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Loyalty cards: Save or swindle?

1201127_36694024For retailers, loyalty cards are about increasing profits and rewarding the customer with freebies or cash when they sign up. But are we really making as much savings as we could be by committing to these cards? I figure shopping around easily outweighs the savings made by a loyalty card. Yet the cards are designed to stop you from shopping around.

The answer I suppose is to sign up to as many cards as possible and cover all bases. Yet with many card schemes, when the store swipes your card, information on your expenditure, what you purchased, where and how you paid for it is entered into a databank profile of your purchase history, along with the personal information you gave when you signed up for the card. This information is then used to maximise their product positioning or to post offers to you that they feel will be most enticing to you. So you spend even more. Yikes!

In addition, subconsciously you know that the more you spend at the shop, the more points or vouchers you’ll get back. Floating around in your head is the idea that the more you spend the more you save when in reality it’s the more you spend, the more you spend.

Do you find you make savings with loyalty cards or are they just a swindle?


  1. Really interesting piece Rercy. I’m deeply suspicious of loyalty cards: the amount of marketing data that the supermarkets scoop from them is worth loads, yet you only get back one penny for every euro, a miserable return. And like you say, I think they trick you into buying stuff that you don’t really need for ‘points’.

    The only worthwhile ones I’ve ever seen were in a Canadian supermarket, where holding a loyalty card would get you a discount on the price. The normal price and the loyalty card price was displayed on each item. This seemed like a slightly better incentive to let them track everything that you buy!

  2. I was only thinking about this on my way to work after seeing that Brown Thomas are launching a loyalty card. Anyhoo, I have no problem with them. I have a Boots one, which can be used to purchase items immediately as long as you have enough points on your card, and a Dunnes card too.

    They are completely voluntary and the information they have is only the information you give them. Nothing sinister there at all….is there?

  3. Agree with Claire here. A loyalty card can give you some money back on stuff that you would normally buy anyway. I have to buy a few items every week in one or the other supermarkets, these are things I would buy with or without a card, so let’s these bring me savings. I don’t even read the “get 100 extra points when buying XXX” because I don’t want to be pushed to buy things I don’t need.
    My point is: if you stick to your shopping list and don’t get lured into buying more for the sake of a few extra points, these can really be rewarding. I get an average of 10 euros vouchers (not nominative vouchers, but money ones that can be used to pay for your shopping) from each supermarkets every quarter. Plus a few money off vouchers that I only use if these are products I buy anyway

  4. And the Boots one is great: you get point money that can be used at any time. I paid for my baby’s nappies last week, a value of 30 euros, using just the points on my card

  5. Agree with Claire and Nanazolie. I generally tend to shop around between supermarkets anyway, so any loyalty card points are usually earned by buying their offers/specials and by sticking to my shopping list. I’ve never used any of the targeted money-off coupons sent.

    And I like to mess around with their databases by filling the sign-up forms with lies. I lie about everything bar my name and address 🙂

  6. The way I view it, is that I have to do my shopping anyway. And if I can earn a few extra bob by holding a loyalty card, then I have no problem with it. It doesn’t sway me one way or the other.

  7. I think the Boots one is good, can’t be bothered signing up for a supermarket one as they seem to send rewards in the form of vouchers for specific products. No thanks.
    On a similar note, the loyalty card for Bagel Factory used to be get your fifth bagel free, but they changed to get your 10th one free. This made me irrationally angry.

  8. I agree that if you stick to your list and don’t let points sway you, they’re fine. I don’t like the idea that they know all about your spending patterns, but it seems to be a necessary evil. We have Dunnes and Tesco ones, and we’d need to do the shopping SOMEwhere, so may aswell get some points for it if we’re going to do it there anyway.

    Another thing to bear in mind is the Tesco ClubCard deals, where you can generally get 4 times the voucher value, much better than merely using the voucher as cash – as long as you would have bought the product/service ANYway. For example, I’m taking the family to Dublin zoo for 1/4 of the normal cost, using clubcard vouchers.

  9. I dont shop in Tesco, but I would love to be rewarded for using the the self service checkouts.

    Having said all that, I would happily surrender my loyalty card to Dunnes if it meant someone helped to pack my bags when I do The Big Shop alone, or got me a replacement carton of milk if the one Im buying leaks at the checkout.

  10. Sarah, both Superquinn and Dunnes send vouchers which can be used against your shopping – they’re not specific product vouchers. I’ve gotten €15 in vouchers for this quarter so this is €15 off my next shopping bill – not bad.

    Superquinn also allow you to choose to get All4One vouchers if you prefer – I presume these coudl be then used as gifts if you wanted.

  11. This notion that loyalty cards enable the supermarkets to trick you, or make you buy things you don’t want is nonsense. We’re all adults here – if you buy something, it’s because you choose to. If Tesco offer you 25 extra points for buying a luxury yoghurts and you do, and subsequently feel that it wasn’t worth it, that’s your problem and not theirs…. learn from the experience. I’d agree with the approach a few others have mentioned above – use them to earn a few euro off things you would buy anyway, or maybe to try a product that you wouldn’t normally go for but is worth a punt when there’s 50c off (as is effectively the case if you get 50 extra points for it).

  12. I’ve got a selection of them, but only for the shops I normally use anyway. It took me a while to decide to make a SuperQuinn one for example…
    I’ll buy wherever is cheaper, and get the points on top of that. For me it’s a bonus, not a deciding factor.

  13. My Tesco visa card is also my clubcard so as well as getting 50% extra points in Tesco, I also get points no matter where I shop. If paying for house or car insurance or flights and accommodation, it’s great to get extra points.