Which is the best UK supermarket loyalty scheme?
We compare loyalty schemes to see how much you need to spend before you reap the rewards.
We all love free stuff, whether it’s money for switching your current account or discount vouchers. Retailers also love the opportunity to keep loyal customers coming back for more. Supermarkets across the UK have taken advantage of this by promising loyalty points, rewards and exclusive deals to customers who sign up for a loyalty scheme.
But are the most popular loyalty points schemes actually good value? We look at how much you would have to spend at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Co-op before you can cash in.
- 92% of UK adults have at least 1 supermarket loyalty card.
- 64% of loyalty card holders sign up to earn points to spend on future shopping at that supermarket.
- However, a spend of almost £12,500 is required at Sainsbury’s to earn enough points to pay for a weekly shop.
- This would take approximately 3 years and 10 months for the average household.
- Customers need to spend £6,998 on average across popular supermarkets to pay for 1 weekly shop with points.
- To buy a 200g jar of coffee with points, you’d need to spend £600 at Tesco and a whopping £1,620 at Sainsbury’s.*
- 44% of loyalty card holders sign up to gain access to discounted prices.
- On average, regular prices are 45% higher than loyalty prices at Sainsbury’s and 36% higher at Tesco.
*Prices are accurate as of June 2023.
What is the most popular supermarket loyalty card?
Our 2023 survey found that 92% of adults in the UK have at least 1 supermarket loyalty card. Most of us clearly think it’s worthwhile to have one and earn rewards where we can!
The most popular scheme by far is the Tesco Clubcard, which two-thirds (67%) of people have, and Sainsbury’s Nectar card comes in second place, with two-fifths (41%) of people being members. Just behind were Asda (31%), Morrisons (24%) and Lidl (23%).
Waitrose was the least popular of the available loyalty cards, with just 1 in 10 respondents signing up to get deals and discounts here.
|Marks & Spencer
Why do people sign up for supermarket loyalty schemes?
We asked people about the driving factors behind their applying for a supermarket loyalty card. The most popular reason, chosen by more than three-fifths of people (64%), was to earn points on their shopping to put towards future spending at that particular supermarket.
The next most popular reason (44%) was to gain access to discounted prices only available to members. This is a newer way of using loyalty points, but a lot of supermarkets now have member-only discounts on their products to encourage more customers to sign up.
|To earn points to put towards future spending at that supermarket
|To gain access to discounted prices only available to members
|To earn points on my shopping that I can use for discounts at restaurants
|To earn points on my shopping that I can use for discounts on travel
|To earn points on my shopping that I can use for hotels or accommodation
|N/A Did not have any driving factor(s) behind my decision to apply
Unfair Clubcard pricing at Tesco
- Tesco was recently reported to the UK’s competition watchdog for not pricing Clubcard deals clearly enough. While products are required to have a unit price – per 100g or per 100ml – Tesco had failed to also provide this for Clubcard deals, making it harder for shoppers to compare items.
How much do you need to spend to buy a weekly shop with loyalty points?
Since so many of us sign up for loyalty cards to get points to spend at that supermarket in the future, we had a look to see how long it would take to earn enough points to get a ‘free’ weekly shop.
At Sainsbury’s, you’d need to spend almost £12,500. For the average household, this would take 200 weeks or approximately 3 years and 10 months!
It doesn’t take quite so long at Tesco, as you need to spend £6,220, which takes 100 weeks or approximately 1 year and 11 months. However, it’s clear that the value of points is low across supermarkets, and it takes a long time to earn back your ‘free’ shop.
Morrison’s has recently rebranded their Morrison’s More card, and if all the items you purchased were eligible for points, you would need to spend £6,220, the same as Tesco. Co-op has an even better ‘value per point’ system, and if all items purchased were eligible for points or cashback, you would need to spend £3,110, far lower than Sainsbury’s.
However, this is not a straightforward comparison because points and cashback at Morrison’s and Co-op can only be earned on certain items. This makes it harder to earn points at these 2 shops compared to Sainsbury’s and Tesco, where you get points on everything you buy. You can read our breakdown of the different loyalty schemes further down the page.
How long does it take to buy popular items with loyalty points?
If we compare the 2 most popular supermarket loyalty cards (Clubcard and Nectar card), how long does it take to buy popular items with points? We took the prices of staple items at both supermarkets (correct in June 2023) and worked out how long it would take to earn enough points to buy them.
