Ah December. ‘Tis the season to spend a small fortune on food, presents, decorations and booze. In fact, for many Brits it’s as least as much of a financial headache as a magical family day.
But are you overlooking a secret weapon in your budgeting armoury? Loyalty points. According to Halifax, the average Brit has a balance of £115.06 stashed on loyalty cards and 40% of cardholders intend to use theirs to pay for Christmas.
That £115 would be a great help to most people’s festive spending, but some reward points can be worth even more than their face value. Here’s how to get the most from your stored points and potentially get your groceries or presents or tree for free.
This is the most popular loyalty scheme in the country. In fact, among the people surveyed by Halifax, 75% had a Clubcard.
You earn one point for every £1 spent in-store, online, through its catalogue and one point for every £2 spent on fuel. If you hold a Clubcard Credit Card, you also earn an additional point for every £4 you spend with it, no matter where you shop.
The average balance was £72.52, which would be go a long way towards buying most Christmas dinners – last year the average cost of a meal for six was £74, according to the University of Nottingham.
However, your points could be worth much more. Tesco has extended its Clubcard Exchange, allowing you to turn £5 of tokens into £10.
These doubled points can be spent in 12 different departments, including books, frozen food and wine, but you only have until the 5th December to do so (ie go and do it right now).
Alternatively, the exchange has been extended until the 11th December for items from Tesco Direct and Tesco Clothing.
Brits plan to spend an average of £325 per household on presents this year, according to Tesco Bank. So doubling the value of the average Clubcard balance would pay for £145-worth of gifts – that’s almost half.
Points are worth up to four-times as much if you spend them on rewards through the site. Rewards include days and meals out, magazine subscriptions, and gift vouchers.
One of the few reward cards that can be used in more than one shop, the Nectar card has been growing in popularity.
Cardholders can collect points shopping in a range of places, including Sainsbury’s, Homebase, BP and eBay.
Although there are sometimes special offers, as a general rule 500 points equates to £2.50 of spending power. The amount you earn can vary from retailer to retailer, but it is usually two points for each £1 spent. So, spending £250 would earn you £2.50 – which soon mounts up over a year.
The Halifax research shows there’s a balance of £77.38 on the average Nectar card, which could be used on groceries from Sainsbury’s, presents from Amazon, a Christmas tree from Homebase or a load of other rewards.
You can also double the value on certain rewards, such as tickets to Lego Land, Alton Towers and Warwick Castle.
[Related feature: How to get 10 Nectar points for every pound you spend at Sainsbury’s]
Boots Advantage Card
The average balance on a Boots card is lower than in supermarkets, because obviously most people shop there less often. Halifax found it was £21.70 – but that can still be used cleverly to increase your purchasing power.
You collect four points for every £1 you spend in store, and these points are usually worth a penny. So, if you have 699 points, you can get a £6.99 item for free.
And if you’re clever, you can make your points go even further. For example, Boots has rolled out its three for two gifts again this year. That means a £20 balance on your loyalty card could buy three decent £10 presents.
The same goes for Superdrug. Halifax found that the average card had a £11.38 balance and its loyalty points can be used as part-payment for shopping in store.
It’s also offering three-for-two on certain gifts, so it’s worth making full use of your points.
It’s not just big brand cards. Halifax found that many of us have loyalty points collected from other stores and restaurants, or collect points through a linked financial product.
This is an expensive time of year, so it’s worth rooting through your wallet and cashing them in to help ease your spending.
It’s easy to ignore loyalty cards, when the rewards seem to be so small, but they soon add up through the year.
And if you regularly shop in places that offer a rewards scheme, then it makes sense to use it. After all, as the customer you’re subsidising it whether you use it or not.
Save your points up regularly throughout the year, be careful how you spend them, and next year your presents or food or drink could be free.
Do you save loyalty points for a Christmas shop? How much have you saved? Share your experiences with other readers using the comments below.