 years ago.
Twelve months after the scheme's launch, Tesco Clubcard holders were reported to be spending 28% more at Tesco and 16% less at rival supermarket, Sainsbury's.
Sainsbury's responded by introducing their own loyalty scheme, Nectar.
While both schemes are undeniably popular, they've long since stopped inspiring the slavish devotion their issuers presumably hope for.
In 2014 data specialists GI Insight found that while 94% of people are signed up to at least one loyalty scheme, more than half never use them.
Meanwhile, according to research carried out by shopping website Quidco in 2013, 12% of people have stopped using loyalty cards all together, and almost a fifth of people had stopped participating in at least one loyalty scheme in the past 12 months.
And Natalie Berg of Planet Retail has predicted that 2015 will see the end of the loyalty card all together, in favour of better prices and all-round convenience.
She says customers are far more promiscuous now, shopping around and buying "little and often".
But for those who are still keen on collecting points, where would they be better off shopping: Sainsbury's or Tesco?
Rewards and earning power
Shoppers using a Tesco Clubcard get one point for every £1 they spend in store, and one point for every £2 spent on Tesco fuel.
For every 150 points earned, Tesco sends Clubcard holders a voucher worth £1.50 to spend on Tesco goods.
Or, more usefully, Clubcard holders can maximise their points by trading the vouchers they earn for Clubcard Boosts. These can increase the spending power at selected outlets by up to four times. So, for example, a £10 voucher can be exchanged for one worth £40.
Clubcard holders who spend £100 a week at Tesco will earn 100 points each shop, or 5,200 points a year. That works out at £52 a year in grocery vouchers or up to £208 worth of Clubcard Boosts.
As of April 11th 2015, shoppers using a Nectar card at a Sainsbury's supermarket will earn one point for every £1 spent - down from two points per £1 previously.
Customers are also awarded one point for every 1 litre of Sainsbury's fuel purchased - but they will no longer receive points for reusing bags.
Nectar points can be redeemed for use in store, or to buy anything from cinema trips to flights.
A weekly shop of £100 in Sainsbury's will earn a Nectar cardholder 100 points a week. This equates to 5,200 points a year, which is £26.00 to spend.
Ways to earn
There are numerous ways to earn both Clubcard points and Nectar points. In both supermarkets, points can be earned by buying goods in store, such as groceries, clothing, electrical items and books.
With supermarkets diversifying, it's also possible to earn points by buying the respective supermarkets' own financial brands, fuel, mobile phones services, bathrooms, and diet plans.
Sainsbury's Nectar card holders can also collect points during visits to Homebase - or, for those who shop online, on a vast number of websites including Debenhams, Wallis, Next, Argos, Ebay, Office and the Apple Store. This goes some way to making up for the higher number of points required to start claiming rewards.
Here are just some examples of ways to earn Clubcard or Nectar points:
|Groceries||1 point per £1 spent
in-store and online
|1 point per £1 spent
in-store and online
|1 point per £1 spent
|1 point per £1 spent
|Fuel||1 point per £2 spent||1 point per 1 litre|
|Mobile||1 point per £1 spent on PAYG or monthly contract Tesco Mobile||1 point per £1 top-up, double points on shopping and fuel per 30-day bundle Mobile by Sainsbury's|
|Energy||1,500 points per year with E.ON||1,000 points per year (+ bonuses) with Sainsbury's Energy
200 points per fuel (+ bonuses for meter readings and payment / service options) with British Gas
We've compared various rewards here to give users an idea of the kind of offers available and how much actual spending is needed to pick them up.
Note that these are examples only: the value of the rewards were correct at the time of writing and are based on in-store spending which, because you can pick up additional points from in-store offers and other sources like credit cards, can only tell us so much.
With that warning in mind, however, here are some quick comparisons.
|Pizza Express||Pizza Express|
For Tesco shoppers, spending £1000 in store will get you a £10 voucher. This can be converted to a £40 voucher for use in Pizza Express.
Spending £1000 in store in Sainsbury's will earn 1000 points and £7.50 to spend. Unlike Tesco, this £7.50 is all you get. Tesco is therefore more than five times better in this instance.
Both schemes offer vouchers for most of the big restaurant chains.
|Who's better?||Clubcard - just!|
Avios, the new version of Airmiles, are available through Tesco Clubcard. The minimum number of points to pay for a zone 1 flight is 9000 Avios, which requires £37.50 in vouchers. This, in turn, requires a £3,750 spend in store.
Avios flights to Europe have a flat rate charge for taxes and fees of £35, making a total of £72.50 for a Clubcard zone 1 flight.
Sainsbury's shoppers spending £3,750 in store will earn themselves 3,750 points.
Points must be spent in blocks of 500. As every 500 points is equivalent to £2.50, the holder above could use 3,500 points to get £17.50 off their Easyjet flight, although a £12 booking fee applies to each booking made - so that's essentially a £5.50 saving.
An Easyjet return flight to an Avios zone 1 destination can cost as little as £60, although most hover around the £80 mark; cheaper flights do occasionally appear.
Although Easyjet appears cheaper, however, that's partly because it's... Easyjet. The £12 booking fee, credit card charges, and luggage limitations can soon eat into any savings.
