Money Mensch: Score top points from your club cards
Those of you with Tesco loyalty points cards need to get your skates on. The supermarket is offering some useful promotions.
But whether it's Tesco, Airmiles, Boots or Nectar, it's not just how many points you collect, it's how you redeem them too.
Tesco points boosting
If you are a Tesco Clubcard loyalty points holders, now is the time to make a decision. Until September 5, Tesco is allowing you to trade in points for twice their value in-store as part of its Big Clubcard Voucher Exchange promotion.
Don't instantly rush to do this though, as one of its long standing schemes may be better for you. Tesco Clubcard points are worth a penny each in-store. Every three months you are sent a batch of vouchers to redeem, depending on how much you have earned in the prior period. As for what to do with them, here is my Tesco points hierarchy. Do the first on the list that appeals to maximise the value.
4x value: Tesco Rewards
The value of every voucher is quadrupled if you use it on things in Tesco's Clubcard Rewards brochure, which is available in-store or online. This includes days out, RAC membership, travel and more. Yet this is based on list prices, so if you are considering exchanging £20 for a gizmo with an £80 RRP, first check if it is available elsewhere for less, just in case its real value means you are better off using the double-up scheme below.
2x value: Big Voucher Exchange
For five weeks, you can swap each £5 voucher for £10 in store to spend on the following: toys, clothes, garden, homeware, pet food, baby & toddler, phones and glasses (though there are a few exclusions so check first). These vouchers must be spent by September 5.
1x value: In-store spending
Only if neither of the above suit, the basic option is using the vouchers at face value on groceries and other goods from the store.
Boost your Airmiles
The most common misunderstanding about Airmiles is that you get them for flying. Actually you don't. They are mostly a shop reward scheme like any other, but you can spend them on airline deals, provided you have enough. You can earn them at Shell, Avis, eBay and more. Here are some key boosting tips:
● Urgently trade in Tesco points. You can currently swap in 250 Tesco points for 60 Airmiles, yet from September that will be changing so you only get 50 Airmiles for your points.
● Free 1,500 miles. Apply for the Lloyds TSB Airmiles duo credit card (you get both an Amex and a Mastercard) specifically from the Airmiles website and you get a voucher for 1,500 free miles if you spend £10 on it. This is enough for a return flight to Europe. So you can just buy something worth a tenner, pay it off in full so there is no interest and the points are yours at no cost. The one catch is that, to redeem the voucher, you have to also purchase at least one night in a hotel through Airmiles, which aren't the cheapest. Yet you could just spend one night in the Airmiles hotel and the rest of the time wherever you want.
● If you don't earn an Airmile within two years, you lose all your miles. If you don't earn any in a one-year period, you may need pay £30 before spending them. The easiest way to combat this is buy a little petrol at Shell, or convert a Tesco voucher.
Boots Points Boosting
Boots gives four points - worth a penny - per pound, and many therefore see it as the most generous of reward schemes (see later for why that is not necessarily true). Yet, even with Boots, there are ways to boost what you can get.
● Boots ATM machines. In most big stores there is what looks like a cash machine, called an "extra offers kiosk". I call it the Boots ATM. You put your Advantage Card in to reveal offers available and you can print off the vouchers immediately. It is well worth checking out; sometimes there are even free 1,000 points vouchers - in other words, a free in-store tenner.
● Boots e-newsletters. Its parenting or health club newsletters often include lots of ways to get extra points
● Promo weekends. Keep an eye out for special weekends both on Boots.com and in store, where you may be able to earn more points than normal for your spending. If you save up your Boots spending specifically for these occasions, you may be able to earn a lot of points much more quickly.
For info on how to boost Nectar and other schemes see www.moneysavingexpert.com/loyalty
Are loyalty points worth it?
They certainly are for retailers and it is not just about trying to win your custom. They can use the card to mine information, build a database of your spending habits so they can better target you.
Think of it as, in effect, as a discount. Take Boots' "generous" 4 pence of points per pound of spending. Imagine Boots is selling the Tony Blair Teeth Whitening Kit for £10 - the points act as a four per cent discount, so the real cost to you is around £9.60. If the neighbouring chemist sells the same kit for £9.80, buy it at Boots; if it is £9.40, buy it next door.