To earn enough points to buy Nescafe Gold Blend coffee, you’d need to spend £600 at Tesco and a whopping £1,620 at Sainsbury’s. Meanwhile, to get a cool and refreshing 2L bottle of Diet Coke, you’d need to spend £199 at Tesco and a staggering £480 at Sainsbury’s. Even if you just wanted the points to get a ‘free’ loaf of bread, you’d need to spend £75 at Tesco and £150 at Sainsbury’s.
|Medium loaf white bread (own brand) 800g
|Plain Flour 1.5kg
|Own brand dry fusilli pasta 500g
|Granulated sugar 1kg
|Oranges (5 pack)
|White potatoes 2.5kg (maris piper)
|Cereal (Cornflakes 500g)
|Diet Coke 2L
|Cravendale semi-skimmed milk 2L
|Chicken breast 300g
|Lurpak spreadable 250g
|10 fish fingers
|Uncle Ben's boil in the bag rice 500g
|Heinz Top Down Squeezy Tomato Ketchup Sauce 700G
|Nescafe Gold Blend Coffee 200G
|Smirnoff Red Label Vodka
How do supermarket point systems work?
|How does it work
|Earn/use points in store?
|How many points do you get?
|Value of points or cashback
|Value of a point
|Points, offers and exclusive deals
|1 point for £1 spent
|250 points = £2.50
|Points, offers and exclusive deals
|1 point for £1 spent
|500 points = £2.50
|Points on certain items, personalised rewards and exclusive deals
|Yes (specific items only)
|Depends on item but usually 100 points for £1 spent
|5000 points are worth £5 in store
|Membership account gives return on spend for certain items and exclusive deals
|2p per £1 spent on own brand products
|2p per £1 spent on own brand products
|Earn 'Asda Pounds' for completing certain tasks and get cashback on certain products
|Earn 10% in 'Asda Pounds' on Star products or complete missions
|Access coupons, exclusive discounts and prizes and earn rewards for spending milestones
|Personalised offers, treats and a chance to win your shopping for free
|Credit for saving in your account, exclusive deals and chances to win prizes
|Get cash for saving on card
|£1 for every £20 saved on the card
|Personalised vouchers and member rewards
The value of Clubcard vouchers is decreasing
Our survey found that 21% of people sign up for loyalty cards to get restaurant vouchers, while 18% of people want to use their points for hotels or accommodation. Until now, Clubcard vouchers have been worth triple their value when used with 100+ reward partners, but from 14th June, Clubcard vouchers will only be worth double their value.
An offer you can’t refuse: The price of not having a loyalty card
Our survey found that 44% of supermarket loyalty card holders sign up to gain access to member discounts. So, while the value of points is low, are supermarkets enticing more and more people to sign up so they don’t miss out on these deals?
We tracked the loyalty price and non-loyalty prices of products at Sainsbury’s and Tesco over 2 weeks to see the difference in price and any other patterns.
- At Sainsbury’s, the regular prices were 45% higher on average than the Nectar prices. The biggest saving at Sainsbury’s was on a tub of Philadelphia, which was more than double the price if you didn’t have a Nectar card (£2.20 compared to £1.00 on offer).
- At Tesco, regular prices were 36% higher on average than the Clubcard prices. The biggest saving from the products compared was on Nescafe Azera Instant Coffee, which was £3.50 with a Clubcard but an eye-watering £6.00 without a Clubcard.
There is no doubt that the savings with a loyalty card are substantial, so this is a clever way for supermarkets to get more people to sign up for their schemes.
Interestingly, some product prices changed before and after the deals. A tin of tuna chunks at Sainsbury’s was £5 on a regular price and £3.75 on offer, but the regular price was reduced to £4.50 once that offer stopped, potentially to increase the perceived savings of having a loyalty card at that store.
At Tesco, Fairy dishwasher tablets were on Clubcard offer for £7.00 with a regular price of £9.00, but the regular price increased to £10.00 once people were no longer able to access the deal.
Supermarket prices change for a number of reasons, including inflation and pricing at other stores, but it’s interesting to see how they change in relation to the deals on offer.
Methodology and sources
- Finder commissioned Censuswide in June 2023 to carry out a nationally representative survey of adults aged 18+. A total of 2,000 people were questioned throughout Great Britain, with representative quotas for gender, age and region.
- To calculate the spend required for a free weekly shop, we took the value of a point at the 4 supermarkets regardless of how they are earned, with the caveat that you can’t earn points on everything at Morrison’s and Co-op.
- To calculate the spend required for different items, we took the value of the items from each shop and the value of a point at Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
- ONS figure was used for weekly household shop.
- Finder tracked the loyalty card and non-loyalty card prices of selected products on offer for 2 weeks from 1st June – 15th June 2023.
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