To go further than Europe, to fly for a guaranteed price, or just for a somewhat less "budget" experience, Avios is the better scheme.
For more on Tesco's scheme see our guide to maximising Avios with Clubcard.
|Good Housekeeping Magazine||Good Housekeeping Magazine|
Readers of Good Housekeeping Magazine can earn a year's subscription at either store.
Tesco shoppers will need £15.50 in Clubcard vouchers, equivalent to spending £1,550 in store. Those patronising Sainsbury's will need 7,500 Nectar points, equivalent to spending £7,500 in store.
|Alton Towers||Alton Towers|
At the time of this update, an on-the-day one day entry adult ticket to Alton Towers costs £50.40.
Tesco shoppers need £13.00 in Clubcard vouchers - or to have spent £1,300 in store - for each ticket.
Sainsbury's shoppers, on the other hand, can pay on the day using their Nectar card. For every 500 points on their card, they get £5 off the cost of a ticket. They would therefore need to spend £5,040 in store for an adult day ticket (which costs £37.80 if booked online, seven days in advance).
Both schemes have longstanding relationships with Merlin Entertainments Group, which owns many attractions including Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park.
Movie House Cinemas (Northern Ireland)
Clubcard holders spending £450 in store can exchange the resulting £4.50 in vouchers for one adult ticket for Odeon and Cineworld cinemas, or £350 can be exchanged for £3.50 in vouchers and a child's ticket.
Readers in Northern Ireland can do similar with their Clubcard vouchers, with £3.50 getting them one adult Movie House ticket, and £2.50 getting them a child's ticket.
Nectar cardholders, meanwhile, can spend their points at Vue cinemas. Here, each 500 points amounts to £2.50 off the ticket price, so customers can expect to have to spend at least £1,500 in store for an off-peak adult ticket, or £1,100 for a child's ticket.
Donations to charity
Tesco Clubcard points can be used to support several charities including RSPB Together for Trees, Diabetes UK, and Woodland Trust.
Tesco will donate £2.50 for 250 Clubcard points (or £250 spent in store) to the RSPB and Diabetes UK.
For the Woodland Trust, £11 in Clubcard vouchers (or £1,100 spent in-store) will fund the planting of three trees.
Nectar support Oxfam, via Oxfam Unwrapped.
For every 500 Nectar points (or £500 spent in-store), Nectar will provide £2.50 in vouchers to spend on Oxfam Unwrapped gifts in store.
The gifts range from safe water for 500 points to 5,400 points to cover the cost of t4raining a teacher.
See our giving to charity with cards guide for more information on the best ways to give.
Nectar points can be collected with Sainsbury's Energy, British Gas, and BT Broadband.
Tesco Clubcard points can be collected and spent through E.ON, or as mentioned above through Tesco Mobile. The sale of Tesco broadband (review) to TalkTalk means it's sadly no longer possible to collect points for being online and making calls at home.
Please see our saving on bills guide for more information on both these schemes.
Banking with Clubcard and Nectar
Supermarkets most recent foray has been into banking. Both Tesco's and Sainsbury's are now big players in the world of savings, loans and credit cards.
The Tesco Clubcard credit card, for example, combines a long 0% purchases offer with the ability to collect points (more detail here).
Using the credit card earns the holder one point for every £4 spent, regardless of where that spending is carried out.
If the card is used in Tesco the holder will earn one Clubcard point for every £4 spent and an additional four points (one for every £1 spent), as the card also doubles up as a loyalty Clubcard.
In contrast, there are two providers offering credit cards that allow holders to collect Nectar points on all purchase spending.
Sainsbury's Bank offer a Nectar credit card that offers two Nectar points for every £1 spent at Sainsbury's (including loyalty points), and one Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere.
American Express also offer a Nectar credit card, which offers four Nectar points for every £1 spent at Nectar partners (including loyalty points), and two Nectar points for every £1 spent elsewhere.
As with other American Express cards, the Nectar credit card also offers a hefty bonus for those spending a significant amount on the card in their first few months - in this case, 20,000 Nectar points for £2,000 of spending within three months of getting the card.
Criticism of the schemes
Finally, it's worth noting that not everyone is so keen to use rewards schemes to save.
The whole point of the Tesco Clubcard scheme was to help the store collect and make sense of data about their shoppers. Both Nectar and Clubcard do this very successfully - which, some say, could be a threat to our privacy.
More prosaically, some complain that the way supermarkets use this mass of information means consumers aren't really saving with these schemes at all.
Supermarkets use the data gleaned from shoppers' buying habits for marketing purposes, ultimately with the aim of generating higher profits. As these profits come at the customer's expense, it's doubtful whether the average customer makes any savings at all.
Loyalty card schemes are factored into the supermarkets' pricing policies, so the cost of any points a customer can earn from buying a product will be reflected in its relative price. This is why Sainsbury's have halved the number of Nectar points available in order to concentrate more on competing on price with the discount supermarkets.
Supermarkets also use the information they hold on customers to try and tempt them with items related to those they've previously bought. So someone who buys cat food shouldn't be surprised to receive "offers" on pet insurance or kitty litter.
"We're getting close to the nirvana of one to one marketing," Sainsbury's head of loyalty, Leigh Rengger, has said, "where we're pretty much guaranteeing that [the offers] you get won't be the same as your neighbour."